Three years have passed since I shared the words here that my first ever printed (on real paper) essay was included in an anthology called Belly Shame: Stories from the Gut. I’m thrilled to announce there is finally a number 2!
I submitted an essay, entitled “What Walls Were,” for consideration in a competition hosted by Beth Kephart and Juncture Workshops. The anthology would be called The Walls Between Us: Essays In Search Of Truth. Sixteen pieces would make the final cut. I’m humbled to report I received word mine would be among them.
Mentor. I don’t use the word lightly. My Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says a mentor is a trusted counselor or guide. I would also add the descriptor coach. That’s Beth Kephart, through and through.
The author of 22 books and co-creator of Juncture Workshops, Beth and I met in 2016 on a farm in the middle of rural Pennsylvania. I had no idea what I was getting into. None of us did. We’d found Beth and her workshop in a variety of ways. Me, I’d taken a UCLA Extension memoir writing class and her book, Handling The Truth, was at the top of the must read book list on craft. One Facebook friend request, 3,000 mile plane ride, rental car, and a few wrong turns later, I was hugging the real her. In person! Two more times since then, I’ve traveled East to learn craft from a master. Between our beginning and now, Beth has challenged, inspired, and encouraged me to work harder, to dig deeper.
When the competition’s theme of walls was announced, I was determined to contribute. Why? For one, I knew the finished product would be breathtaking. That’s just how Beth and her husband, artist and architect Bill Sulit, roll. They’re incapable of doing less than their best. Also, to be included I knew I’d have to produce work of integrity—my very best effort. The competitors would be many, varied, and talented. They’d have something to say. But even more than those important reasons was the theme itself: walls.
Through the course of my daughter’s and our family’s struggle with her mental illness, I learned that one of the many, many things I’d been taking for granted was the safety inside the walls of our home. It’s a mother’s job to keep her child safe. I wondered back then what it said about me that I couldn’t keep mine safe. I felt alone and ashamed. With my daughter’s permission, I write about our journey to let others know they are not alone, that hope exists and help is real. Sharing our experience is the best way I know to dispel myths and break down barriers.
I am grateful to Beth and Bill for conceiving this idea and for their passion and dedication to seeing it through, for their devotion to truth-telling, especially in an age where truth and truth-tellers are under attack. I’m grateful to my fellow writers who were willing to tackle difficult topics, to run the risks inherent with sharing personal stories in a public forum. I am grateful that writing continues to be my primary path to recovery and healing. I dedicated this year to self-care, learning how to love myself unconditionally. Writing this essay was an important step on the journey. I’m filled with gratitude to my writing tribe, my community. I don’t and can’t say often enough what the people I’ve met along the way mean to me. My life has changed because of them.
My essay wouldn’t exist without the help, support, and encouragement from friends, teachers, and mentors alike. Thank you.
The book’s blurb:
In an era of increasing divisions and divisiveness, Juncture Workshops sponsored a literary contest seeking the best essays on the complexities of walls, both literal and metaphoric. Writers from around the world responded. The resulting book contains sixteen full-length essays on topics ranging from deep yearning and personal loss to kiwi birds and urban neighborhoods. Nearly two dozen brief excerpts further tell the story of geopolitical and intimate schisms. Curated and introduced by memoirist and memoir teacher Beth Kephart, The Walls Between Us: Essays In Search of Truth offers profound insights into the ways in which we both construct and shatter divisions. Sometimes tender, sometimes angry, sometimes funny, always moving, the book features the work of both established writers and emerging ones.
You can purchase your copy of The Walls Between Us, essays in search of truth HERE.