Tag Archive | life lessons

Life As a Classroom, Compassion As the Teacher: It Takes a Fool by Sasha Dreams


The bell rings

Class is in session

The chalkboard is wiped clean,

ready for today’s lesson

One student is late and not seated at the table

She’s diving in and out of currents of circumstances,

trying to steady herself toward the shore

She arrives late with the weight of the world as her backpack,

ready to give her pain away to part with her problem

But Compassion, her teacher, offers a better solution

~By A.C.

Book Blurb

Life couldn’t be sweeter for ten-year-old Sasha…
She’s the darling of her fifth grade class and her best friend always has her back… just like a sister. But simmering beneath the beautiful life are the dark secrets her parents harbor, secrets that slowly wind their way around the heart of the family, choking the life from Sasha. Helpless, afraid and alone, she fights the only way she can, but her desperate quest for survival could lead to her own destruction!

It Takes a Fool explores the darkest depths of poverty, addiction and bullying, and how even the innocence of a child can be twisted into something monstrous. Sasha will do all she can to survive a nightmare she can’t wake up from, but in protecting herself, she might just destroy everyone around her.

biopic-1Meet Author Sasha Dreams


Sasha Dreams is a no one from nowhere pregnant with dreams. She dreams of hope, ambition, fulfillment and success. Sasha has learned from the mistakes of her childhood and transformed her weaknesses into strengths.

Sasha believes wholeheartedly that writing is healing. At times throughout her writing process it was painful, but now that the tears have dried and the past forgiven a horribly beautiful story has emerged. Follow Sasha on her journey as a writer, business woman, wife, daughter, sister, mother, and friend. Watch as her dreams come true. 

Q & A with Sasha Dreams

What did you do before becoming a writer? How has your career path led to or shaped your writing career?

I currently work in serving my community. I am sure that my career path has shaped my writing by allowing me to stay connected with our youth. I feel I was able to connect with my inner child more because I am surrounded by our youth daily. It Takes A Fool is told from my ten year old self but is appropriate for middle school aged children starting in the eighth grade.

Why did you write It Takes a Fool?

I wrote It Takes A Fool to heal from my past. This story has been brewing inside of me for over 25 years. It was ready to be heard. Even though I was not necessarily ready to share my pain with the world. I become more and more ready everyday.

How has social media and technology affected bullying?

Social media and technology have affected bullying positively and negatively in my opinion. On one hand an individual or a group may choose to abuse social media. They may choose to harass, embarrass or oust a person unfairly. On the other hand because of technology a person who has been bullied or who is a bully can find resources to stop what is happening.

What advice would you give to someone who is being bullied?

Bullying is a major problem throughout the world. We see it everywhere, from schools, work, sports, online and in homes. If you are a victim of being bullied or you are a bully please visit www.ittakesafool.com/resources.

Why did you become a writer?

I became a writer to share my story with others. It is my hope that by sharing my story others will choose to make better choices. Remember, every new day is an opportunity to make better choices.

What tips would you give other aspiring writers on how to complete and submit a novel, and survive the publication process?

My advice for new and aspiring writers is to do as much research as possible on traditional vs. self publishing and decide which option is best for you. Once you have decided, keep pressing forward.

What impact do you want to leave on the literary world?

The impact I want to make on the literary world is to have written a story that is told from a place of genuine pain but the reader is able to feel the wounds heal page after page.

Describe your writing process or ritual.

My writing ritual was to clean my room top to bottom. Climb in bed with my note pad and a freshly sharpened pencil, some music and an open heart.

What are you most passionate about in your life?

I am most passionate about being the best person I can be. I want to lead by example for my childrens sake. Sometimes I make mistakes, but each new day, I try harder to be a better me.

If you could include a character from any teen movie or movie dealing with middle school students, who would you choose to be in your book?  How would he or she fit in at the school?  Who would she or he befriend:  Sasha or her best friend?

 If I could include a character from any teen movie or movie dealing with middle school students, I would choose, Skai Jackson. She is a very talented actress. We also share some similar features. I think she would portray Sasha in a light that viewers could relate to. She would have definitely befriended Sadie. (My best friend in It Takes A Fool) Everyone loved Sadie.

If you could create a soundtrack for your book, what songs would you choose?

The soundtrack for It Takes A Fool would include so many popular hits from the Spinners.

Rubberband Man

Love Don’t Love Nobody(It Takes A Fool)

Could It Be I’m Falling In Love




Press Release



Much Anticipated Memoir on Bullying Finally Here

Washington, DC (December 5, 2014) – The highly anticipated book by Sasha Dreams, It Takes a Fool: A Lesson Learned on Bullying, is finally available on Amazon.

It Takes a Fool is a short “creative memoir” about a 10 year old girl, named Sasha. Sasha is the darling of her fifth grade class and her best friend always has her back…just like a sister. But simmering beneath the beautiful life are the dark secrets her parents harbor, secrets that slowly wind their way around the heart of the family, choking the life from Sasha. Helpless, afraid and alone, she fights the only way she can but her desperate quest for survival could lead to her own destruction.

Excerpts from the book have already been making an impression on, the largest community of readers and writers, Wattpad. One Wattpad reviewer said: “Powerful writing. Quiet, soft-spoken but speaks straight into readers’ hearts. A place of vulnerability.”

“I am excited about the release of the book,” said Sasha. “I hope valuable lessons will be learned through the sharing of my story.”

It takes a fool is available in both kindle and paperback format on Amazon.com for $4.95 and $7.95 respectively. For further information about the book and the author, visit: http://www.ittakesafool.com.



If you want to read a moving story that will leave you changed, pick up your copy of It Takes a Fool today!
Connect with Sasha Dreams!

Website:  www.ittakesafool.com

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/It-Takes-Fool-Learned-Bullying-ebook/dp/B00O4LTNRM

FB:  https://www.facebook.com/sashasmemoir

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sashasmemoir

Email:  sashasmemoir (at) gmail (dot) com


The Devil May Wear Prada, But The Gibbons Gold Diggers Prefer Men’s Hearts: The Player & The Game by Shelly Ellis

Sugar-coated game

floats from her siren  lips,

a snare for the gullible.

Her nectar garners

a contract of one-sided


As a Gibbons girl,

she always saps honey from

her sugar daddies.

The queen bee designs

her honeycomb to entrap

men’s hearts, not her own.

But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. . .

By A. C.

the player and the game2

Enjoy Some Hot Deception on a Romance Platter with the latest installment

in the Gibbons Gold Digger series!

The Player & the Game

It’s business as usual for the infamous gold digging Gibbons women of Chesterton, Virginia. But this time, middle sister, Stephanie, may be the one getting played. . .

Stephanie Gibbons thinks she’s finally hit the jackpot— the Gibbons family’s Holy Grail. Her new sugar daddy, Isaac Beardan, is loaded and treating her in high style. When he proposes, Stephanie is sure she’s set for life—until she finds her bank account empty, Isaac gone, and a strange—but very attractive—man following her.

Private investigator Keith Hendricks has tracked Isaac down to Chesterton, Va., and stumbles upon Stephanie. He’s not sure if she’s Isaac’s accomplice or his next victim, but what he is certain of is his overwhelming attraction to her—an attraction she shares. As the pair follows the con man’s trail into the Deep South, Stephanie faces a dilemma: True love… or the gold-digging game. Which will she choose?

Shelly Ellis head shotSix Questions for Author Shelly Ellis

What makes The Player and the Game stand out among other African American romances out there?

My editor likes to describe the books in my Gibbons Gold Digger series as romance but with a little something different, or romance with extra spice. And this extra spice isn’t just sexual. I don’t write erotica, but I like to do romances that are sexy with a dynamic storyline. I like to write stories that are a hybrid between the typical romance and evening soap operas—making them more than a tale of boy meets girl and then they eventually find their happily-ever-after. The Player and the Game is a blend of romance, mystery, road-trip adventure, some laugh-out-loud moments, and moral lessons thrown into the mix. I hope readers have a ball reading it. I had fun writing it.

What would it take for a player like Stephanie to be reformed?

I can’t reveal too much, but Stephanie goes through a humbling experience in the beginning of the novel that starts her on her journey to reformation. Falling in love for the first time in her life also helps reform her.

In the first installment of the series, Can’t Stand the Heat, Lauren is a chef who leaves an abusive marriage & proves she can hold her own in and out of the kitchen. What would be a great recipe for writing the perfect romance?

I don’t know what the perfect recipe is, but I think I know what doesn’t work. Try not to go with typical ingredients/tropes of romance. Romance should be like an exotic, spicy curry, not a boring vanilla cake made with mix out of a box. Both may taste good, but one definitely required a lot more thought and originality than the other.

Try to avoid the insecure hero who doesn’t think he’s good enough for the heroine, or the bad boy who’s reformed by his love for the good girl. Try to avoid snowstorms that lock a couple together in a cabin, forcing them to confront their feelings for each other. Don’t have novels with the heroine waking up in the morning, looking in her mirror, or talking to her girlfriends over drinks at a bar or restaurant. Try to keep the reader guessing what’s going to happen next, as opposed to them thinking, “Hey, haven’t I read this before?”

The Gibbons sisters have their own playbook in which they maneuver the rules wisely with their men. What would be the ultimate playbook for women in our society to use while searching for that spicy romance?

You know, it’s funny. I try to write spicy romances, but my personal preference is a lot tamer. Love and compatibility are more important to me. Humor also can get you through the rougher patches. Spice is nice, but it’s not essential. (And honestly, it can fade overtime even with the hottest of couples.)

So what rules/playbook should one follow to find the best romance? Have an open heart; have an open mind; know your self-worth and be willing to assert it; and make sure that any man you want to treat you like a princess, you’re willing to treat him like a prince. Don’t forget, you’re equal partners in this story!

What tips would you give to writers who are trying to balance writing and parenthood?

I just became a mom four months ago, so I’m still trying to find that balance. But, no matter what, I’m a mother first, and a writer second. Even if I’m in the middle of a great writing jag and the words are flowing like crazy, if my baby starts crying, I have to step away from my laptop and address her cries. But I also know now to accept help when you can get it. If your mom or your hubby is willing to watch the baby for awhile, take advantage of it! Nap times are also a godsend. Use those quiet moments to work on your novels and catch up on badly needed rest/sleep.

We writers create characters that are close to our hearts, and we want our readers to establish a relationship with them. We want our characters to leave an aftereffect on our readers. What aftereffect do you want the Gibbons sisters to leave on your readers?

The Gibbons sisters are deeply flawed characters, but I still think they’re likeable. They come from a good place, even if that place is a bit screwed up. I want readers to have the takeaway to be careful of judging others on face value.

Also, the lives of the sisters can serve as a cautionary tale. Each sister has made decisions that have negatively affected their lives because they were taught that wealth and prestige are what’s most important. They all experience things that make them question that belief.

Image found on Google Images

Image found on Google Images

Here’s an excerpt:


Chapter 1

Busy, busy, busy, Stephanie Gibbons thought as she hurried toward her silver BMW that was parallel parked in the reserved space near her office. Her stilettos clicked on the sidewalk as she walked. Her short, pleated skirt swayed around her hips and supple, brown legs with each stride.

She shouldn’t have gone to the nail salon before lunch, but her French manicure had been badly in need of a touch-up. Unfortunately, that slight detour had thrown off the entire day’s schedule and now she was running ten minutes late for the open house.

The spring day was unseasonably warm, but it was tempered by a light breeze that blew steadily, making the newly grown leaves flutter on the numerous maples lining Main Street in downtown Chesterton, her hometown. The breeze now lifted Stephanie’s hair from her shoulders and raised her already dangerously short skirt even higher.

She adjusted the realtor name tag near her suit jacket lapel, casually ran her fingers through her long tresses, and reached into her purse. She pulled out her cell phone and quickly dialed her assistant’s number. Thankfully, the young woman picked up on the second ring.

“Carrie, honey, I’m running late . . . Yes, I know . . . Are you already at the open house?” Stephanie asked distractedly as she dug for her keys in her purse’s depths. “Are any buyers there yet? . . . OK, OK, don’t freak out. . . . Yes, just take over for now. Put out a plate of cookies and set the music on low. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes . . . I know . . . I have every confidence in you. See you soon.”

She hung up.

With car keys finally retrieved, Stephanie pressed the remote button to open her car doors. The car beeped. The headlights flashed. She jogged to the driver’s-side door and opened it. As she started to climb inside the vehicle, she had the distinct feeling of being watched.

Stephanie paused to look up, only to find a man standing twenty feet away from her. He casually leaned against the brick front of one of the many shops on Main Street. He was partially hidden by the shadows of an overhead awning.

He looked like one of many jobless men you would find wandering the streets midday, hanging out in front of stores because they had little else to do and nowhere else to go. Except this bored vagrant was a lot more attractive than the ones she was used to seeing. He also was distinct from the other vagrants in town because she had seen him several times today and earlier this week.

Stephanie had spotted him when she walked into the nail salon and again as she left, absently waving her nails as they dried. He had been sitting in the driver’s seat of a tired-looking Ford Explorer in the lot across the street from the salon. Though he hadn’t said anything to her or even looked up at her as she walked back to her car, she had the feeling he had been waiting for her.

She had seen him also on Wednesday, strolling along the sidewalk while she had been on her date with her new boyfriend, Isaac. The man had walked past the restaurant’s storefront window where she and Isaac had been sitting and enjoying their candlelit dinner. When Stephanie looked up from her menu and glanced out the window, her eyes locked with the stroller’s. The mystery man abruptly broke their mutual gaze and kept walking. He disappeared at the end of the block.

The mystery man had a face that was hard to forget—sensual, hooded dark eyes, a full mouth, and a rock-hard chin. He stood at about six feet with a muscular build. Today, he was wearing a plain white T-shirt and wrinkled jeans. Though his short hair was neatly trimmed, he had thick beard stubble on his chin and dark-skinned cheeks.

“Are you following me?” Stephanie called to him, her open house now forgotten.

He blinked in surprise. “What?” He pointed at his chest. “You mean me?”

“Yes, I mean you!” She placed a hand on her hip. “Are you following me? Why do I keep seeing you around?”

He chuckled softly. “Why would I be following you? Lady, I’m just standing here.”

He wasn’t just standing there. She sensed it.

“Well, this is a small town. Loitering is illegal in Chesterton. You could get arrested!”

“It’s illegal to stand in front of a building?” Laughter was in his voice. He slowly shook his head.

“We’re still in America, right? Last time I checked, I was well within my rights to stand here, honey. Besides, I’m not panhandling. I’m just enjoying the warm sunshine.” His face broke into a charming, dimpled smile that would have made most women’s knees weak. “Is that a crime?”

Stephanie narrowed her eyes at him warily.

She didn’t like him or his condescending tone. He was attractive, but something emanated from him that made her . . . uncomfortable. It made her heartbeat quicken and her palms sweat. She wasn’t used to reacting to men this way. Usually her emotions were firmly in control around them, but they weren’t around this guy. She didn’t like him one bit.

“If . . . if I catch you standing here when I get back, I’ll . . . I’ll call the cops,” she said weakly.

At that, he raised an eyebrow. “You do that,” he challenged, casually licking his lips and shoving his hands into his jean pockets. Defiantly, he slumped against the brick building again.

Stephanie took a deep breath, willing her heart to slow its rapid pace. She climbed into her car and shut the driver’s-side door behind her with a slam. She shifted the car into drive and pulled off, watching him in her rearview mirror until she reached the end of block. He was still standing in front of the building, still leaning under the shadows of the awning, still looking smug as she drove to the end of Main Street and made a right.

Finally, she lost sight of him.

Copyright © 2013 by Shelly Ellis

Connect with Shelly Ellis:


Twitter:  @ellisromance

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6464591.Shelly_Ellis

Websitehttp://shellyellisbooks.com/   (a great resource for personal and professional insight into the writing life and the publishing industry.)

The Player & The Game  is available on August 27, 2013.

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-player-the-game-shelly-ellis/1113785676?ean=9780758290373

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Player-Game-Shelly-Ellis/dp/0758290373/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1368236031&sr=1-3

Make Time for the Pause or You’ll Miss Its Intended Meaning

Photo found on Google Images

Photo found on Google Images

The road once travelled,

feet planted firm on solid

ground, interrupted


by roots thirsty for

the strength that you possess. They

demand your attention.


You decide: let them

overtake you, your lower

limbs petrifying


into suspended

thought and motion or pause

briefly, study its


intrusion, finding

its point of origin,

harvesting instead


its fruit so you can

move on, girded with wisdom

and understanding.

—by Alexandra Caselle

Trees are Mother Nature’s grapevine.  Not only do they anchor the ecosystem, but trees also communicate history through the rings of their trunks. Once a person enters a tree’s space, he or she feels nature’s vibe.

Place an ear against its bark. Listen to how it amplifies the scurrying of the squirrels and the knocking of the woodpecker’s beak. Tarry a little longer in its presence, and become connected to a network that extends farther than any Wi-Fi system.

A tree’s placement affects the overall landscape.  It can enhance the area, change its composition, or attract other wildlife. These positive changes unearth a hidden attribute of the landscape, something that broadens Mother Nature’s or the developers’ original design.

Trees can also block paths. Their roots disrupt the leveled planes of sidewalks and driveways.  People can either ignore them or choose to remove them.

The placement of a comma can affect a sentence’s overall composition.  A comma can add layers and depth to a sentence and extend its meaning.  It is that blinking caution light, alerting readers to slow down before they miss something that will be of great impact.

Those pesky little pronunciation marks account for a lot of writing errors. Teachers break down its plethora of rules to one basic concept: a comma means pause.  That one word, pause, leads writers off on a tangent.  They begin writing how they talk.

During the writing process, writers may reread the emerging piece, listening in their minds for places between words where a break would go.  The problem with expecting a pause is the misperception that writing should mirror the normal flow of conversation.

The pauses of everyday dialogue do not always indicate a need for a comma when translated into the written word. The comma does direct the reader to pause, but there is a reason for it.   It emphasizes or elaborates a point in the sentence.

The pauses that occur in life definitely direct people’s attention to a deeper meaning in their lives, and if they juxtapose their lives against some of the comma rules, people may see how their life’s hiccups extend their conceptions of themselves.

When Sentences & Life Make You Take a Time Out

A common use of the comma is to separate nonessential clauses and phrases from the main sentence.  These groups of words function as extra information, but when removed, do not alter the original meaning of the sentence.  Those supplemental syntactical elements function as the scantily clad cousin who saunters in the middle of the wedding vows: they interrupt the flow and steal the show.

These interrupters may be appositives that further describe the subject:

Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a medical professional who examined the liver and ate it, too, is one of the most frightening villains in horror films.

Now compare the above sentence to the one below:

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is one of the most frightening villains in horror films.

The addition of the nonessential element adds character and makes the reader notice.

For me, losing the ability to walk on my own for an extended length of time forced me to appreciate things taken for granted.  That pause was an incubation time for me.  It emphasized past hurts that I needed to release and it instilled gratitude.  There is nothing more humbling, than having a rotating round of nurses remove all ounces of dignity while assisting you with simple things like bathing or using the restroom.

Nothing strikes a blow like having your parents, who are in their 70s and 80s, see you struggle with a walker decked out in green tennis balls during your physical therapy session.  My legs were like blocks of concrete.  I willed them to move, wishing I had Magneto’s mind control.  I was more like a flimsy rag doll being held up by three medical puppeteers in white.

That pause broke my pride, a necessary interruption.

That elongated period of physical therapy and loss of independence led me to examine a series of actions and thoughts that did not belong in my emotional, spiritual, or psychological being. Yes, they were sequential events, happening successively, like a list of life events. But their timeframe was definite, not infinite.  They had an end date that occurred in the distant past, but I refused to evict them from my life.

They were like a serial comma, further reflection on them, just added problem, after problem, after problem in my present, nonessential items in a series.   In writing, teachers instruct us to place a comma or break after each item in a series until you come to the conjunction and.

But there has to come a time when we stop placing breaks into the composed lines of our lives and let the comma or past event actually fulfill its role.  If we were to look up the meaning of serial in the dictionary, we would see that it means “pertaining to the transmission or pressing of each part of a whole in sequence.”  (www.dictionary.com)

Commas and those life’s hiccups may force us to slow down but after we learn the meaning, then we must press forward.

They were designed to detain us only for a little awhile.

Review the most common rules here:  http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp

Running On and On and On: Having the Courage to Get Off Track

Image found on Google Images

Image found on Google Images

The pin of predictability prickles into the grooves of my memory.  It scratches the surface of the present and inserts a loop of random thoughts. The soundtrack of the past drowns out the development of my ideas and my life.  Here I go again, cluttering my mind with white noise. This cycle spirals out of control and leaves my creativity chalk-lined on the writing pavement.

I head to the neighborhood track for a long walk, usually three to four hours of extracting the pin out.

A cul-de-sac of trees lines both sides of the winding trail.  I lean against one of the trees, a sage with a crop of hanging moss twisted into dreadlocks.  I palm its aged bark for guidance amidst the gold and green foliage of its followers.   With no answers dispensed, I step gingerly around the carpet of freshly dug dirt and fallen leaves.  I continue my stroll.

Lap after lap, the scenery does not change and neither does my train of thought.  I feel like Neo in the opening scene of The Matrix Revolutions.  There is nothing here to separate one thought from the other.

In life, we get stuck in the groove sometimes.  We replay memories over and over again.  Some of those memories are pleasant, often stirred by a scent, a song, or a photo.  Some are mistakes we have made, things we wish to retract or redo.  So even though we have grown a lot from the place that we were in when those memories happened, those thoughts creep up like weeds and pose a threat to threaten our very existence or hedge our newfound wisdom and growth.

With comma splices and fused sentences, those pesky run-on errors, wrong placement or non-placement of punctuation buries the idea into an ongoing string of sentences just like our present is sometimes buried inside our past.

Run-ons threaten the clarity of an idea.

One way to correct this error is to separate the complete sentences or independent clauses with a period:

Example:  The St. Johns River flowed under the harpsichord Dames Pointe Bridge, a mystical being lulling God’s creations into its womb, I lounged over the braided rail bordering the balcony of my townhouse, the soundtrack of Jacksonville’s rush hour traffic dwindled in the distance as the sun left its footprints in the horizon. (comma splice—independent clauses or complete sentences joined incorrectly by commas)

Correction: The St. Johns River flowed under the harpsichord Dames Pointe Bridge, a mystical being lulling God’s creations into its womb. I lounged over the braided rail bordering the balcony of my townhouse.

The soundtrack of Jacksonville’s rush hour traffic dwindled in the distance as the sun left its footprints in the horizon.

Here are three more ways to correct them:

  1.  Add a  comma and a coordinating conjunction between the independent clauses.
    1. Complete sentence      , FAN BOYS    Complete       sentence

                                                 FAN BOYS =For And Nor  But  Or Yet So


Two floral flasks of tea-tinged gin and the dulcet tones of jazz set the mood a king-sized bed shrouded with black lace and flanked by hearts made of strawberries created the ultimate aphrodisiac. (fused sentence— independent clauses or complete sentences joined incorrectly with no punctuation)

Correction: Two floral flasks of tea-tinged gin and the dulcet tones of jazz set the mood, and a king-sized bed shrouded with black lace and flanked by hearts made of strawberries created the ultimate aphrodisiac.

  1. Add a semicolon between the two independent clauses.
    1. Complete sentence      ;     Complete sentence


He retrieved the cigar from my fingers and inhaled the fumes exhaled in a fugue.

Correction: He retrieved the cigar from my fingers and inhaled; the fumes exhaled in a fugue.

  1. Add a semicolon, a conjunctive adverb, and a  comma between the two independent clauses.    
    1. Complete sentence   ;       transition word,     Complete       sentence

Conjunctive adverbs/transition words:  moreover, however, therefore, in fact, nevertheless, etc.


The baritone notes of the bass signaled the horns to glide in with their beats, the drums barreled through the composition, the piano chimed in as Billie Holiday crooned.

Correction:  The baritone notes of the bass signaled the horns to glide in with their beats; moreover, the drums barreled through the composition. The piano chimed in as Billie Holiday crooned.

By finding where one complete sentence ends and the next one begins, we can ask ourselves if they are joined correctly where they meet.  The period, the semicolon, the coordinating conjunctions, and conjunctive adverbs act as equalizers.  There must be a complete sentence on both sides of them.

With life, my future self is that equalizer.  On each side of it lies my present with the steps that I am taking every day to make sure my purpose is complete.

Getting off the beaten track of the past, the status quo, and the run-on sentence will lead to clarity in life and in writing.

WRITING WHILE FORTY: The Curious Case of the Connection of Dashes & Parentheses to Writing & Reinvention

turning 40 road sign

(Image originally found on Google Images)

Coming up at Mile 40: 

Writer Experiencing Gray Hairs, Growing Pains, Fluctuating Fat, & Inevitable Reinvention

in Herself and Her Writing

My back is against the wall.  Life wedges its foot deeper into my chest. The weight of it against my clavicle is an avalanche of bricks.  My breathing becomes labored and ragged. Guilt, fear, anxiety, regret, and abandoned dreams and goals, the harbingers of middle age, circle around me.

The Type-A personality in me wants to file each threat in a neat compartment and regain control.  My self-competitive streak tells me I have failed because I didn’t stay on that golden brick road of mobility and success.  I’m turning 40, and I am not where I wanted to be.

I am also not the writer that I wanted to be.

A high school writing award sits on my dresser.  It reminds me of my old writer self : the stories I wrote daily ever since I was a child, the creativity I weaved into literary analysis essays in AP English, the imagination that ran wild. It taunts me, as if to ask the question: What happened to you?

I guess the road bumps of life are situations designed to interrupt life, experiences tossed into the flow in order to pull us toward another direction, whether we are willing to go or not.  It’s funny how those setbacks—or in a positive light, those setups for change—can be compared to dashes.

In rhetorical grammar, dashes are used to interrupt the sentence with information.  They make the reader pause and reflect on the impact of the new idea being inserted.  Writers mainly employ them when they want to emphasize a point or detail.  I think of the dash as a diva because it demands attention and commands respect.

For example, look at the way the presence or absence of dashes alter meaning in sentences from Hawa Allen’s essay, “When Tyra Met Naomi:  Race, Fashion, and Rivalry” (published in Gerald Early and Debra Dickerson’s book, Best African American Essays:2009):

“One of the reasons I wanted to do this show is because sisterhood is so important to me.  I feel like women hate on each other—we’re jealous—and it has to stop.”

               “One of the reasons I wanted to do this show is because sisterhood is so important to me.  I feel like women hate on each other and it has to stop.”

The story had all the elements of talk-show-pathos—the tears, the accusations, the confessions of emotional agony—but, to her credit, Banks refused to make the story purely a personal one.

               The story had all the elements of talk-show-pathos but, to her credit, Banks refused to make the story purely a personal one. 

She could have easily made Campbell the sole villain—given the model’s history of petulance, anger-management issues and resulting lawsuits, most of the work was already done for her—but instead she chose to focus on both systemic racism in the modeling industry and internalized sexism among women.

              She could have easily made Campbell the sole villain but instead she chose to focus on both systemic racism in the modeling industry and internalized sexism among women.

Like the dashes, isn’t funny when we think if certain situations didn’t happen we would be better off but without them, they add a different layer of meaning in our lives and our growth?


(Image originally found on What You Can Do Facebook page)

I realize that my experiences have spun their own tale, a tapestry of wisdom, missteps, baggage releasing, and growth.  No, I am not the eighteen-year-old who could compose a story on her old typewriter in fifteen minutes about an old woman she saw on the city bus earlier that day. Yes, as a teenager, I could render a character, her setting, her plight into a reader’s imagination. Now I can add depth to the story, thanks to experience.

Here I am, swinging at the onset of middle age, but I cannot fight change.  It is inevitable.  Growing older is a part of life.  Instead of fighting it, I must embrace it.

I’m trying to run away from the woman, the writer I am destined to become.

I must weave the uncomfortable experiences seamlessly into the fabric of my life.  They emphasize areas within me that need to develop in order to become that middle-aged woman.  But I should not let them stop me and back me into a corner.  I must acknowledge them and keep living my life.

They are only parenthetical times in my journey.

With parentheses, the author taps the reader gently on the shoulder and guides him or her to the emphasized point.  I think of the parenthesis as the mediator who is trying to achieve harmony between the sentence and the information it is presenting or like a friend who is whispering his or her commentary while the reader is reading.  Here is another example from Allan’s essay:

Though the Tyra episode ended with the requisite apology from Campbell (“However I’ve affected you or you’ve felt that I’ve affected you, I take my responsibility.  I must say I’m proud of you.  You’ve been a powerful black woman. . . Please continue) and tears from Banks, its real strength was that Banks framed her enmity with Campbell as a result of the larger institutional and social forces that pitted the two models against each other in the first place.

        Though the Tyra episode ended with the requisite apology from Campbell and tears from Banks, its real strength was that Banks framed her enmity with Campbell as a result of the larger institutional and social forces that pitted the two models against each other in the first place.

I guess Tyra didn’t let those larger institutional and social forces serve as setbacks or interruptions in her career.  She gleaned what she could learn from that situation and pushed forward.

Now it is the time for my reflection.

40pic-every gray hair tells a story(Image originally found on Google Images)

J. Victoria Saunders tweeted a link to her Tumblr page recently that addressed 35 nuggets of wisdom she has learned at the age of 35. (http://jvictoriasanders.com/post/41215634293/thirty-five-in-honor-of-35-the-mid-thirties-sounds.)  She inspired me to come up with my own 40 for 40.  It is a work-in-progress.

Things I Have Learned About Life & Writing While Approaching 40

  1. Revenge is a dish best served by karma, not by me.
  2. Stay in my lane.
  3. Listen to my intuition.
  4. Every adversity deepens character and perseverance breeds strength.
  5. There is a reason why I can’t change my past:  Everything was supposed to happen.
  6. Learn to deal with being outside of my comfort zone.
  7. My mind is my Achilles heel.
  8. Stop being my worst inner critic.
  9. If I feel like crap on the inside, people will treat me like crap. That crap will also color my perspective.
  10. I define what normal is.
  11. Beauty truly does come from within.
  12. Don’t  internalize the actions of others into your stream of consciousness.
  13. Cherish the ones you love while they are still here.
  14. If it is true love, it will always come back to you.
  15. There is a time and place to burn bridges.
  16. When opportunity knocks at the door, always answer it.  It may never present itself again.
  17. Everyone has a purpose. Be prepared for it to change during different times in life.
  18. My thoughts and actions sometimes create my circumstances.
  19. Always look  at a situation from someone else’s perspective.
  20. Forgiveness frees you from unresolved anger growing into outward manifestations of illness and unhappiness.
  21. Unforgiveness changes you, and usually that change is not a positive one.
  22. The path that helped you run away from your problems will always lead you back to them.
  23. To have peace, I must relinquish control.
  24. Being sensitive is not a sign of weakness.
  25. Making it real and being realistic in my writing are related.  Strive for sentiment instead of sensationalism.
  26. Don’t imprint on my characters and writing too much. There is a difference between writing for self and writing for      others.
  27. Writing is an ongoing, lifetime journey of learning and discovery.
  28. Let the muse reign.
  29. Do not pimp out your muse.  Stay true to your style of writing.
  30. Every masterpiece, written or human, has its own imperfections. They add to the composition’s beauty.
  31. Ground my  reader into the concrete instead of the abstract.  Let my nouns and verbs, not my adverbs and adjectives, carry the narrative.
  32. My writing  is not my personal cache of words I know.  Use clear word choice to convey understanding to my reader, not the long, sultry affair with Webster.
  33. If a  character is the narrator of the story, he or she cannot die at the end of the story.  If the character begins the story, he or she must end it.
  34. The creative and the critical can exist in the same written discourse.
  35. Honor the process of writing in truth in order to be of service to my readers.
  36. Reading and writing are symbiotic processes.  You must read extensively and study professional models of writing in order to hone your writing.
  37. Back story  should be woven seamlessly into the narrative.
  38. Write and order each sentence with care. Each sentence should be able to link the reader to the larger narrative just like a piece of yarn remains connected to its skein.
  39. The  placement of a punctuation mark can modify the meaning of a sentence.
  40. Do not be  afraid to reinvent myself even if it means rebuilding my life.

Being a writer, at any age, involves reinvention and letting go.  Our experiences drive our creative process. We must transition throughout our lifetimes even though the process seems more amplified.

Additional information about punctuation as rhetorical grammar can be found in Noah Lukeman’s A Dash of Style:  The Art and Mastery of Punctuation.

What lessons have you learned about writing and/or life?