Reading, Writing, and Belonging

Dad reading to son

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Humans aren’t as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were ‘reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.’” ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

“I never feel lonely if I’ve got a book – they’re like old friends. Even if you’re not reading them over and over again, you know they are there. And they’re part of your history. They sort of tell a story about your journey through life.” ~ Emilia Fox

I’m not sure exactly what it is I want to express with this post, except for the last nine years I’ve been focused on writing and that has changed me in profound ways. Long before I was a writer, I was an avid movie watcher and reader. I still am, and for quite some time now I’ve been trying to understand just what it is about story telling in all its forms that draws me in. It might be the communal aspect of watching a movie or reading a book with one or two of my friends and then discussing every little detail about it. But watching and reading can also be solitary activities and I love that about them too. Or it might be that stories help me understand human beings better. When I hear people talk about how they are affected by the books they read, or write, I know that there is something fundamental about story telling that we need. Maybe I don’t need to define it, just enjoy it.

I have a number of former students and friends who are totally into cosplay, attend Comic Cons, dress up as their favorite characters, and are even on panels at these events. They read all the fan fiction, watch all the TV shows and movies about their favorite characters. And at first I thought them a little daffy. But after listening to them talk about the different layers of the plots and of their characters, or of the movie we watched in class, I changed my mind. I remembered all those hours of discussing movies with my father and I knew that these students were demonstrating a great deal of understanding about human behavior, their motivations, and hangups because the stories engaged their imaginations. Most of my friends and students have empathy because of their attention to the extreme situations their favorite characters have to deal with. They put themselves in their shoes. They think about what they would do in a similar situation. I love that!

The thing that connects me to great stories is the playwright or author’s ability to help me feel with the characters. When I was in college, the first play I was cast in was The Merchant of Venice. As we rehearsed the play, I understood more fully why Shylock wants his pound of flesh. He, as a Jew, has been treated so horribly. He’s a wounded character but unfortunately, he gets punished again at the end for trying to get what is due him, by literally taking a pound of flesh from the man who can pay his debt. In a way I couldn’t blame him for wanting revenge. But the whole point of the play is about how showing mercy is better than seeking revenge.

When I read a great book, or see a timeless movie, somehow I not only understand other people better, I understand myself better. That’s what I aim for when I’m reading, directing a play, watching a movie or writing. I’m looking for new clues that will help me understand human behavior a little better.

I just realized that I wrote this post because until recently, I felt like the odd person out. I mean, a lot of the people I associated with were into sports, or outdoor activities, or going to concerts, even some of my theatre friends, and I just didn’t get that. I mean I love nature and music, but I didn’t understand the whole sports fan thing, until I began to have students who were into dressing up like their favorite characters, and analyzing every detail of the books and movie world they inhabited. I finally got it. Most people are looking for their tribe, a place to belong. I’m finding my people and it’s a good feeling.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

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Help Your Favorite Author

My Favorite Books

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens well.” ~ Mark Haddon

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” ~ Ray Bradbury

My husband’s parents are visiting, so I have been busy doing all the domestic chores I let slip because I’m too busy writing to vacuum and dust. Since that is the case, this post is going to be a little bit of a repeat of one I posted earlier in the year.

The Space Between Time is published in both ebook and print-on-demand formats. I hope you will consider doing some or all of the things on this list so you can help me and your favorite author sell more books. An author can’t make any money if no one knows the book exists.

Word of mouth is still the best advertising tool. How many of you discuss your favorite TV show’s latest episode with friends, family and coworkers? See what I mean? You are creating a buzz. You can do that for your favorite authors as well. Here are some ways you can help them.

Write a review of the books you read and leave it on Amazon, Goodreads, in your blog, or any social media site you choose.

If you are a member of Goodreads, just putting books on your “want to read” shelf will get the book noticed by the Goodreads staff and they may even promote them on their site.

If you like a book, let your local bookstore and library know what you thought of it, and ask them to carry and promote it.

Share your thoughts about the book with your friends and book club groups that you might belong to.

Consider asking the author to have a Skype session with your book club group so they can ask questions, or suggest that your local bookstore invite your favorite author to have a book reading/signing.

Give the book to your friends and family as gifts.

You may think these tips are rather easy and trivial, but if you help your favorite author sell more books, you will be helping them pay for all the time they spent working on it. Writing a book is not an easy thing to do, you know.

If you are so inclined to buy my book, and promote it. I will greatly appreciate it, and so will your favorite authors when you do the same for them.

The Space Between Time description: When Jenna’s life is shattered, she finds journals linking her to Morgan, a distant ancestress. As she enters Morgan’s consciousness, the two women embark on life changing parallel journeys that may help them find self-knowledge, healing, and love.

Thanks so much for reading. I appreciate your comments and likes.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical, time-travel, magical realism women’s novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Book Bliss

Inside Powell’s bookstore

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,’ said Jojen. ‘The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

“You’re never alone when you’re reading a book.” ~ Susan Wiggs

Today I’ve just returned from Portland, Oregon. Actually, as I write this, I’m fantasizing about my upcoming trip which begins in a few days, so technically I haven’t gone yet. However, I won’t get back in time to prepare this post, so I’m scheduling it ahead of time.

It’s been nearly twenty-one years since my husband and I moved from Portland to Southern Arizona and believe it or not, we’ve never been back. It was a great place to live mostly because of the scenery, lots of fantastic entertainment, and the great bookstores.

In fact, Portland can boast of having the largest independent bookstore in the entire world. Powell’s City of Books took up an entire city block when we lived there. I can’t wait to see if it has expanded. You can be sure I will be making at least one visit to the store and I plan to buy at least one book while I’m there, more if I can fit them into my luggage for the trip home. As I recall the bookstore had a coffee shop, several levels and rooms each dedicated to a specific genre it may take me several days to explore it. I’ll be taking pictures, you can be sure, and I may dedicate my next Loving Literature video to my experience there.

I haven’t told many people this, but it’s a favorite fantasy of mine to have book readings at the store. It may not happen until I’ve published my fourth or fifth book, but I keep visualizing what it will be like to read and talk to a huge room full of fans about my writing process and share parts of my new book with them. In my mind’s eye it will be a rare sparklingly sunny day with the profusion of flowers, particularly rhododendrons, azaleas, and the roses the city is so known for.

I’m not a very gregarious person, but I hope to strike up some conversations with the employees and maybe interest someone in The Space Between Time. One way I thought I’d do that is to ask for advice on a little known, but great book to buy. Or maybe I’ll sit in the coffee shop writing or reading and find a friendly patron to talk with. I’m determined to be more open to great conversations with people who love books.

Thinking about books and how much reading has done for me, I thought I’d share a scene from my second novel, tentatively titled Time’s Echo. This is a rough draft, and may not end up in the final version of the book but I thought you might be interested in reading it and making comments.

Time’s Echo begins two or three years after the end of The Space Between Time. Jack, Jenna’s husband, has opened his center for the arts. Though Jenna’s primary job is working on her second novel about her experiences with Morgan, her three-times great-grandmother, she also offers classes at the center. In this scene, she and her friend Naomi are wrapping up just such a class. My idea for this novel is that Jenna’s ideas about women that she expresses in her writing and in public will put her and her family in some dangerous situations. This scene shows that not everyone hates her.

 

“Ms. Holden, I wanted to thank you for teaching this class. I had no idea there were so many powerful, and creative women throughout history,” said Amy. She was one of the students who was taking classes on scholarship at the Umpqua Center for the Arts. She was a bright girl. Jenna was glad she had been privileged to have her as a student.

At first Jenna had thought she’d be much too busy writing the next book about her adventures with Morgan, her three-times great-grandmother, to teach classes. Since finding the box containing the journals, she had been living in two worlds. It was sometimes difficult for Jenna to focus on the present moment.

However, Her mother’s dear friend Naomi had suggested the class about prominent women and their contributions to the development of humanity. She offered to team teach the class with Jenna. Given the political climate, the two women saw the class as their way of helping their students see that women have always been making important contributions.

This was the last day of the class. Jenna had thoroughly enjoyed teaching it with Naomi, though they were really more like facilitators. The students were the ones who had chosen women they found interesting, then taught each other about their achievements.

“You’re welcome.” Jenna said to Amy, “I’ve had fun learning about women I had never heard of before. Which woman was your favorite?”

“That’s a hard one to answer. Eleanor Roosevelt I guess. She was one of my favorites because even though she came from a wealthy and powerful family, she always looked for ways to help people, and that made her feel better about herself.”

“I like her too. I hope you’ll consider taking other classes with us.”

“Oh, I will. I want to try acting and some of the art classes. I’ve always wanted to paint.”

“Good for you. I look forward to seeing you around the Center.”

The center was a success because the course offerings were designed for the enrichment and enjoyment of local residents of Roseburg and the surrounding environs as well as drawing students from farther afield. The courses were unique, relatively inexpensive, and weren’t offered anywhere else.

Obviously the class had been a big hit because other students hung around to talk to Naomi and Jenna. What surprised Jenna was the fact that several young men had taken the class. Because of that there had been some lively discussions about the rights of men and women. In the end through consensus, the students decided that the class was really about human rights.

 

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

To join my mailing list, click here.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Writing and Reading Lessons

Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series.

“Nobody needs me to sing MacDonald’s praises, but that yard of books did more for me than provide excellent entertainment. For some reason the McGee books spoke to me like textbooks. I felt I could see what MacDonald was doing, and why, and how, as if I could see beneath the skin.” ~ Lee Child

“Dickens didn’t write what people wanted. Dickens wanted what people wanted.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” ~ Stephen Pressfield

I’ve gone back to working on my sequel novel to The Space Between Time, and because of that and the political climate, I’ve been doing lots of thinking about my characters Jenna and Morgan and their relationships with their husbands. I’ve known for quite some time that Morgan becomes a Suffragist, and Jenna has a tangle with the conservative right who want to keep women in their place. But when I first started working on that manuscript in 2014 I felt a little bit stuck. Things were going along pretty smoothly at the time but events have turned to give me more fodder for my imagination. Because of that I’ve been thinking about how Jack and Seth will react to their wives becoming activists. I want to get into their heads to see what interesting things their struggles will bring to the story. This book may turn out to be more about how men and women relate to each other than Jenna and Morgan’s involvement in the women’s movements of their respective time periods.

As I’ve no doubt written before, my mind is rarely quiet. I’m always storing away bits of information I pick up from the books I read, current events, the movies and TV shows I watch, and conversations with friends and family.

Every once in a while all the disparate things I’ve been thinking or observing come to a conjunction and I get a big AHA. I’ve recently had one of those ahas when I read an article about “The Awesome Omega Male.” I don’t want to go into detail about how my thinking came together, however, I will say that I’ve come to some interesting conclusions about the different kinds of male characters in movies and books.

My husband and I had been watching many action movies lately. After reading the above mentioned article, I realized that male oriented action movies come in two basic categories. There are the alpha male movies with the characters who are egotistical and on a rampage of revenge. It could be as trivial a reason as somebody messed with their stuff, or crossed them in some way. I don’t like those kind. They don’t seem to have a point.

In the other category there are characters who are alienated from society, but they have more omega male qualities. These characters are introverted and like it. They don’t go seeking trouble but if it comes, they have the skills to take out the bad guys. They can be empathetic and kind, but for the most part they like working on their own. They don’t have much of an ego because they know their own strengths and weaknesses and how use both to accomplish their goals. In this last category of movies, the men use violence only when necessary to protect those who really need it.

One thing I loved about the article on omega men was it defined the type of men I grew up knowing. I knew that I could go to my father with a problem and he’d listen without judgment. I could rely on him to protect me if I needed it, but he also encouraged me to stand up for myself. So that’s the kind of male characters I created for The Space Between Time. When my writer friend told me that she thought my male characters were too soft, I told her I wrote the kind of men I knew, yet I did consider making them tougher. However I just couldn’t do it. I liked the men I’d created, and I didn’t want to change them. The article on omega men gave me the justification for the type of male characters I had written.

As Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series says, “Character is king.” He’s right. We remember characters over plot, but the plot is what the characters swim in to learn their lessons, to grow and change, and to accomplish their goals. That means that we must create lots of challenges for our characters to deal with, which in turn helps us show who our characters are.

Child also said in the introduction to the first Jack Reacher book, that he likes characters who are winners but alienated in some way. He likes characters who are confident and who can defeat their enemies. We have traditionally thought that the winners are the alpha males, the strongest, loudest, most domineering egotistical men. But the world is changing and so are men. We need winners who fight for all of us, not just to make themselves look good.

As I’ve been thinking about the omega male model, I’ve been comparing it to the female psychological models. According to an article I read by Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., and Janet L. Surrey, Ph.D., women’s primary motivating drive is toward connection with others. Alpha males think that’s a weakness but we’re discovering it’s a huge strength. That’s the one omega man trait that the above movie characters struggle with. Many of them have had a significant close relationship, or they would like to have a connection with someone but for now, they’re loners.

Since reading, as the Lee Child quote above says, is like taking a writing seminar, I’m reading some Jack Reacher and other books with strong male characters. I want to get a different perspective on men so I can use this information to flesh out Jack and Seth and the other male characters in my book. I want them to be distinct from each other and believable, but most of them will continue to be omega males.

I’m discovering that reading really is a fantastic way to become a better writer.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

To join my email list click here.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Finding My Direction

Classic Books
Classic Books

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” ~ Mary Tyler Moore

“As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.” ~ Joseph Campbell

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I’ve mentioned in previous posts my plans to offer a video series called “Loving Literature.” Today I want to tell you why I’m so jazzed about creating this series.

A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to tutor a young person who is having great difficulty with reading. I wasn’t hired, but the cosmic tumblers in my head all fell into place, and the idea for this video series was born. I’m not giving up writing. On the contrary, creating this video series has renewed my fervor and desire to improve my story telling techniques.

My love of story all began with my parents. I’m sure that is where lots of people learn to love reading. My mother shared books with me, which helped me learn to love reading, but it was my father who helped me learn to analyze a story.

As I was growing up, we didn’t have lots of money, so six people going to the theater to see a movie was a rare treat. However, showing recently released, or classic movies on television was a big event back before cable and satellite, and my family took advantage of them. In fact, I didn’t see The Wizard of Oz on the big screen until I was in college. Yet, every year we watched it as it was broadcast on television.

My father turned these movie events into educational sessions as well. He’d ask question after question about what we liked about the movie and the characters. As I recall, he and I would still be discussing the movie long after the others had gone to bed.

One weekend my dad came home unexpectedly with a new color TV after a trip to Sears for something else. That began a new ritual of Dad and I staying up late on the weekends watching and discussing movies together. By extension, and because of a great English teacher, I became deeply interested in the books and stories we studied in class. That’s why I became a theatre artist.

Fast forward to teaching high school drama and English. I realized that I had a unique skill in story analysis when my students became engaged in deep discussions about a story, play or book. It was that realization more than any other that convinced me to quit teaching and become a writer. I’ve been supremely happy these eight years, but teaching at the college sometimes gets in the way of what I really want to be doing. This series will be the perfect blend of teaching and being creative.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been putting the first three videos together and I get more excited every day as ideas for more videos come to me. To begin with, the videos will be about how to read a textbook, play or novel. Then I will have a series on the elements of literature: plot, character, conflict, setting, language, and how to use these to determine the author’s purpose for writing the story. Then I’ll move on to the different genres. Who knows where I’ll go from there. Eventually, I hope I’ll be discussing books, movies and plays I like.

Creating these videos will not take the place of my writing. I see it as an extension of it.

I’ll keep you posted about how it goes, and even invite you to take a look.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are recovering after election day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Opportunities

My Favorite Books
My Favorite Books

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~ Milton Berle

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” ~ Napoleon Hill

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” ~ Betty Friedan

Recently I’ve been helping my sister brainstorm ideas for a series of YouTube videos to help promote her life coaching business. While we were talking, I got the urge to create my own videos. I have my own YouTube channel created some years back so I could post videos of my students performing their acting scenes. It helps if they can see themselves and the mistakes they make, but also seeing how well they do gives them confidence. For the most part, the videos are not public, only the people with the links can view them.

So, I already have a channel set up and I’ve been thinking how I can monetize it. There are people who make a great living posting videos. Maybe I can earn a little money too. But what would my videography theme be? Finally the idea crystallized through a series of events, to complicated to enumerate here, of creating videos tentatively titled “Loving Literature.”

It’s funny how lots of experiences and elements in my life collate and synthesize into a new, better understanding. When that happened last week, I got energized and I can’t wait to begin making videos.

What will the videos be about? The importance of reading and understanding literature, of course. In fact, to me it’s the most important basic skill we need because without being able to read, our learning is handicapped. It’s not that we can’t learn, it’s just a great deal more difficult.

Reading literature, watching plays, movies, and television are ways we can walk a mile in another person’s shoes. That’s what makes storytelling in all its forms so compelling. We’re fascinated by other human beings and their experiences. Stories help us widen our world view and understand people who have a very different outlook on life than we do. We can learn from their experiences. To me understanding what it means to be human is the basis for building societies, cultures, even governments.

In my opinion, if you don’t understand other human beings and why they feel and act the way they do, you can’t be a completely successful person. I’m not talking about gaining wealth, I’m talking about gaining friendships, nurturing families, and being part of a team at work, all of which make having the money worthwhile.

When I’ve got the first few videos posted, I’ll include the link here.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

On Reading and Writing

My Favorite Books
My Favorite Books

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” – Octavia Butler

“Learn as much by writing as by reading.” – Lord Acton

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” – Stephen King

I’m a member of Goodreads social network. At the beginning of the year I pledged to read 50 books. That’s a small amount of books compared to the number some of my friends and family members read every year. However, I enjoy savoring a book. I look forward to going to bed early, reading and then dreaming about the book. I find myself thinking about it at various times during the day and if the book is good the characters come alive for me.

About a year or so ago, I joined a book club group made up mostly of women who had taken my journaling class. It’s interesting to be part of the group because many of the books we read are not ones I would ordinarily choose. The latest book the group chose was, in my opinion, boring. It’s always distressing to me when I begin a novel that fails to grasp my attention because I know how much time goes into writing a novel. In a way, I feel like I’m betraying the author by not liking his or her book. Writing a novel is a huge investment of time and effort. I always want to be completely enthralled by every book I pick up, so when I begin one that I don’t like, I feel sad. I was going to slog through this particular book to the end because I felt a responsibility to the author and my fellow book club members. However, eventually, I just couldn’t continue reading.

Part of me felt bad about putting aside a book that was written by a New York Times best selling author. I thought, “Who am I to say the book wasn’t good.” Then I thought, “I’m a reader, that’s who I am. I have a right to say whether or not a particular book speaks to me.” The wonderful thing for readers is that there are so many books available. We will undoubtedly find many books that touch our lives throughout our reading lives and some books just won’t be worth our time.

As a writer, I feel sad about this particular book because I wanted to like it. It’s historical fiction during the time of the Civil War. Part of the novel I’m writing takes place during the Civil War, I was hoping to get a different perspective about the war from reading this book. I have to say that some of the scenes did give me a different perspective on the war, which is something I always look for in a good book.

As is my custom, I thought long and hard about what it was about the book that made me dislike it. I believe that’s an important exercise for all writers to undertake. The answers can help us become better writers. I’m lucky because I have a background in theatre. I’ve done lots of analyzation of plays and characters. In my opinion, what was missing from this particular book was an emotional connection among the characters. In my mind, all the greatest stories have something in common. They are multilayered and deal with universal themes. When the reader or audience can get a glimpse into a character’s soul, that’s what grasps our hearts and makes us continue reading. This particular book missed the mark in terms of character motivation and connections among the characters.

I’m in the final stages of getting my novel ready for publication. You can be sure, I’ll be going through my manuscript to make sure I’ve done the best I can to make the characters live on the page. At the same time, I’ll have to remind myself that not everyone is going to like my book. That will have to be okay. It will hurt when people write bad reviews, but as the Octavia Butler quote above says, this novel I’m working on might be crap, but I’ve got to keep writing so I can improve my skills. And I’ll keep reading to learn as much as I can from both good and bad books.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Reading is Dangerous

My husband suggested that I might want to write a humorous story to break up the tone of my posts. I wish I could do that, because I gain insight from humorous stories too. But, unfortunately, I’m not Erma Bombeck, or Mark Twain. I wish I were. I may at some point be able to craft a humorous story, but not today. Today I’m writing about how something I’ve been reading helped me understand something that happened that has been a puzzle until now.

Have you ever read a book or a story that affected you so deeply that you continued to think about it long after you finished the last page? I have several on my list. Many of them have made me laugh or cry. They certainly made me think. That’s why reading is dangerous.

When I get emotional while reading, I’m usually alone. Which is the way I prefer it. When you cry in public it makes everyone uncomfortable. This story is about what happened one day, when I was teaching English. I hadn’t thought about that incident for years until this morning.

I was reading the book, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene’ Brown for my up coming book club meeting. In today’s section, Brene’ was relating an incident when she felt deep shame over a response to one of her blog posts, and how she dealt with it. (In case you don’t know about her, she researches the effects of shame on us and how vulnerability can lead us to wholehearted living.) While I was reading, I was reminded of this incident in my English class and thought I’d relate it to you.

The class was American Lit. We were reading the account of Olaudah Equiano, a slave who later bought his freedom to become an abolitionist in England. The section titled, “The Middle Passage”, describes his capture and trip across the Atlantic to one of the Caribbean islands. It’s a harrowing story, so much like the account in Roots, which made me stop reading the book for several days until I could recover enough to pick it up again. The slaves are whipped and crammed into tight quarters. The description of the callousness of the captors, the beatings, filth and stench were so real for me, that I was deeply affected. When I was reading it at home, I thought, I hope I can get through reading this in class without crying. Of course, I couldn’t.

My students were understandably concerned. I think it’s sad that crying in public is not okay.

The classroom became deadly silent. They didn’t know what to do with a teacher who was crying over a passage in the story.

One of the braver students asked me, “Miss, why are you crying?”

I had no idea what to say, but honesty seemed the best policy. “I’m crying because I feel bad about what happened to the slaves.”

“You mean, like you had something to do with it?”

“Yes, I guess. I feel bad that the whites treated the slaves so badly.”

“But, Miss, you weren’t there. You didn’t do it?”

“You’re right,” I said. “I still feel bad.” Then I wiped my eyes and blew my nose and we continued discussing the selection.

It’s important for you to know, that I was teaching in a school that has an over 90 percent population of Mexican/American students. The school is on a border town in Southern Arizona. Those students understand persecution. I don’t know if the fact that I’m white and I was crying about what happened to the slaves so long ago affected my students or not. I think it did. I hope it did.

I write about this incident because, I think it’s important to write about the good and the bad things about being human. Some of the biggest insights have come to me when I’m reading about a person or character’s greatest struggles. As a writer, though, it’s hard to dig down deep and write about those most painful feelings. At least it is for me. I can write about them all day in my journal, but if I know someone’s going to read them, well that’s a different matter. The thing is, that’s why I should dig down and write about the pain, because someone’s going to read it and gain insight. That’s what Olaudah Equiano did, that’s what Brene’ Brown does.

I’ve been doing a lot of personal work lately. Reading Brene’ Brown’s book is just one aspect of the work. It’s helping me see that if we keep secret our wounded places, it can destroy us. On the other hand if we share them, we can help someone we don’t even know. Olaudah Equiano helped people understand what it was like to be captured, tortured, and transported to a far off place and be sold into slavery. His was one of the first slave stories. Many more came after. Who knows maybe his story touched enough people who saw how wrong slavery was and they started the Abolitionist movement.

I guess that’s why I read. Because I’m looking for insight into myself and into what it means to be human.That’s also why I write. It’s part of my process of healing and understanding.

What books or stories prompted you to think long after the reading was finished?