Finding My Voice

Advice from 2001 helped me find my way back to me.

I met Tananarive Due at a writers conference in Dallas in 2001. The note reads: “To Althea — Keep on writing what’s in your heart. It was a pleasure to meet you!” She is one of my favorite authors. I was over the moon!!

I inhaled comic books as a kid until my mother put Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in my hands around age eight. My parents were afraid a reading diet of only comics was eating away at my brain. It didn’t help that after I read the book, my mom asked me, “Why did Pecola want blue eyes?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.

“Because she wanted to be white!” she said to me, obviously frustrated. Now I understand her frustration was really fear because I didn’t comprehend the novel. Toni Morrison was WAY above my pay grade as an eight-year-old. My mom didn’t have to worry because the very next “adult” novel I read (voluntarily) was Langston Hughes’ Not Without Laughter. (Unfortunately, he is not related to me.) Hughes hooked me. Comic books were out, and middle school, young adult, and adult literature was in.

Judy Blume, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Virginia Hamilton, Mildred D. Taylor, J. California Cooper, even Donald Goines (my dad’s books)….I read all of their books and more growing up. The library was my second home. By nine years old, I knew I wanted to write for a living.

 I wrote my first books in fourth and fifth grade as school assignments.

In 11th and 12th grade, I wrote for a local Atlanta newspaper called The Purple Cow. It was distributed to all the high schools in metro Atlanta.

My first cover. I was even writing poetry in high school.

Then I went to the University of Georgia. I let myself get distracted by boys. I lost my voice on Day 1.

College was such a twisted experience that I had to write about it, as fiction, of course. It took seven years, but I got it done. Walking The Line was released in September 2000. I won an award and life was good.



I found out on my birthday that I had won. One of the highlights of my life.

Then I lost my voice again. I wrote a book called Mocha Angels: 365 Days of Angel Messages which is unpublished. I also have an unfinished magical realism novel. I struggled to find my voice through my food blog The Vegan Mocha Angel. Even there, I stopped writing for two years.

Speaking up and speaking clearly in order to be be understood emotionally has been a struggle for me as an adult. I stopped trusting my own ability to make good decisions. I have struggled mightily with depression. I have either learned/studied/received Healing Touch, Reiki, Hatha Yoga, massage, Emotional Freedom Technique, Tantra, Kundalini Yoga, meditation, relationship coaching, and psychotherapy. I have analyzed my entire life from the circumstances around my conception through today. I have learned to forgive others and myself, and to not walk through life fearful. Love is all there really is.

Once I broke through the emotional clutter, I realized all I have ever wanted to do with my life is write.

Minimalism is also one of my interests. Living with less is what I’m striving for. Emotional clutter reflects as physical clutter. So as I was cleaning out my desk drawer a few weeks ago, I found Tananarive’s note, dated June 3, 2001. Keep writing what is in your heart.

I pondered the question, “what exactly is in my heart?” for weeks. The art of story is what’s in my heart. I enjoy studying and analyzing character, motivation, dialog, setting, pace, plot, theme, costume, direction, cinematography. I love doing that because the study of story makes me a better writer.

Life is also a story of our own creation. What we think, how we think, how we treat ourselves, nurture, and nature all shape who we become. The person who analyzes life and story the best is award-wining author Steven Barnes, who is also Tananarive Due’s husband. His analytic Lifewriting approach is not only fascinating, it’s groundbreaking.

https://stevenbarneslife.wordpress.com/

I thank Steve and Tananarive for helping me break through. I thank my guides, angels, and ancestors for raising me up and helping me even when I was totally closed off to their guidance. I thank Love and I’m thankful for Love, always, for guiding me back to my little girl self who only wanted to write.