Category Archives: Books & Waving Backwards

Help Author Panowich Raise Funds for Domestic Abuse Shelter

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My author friend Brian Panowich is a superstar supporter for the Safe Homes Domestic Violence Shelter in Georgia. He is participating in a fundraiser, and I humbly request your help.Brian Panowich.jpg

As some of you know, my current book project Transgressions in Rouge chronicles my adoptive father’s abuse of two families, and his transition (late in life) to become a woman. I watched helplessly as my father brutalized my mother and brother for twelve years. The scars left by his madness will never fully heal, but are the catalyst for me to speak out about the pervasive violence that is happening right NOW.

When my mother, brother and I escaped, we stayed at a family shelter for victims of domestic violence. Housed in an old motel, the shelter was the first of its kind on Long Island, New York. Without that shelter and the amazing staff of volunteers who ran it,  we would have been trapped in the cycle of terror.

In America, one in four women are abused by their domestic partners.
Organizations like Safe Homes are their only way out.

Donating to this essential organization is easy.  Just click here and  choose the ‘Donate Toward a Team or Individual’s Goal’ option. Search for ‘Brian Panowich’ and give whatever you can afford.

Shelter is freedom. Freedom is life.
Blessings for a safe place to be,
V.L.

Waltzing with Ghosts (Forgive My Absence)

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There is truth in memory. It is a truth laced with opinion built on years of re-framing life images. As I work on my second book (first memoir) spirits long since transcended, sit beside me urging me to their truth. I dig deeper and deeper to see them as whole human beings, frail, wanting to be loved, unsure, making their way in the best manner they could. mansion-1

Haunted. It is the best word to describe the process of trying to uncover beautiful prose in a past so horrifying that I often think it happened to someone else. The words never seem right. Never large or accurate enough to tell the tale of honing my faith in hell. How does one describe God’s grace? When my finger left the trigger of my father’s rifle, on the day I planned to kill him, I looked up to the marble crucifix. Porcelain Jesus looked back. His suffering was more than mine, and somehow at that moment I knew my tortured family would be okay.

Denial. I have spent more than thirty-years hiding from my truth. I did not know I was running, swiping away what my heart owned. “I survived. I’m strong”, I would tell those who asked about growing up in a constant state of battle. Shhh. Don’t mention your adoption anger. Dysfunction cast in a light of character-building is easier for others to stomach. So, I swallowed the loathing, fear, and vulnerability of abuse in a great big pill called denial, riding the effects until earlier this year. Now, as I experience inevitable withdrawals, I withdraw from you my readers, and friends.

As I write, monsters who choked the justice from my childhood encircle. Scratching at my soul, they fight the exodus that will free me. They crowd my mind, pushing and hollering to be heard on my precious pages.  I dance with and away from the exposure they flaunt.

Winter is coming as I work to complete this book. As frigid nights zap the green from marsh grass to reveal roots and decay, so topple barriers long forged to hide my truth.  If I seem distracted, please forgive me. I am waltzing a glorious, tortuous last dance with powerful apparitions.

Blessings for a peaceful, loving Thanksgiving,

V.L. Brunskill


Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
View the Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

Awakened to American Hate- A Hermit Retreats

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Struggling of late with the reality of hate. Hidden vengeful thoughts, that when shared among like-thinkers, explode into personal reality. Among the pretty, responsible faces of America, there is a shameful feeling of superiority. Witnessing this of late, in the judgement of all who are not like us, has spiraled my soul into despair.

A hermit at heart, I spend much time alone, thinking, reading, writing. So when I venture out, I am often slapped by the bigoted beliefs of others. Lowering noses, staring, judging.

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A Hermit Praying — Gerrit Dou

I am not beyond reproach in these matters. For awhile, I considered the viability of the wall. You know the one. A border to keep illegal immigrants from American soil. At first glance, I believed that illegal is illegal. That all who break the law should be ousted, as to preserve the integrity of our land and systems.

However, education, and a single young woman’s story changed my mind about casting one rule for all immigrants. Judging any group based on a label is dangerous. Labels are inherently biased. To broadly brand all members of a race, political party, gender, or religion as one thing will never equal truth.

Let me tell you about Carnita. Carnita is eighteen years old. She came from Brazil at a young age when her mother married an American citizen. She speaks three languages. She studied hard and graduated from high school. She carries herself elegantly and speaks with an eloquence far beyond her years. I have know Carnita for five years.

Three years ago, Carnita revealed to her mother a terrible secret. Her step-father had been raping her since the age of seven. The American was a pedophile. Carnita was terrified to tell, because she knew that her family would be in jeopardy should her mother and stepfather divorce.

Her mother divorced the American. The courts found him not guilty. Carnita never had a rape kit processed.  The court believed that she would have come forward sooner if it was true. The immigrant family had no legal recourse. They became illegal immigrants once papers expired. A rapist American gave them the right to live here and took it away.

So Carnita, now graduated from high school is at a standstill. Jobless, fighting for her driver’s license, and unable to attend college, she struggles to find her way. She watches her American friends move forward, frustrated by her inability to do so. I have told Carnita that I will sponsor her, help her file forms, whatever is needed to allow this sweet child to move forward. She wept when I offered this, but there was also fear in her beautiful brown eyes. Fear, I could tell, for her family who, if found out, could be deported.

This young lady reminded me that every immigrant has a story. Whether they arrive carried in by parents who marry Americans, sneak over boarders for work, or fly in as tourists and stay, each arrives with a human heart filled with hope.

Carnita was raped by a ‘born and bred’ American citizen. She will pay for it for the rest of her days. When she becomes a legal American, she will love this country. She will feel blessed to live here. She will not judge us based on one criminal American. She will not assume she knows all Americans because of the American who raped her. She will take each American she meets at face value, judging them based on their individual story, actions, and intentions.

I am weary, and embarrassed by the comments of racism, hate and bigotry that have been spit out in my presence of late. So I crawl, ever so quietly back into my writing cave.

Blessings for less ignorance & more tolerance,

V.L. Brunskill


Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

Ten True Things for my Daughter and the Graduating Class of 2016

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Advice will come from many mouths as you finish the long journey to graduation. Some will wish you luck, but I wish you something more- karma. The future rests in your capable hands and if you choose the path of kindness, humility, empathy and charity, yours will be the most fulfilling future.

As I have passed the half century mark, I have learned a few life lessons.  On this graduation day, I share ten true things that I’ve learned along my way.graduates

Always say I love you. You never know when it will be the last opportunity to do so.

Travel often, and far. When you have an opportunity to travel, do it. Life builds boxes and boundaries around us. Break free, travel. The opportunity to travel may come with college or in business. Don’t be afraid. Take every trip you are offered. Someday your body will not be able.

Don’t take it personally. People are walking around with big insecurities, doubts, regrets, and they deflect these things to others in order to free themselves. Smile when they frown. Be gentle when they lash out. You may be the only happiness they experience that day.

Attend college to learn and grow. Grades are important, but opening your mind to care about what you are being taught is the truest education. Ask questions. Challenge opinions. Expand your mind and your heart through knowledge. Take classes even after you graduate.  Try to learn one new thing every day.

Marry the steady, constant companion who makes you smile, puts your feelings first, and makes your heart skip a beat or two. Marry with a lifetime in mind. Don’t rush. Don’t jump. Don’t take those vows unless you know you have found the other half of your soul.

Do good deeds, and don’t tell anyone. The things that will give you the greatest contentment are not things at all. They are the small actions– helping someone who is short of cash at the register, carrying someone’s groceries, holding a hand of someone who needs to be reminded they are not alone. These are the greatest gifts you will ever give yourself, and others.

Be true to yourself. Never, ever change to suit someone else’s expectations. Be your true self and you will shine for all of your days.

Worry less. If I had a nickel for every worry I fretted over, that ended up being for naught- I would be a millionaire. Bad things will happen. You will find a way to survive. Worrying steals years and precious moments better spent living.

Look for the light. When the days are dark and you cannot see your way around an issue, step outside and look for the light of life. Watch a bird fly. Feel a breeze on your face. Smell a flower. Howl at the moon. The light of hope is everywhere, and I have found that when I am down, forcing myself to look for it, eases the emotional toll of the issue at hand. There is power in changing your physical location and stepping into the light.

Make friends. Join clubs, organizations or churches, even if you don’t feel like it. Nearly everyone feels socially awkward. Even if you happen to like your homebody, introverted life, make an effort. Life is lonely. Social Media is okay, but you’ll need a hug one day, and that phone/pad/laptop will never be able to wipe away a tear, or hold your hand. Make the effort and even as friends fall away. Keep reaching out to make new ones. Social life is the spark that ignites great ideas, love, companionship, and social change.

Blessings from my heart for all graduates,

V.L.

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

Find Courage- A Message from Trans Dad’s Grave

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Mother’s Day weekend had me thinking of a woman who was not my mother, but my father. My father died a transgender woman last year. She transitioned in her late sixties, after living most of her life as an angry, abusive man.
(pronoun warning- it’s about to get messy)

About a month ago, I requested that a volunteer at findagrave.com take a picture of my father’s tombstone. I wanted the photo added to her public memorial page (for which I am the paid administrator).

When my father died, I attempted to publish an obituary on the funeral home’s website. However, my father’s friend (who inherited all of her things including my childhood home) feared that someone would loot the empty house if the death were made public. She stopped publication of the obituary. So my father Joann died, without a single published memorial, other than the emotional eulogy I penned here.

This weekend, I visited my adoptive father’s findagrave.com page because she was in my head. Hours spent reliving my father’s life, as I write her story into a novel, allows her to sit by my side in a sort of self-haunting. However, I believe that the macabre regurgitation of her story will ultimately free me.

When I looked at the page, I found that volunteer photographer Kimberly LaFountain had graciously taken a photo of the tombstone and posted it on the memorial. I expected a basic military gravestone. However, the words carved there were a heartbreaking affirmation of the heart and soul of my new novel.

FIND COURAGE TO LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE

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Enlightened words from a woman who did not get to live her truth,
until it was too late to save my family.

My father lived a tortured life, that along with a terrible upbringing, caused him to become a masterful torturer. He was cruel in every sense of the word. One source of his cruelty was that he lived as a man for sixty plus years, all the while knowing he was a woman.

Of late, states across the nation are up-in-arms over where transgender people should be allowed to pee. My father’s story, and the message on her grave, should serve to remind us that there is danger in denying one’s truth.

My father was not a danger when she used the woman’s restroom. She was a danger when she pent up who she was, and tried to live as a tough as nails iron-worker, and fists-first father. She was a horrible person, because she lived everyday in as masculine a manner as she could muster. Her idea of masculine behavior was defined by her own abusive father. Men hit. So she bloodied my childhood while trying to prove a maleness that did not exist.

In my father’s case, there were additional psychological issues that capitulated her anger into abuse. However, I believe the main source of her cruelty was the daily squelching of gender truth.

I defend transgender rights today, despite the turmoil my trans father caused in my family’s life. I want to shout from the rooftops that where trans people pee is inconsequential. They have been using their restroom of choice for years. You just didn’t notice.

When discussing transgender people, the focus needs to be on encouragement for all people to live the truth, without cultural, or societal mandates that make them want to hide their differences. I am living proof that acceptance would mean less suffering for all.

FIND COURAGE TO LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE

Blessings to know and live your truth,
V.L.

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

 

 

 

 

 

Conrack Gone- Pat Conroy Remembered

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When I read of Pat Conroy’s death, I prayed it was not so. In my continued prayers since learning of his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, I imagined Pat fit, healthy, and miraculously healed by the prayers of his well-wishers, readers and fans.

Pat deserved to be well. Pat needed to be at the next book festival, filling literary minds with encouragement, humor, and his painfully honest recollections. The book world could not survive without Pat’s pink-cheeked smirk, wry humor or masterful manipulation of words. Yet, this dark day, we must find a way to do so.

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Decatur Book Festival

Pat was my author. It’s hard to describe why, or how, he became ‘my’ author. It likely started where every literary love affair begins, in a book. Water is Wide was my first foray into Pat Conroy’s world. It was love at first read. After that, I devoured everything Pat wrote, and attended every reading, festival and signing where I might feast on his opinions, learn a literary trick, hug greatness.

I think a quote from Pat’s My Losing Season- A Memoir describes my feelings best-

“The great teachers fill you up with hope and shower you with a thousand reasons to embrace all aspects of life. I wanted to follow Mr. Monte around for the rest of my life, learning everything he wished to share or impart, but I didn’t know how to ask.”

I had the good fortune of breathing the same air as Pat Conroy many times. So many times in fact, that a few friends asked if I was a Conroy stalker. Every greeting from Pat buckled my knees, and quickened my heart in a fan girl manner that made deep questions on writing, survival, and other important life issues, impossible.

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Savannah Book Festival

Pat was always patient and gracious despite my goofiness. He laughed when author Mary Hood (who’d witnessed my breathless approach) told me to, “breath” from a nearby signing table at the Savannah Book Festival. He teased me as we took a photo together, making up tales of knowing my mother in high school, and having a great time with her (wink, wink). He greeted my daughter and I at the opening of the Mina and Conroy Fitness Center as if we were long lost family, delivering a peck on the cheek that made me swoon.

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Mina & Conroy Fitness Center

As a fellow abuse survivor, and writer, Pat represented for me, the hopeful idea that I might someday capture the brutality of my own childhood in a prose that prickled reader’s skin and healed their hearts.

To open a Conroy book is to watch Pat slice a vein, and bleed precisely and eloquently on every page. Pat Conroy was a beacon for the beaten down, a man who reigned over a kingdom of readers with the touch of a healer.

He was my author, and I miss him already.

Blessings for Pat’s loving wife Cassandra, his family & friends,

V.L.
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Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battered not Broken (How ‘Jane Eyre’ Saved Me)

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Tucked away in the functional ruins of a dilapidated motel room, my adoptive mother, brother and I spent 62 nights huddled on a queen-size bed, watching sitcom reruns. A donated black and white television, thread-bare throw rug, and mildew covered window shade decorated our shelter abode. Outside our room, beyond the shiny mansions and pristine beaches of South Hampton New York, a monster lurked, waiting to hurt us.

In each room of the one story dwelling, resided a victim of domestic abuse. Some women were burned, some children black & blue. All of us were frightened and finally free. Most of us came from suburban homes with shiny kitchens, large playrooms and green landscapes.  We were African American, White, Hispanic and Asian. Abusers, I discovered at eleven years old, did not discriminate.

Days at the shelter were filled with fun activities for the younger children. Coloring contests, and trips to the playground transformed wide-eyed fright into the delightful laughter of freedom. Lifting the spirits of broken children was the task of shelter volunteers, and they undertook our sorrowful cases with the same gentle touch one might use to mend the broken wing of a sparrow. Children, who had left behind every precious belonging of childhood; pretty pink tutus, shiny yellow Tonka trucks, beloved story books- flourished in the safety of our secret shelter.

I was the oldest motel child. The glee exhibited by the younger children pleased me, but I was not a participant. Daily responsibility for protecting my family from constant abuse had made me older than my years. I spent unstructured days at the shelter watching television, and playing Andy Gibb records on my portable record player. Three records, and a plastic turntable were all I had salvaged from my lacy pink bedroom.

That summer fell into a humdrum routine. Despite having escaped the calloused fists of my father, I spent every afternoon standing guard in the rusty mental chair outside our room. I never took my eyes off the road, for I was sure that his truck would reappear, and re-ignite our nightmare.

That summer would have remained stagnant and useless, had no one observed or intervened. I had no idea that an angel watched my afternoon shifts as family sentinel.  During the second week at the shelter, the angel approached me. She pulled a chair close to mine, and sheltering her eyes from the sun, stared down the gravel drive.

“Hi”, she said, “I’m Lisa. What’cha looking for?”

I eyed the pretty, dark-haired woman with cautious curiosity. “Just making sure,” I answered respectfully. It was essential that I not be rude, or say anything that might get us kicked out of the shelter. We had no place else to go.

“Where are Mom and Peter?” she asked.

I was anxious, thinking that she would tell me the monster had located us. “Mom’s taking her GED course, and Peter went with the other counselors to the playground.”

A cloud of dust rose in the wake of a passing car, and I shuddered at the idea of being left alone. I asked, “They OK?”

Lisa smiled and I relaxed. Putting her hand on mine, she said, “They’re fine. You are safe now Vicki. Want to talk in the office for a bit. It’s awful hot out here.”

I followed Lisa to the makeshift office. She offered me a cola and I drank it down too quickly, burping out loud and apologizing. Lisa let out a belly laugh, and I found myself smiling for the first time in years.

Lisa and I talked for an hour that day, and nearly every day after. We talked about the abuse, my family’s brave escape, the newfound opportunities my mother would have due to the high school diploma she was earning. Lisa told me about college, and explained that she was a volunteer and had seen many families leave the shelter to create wonderful lives.  She asked me what I liked to do, and I told her about my record albums, and that I had read every romance novel in the stash of paperbacks in the motel laundry.

Lisa made me her summer companion. I met her fiancé at a dinner prepared for me at her apartment. The normal tones with which they communicated were foreign and when they hugged, I thought I would die of embarrassment.

Lisa taught me to view our shelter stay as a stepping stone to happiness.  Our daily conversations cast me as a survivor, rather than a victim. She said that I was strong, and that I should be proud of how well I had cared for my family. She told me that I would be a great woman someday, and that I would be the best kind of Mom when I grew up, because I had learned compassion. Lisa’s keen listening skills, simple words of encouragement, and rosy outlook altered the path of my life.

One day, after I plopped down on the couch of the cool, welcoming office, she smiled and said, “I have something for you.” From her purse she pulled a slightly worn paperback and handed it to me. A sad looking woman wearing a bonnet and gown stared at me from the cover.

“It is Jane Eyre,” she said, “and this was my first copy. I think you’ll like it better than those romance novels.”jane-eyre

I flipped through the pages. Miniscule print, and more words than I had ever read in a single book made the book seem daunting. Because I had grown to trust Lisa more than anyone before her, I accepted the gift and read Jane Eyre every night.  The book accompanied me on afternoon watches. My rusty perch no longer a dreaded guard post, had morphed into the hopeful place where I awaited Lisa’s arrival.

In the precious pages of Jane Eyre, I learned that survival takes on many forms, and that suffering did not have to be a lifelong curse. I learned that adversity could be overcome. Lisa’s gift gave me a newfound freedom to view myself, not as a lonely victim, but as a formidable resident of a world fraught with women who suffered and survived. Lisa, my kind, generous volunteer unlocked a lifelong love of literature, and turned my shelter summer into a lesson of love.

I never saw Lisa again after my mother earned her GED, and found a job. We moved from the shelter to an apartment at the end of that summer. Autumn arrived, along with new schools, new friends and a peaceful knowing that like Jane Eyre, I would survive.

This story is for Lisa, and all the volunteers who give hope to the hopeless, and love to the unloved. They are angels, every one.

Blessings for angels to guide you,

V.L. Brunskill
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Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

The Danish Girl- Not my Transgender Story

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Everyone wants to believe in heroes. Some want to be one. Some want to be rescued by one. Others are them–held above the masses, if only for a moment, based on an unfathomably unique, or above average feat.

The definition of heroism morphs based on society’s beliefs at a certain moment. In our society; being the first to try something risky is heroic. So is putting your safety in jeopardy to save another. More than ever before,  the youth of this generation define heroism as the breaking down of boundaries and stereotypes that keep humans from living their truth. By these terms, the protagonist in the movie The Danish Girl is a hero. danish

I wept throughout the beautiful movie, falling head-over-heels into the romance of the script, which tells the story of the first gender re-assignment surgery, conducted in Germany in 1930. The patient was Einar Wegener, a married man, whose wife Gerda recognized a femininity in him, and gently coaxed it to the surface with her art. The shock for Gerda was, that once released, Einar’s feminine side took over. He was she, and had been all along.

I wonder, after watching the movie, if every hero must in some way be his or her own antihero. For with his gender choices, Einer (who becomes Lili) breaks Gerda’s heart. Does every heroic decision require that someone suffer? Whether it is the hero, or the person being saved, does someone have to be victimized? For to require saving (by definition) means that you have been a victim to something, or someone.

The story of heroism portrayed in The Danish Girl made me think of my transgender father’s choice to have gender reassignment surgery in his late sixties. He had lived a long, unhappy life in a body that was obviously not the one in which he felt he belonged. In his endless discontentment, he chose a life of self-inflation, constantly building himself up at the expense of others. He created victims along every path he traversed.

Now, as I watch the world embrace (at least the idea of) gender confusion/reassignment with love, reverence, and a sort of hero worship (as displayed so beautifully in The Danish Girl), I have an aching wish to make my father a hero. Heck, I’d give up a few years of my own life to know him/her as someone heroic. But alas, I cannot.

Why? Because while the decision to go through with gender reassignment surgery takes guts, in my father’s case it was not heroic. It was a relief for her, yes. It was what she needed, yes. But not heroic. Because in the path to reassignment, while she was still living and breathing in a man’s body, he was one of the cruelest, most damaging, and hateful men who ever called himself “Dad”.

Watching The Danish Girl made me want to love my father because he bravely had his genitals altered to match his internal reality. But he was no hero. In fact, he was an anti-hero.

My father (who died in February 2015) was weak, and lived a distorted version of reality where he could beat my brother and mother to a bloody pulp for the tiniest infraction. Speaking too loudly; not eating your most hated food; not brushing your teeth correctly; leaving an dirty dish on the counter- each was rewarded with ambulance worthy brutality.

Knowing that my father envied my being born a girl makes me hate him even more. Leaving me out of the physical abuse he delivered for 12-years of my childhood (and during the five years before my adoption), tripled the psychological pain of the mental abuse. Untouched, I became the forced savior for a family that he should have been saving. I spent every waking moment of my first twelve years trying to figure out an escape route from hell. While other little girl’s had Daddies they could look up to (their heroes), I had an enemy force to conquer.

The Danish Girl made me feel tenfold, the pressures of a society that wants me to shout from the rooftop- “Hey, My dad was transgender. She died a woman. Wasn’t she heroic?”

I must answer those expectations with a resounding, “NO!”

Just as no one can cast every person of a certain race, or ethnicity as having the same beliefs, behaviors, or tendencies- being transgender is not all goodness, light and love. Sometimes being transgender is evil, dark and hateful. Sometimes being transgender is not The Danish Girl story, and is instead a tale of cowardice and anti-heroism.

Blessings for knowing a real hero,

V.L. Brunskill
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Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

Weep, Write, Repeat- ‘Transgressions in Rouge’

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Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Well, as I bleed through the first draft of my next book, Transgressions in Rouge, I am learning the truth of Hemingway’s statement, along with a breathtaking amount of my own truth.

Transgressions is based on the story of my life as an adoptee and abuse survivor. It is also the story of my adoptive father, who lived an angry lie during the first 60+ years of his life.  It was a lie so deeply buried (and secret) that it ate away his humanity, and ability to be a decent father or human being. My father was a transgender woman. hemingway

As I research the male-to-female transition process,  I discover more of my adoptive father’s psyche than I ever understood while he was alive. He died in February. Some of you will recall the Eulogy that I penned for him that month. I wrote it in a whirlwind of pain.

My father’s only friend (who had her daughter call me about Jo’s death) made me out to be an evil person, a sorry daughter who abandoned the righteous woman she’d befriended. During that phone call, I whimpered out my story to the stranger on the phone. I explained that my family was the victim of Jo’s hard handed actions. I told her about the brutal attacks, wondering out loud if they  might have been born of Jo’s desperate cover-up of her true self. Jo was angry at us, herself, the world and resolved her frustration with both fists raised.

Writing a novel that is based on my life is like pulling my lower lip over my head, and hanging a bowling bowl from the end.

It sucks, and then again, it doesn’t.

For along with the writing down of scenes so dramatic they adapt seamlessly to fiction,

  • Dad drowning neighbor’s cats in the backyard.
  • Dad kicking Mom until she had internal bleeding.
  • Dad brushing my seven-year-old brother’s teeth until blood poured from his gums

…there is relief and a deeper understanding of the insanity that was my childhood. When I look at the events as a writer, the motives of everyone involved become clearer. The strong do not loom half as large as they appeared when I was a child living each crisis.

There is power and perspective in bleeding on paper.

Write, weep, repeat.

Blessings that you find your demons and the power to slay them,

V.L. Brunskill
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Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

 

The Quiet Revelation of Tea Leaves- E. Shaver Bookseller

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On Saturday September 19th, I arrived at E. Shaver Bookseller to sign copies of my debut novel Waving Backwards. I unrolled my ‘Author Inside’ banner, unpacked my Penguin Sharpie, and headed to the antique-filled room behind The Tea Room.

During the three years I spent rewriting my novel, while sprouting gray hairs, and dreading the idea of allowing anyone to read my work, I visited E. Shaver often. I tiptoed through room-after-room of the 1842 Greek revival home (turned bookstore) immersed in a reader’s oasis of classics, bestsellers, and rare finds.

During these visits, posters announcing book signings, and shelves filled with local author’s works, tantalized and tempted me to think about someday joining their ranks. Daydreaming of my Savannah novel, and how it would feel to hold a bound version in my hand, or (mercy me) see it on an E. Shaver shelf, made each visit to the store a mystical trip into the realm of possibilities.

Anywhere one dreams is magical.

After my book was published by SYP Publishing in July, it was far easier for me to contact local chain stores about carrying it, than to approach E. Shaver.  Sometimes we hold something so dear that we also hold it at a distance. So, when the lovely ladies at the store contacted me about carrying my novel, I waltzed around my living room. Later, when I approached them about a signing and they said ‘yes’,  dizzy does not begin to describe my reaction.

eshaver2On the day of the signing, the ancient building welcomed me with the same creaky floorboards, and bookish aroma of freshly bound dreams.  I sat at the signing table, peering at the store’s heavy wooden entrance doors with a fresh perspective. A new aroma joined the sensory party as the scent of fruit, jasmine and joyful spices made its way to my nose. A relatively new addition to E. Shaver’s offerings is The Tea Room that now resides where large format books once rested.

From my signing spot, I was privy to the whispering of the Tea Room ladies as  they described in aromatic detail the hot and cold beverages they had freshly brewed for patrons that afternoon. Adding to the ambiance were a delightful array of bookish shoppers, and the symphonic calm of classic forties tunes playing quietly throughout the store. eshaver

I met wonderful friends, an adoptee (who found that his mother became a nun after his relinquishment), and signed a book for a young man who wore a Cheshire grin when he asked me to inscribe his book to, “the amazingly handsome Doug.”  I also met the resident kitties, who pranced through tea cup and saucer displays with enviable feline grace. However, it was a moment of solitude that made the signing a true success.

As I partook of a cup of hot ‘Emperor’s Bride’ tea (a name that made me giggle) I  picked up a copy of Waving Backwards, and reread the back cover describing the story that lived in my heart for so long. I teared up at the blurb written by author John WarleyA Southern Girl, The Moralist, Bethesda’s Child). I admired the texture and color of the richly designed cover, and I gave thanks.

The hectic pace of launching, marketing, and selling a book (when you’re not J.K. Rowling) steals a bit of the achievement’s sparkle. In my little corner of E. Shaver, a quiet knowing replaced success metrics that rely on the latest positive review or sales ranking. I found among the steeping tea leaves, a solitude and pride of completion. Not showy, nor outward, I caressed my story, amid people who appreciated words, and felt for the first time what it really means to be an author.

Thank you to E. Shaver Bookseller (and all independent booksellers) for embracing local authors, and breathing life into the continued sharing of words  and stories.

Blessings for thankful insight and a great read,

V.L.
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Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U