WriMo betta blues. O’ plot…come out, come out wherever you are!

The book: Writing Fiction Step by Step

The exercise: Have a woman think about a seemingly  unrelated incident in her life while something else is going on now.

Here goes:

Oh lord.  That nurse is looking at me funny.  The jig is up. I should’ve known changing one digit of my SS wasn’t enough to throw them off my scent! I’m gon’ get Sulaiman after I get outta jail! They gon’ throw me in jail for malpractice fraud or somethin’! 

“Mrs. Ab-duel-hagg? Mrs. Aaab-duel-hagg!”

“Thats me! I’m here! Those are ‘Q’s’.  Abdul-Haqq…like ham hock.” Nervous giggle and dry gulp from me but not even the faintest quiver of a smile from her.

“My apologies Mrs. Haqq, You forgot to put down who your insurance provider is”.

Yeah. forgot.

“Yes. Um, as it happens,  I actually don’t have any.  How does that work? You can bill me right?”  I laughed.  She glowered.  I oughta give ’em Sulaiman’s address…

“We can discuss it when you come out. The doctor’s ready for you now.”  Nurse Smiley pointed me to the right and down a short hall to room 413.

I was overjoyed that it was a short corridor.  I was convinced that these crutches they gave me we’re made for an Amazon.  They cut into my under arm pits  and even my good foot barely touched the floor.  I was swinging more than I was walking or crutching as it were.  The swinging was great fun for a little while but ask the fly who fell into the honey about too much of a good thing.  Anyway, I guess crutches that fit are for people who don’t have to go to the emergency room and be duplicitous.  Knock-knock.

“Mrs. Abdul-Haqq?”  He was kind. I could hear it even before I swung into the room and laid eyes on him.

“Yes, it’s me. ” He was a young doctor of presumably middle eastern descent and he was looking—frowning— at some papers and x-rays inside of a manila folder.  He pulled the x-rays out and slammed them up into that light thingy that  illuminates whatever the little thing is that’s gonna change your life forever.

“I’m Dr. Hamid. Tell me again how you sustained the injury.  Your handwriting got a bit jumbled.”

“Yeah,  I kinda started to ramble so I ran out of space but I know you guys want ‘just the facts'”.   I laughed.  He smiled but I did see him glance at the clock behind me.  I was always extra chatty and corny when I was nervous.

“Yes, I was in my dance class, its African dance, very high impact.  I jumped up but when you come down there’s a quick lateral move and a pivot with your weight on your heel.  I came down hard and prepared to turn when I felt a blinding electric blue shock of pain.  I now know why folks use the term ‘blew my knee out’.  Doc it actually felt like my knee momentarily flew out from between the thigh bone and shin bone and then went back in place.  Like something out of a Wile E. Coyote or Tom and Jerry cartoon!”  I was rambling live and in color now.  “So now it kinda hurts to walk.  Oh and I hear a clicking noise too.”

He had been writing notes and then rose to go over to the light board of fate.  “Mrs. Abdul-Haqq it does look like you sustain a PCL injury.”

Oh Lord…PCL…pituitary cranial lobotomy?…no that would have something to do with my head…phalanges cracked for life?… oh Lord…my phalanges!

He pointed to the x-ray, “The posterior cruciate ligament is located right about here in your knee.  If you look closely you can see th— ”

Nurse Laugh-a-Minute stuck her head in the door just as he was about to tell me I’d have to get my legs amputated stat. “Dr.  Hamid, chest pains in 411  just went into cardiac arrest”.

To me, “Stay put please” and then he was gone.

Ok.  Even if I was a bit hypochondriacal about the amputation, what if I couldn’t walk like me anymore?   What if   I can’t run after my kids?  What if I have to give up dance class?  Those ancient rhythms, those movements, sometimes they were the only sense of  connection to a past I felt.  And then I was thinking of my mother…

“Zuri! Come eat! We at the table!”  I was in Florida for a few weeks with my mother.  I loved the visits but they were just too few and far between.  It was like another world.  I know now what 10 year old Zuri did not realize and that was this: the  ‘non-stop awesomeness’ was due to the fact that our days weren’t punctuated with practicalities like school and homework because it was Summer time.  Since my dad left 8 years ago and took me with him I’d been to see my mother only 2 times.  And maybe twice more after this visit.  But when I did come there was wall to wall Kraft cheese and macaroni, peach ice cream, Nintendo and movies.  My brother’s and I watched Mannequin and Texas Chain Saw Massacre until we knew every word.

“I’m coming!”  I wasn’t.  I was in the bathroom in the middle of what had unfortunately become my ritual, a stare down with the giant ceramic frog that perched ominously beside the toilet.  This face-off usually ended in one of two ways, me closing my eyes, whispering a prayer, quickly pee-ing, wiping and hand washing, or me losing my nerve and fleeing from the beast.  Pee or flee was my internal joke but even humor wan’t quelling the panic this go ’round.  It was forest green with mint green spots and a red smile.  When I first got there I asked my Mom if it was real—I knew it couldn’t be. It was tall. A tall frog? And the ceramic was chipped, obviosly not flesh and blood.  But  I asked her because this was Awesomeland.  Here anything could’ve been possible.   I asked and she said  “Yep and if it pee’s on you you’ll get a wart.”  I was furious at her for that.  Furious because she didn’t know me—child of her womb—well enough to know that I was a bona fide fraidy cat who would assuredly be tormented by this thing.

Franken-frog won.  I held it, washed my hands and went to join them for dinner.  I’d sneak and pee in her bathroom later before everyone got up from the table…

The door swung open and in breezed Dr. Hamid, his hair just a little mussed.  “Mrs. Abdul-Haqq, thank you for waiting.   As I was saying yours is not a terribly serious injury.  I’m betting it will heal using what we call RICE, rest, ice, gentle compression and elevation.  As for the clicking, you may have torn a small bit of cartilage in which case we’ll probably need to operate and restrict your activities but let’s try the RICE and I’ll have another look in 2 weeks “.  He wrote me a prescription for the pain and sent me back to the front.

I thanked him and went out to settle up with Nurse Chuckles.  Whew! So I’d walk again, and maybe dance again.  My mom… If  I did lose that bit of cartilage it may in fact effect the way I move through life.  What do you do when you lose something that is meant to support you.  I guess you close your eyes and say a prayer…but you keep moving.


Aint nothing ‘nano’ about this WriMo… more prep work.

The Book: Writing Fiction Step by Step by Josip Novakovich

The exercise: Work from a snippet of a conversation you overheard—perhaps all you remember is the tone in someone’s voice, the attitude in it. Take that tone and write a dialog between your character and someone else.

My vision: The ‘anti-Erin’, her name is Jocelyn and she’s not under the delusion that she controls much of anything.  This doesn’t detract from her potency but rather it empowers her.

Here goes:

Jocelyn (on train on cell phone loud and joyous):  “Hey I’m getting close to my stop! You there?”

A pause and a baffled look. And then…

“What? With nails on? Huh? Bells? Oh! Ok well I’ll see you when I get there!”

This exchange is typical Jocelyn Sturgess.  She’s intelligent but un-apologetically obtuse.  It was clear to everyone on the train that her friend made a reference to “being there with bells on”.  How she managed to be unfamiliar with that hackneyed phrase is intriguing and whats more, she wasn’t bashful about revealing her ignorance to her friend and an entire train full of people.

Jocelyn is a college graduate.  She majored in math and is now an entry level accountant at an off brand potato chip factory in Idaho.  As graduation neared her friends all applied for positions at places in the South East, not wanting to stray too far from Atlanta. Jocelyn applied at companies from coast to coast and everywhere in between; Sacramento,Texas, Wisconsin, Chicago, Boise and New York.

A friend: “Who you know in Wisconsin?!”

Jocelyn (laughing):  “Nobody but God girl!”

Jocelyn’s is a wisdom that’s not overly apparent but it is evident in the pervasiveness of her personal constitution within her life—God is the best of planners, So I’m always where He wants me to be.

In sum, Jocelyn is one of those people who, quite honestly, baffles me. She is among those people donning rose colored glasses drinking the lemonade that they made out of life’s lemon’s from their half full cups.  I don’t quite understand her (evidenced by this skimpy character sketch)  but I greatly esteem her.  Frankly she makes me a little un-easy.  The message that folks like her send to folks like me is: You’re making this way too complicated. Go back to the proverbial drawing board, be still, listen—and then proceed.

Easier said than done.

NaNo prep. So Long a Letter…

The book:  Writing Fiction Step by Step by Josip Novakovich

The exercise:  Using the character you created, reveal him through a means of communication.  Let readers see a note or a brief letter he has in his desk but has either forgotten to mail or thought better of it.

Here goes: (an un-mailed letter from Erin to her 10 year old daughters)

Dear Ava and Grace, Grace and Ava,

I’m sure you’ve always known that I love you.  You’ve suspected it right? I did all the right things.  Things that didn’t necessarily feel natural to me, but I somehow found my way to them.  Some mothers walk solidly up to those duties and know that those are what is meant for them, they are the way. Not me, I swam through clouds to get to them. Nevertheless I made sure you brushed so you wouldn’t lose your teeth.  I packed lunches the way you like—Ava’s mayo was always on the side, Grace never wanted banana’s in her lunch sack.  I was good at doing what I saw a need for.

Which brings us to this point. I see a need that I know I cannot fill.  Maybe neither of us can verbalize that need, but we feel it.  Like life’s most weighty things it is seemingly vaporous, weaving in and out of our days together, hiding behind the “whats for dinners?”, crouching behind the potted plants in the den. It’s there when I bristle under the weight of your voracious hugs.  You’re asking for something I cannot give.  I wouldn’t know where in the world to look for it.  It could very well be as close as a whisper but it just escapes my grasp…

Don’t worry about me.  Worrying produces nothing.  If something ever does happen to me and it is within my power to inform you and your father I will.  I know you’ll try to find me.  But you won’t.  Your father has the key to a safe deposit box with some items that you may one day want to hold and wonder about.  I do love you.  But I just can’t stay. I won’t stay around just to break you.



NaNoWriMo prep. Sifting thru my Sybil.

The book: Writing Fiction Step by Step by Josip Novakovich

The exercise: Construct a character from one aspect of your personality (not necessarily the dominant one).  If you are shy construct a character who is much more shy than you.  Now describe his behavior, in summary,  in several social situations.

The quandry: I like to think I’m lots of things—in moderation.  As such, no one characteristic is overtly sticking out.  I’m a little shy, a little brazen, a little ‘hood’,  a little refined, a little ambitious and a little bit of a slacker.  Hmm…

Here goes:

This character is based on my inner control freak.  Her controlling tendencies exponentially exceed mine.

Anyway, her name is Erin Livingston.  She is 28 and works at the post office as a Supervisor.  She has OCD and was prescribed medication for it but she doesn’t take them because they make her feel ‘out of sorts’.  Her OCD habits include picking lint—even clandestinely off of strangers—and waking up 3 times at night (1am, 3:30am and 5am) to make sure her house is exactly the way she left it.  Her marriage is on the rocks.  Her husband, Rod, an Alpha-male type,  loves her but can’t understand why she refuses to let him lead in even the most insignificant of situations. Erin and Rod rarely have company but when they do have the occasional dinner party she is consumed with anxiety over how the guests are altering things—a smooshed throw pillow here, a haphazardly thrown jacket there—her pulse races as she waits for the opportunity to fix things while no one is watching.  Of course Erin wants to appear normal and care free—well at least to have ‘normal’ cares.

Erin and her husband have 2 children, twin girls.  Her husband wanted to try one more time for a boy but 2 children is all Erin could fathom handling.  She almost had a nervous breakdown in their toddler years.

Erin was molested from the age of 7 to the age of 12.  She has never told anyone except for the shrink she started to see last year.  She only admitted to herself that maybe she needed professional help when she started ‘cutting’ and a co-worker saw the  neat rows of deliberate scars on her forearm.

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo

I didn’t look for NaNoWriMo.  It found me. That’s a sign right?  It’s a sign that I should cast off the shackles of writer’s cell block F (‘F’ for fear of failure) and cannon ball on into the deep end right?  A swim in exciting, albeit unsure, waters is just what I need after years of writer’s block confinement yes?  I’ve resolved to give it a go.

Some NaNoWriMo participants have devoted months, maybe years, to preliminary research and writing exercises.  I’ve got  8 days til’ showtime.  Official NaNoWriMo writing starts November 1st.  I don’t really have a clear focus for the book, just a general idea.   I don’t expect Hurston or Smith calibre work (who am I kidding, of course I hope I’m prodigious from the gate),  but I do expect to learn a lot from the process and I hope that good, bad or brain-fart, I stick with it.  This, for me, should be an exercise in commitment if nothing else.

I mentioned my 8 day training period.  The plan is to do an exercise a day ’til D-day.  My ‘D’ is for Determined!


The book: Writing Fiction Step by Step by Josip Novakovich

The exercise: If you have experienced unrequited love, write a scene in which your love is requited. But since there is no story if there is no major problem to be solved, imagine some new obstacle for the relationship.

Here goes:

“You’re a glutton for punishment”, he quietly mused.  “You knew I was into the rough stuff when you met me. Didn’t I have a dominatrix avatar on my Naseeb page?”

“Ha Ha”.

I could sense that something was still left unsaid and looked at him quizically as I started to clear the dishes from the dinner party. I pressed the issue, “But aren’t we all?  All who dare to love hard, aren’t we all just consenting to 60% amity and 40% horror?”

This time I got a real laugh out of him.  “Ah! Word play and witty repartee!  Thanks for reminding me why I worship at the shrine of Suhailah!”

“Hey astagfirllah Jamil!” she said as she popped a dish towel in his direction.  He mocked disgust, “so you can joke about S&M as we stand here in this kitchen un-chaperoned but I can’t embellish my love for you?” He was so handsome  that whenever we dis-agreed I had to steel my will to scold.  “Not if its borderline shirk brother“.  ‘Brother’ with what I hoped was a sexy but stern half grin.

“You’re right I shouldn’t joke like that. Of course only Allah is worthy of worship”.  From anyone else it’d sound slightly patronizing and disingenuous but Suhailah didn’t doubt his sincerity.  Jamil was the Muslim equivalent of a ‘Jesus freak’ but in a non-jihad/911 kind of way.  He was just really aware of ‘the bigger picture’ and nurtured his relationship with The Creator–Allah.  She really liked him so when he started to distance himself from her and suggested calling off their engagement Suhailah  ignored her mother’s advice and pursued.  Jamil was the one, whatever was bothering him could be worked out.

It was Suhailah’s suggestion that they have a small dinner party.  One-on-one dating amongst the un-married is frowned upon in Islam as there are no barriers between the amorous male, the amorous female and the nature that is just begging to take place.  Jamil agreed to the group date and Friday night found them and 4 close friends of theirs at Suhailah’s campus apartment.  Suhailah disappeared into the tiny kitchen to clear the dishes and get dessert, Jamil followed anxious to discuss the source of his trepidation.  He had to be quick for 2 reasons.  It’d somehow minimize the pain he imagined he’d see register on her face—the most beautiful brown oval that ever was, and he figured he only had about 5 minutes before Hameedah’d burst into the kitchen eye’s rolling, finger wagging and astagfirllah-ing.

“Ok so here’s the deal”,  he stood straight and looked steadily at Suhailah—those eyes—“I love you.  I love you for the sake of Allah.  And I love your wit, your occasional ‘blond’ moments, your optimism, your earthiness…I do want to spend the rest of my life with you…I just can’t promise that I’ll be spending my life with only you.”

Suhailah was sincerely confused but before she could utter something to that effect she heard “Suhailah I know that I’m going to practice polygamy”.

Day 30 End of the line


A photograph of yourself today and 3 good things that have happened in the past 30 days:

Dear blog challenge, I’m gonna miss this relationship of ours. Yes, some days I didn’t want to be bothered and I felt like you were tying me down, hindering my creative license.  And sometimes I absolutely loved the challenge.  The letter to someone who hurt you was a favorite. 

I took the challenge to force myself to write something every day.  I pray that this 30 days was habit forming and that I continue to have something to say. 

So on to the business at hand.  3 good things:

1.  I saw District 9 again. Love that movie.

2. On a tip from my fashionista best friend that grey is where its at, I got a cute grey sweater.

3.  I’m still here  😀


Day 29 Della and Mac, up in a tree…

Something you could never get tired of doing:

This challenge is really making me look closely at myself, something I don’t always relish doing.  Ah welp.  I was fixing my thumbs to type (thumbs because I’m blogging from my phone because my Dell, her name was Della Reese, went kaput. I’m gonna get a Mac for my next laptop even though I’m not a fan of what seemed to be Jobs’ personal constitution. There’s a good article about him on http://www.gizmodo.com.  I’d put the link in but I’m blogging from my phone. Whew! How’s that for a tangent?!)

Anyway I was fixing to type I could never get tired of writing but that’s not true ’cause I really don’t feel like writing this entry today hence the flagrant forays. I love alliteration. 

Oooh! I got it! Reading!  I could never tire of reading. Blogs, books, articles, poetry, bathroom grafitti… I love witnessing other folks perspectives, listening to their truth and following their flights of fancy. 

I hope to someday give readers something to love. 

Day 28 Stars and Thumbs

Your favorite movie:

Allow me to jump up on my film geek high horse.

photo from iamthemama.com

Whew! Vertigo!

So here’s how I feel.  If you really love film, it’s not possible to choose a favorite movie.  I think my film Sheik—The Incomparable Roger Ebert—would tend to agree.  When queried with the inevitable “whats your favorite movie?”,  he ultimately arrives at this most astute sentiment “The only truly honest answer is: I don’t know.”  

I feel you Roger.  I have zero film education/background save for my auto-didactically informed estimation of what makes good cinema.  For me its these few things:

  • no matter how outrageous the subject matter, does it ring true?
  • does the film lift, carry and then place the voyeur gently on the ground—or does it drop you with a thud?
  • does it tell a complete tale? and accomplish what it set out to do (make you laugh, cry, think)?

No, I don’t have a favorite film but I do have female and male lead types that I’m partial to.  I love my men wounded but transendentally aware like Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler and Bob Harris in Lost in Translation.  I like them slightly twisted and dark but still managing to be the most ethereal thing on the screen like Karl Childers in Sling Blade and Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction.  I like them unapologetically un-normal and endearing like Andy Stitzer in The 40 Year Old Virgin and Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin.

As for the ladies.  I like my female leads remarkable in ways other than beauty, like Annie Hall in Annie Hall, Celie in The Color Purple and Ruby in Cold Mountain.  I like for them to be the smartest, most insightful thing on the screen—if not the most vulnerable—like Addie Loggins in Paper Moon and June Carter Cash in Walk the Line.

So there you have it.  I shall now dismount the steed I rode in on.  His name you ask—what else would an aspiring film snob name a pet?  Rosebud of course.

Day 27 the only constant… AKA we can’t afford to be innocent



A picture of you one year ago and now. How have you changed since then?:

I guess I need to figure out today’s date to do this one. I swear the days are running together.  Whats the remedy for that? A vacation? A career change? A new hair color? A crime spree?  KIDDING! sheesh.

OK. So last October I was still on cloud 9 for having just completed my Master’s.  This October finds me asking “where’s the job?”  I digress. But not yet. Ahem.

I AM THE 99%!!!

Yeah. Now I’ll digress.

They asked how have I changed. I’ve probably become more of a realist, more fearless and more aware of what my convictions are—the better to champion them.  Speaking of which, I need to finish packing my occupy rucksack and go join my people. A change gon’ come!

Day 26 With arms wide open…


A picture of somewhere you’ve been:

This is me in Africa. I honestly don’t remember whether this picture was taken in Morocco or around Goree Island.  Judging from the somber draw to my face I’d guess Goree.

My Africa trip was the medicine I didn’t know I needed.  I was a typical teen, a tad self centered, jaded and completely convinced I had all the answers.  The Africa trip quieted my internal noise pollution and shifted something in my soul…

Here’s a poem I wrote about my trip:

Prelude to shahada

there is a night worthy of climbing into, with whispered prayers ebbing… Laillah-ha-illalah
and flowing …Subhanallah…

there are horizon’s worth breathlessly chasing,

and the breezes? enlivening, more honest.
the night’s lights assured a young girl she was on the cusp of something great… over there,

sweet smoke and wisps of the wash woman’s soap float on enchanted air.
there are trees with perfect silhouettes, boughs that beckon east and west,
o’ how capable those arms and how welcoming, i was home over there.