INSTRUCTIONS: Read or watch Adrien Julious share her story "Careful What You Pray For" then VOTE on the ending using the online poll below!
Careful what you pray for
“I wish I could take my prayers back.”
“I wish I could take my prayers back.” She said again as she scrubbed her hands through my locks getting all of the shampoo out. My hairstylist has a habit of saying the craziest things at the most inopportune times but this one takes the cake.
“Um… ok… So you’re going to be an Indian giver with your prayers?” I said head tilted back into the shampoo bowl trying not to laugh and get soapy water in my mouth. I could feel all of the other women in the shop beginning to focus in on our conversation. Didn’t even have to look up to see hands paused in the midst of their facebook scrolls and headphone volumes being lowered.
Jade of House of Jade’s Natural Hair Salon and Beauty Supply was known for two things in our community, being an amazing loctician, and cussing people the fuck out once she was pushed too far.
“That’s exactly what my sister said and just like I told her, FUCK YES.” She shut the water off and wrapped my hair in one of her fluffy white towels before guiding me to sit in her chair.
“Wow. She must’ve really pissed you off.” I said sticking one of my apple AirPods into my ears and tapping my phone screen to get to my latest audiobook. Unlike most women who came to the beauty shop to get the latest gossip while they got their hair did, I don’t care for other people’s drama.
“No, this isn’t about her. It’s about HIM. The guy I met in Dallas.” Her hands which had begun to retighten my locks in the back forcefully seemed to lose some of her heft as she said the word him.
Talking about a man in a beauty shop was the quickest way to have everyone in town in your business. Normally, Jade didn’t talk so freely about her personal business in the shop. She could spend hours talking about the people who tried to get over on her, or the tenant who she’d evicted who had left a pair of gummy discharge infused underwear on the floor of the master bathroom, even her two children who’d become less perfect over my years of knowing her but aside from letting us know that she was dating some fancy schmancy woke ass doctor in Dallas none of the women who came in the shop were close enough for Jade to mention her relationship woes.
“I prayed to marry a doctor and I met a great doctor, fine, black, in shape, not an asshole then I met Dr. Dude. And Dr. Dude is MARRIED. To a white woman. Ol’ Fake woke ass.” Jade grunted, tugged my hair closer to her and tightened her grip on one of my locs. Good thing I’d followed my mother’s advice and went to Chili’s before my hair appointment. Buy one get one drinks had been keeping me from crying like a baby for the last six hair appointments.
“But, where were you staying when you went to see him?” Renee was clearly too enthralled in the story to focus on the young lady sitting in her chair. The girls platinum blond ponytail was sticking up like Alfalfa’s from The Little Rascals and from the looks of things the gel was starting to set. If I were her I would be getting pissed.
“I thought we were staying at his house. Apparently, we’ve been staying at one of his rental properties. His maid showed up this weekend unexpectedly and I should’ve noticed that he almost shit his pants but I was too busy playing boo boo the fool. I even got a BRAZILIAN for him.” She was tugging at my hair so hard now I wished they would change the subject or put on Judge Judy. “I mean we’re sitting in his jacuzzi naked two seconds away from intercourse and before I knew it this old Spanish lady is standing over us looking at us like we’re hairless chickens and all that he could say was ‘It’s not what you think. Took me ten whole minutes to process why he would be saying that to a maid.” She was getting madder by the minute and was standing up practically pacing at this point.
“I have to use the restroom.” I said to her trying to buy myself some time. Hopefully by the time that I got back from the bathroom she would be done with her story and back to her normal sometimes-bougie-sometimes-ghetto-self.
It wasn’t until I was in the bathroom pants half way around my thighs before...
Doctor. Woke. White wife. Dallas.
Trevor is Dr. Dude. Dr. Dude is Trevor started to click through my brain in warp speed. Trevor a woke black doctor who still had a practice in Dallas where he’d lived for a few years during med school and immediately after. Trevor whom I’d met in Chemistry class who I’d then hooked up with my best friend. Trevor who was married to my best friend from third grade. Amanda the one who taught Dr. Woke to be Woke and Feminist. Did feminists cheat?
My heart was pounding in my ears so loud that it took me a few seconds to realize once I was sitting back in the chair that the conversation had now moved on to Colin Kaepernick and burning Nikes.
“Girl I hope they all burn those yard sale shoes while they’re wearing them in the center of a pile of gasoline soaked drawers.” Jade was now saying to Renee. Who was now washing the gel out of the young Alfala-haired lady’s head. I would be so pissed.
Normally I wouldn’t ask any questions about Dr. Dude and Jade but I had to know. I waited for the next pause in the conversation and blurted out “So of Course I missed the ending of the story but I know you broke up with that Dude.” to Jade as she began retightening my hair like a normal human being only half-way killing my head.
“Girl, no. That fool told me that he was leaving his white woman in a few months and promised to take me to Nigeria for Thanksgiving. By the time my plane landed in Tampa the plane tickets were sitting in my email inbox. And you should see the safari that he booked” she said, passing me her phone which was open to an email which she’d obviously already showed the other women.
“Hmmmm, I didn’t take you for the type to knowingly sleep with married men.” I said barely able to contain my anger.
“Girl. I’m not. But I’m also not dumb enough to turn down a fifteen thousand dollar all expenses paid vacation to the mother land.” Jade said into my hair. I could tell that I’d touched a nerve by the way her hands were flying through my coils.
“Oh ok. So then after Africa you done with him then?” I asked using every ounce of restraint that ten years of $150 dollar an hour counseling had barely taught me.
“Yeah. I’ll be done with him the second we land back in America. I’m not like these young dummies running around the city waiting for some idiot to leave their wives.” She turned up Judge Judy who was berating some fool for stealing her best friend’s car and crashing it into a pole.
Of course today would be the day that Amanda would want to meet me at The Hangout for drinks after work to tell me something very important. So important that she made me promise to take an Uber instead of driving my own car.
As I walked in to the bar and spotted her splotchy face my throat started to feel constricted. “Hey boo!” I said with false cheer leaning across the table and kissing her on her cheek.
“Hey lovey! How was your day? I ordered us Tequila on the rocks to start.” She said with less false cheer than I had.
I couldn’t understand how Trevor could cheat on someone as beautiful as Amanda. Even with her splotchy face she was one of the most beautiful women in the place. Her shiny auburn hair was bluntly cut in a Boss Ass Bitch Bob, her white blouse seemed to glow on her tanned skin and her smile was practically perfect.
“It was ok. How was yours? You don’t look happy.” I said hoping that she already knew about Trevor so that I wouldn’t have to tell her.
“Well, I went to the doctor on Friday and got the results of my breast biopsy.” She began before I cut her off.
“Breast biopsy? When the fuck did you get a breast biopsy?” I could feel the Chili’s burger getting ready to make it’s exit out of my stomach.
“When I went in for my yearly Dr. Kline found a lump under my breast and she took a biopsy. We got the results back today.” she said reaching across the table and grabbing both of my hands with her perfectly manicured hands.
“And the results said?” I tried to disappear into the oversized leather booth. I didn’t want to know if the results were bad. They couldn’t be bad. Cancer had already taken our friend Maria, the third amigo of our tribe, two years before. Leaving behind three beautiful children, one handsome now eternally depressed husband, and two best friends abruptly forced to be a duo and to deal with the fact that the day after you bury one of your bestfriends the world still goes on.
“I know you don’t want to hear this.” She got up from her chair and walked over to my side sliding her arms around my body which had done the thing it does when forced to deal with horrible shit, got so stiff you could roll me down the street like a log, and kissed my cheek, “But I do have cancer. It’s the 'Good' kind, we found it early, and we have a plan."
“Oh my god, no. You can’t have cancer. This can’t happen to you.” I cried into her shoulder. Realizing that she was doing the thing that people always did when they were sick, consoling the healthy, yet I was still unable to immediately console her.
“I can and I do. Pull yourself together Marnie, I need you to be strong and help me tell Trevor. You know he’s not going to be able to handle this.” She was rubbing my back in a circular motion the same way she’d done every time I was distressed from the time my first girlfriend cheated on me with Michael Colhoun to the time that I didn’t win the award for Small Business of the Year in my dental practice. Trevor, Fucking Trevor. Of course he wouldn’t be able to handle cancer. He couldn’t even handle having a perfect wife without cheating on her with a hairdresser who lived in the same damn town that he did.
I cleared my throat, inhaled and exhaled ten times then pinched the bridge of my nose. “OK” I said taking her in my arms and squeezing her. “We’ve got this! You’re going to be fine and where praytell is your husband today?”
“This is his week to be in Dallas. He’ll be back tomorrow. That was the other thing I needed. I have to go to the lab for some blood work in the morning. Can you pick him up from the airport at 8am?” She asked smiling like she’d won the lottery.
The waitress walked over then placing our drinks down and asking us if we wanted to order any appetizers buying me some time. I didn’t want to pick Trevor up from the airport. He was a sorry excuse for a human being. Cheat on my friend? Shame on you. Cheat on my angelic, always positive cancer having friend? A pox upon your soul. Do I tell her? Would I be a good friend if I told her? Or should I pick Trevor up from the airport and confront him?
Who is your favorite singer?
voting closes october 21st!
I read a lot of fiction as a child. Reading was my safe place. When I would read, I was transported to new places in my mind. The words, the characters, the descriptions, the scenes…they all drew me in as if I belonged to them. I became so fully immersed in books that I sometimes didn’t want to leave those make-believe worlds. That’s what a well-written book will do for you.
When I became an adult and began to experience trials and heartaches, the stories of others pulled me in. I wanted to create a different ending for them as a writer, one that didn’t end in the types of trials that I had experienced. So, when it was time for me to write my first book, I wrote fiction because I knew I could write the beginning, middle and ending exactly how I wanted it to be. In addition, I could live through my characters, and I could breathe life into my characters.
"I needed a place to bury all of the pain..."
Now that I’ve written one book and contributed chapters in two other books, I spend my time coaching others to write the stories the world has been waiting for them to share. Also, as an independent publisher, I help them get their books into the marketplace.
So, as a writer who is also a publisher, here’s my advice as you prepare to write your own fiction stories:
STEPHANIE OUTTEN'S TIPS FOR WRITING FICTION
- Identify why you want to write fiction
It’s not always easy to write fiction. Take it from me as well as my clients who are interested in writing fiction. It’s much easier to write nonfiction because it’s your true story - nothing added for effect.
- Be sure to read great fiction before you try to write it
Reading great fiction helps you understand how to craft your own story.
- Think about the message you want to convey
Yes, fictional stories have messages and themes, too. For example, the message of my first book was about seeking joy in the midst of your challenges.
- Get the help of a writing coach if you don’t know the ins and outs of how to frame your story
Writing coaches can be lifesavers and time savers for you.
- Write about something you know about
Even though with fiction you get to make things up, it makes it so much easier and cleaner when you write about things you know and/or have experienced yourself.
I hope this helps you along your journey to becoming a great fiction writer. When you’re ready to write and/or publish, let me know!
Stephanie Outten, CEO | Chief Publishing Officer | Literary Doula™ of Cocoon to Wings Publishing, guides existing and aspiring anointed writers through birthing their “literary babies” and leaving their story as their legacy. Stephanie is a Christian fiction writer who published her first novel, “Is This the Way to Joy?” as a way of healing from past trauma that once, unknowingly, consumed her life. She has also authored chapters in the Amazon Bestseller anthology, “Soul Talk,” as well as hot-selling fiction anthology, “When I Kill Him, Jesus Can Have Him". She holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications/Public Relations from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in Organizational Management/Human Resources from the University of Phoenix. In April 2016 she became a certified life coach whose focus is centered on transformational writing coaching.
For more on Stephanie Outten & Cocoon to Wings Publishing: https://stephanieoutten.com/
A conversation with our first writing contest winner bRYANNA sANDERS.
fEATURING THE STORY "fIRST LOVE" (sPRING MICRO-FICTION Contest)
In April, Kitchen Table Literary Arts center hosted our first writing contest, exclusively for Creative Writing Society members. The Creative Writing Society is an online platform established to provide a safe environment for Black women and women of color writers to meet and engage through online literary courses, submission calls, writing challenges, and more.
I had the pleasure to sit and talk with our first contest winner Bryanna Sanders on her writing journey, her thoughts on writing communities, and the inspiration behind her winning story, "First Love," which can be read at the end of the interview.
A: Yes, my first contest and the first short story I wrote.
Q: Many writers including myself fear submitting even to smaller publications and contests. What encouraged you to submit to our Spring Micro-Fiction contest?
A: I am a really anxious person and I overthink things like a lot. It’s going to sound weird but the thing that encouraged me to submit was that I had never done this before. And so, I was like, you know what? I am not going to win this at all. I have no confidence in myself. So, we are going to submit because who cares, and in the end it will be good practice. The thing that encouraged me was not expecting anything at all.
Q: What advice would you give to other Black women and Women of Color writers looking to take the next steps in their writing journey in the form of submitting?
A: Like Nike say, just do it! Because you never know how it is going to come out. Like, I said I get real bad anxiety over my work and I have this inferiority complex and nothing is ever good enough. So, I understand the anxiety that is associated with submitting but at the end of the day you never know what is going to happen. I went into this with no expectations at all; and now I am here doing this interview like a real writer.
It is important to believe in your work, and in yourself. Understand you do have something to say and something worthwhile to put out there. We need to hear more of our voices! Submit, if for nothing else but for the next Black woman to come along who might read your work and be inspired by it. If you can’t submit it for you, submit it for that person who it can possibly affect in a positive way.
Q: Why do you believe it is important to have a writing community, especially for Black women and women of color?
A: It is imperative to have these spaces. I went to a HBCU, but I didn't grow up around a lot of people that look like me. As I get older I see that there aren’t a lot of places for us. This is a healing space for me, I feel safe here.
I wrote a poem about George Floyd and everything that has been happening for centuries in our community, and the Kitchen Table Creative Writing Society was a safe place where I could share it. There are not a lot of places where I can express my anger, frustrations, and emotions. Sometimes I am afraid to express emotions and be vulnerable because of the perceptions people have about Black women and People of Color. This place is everything to me. We need places where we can speak freely amongst ourselves. And, getting that encouragement from everyone in the writing community!
Writing is hard. Putting yourself out there, sharing personal pieces. It’s not a lot of places I feel comfortable doing that, but this is one of them. I am beyond appreciative of it! I need this space.
“I am grateful for this space, for all the women in the space, and everyone who read the story. Thank you." - Bryanna Sanders
Q: What was the inspiration for your micro-fiction story, “First Love”?
A: OH GOSH! I am southern but I am not from Louisiana but I have always really loved New Orleans and Louisiana. It’s beautiful, so that’s my backdrop. I am also bisexual. Yes, I love me some women! I wrote about someone I had a crush on. We weren’t childhood friends or anything, and I tried to image what it might have been like if we were in this situation, then the one we were in when I met her; you feel me? I drew from my own childhood experiences with crushes then along with her as a person and went from there. That was my inspiration. So, love, Spanish moss and New Orleans!
Q: What can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on any current writing projects?
A: During National Poetry Month, those 30 days of writing was the most I have written in my life! I have a lot of pieces just sitting in my drive, so I am currently working on a poetry collection. I also started working on a romance themed novel because I am a romantic at heart. I just finished the first chapter and by the end of this year I am hoping to have at least three more chapters finished.
I enjoyed my conversation with Bryanna Sanders as much as I enjoyed reading her story "First Love" and her poetry. Her poem, “Mixed Bags” was featured on Kitchen Table Literary Arts Instagram during National Poetry Month. To read more work by Bryanna Sanders please visit her instragram: @bry_yourself8
First lOVE BY Bryanna Sanders
welcoming valerie boyd, sheree renee thomas, and shay youngblood TO THE KITCHEN TABLE LITERARY ARTS ADVISORY BOARD
I wanted to start off with how reading Wrapped in Rainbows before I decided to attend graduate school for writing--leaving my family for the first time and shunning a corporate career--made me feel possible. I had planned this mini-essay recalling how Zora Neale Hurston's Florida helped this Wisconsin girl make sense of Tampa Bay and how Valerie Boyd's research and writing and careful loving attention to fact, fiction, and the in-between made everything about my own writing journey, with its starts and stops, disappointments and discoveries, an exercise in trusting the divinely mysterious plan that promises to lead you right where you're supposed to be. I have a photo with Valerie Boyd from nearly every writing conference I've attended since graduating with my MFA nine years ago, and I just saw her again at Zora Fest in January. Something about seeing her is like a cosmic nod that I'm on the right track.
The press release-turned-love-letter would become a photo-essay/journal entry that reflected on my trip to Paris in 2014 to walk the streets Baldwin, Wright, Himes, and Baker walked. The journal entry would explore how that dream of that trip began as a flickering flame of "Could I?" after reading Black Girl in Paris, which I read twice before finally taking the leap to craft a writing life in 2005. I would tell Shay Youngblood that, even though we have yet to meet, her writing called my name from the shelves of the Yaddo Library last year and that reading her plays encouraged me to walk the woods slowly, breathing deep and casting spells, challenged me to write courageously, breathing deep and telling the truth.
Thank you Valerie, Sheree, and Shay for sharing your work and sharing yourselves. Your guidance and support mean the absolute world to me.
In gratitude, community, and sisterhood,
Sheree L. Greer
rEAD BIOS FOR VALERIE bOYD, SHEREE RENEE THOMAS, AND SHAY YOUNGBLOOD HERE
Kitchen Table Literary Arts covers book experiences, book recommendations, publishing and writerly news, and other randomly beautiful, provocative things that inspire us! We also feature guest bloggers! Wanna write for us? Shout us out!
Black Women Writers
Choose The Ending