Tag Archives: stories

the Blues of It…

it’s a rhythm

slow, low and bluesy

seeping like vapors into a waking day

me in the middle of it

always caught by surprise

always caught

off guard/off kilter

by the soothing riffs

slur/sliding down the notes

trilling backward in time

to then


even after checking the archival catalogues

i can never find any foreshadowing

it’s always the same interrupt/

same perpetual stop-loss/


decades passing

has not changed the cadence

henderson born, kentucky rooted syncopation

dating way back to the 1800s

way back to when

my shawnee mothers hid out

near robards station

waiting through

the trip to containment

waiting through

the loss

it’s the blues of it

that keeps the song going




me in the middle

me on edge

traveling back to then

in the middle of a waking day

stop-loss now/ me caught

in the blues of it


My grandmother used to tell me stories…before she began to forget.  I stored them somewhere in my subconscious.  I remember them at the oddest of times, in the middle of dreams, while writing other things.  When I was 26, I joined the army.  The days before I left, I would bury my head in her breasts – like I did when I was a baby – to soak her up.  I knew that was the last time I would see her alive and I needed to keep a piece…  She’s in a lot of my plays in some way and when I am really tired, I slip into her southern way of speaking.  Nora Lee Phillips Morris…could sing a whole church happy…right in the middle of the blues…

Being a storyteller means remembering and sharing even when you got the blues…


to be continued

I never had a problem telling stories, even to a fault.

In Kindergarten, my favorite tall tale was that my teacher had married me to both cutie-pie Sean and red-headed Adam in one day. I remember how impressed I was with myself that my mother and aunt believed my story and only questioned the point that Ms. Jean had the power to become a priest.

In 1st grade, a dollar bill was found in the doorway between the classrooms. No one claimed it, so I saw an opportunity for more chocolate and said it was mine. Older sister Kelly was suspicious, however, and upon further examination I admitted it was just a wish. Sister Jeanne Marie hit me with her ruler and my sister labeled a tattle-tail. Although her actions brought out the truth, she still had to wear cat ears and tails for a day so the whole school knew she had tattled. (Logic was never the nuns’ strong point.)

This is me at my HS graduation party. Goth much?she had tattled on me. (Try to work that out with logic.)

I gave up a scholarship to the local Catholic HS for a fresh start a few cities away. From the very beginning there, I crafted my own history, my own mythology, carefully told and secretive so my sister, who attended the same school, would not have the ability to quash statements that I thought made me more interesting. For the most part, it worked, but a few major whoppers came back and whacked me in the ass (another story for another time).

Moving from Boston to New York for college allowed an even wider bearth for creating my past just how I liked it.Some stories I’d heard from others became my own. I tested reactions from various people and adjusted what they learned about me for maximum impact. I aimed for mysterious, irreverent, intelligent, rebellious, sexy and not someone that everyone should like.

Fast forward a few years and I move cross country from New York to Los Angeles in 2002 – a massive change for a lifetime public transport gal who had gotten her license mere days before the road trip. Moving with a (then) boyfriend means your past and present travel with you, so how did this upheaval affect my storytelling?

I saw my stories in sharp relief to my present and hopes for my future. This mostly fresh start – amplified by the eventual break-up with the boyfriend – renewed the feeling that stories are vibrant. Stories are life. Literally moving out of my comfort zones meant my career and personal path is literally up to me. I was no longer beholden to perceptions anyone had, including my own to myself.

Visiting the east coast progressively got harder for me. I fell back into the old stories, the past, the rhythms of family members who I had already outgrown. I saw family and friends’ prejudices and (mostly wasted) potentials much more clearly, then applied the same criticism to myself:

In what areas of my life did I experience growth and what nasty, sticky preconceptions still lingered?

That is a question I ask myself every single day.

To be continued. Always.

For the Girls Who Tell Stories…


My month – last month – started off well, full of good intentions with the exception of scrambling for references for a certain competition.  It’s always hard to ask – again.  It’s not hard to know who to ask just hard to ask someone to write that reference one more time and you hope you won’t have to ask next year because you’ll be successful and there will be no need to ask again – you hope.  Near the middle of the month – September, the heaviness that accompanies the submission period hit me like a brick…  This time of the year is also the most demanding period of my “day job” which causes the inevitable fight to replenish myself in order to just keep up with everything.  For some quick R & R, I found myself sneaking moments with Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” which I had never read and even though I have the beginnings of the perfect play to send…somewhere, I couldn’t stay away from the book.  It was like balm; reading it renewed me…like watching the sun set over the Pacific does.  That’s the thing about a good story, it pulls you into that world and out of yours for a moment.  I found Scout’s voice very comforting even though some of the subject matter was not.  I think it was the pure innocence of the child that grabbed me.  It seemed Atticus, Miss Maudie, and even Aunt Alexandra tried very hard to keep the children viewing the world through unskewed eyes.  As long as I could see the events through Scout’s eyes, I could see the patches of light in the middle of the gray. 

There are things about fiction that I try to bring to my playwriting like the full on description of the world to be materialized in some way in my plays and the lingering of sorts, the way a book lingers with you after you have come to know the characters or come face to face with the clear essence of the piece.  I had that experience this past weekend with Jennie Webb’s play, “Yard Sale Signs” about mothers and daughters (playing at the Rogue Machine Theatre).  It’s a comedy but it is so rich and full of stuff, I have to admit, there was a point early in the piece where I heard myself think, “Don’t you dare do that here and now”.  Who cries at a comedy?   So, I laughed instead, it was easy to laugh because it’s a really funny play.  I wasn’t sure I understood it all till the ride home when I couldn’t stop thinking about it, then I woke up the next morning thinking about it.  I’m still thinking about it.  I had never seen a play like that before, it caught me off guard so I promptly put my guard up.  Didn’t matter, it lingered.

The most important thing I came away with from Jennie’s play is that I need to work my  “Mother things” into the mix with approaching deadlines.  Live theater – it is truly a living breathing thing with a voice.  What really draws me to theater is the “right now-ness” of it – right now you are in the characters’ world and they are flesh and bone and if they stumble, you see it unfold, you feel it jumping out at you and you may even jump with them or in response.  You can’t push pause or sit the actors down till you are ready to get back into it; it’s an “off and running” thing and “ready or not”, it’s a “right now” moment.  But, if it’s a good moment, it lasts a lifetime…

I talk about going there as a writer but the flip side is going there as an audience member.  I should have cried like I wanted to.  Laughing and crying are tied together and sometimes the emotions that cause one to laugh are the same that cause one to cry.  I hope I can get back to see “Yard Sale Signs” again.  I’ll sit in the back and just let the jewels of truth have their way with me… 

It’s all the special moments that make theater so exciting, so spellbinding…like when I saw “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange.  I had forgotten those moments until I saw the trailer for the movie “For Colored Girls” based on Shange’s play; the movie will open November 5th.  I tell you, I have to watch that trailer almost every day.  I had to re-read the play and that’s when I remembered…it was after seeing that play that I really began to search for my voice as a woman which has everything to do with my voice as a writer.  It was the first play I had ever seen at a real theater and there were brown girls just like me up on that stage but they were more than just brown girls, they were women talking about women’s things and feeling women’s feelings.  It is impossible to have a true world view without hearing from the women and the men…


for the girls who tell stories…/ and climb trees alongside their brothers, reaching the upper branches to look out on the world/ who dance in spite of the offbeat rhythms running through their lives/ who sing in the wrong key till they learn the notes were never theirs to sing any way/ for the girls who find their own song and their own way to sing it/ who create from wombs, from words, or from living/ having more than a little “somethin’ somethin’” to give/ for the girls who dare to have a say…

i say… thank you…/ i’m listening…