Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bullying 101

Bullying sucks. Here is why it should stop:
My disclaimer: I realize that I am naturally a sensitive person. That is who I am. I care deeply about others. This is the way God made me. If I try and 'toughen up', I will not be me. If you don't like seeing me hurt, then stop saying and doing hurtful things to me. Or apologize to me if and when you do. I am not alone. They are many creatively gifted, intensely sensitive people in this world. And we are ready to be heard.

Every time someone does something hurtful to me, it speaks to the Middle School girl who:
1. Was barked at in the halls
2. Had a party to which no one showed up
3. Was beat up after school
4. Was called 'diving board', 'pizza face', 'dog collar'
5. Was fake invited to a dance
More importantly, it speaks to the rape survivor in me, who trusted a person with a sugar-dipped tongue who told me that I was beautiful and amazing...right before he destroyed me and said I needed to walk around with a bag over my head.

These are things that scar a person. FOR LIFE. These are tapes that play over
and over
and over
when I enter a new situation or am trying to fit in with a new group of people.
And, ON SOME LEVEL, I know that I am an amazing woman, because every day I leave my cave of insecurity and rejoin the world and share myself. Because I know there are great things within me.

Not fully confident. Never again fully confident.

Fast forward:

I'm the crazy woman who is fascinated by other cultures. It's simply WHO I AM. I love the smells, the sounds, the tastes, the sights. I fell so in love with Punjab, India. The people. I loved the gurdwara, the whole Sikh faith. And I realize it's not the whole culture that betrayed me, but today, in the light of day, I don't know who to trust.
Last night, I was that stupid, trusting Middle School girl again, standing in front of a group of people in my ridiculous outfit, thinking I fit in. When, in fact, I was simply the brunt of a joke. Imagine if I'd done that to them, invited them to come to a German cultural festival, dressed them up in Lederhosen - telling them, in German that they were going to be doing something to help me with the program (which is what I thought was happening). I don't understand the language enough. I honestly thought I was helping out. I am so hurt. Devastated.

Cathy Before: (disclaimer: none of the people in this picture have done anything to hurt me, nor would they ever.)
I have a Punjabi love story to finish writing. How many of them are actually laughing at me behind my back? Is the whole thing a lie?

I'm sharing this because I deal with bullying every day as a teacher. And I want people to know that it lasts a lifetime. And that I firmly believe we're losing something important in this country. We're losing compassion and respect. Please don't tell me to be less trusting. Because the fact that I trusted at all was nothing short of a miracle. That's all I wanted to say.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


I've finished my second major rewrite of the Punjabi love story (YEAH) and, as always, it's bitter sweet. I feel as though I need to put it away for a while, get some distance from it before I look at it with some fresh eyes for the MAJOR-MAJOR overhauls to come. As always, it's unsettling. I'm adrift with indecision. What do I do? Do I start a brand new project? Work on that Louisiana piece that's been haunting me for years? Maybe pull out the information on Kentucky ghost towns and find out what story is nibbling the edge of my brain from Creelsboro...

Or do I finally hunker down and flesh out my historical fiction, Color of Death? I'm so passionate about getting that story out there. Especially since it's a true story. And a murder mystery to boot!!! But I've been pondering this story for the better part of a week and I still haven't decided whether to rewrite it from Michael's point of view - a freed slave, teenage boy - definitely all of which I'm not. Or whether I should keep it in the form of a time travel  novel - which would allow me to keep the bit about the slave gravesites that have been covered by a university parking lot.

Or do I rewrite that pesky Dandelion Fuzz, telling the truth about EVERYTHING (see my Uhaul post), which would be a grueling, difficult rewrite and, frankly, something I'm not positive I'm up for this summer.

But the summer is quickly waning. And I am riddled with indecision. There are only so many more days of deliberation left. These are the types of things that plague my mind when I'm sitting at the pool, pretending to be a part of conversations...

If you have any thoughts, please feel free to chime in. For now, I'm off to the pool to percolate and pretend to listen.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The UHaul I Drag Behind Me

This is the post I've wanted to write ever since I signed with Jodell and recommitted to this blog. Here are the reasons for my hesitation:
First of all, it's about to get real up in here. Secondly, I've been told by every school system, etc, that I'm not allowed to talk about this because it will upset the kids. So I haven't talk about it. Here's the problem. By not talking about it, it makes me feel guilty, like I'm the one at fault. Like I've done something wrong, something of which I should be ashamed. Thirdly, this blog is supposed to be related to the working woman trying to carve out time for writing. I'm trying to make this blog relevant to all writers. However, in my personal writing journey, my Uhaul is pivotal. And I'm certain that all human beings have some type of baggage they carry on their journey. Finally, I haven't written this post because I have a family member who feels personally responsible for my Uhaul. I'm afraid to talk about it because I don't want to hurt that person. I love that person more than life itself, but I don't hold that person responsible any more than I blame God for terrorism.

Because I have finally come to the conclusion that it needs to be said, here goes nothing: I am a survivor. Specifically, I survived date rape. The significance of this is not to be taken too lightly. People who have survived date rape have trusted someone, maybe invited them into their home. In my case, I dated this person for a while, believed he was in love with me and respected my boundaries. Because he violated my trust and the basic fiber of who I was, I no longer trust easily.

People often ask me why I'm so insecure. This is why. The person who raped me told me I was beautiful one day and then wanted to put a bag over my head while he was stealing my soul. I won't go into details, but my self-esteem was raped in an instant. I don't trust people when they say they want to be my friend. I'm constantly wondering when they are going to grow tired of me, when they'll let me know that they were simply using me for something. I fear that I'm never enough.

Fast forward to becoming a gifted/talented consultant. I felt very confident and was very successful in Virginia, established quite a name for myself. I moved to Michigan and, because it wasn't understood, I lost everything, including my reputation. I won't go into detail because it still hurts, but the rumors started by the man who never even knew me made me feel violated once again.

Then I started making jewelry. I met a woman who wanted to sell my jewelry in her shop. I allowed myself to feel hopeful, giddy even. Maybe there was something I did well. Overnight, her shop closed and hundreds of dollars worth of my jewelry was gone. Not a word, nothing.

Now I've signed a contract with Jodell Sadler, a kind, brilliant, wonderful agent. People want to know why I'm not dancing in the street. It's important for people to know that, unfortunately, not everyone in this world blindly trusts. I want to. And I'm happy!!! And so excited!!! But I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm not doubting Jodell. I am doubting myself. What if my writing isn't as good as she first thought? What if she doesn't really believe in it? What if, what if, what if...

I felt as though I needed to write this so that people would understand. I am a woman of extreme faith. Think about it. I have had the unimaginable happen to me. I'm not asking for sympathy. I'm asking for compassion. I think I'm pretty amazing for subjecting myself to rejection after the ultimate rejection; for continuing to trust in others at all, even after I've found some people to be completely untrustworthy. To believe wholeheartedly in God. Because He is the reason I'm a survivor. No, not a survivor. A thriver!

So, please cut me a little slack if I apologize too much or if I'm lacking in confidence. All things considered, I'm doing pretty well. Some days my Uhaul veers off course. But, every day I hike up my big girl panties and drive down the road anyhow. Thanks for being part of my journey


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Procrastination at Its Finest

I'm not proud of this, but I thought it should be shared. I listen to bhangra while I revise my latest novel because it is set in the Punjab. And, as much as I love writing, there is something that makes me constantly procrastinate. I jump on and off Facebook, check my emails nonstop, and just about anything else that doesn't keep my butt in my chair. This particular day, I searched high and low until I found the webcam for the upstairs computer. I'm not sure why. It's not a necessity for using my upstairs office. However, it did provide hours of skyping and, as you can see, dance parties.

I'm sharing this bit of musical insanity, because I'm hoping that misery loves company. We, as writers, long for the quiet moment when we can sit at our computers with a hot cup of tea or coffee and sink into our most recent WIP. And, apparently, sing inane songs into our newly found webcams.

I hope you enjoyed this. You may now return to your writing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

You Have the Summer Off...

These are fighting words for any teacher. The summer flies by with too much to do and too little time. Plus, we don't get paid for the summer months. Most people don't know that. For me, summer is the only time I can truly devote to my writing. And there's a lot of pressure involved...

Writing in the summer is very difficult. Let's face it. The sun is shining, my most recent novel choice is beckoning. The chores that have built up all school year are taunting me, nagging at the back of my mind. And, of course, Facebook and iTunes desperately need to be updated.

Don't get me wrong. I have spent the entire school year waiting for uninterrupted hours where I could sit at my computer and simply focus on my latest work in progress. The beauty and freedom to become WRITER CATHY! And, now it is here! Let me break it down for you.

The first two weeks are spent in fighting off the Teacher hangover - residual exhaustion from dealing with the stress of late night grading and lesson planning, not to mention the nasty meanness of today's society at large. Added to that is the procrastination time - time built in to obsess over the 5 million things that need doing, while telling yourself that you've earned the right to simply read your book, sit at the pool, and/or watch Bollywood movies. (of which I've only done the latter)

Which is why, on the third week of my 'vacation', I am finally starting to make those doctor's appointments I should've made during the school year, organize the house I trashed for 9 months, work on curriculum, reconnect with friends, work on the mentorship, do something about the weight I put on, research for the story I'm writing, tutor new students, and...oh yeah...


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why the SCBWI-MI Mentorship?

Why not?
There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. When I won the SCBWI-MI Novel Mentorship in 2002 with Audrey Couloumbis, I was shocked at my good fortune. I was also beginning a journey that would change my writing life forever. Not only did I make a lifelong friend in Audrey, I learned more about writing than I could have possibly imagined. Generous with her time and expertise, Audrey helped with so much more than the one work of mine that had won the contest. She gave me titles of books and different techniques that still guide my craft today.

How do you apply? It's quite simple! You go to the registration form, follow the directions, send in your entry, and wait for the results. For the low fee of $30, the worst that will happen is that your piece will be critiqued by three of our amazing SCBWI-MI judges!

This year, in response to the great need for more diverse literature for young readers, we're hosting a Multicultural Mentorship. I am passionate about this opportunity for two reasons:
1. The desperate need for new diverse voices in our quickly changing global world.
2. The chance for new writers to gain valuable advice and the opportunity to work with an established author.

This year's mentor, Patricia Hruby Powell,is a storyteller, author, and former dancer. Her most recent picture book, Josephine, won The Coretta Scott King Book Award, Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Parent’s Choice Award, Wall Street Journal’s 10 Best Children’s Books of the Year List, and the Bologna Ragazzi Nonfiction Honor. For more information on Patricia Hruby Powell, please visit her website: And for more information on the mentorship, please visit:

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Love Affair with the Punjab

Last night everything I hoped and believed about Diljit Dosanjh turned out to be true. He was genuinely a good, kind young man. Yes, I say young man because he's two years old compared to me. And why am I putting this in a writing blog, you might ask? Because he was one of my first introductions to Punjab culture. His songs, particularly the tracks on his CD 'Sikh', were some of the first bhangra/desi sounds I heard. I fell in love with the beat, the round sound of the vowels and the rolled r's. Later, as I learned what the Pagri and Kara meant, I fell in love with the religion Diljit seemed to follow in such a devout manner. When I began writing my novel, "Leaving Home", I really wanted Diljit's music to be a part of my main character's journey into the culture. But I couldn't get a response from him. I thought maybe he was a fake.

When I met his mother and father this past December, I once again thought he was the kind of man I wanted to use as 'the voice of Punjab'. Add to that the fact that his extended American family are my favorite people on the planet. Raj, Ravinder, Happy, Harjit, Harpal, and the rest have welcomed me into their homes, into their hearts. They are my family, mere parvaar. As Diljit's fame got bigger and bigger, I started to doubt that he was still the man who sang and meant 'Gobind de Lal'. The man who seemed so passionate about the pillars of Sikhism - giving back to community, living a clean, humble life.

And then I met him. His concert was amazing. Better yet. He was humble. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of the people crowding to see him. He seemed irritated by all the fuss to keep people at a distance. When I gave him the pictures of his family, he seemed genuinely touched. Add to that all of the people who went out of their way to make Monica Harris and I feel like part of the Punjab community - Satvir, Nazmine, Jas, and particularly Deepak...

Along with Gurjeet, Manpreet, Jaswant, Harjinder, Gesu...and so many others...I am touched and honored to call all of you friends. The love affair that keeps me writing about the Punjab continues. Tujade mere pyare.