The Boudica Series: A Celebration of Women

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About a month ago, a friend from my writing group messaged me to say she thought I should meet her daughter, she felt like we would click, and that I would be a good fit for an upcoming project her daughter was putting together, featuring fierce women from all over the world, their stories, their work.

Enter Dominique Sinagra and The Boudica Series into my life.

Dominique is a star in her own right, an ambitious young woman, an accomplished playwright, a soft-spoken badass. And she’s putting together a week-long production in New York City this August, celebrating beautiful wondrous strong women, called The Boudica Series.

Dominique and I immediately took a liking to one another and ever since, have been tossing ideas back and forth about the week of women, the performances, and right now, fundraising.

Because before any of The Boudica Series can happen, we need to raise some funds to rent the Urban Stages space, pay some folks, hire some actors, donate to a local women’s shelter, and hundreds of other things one would never realize go into putting on a production until one is actually involved in putting on a production. You can read more about it in our fundraising proposal, flush with some serious swag for those of you with deep pockets, and our corresponding GoFundMe campaign.

The goal is to raise 19K and that’s where you come in – please take a look, make a donation, and spread the word to your friends and their friends and their friends. Even the smallest amount makes a difference to Boudica’s bottom line – there is no donation too small to help get The Boudica Series onto the stage.

To pique your interest and convince you to open your wallets, there’s a gorgeous video about the series and some general information about what Dominique and those of us helping her are hoping to accomplish with this production.

The Boudica Series will take place in New York City, during the final week of August at Urban Stages, just off Broadway. 

Our vision is three part. First is to present a weeklong festival of bold and brilliant women hosting talks, workshops, performances and readings on themes relevant to their wellbeing, creativity and empowerment. 

Secondly, the grand finale of the festival will feature an all-female retelling of the story of Joan of Arc by award winning writer and director, Dominique Sinagra. The piece uses stories of women and girls from around the world, including those of refugees, former child soldiers, African AIDS orphans, Untouchables in India, and women in the United States, weaving them into the fabric of the original Joan of Arc tale, celebrating the fierce and indomitable female spirit.

Thirdly, we will raise money, collect clothes and food to donate to a local women’s shelter. We intend for The Boudica Series to become an annual event. 

Women are a vital part of the tree of life, yet for millennia our voices have been oppressed and our bodies harmed. This has damaged the core of humanity. If we are to move into a more balanced paradigm, now is a time for a reckoning and now is the time for healing.

Through The Boudica Series we aim to give a voice to women who otherwise do not have one and a platform to explore aspects of the human experience often overlooked. Taking the women of The Boudica Series and combining them with the production of Joan of Arc, our goal becomes clear: create a global dialogue on what it means to be female today and how to better advance that reality. 

 To successfully achieve our vision of the first annual Boudica Series, we need to raise $19,910. This figure allows for the completion of the Joan of Arc script, the rental of the Urban Stages’ space for one week, the salary for one full time and two partime organizers, the actors performing in the Joan of Arc reading, and one song writer for original pieces, an assistant director, and advertisement costs to promote the series, as well as, a donotation to the women’s shelter.


 Please consider donating to our GoFundMe campaign by clicking —> HERE

It’s going to be a most amazing week of women and their stories – please help us make it a reality.

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Mumia Abu-Jamal and Me

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Once upon a time I was a young Barnard woman full of writerly hopes and dreams of saving the world, one idealistic mission at a time. I worked with adolescents struggling to make it through high school, second graders needing a place to go after school, addicted adults studying for their GED, Earth Day, Rock the Vote, Planned Parenthood. I marched on Washington for a woman’s right to choose, I protested the war, I railed against the demolition of the Audubon Ballroom. I petitioned and cold-called and rallied.

I wanted to equalize education, improve the lives of farmers, help battered women escape.

Animals, children, the addicted and abused – I wanted to wrap them in my skinny brown arms, lift them up, make their lives better. I believed I could make a difference, that with my heart in the right place, my brains, and my stubborn streak, I could be the catalyst for change, maybe not in the lives of all, but I could certainly touch a few.

The essay I wrote for my law school applications perfectly encapsulated this idealism, discussing my desire to use my law degree to improve our education system, focusing first and foremost on improving the books – both textbooks and literature – our children encountered on a daily basis.

Fast forward a year or so and I was sitting in my boss’s office – he of the New Yorker profile, wildly successful criminal law practice, and supposed mob connections – when he handed me a book he thought I would enjoy: LIVE FROM DEATH ROW, by Mumia Abu-Jamal. I studied the front, read the back cover blurb, thanked him, and devoured the book in a night.

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In less than twenty-four hours, I went from disillusioned law student – I was the girl whose professor told her one day she was going to write the “next great American novel” but while I was in her class, I was going to learn to “write like a lawyer” – I always knew law wasn’t for me! – to young woman with some serious fire in her belly. I spent the remainder of that summer contacting anyone and everyone involved in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal of his death row conviction, offering my admittedly limited legal knowledge and skills, my heaps of righteous anger, my enthusiasm for fighting a corrupt, racially-biased legal system.

By the time second year started in the fall, much to my boss’s surprise and amusement, and my friends’ shock and awe, I was working for Mumia’s lead attorney at the time, Leonard Weinglass, helping him do anything and everything he needed done to overturn Mumia’s conviction or in the alternative, overturn the sentence of death. It was exhilarating and exciting and exhausting and I learned as much about myself and my limits as I did about our criminal justice system and the horrors of death row.

Mr. Weinglass was a kind soul, a good man, and towards the end of my law school career, he mentioned wanting to hire me to continue working with him on Mumia’s case, admitting he had very limited means to pay me, offering me twenty-seven thousand dollars a year to join his practice. I swallowed my shock, tamped down my disappointment, and thanked him for almost three years of the most exciting work I could imagine doing. I told him I had never been more frustrated and angry and full of despair as when working on Mumia’s appeal, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I begged him to keep in touch and he promised to do so and as quickly as we came together, so, too, did we diverge.

I continued keeping track of Mr. Weinglass and Mumia as I began my career in big law, defending big tobacco from the big bad government before moving on to defend other biggies from the big bad government, all the while dreading the day I would read of Mumia’s execution. Instead I read on December 7, 2011, that prosecutors would no longer seek the death penalty in Mumia’s case – hardly freedom, but at least life on death row would no longer be Mumia’s reality.

Perhaps that victory eased my mind somehow because I must admit around this time I stopped my obsessive googling of “Mumia Abu Jamal” and allowed my conscience to move onto worrying about other things such as dragons and vampires and sex scenes and word counts. I got caught up in my characters and my books and my words, my political priorities turned back to women’s rights, gun control, equal education, I focused on The Kid and The Step Daughter and myself.

Then today an email arrived in my inbox: Mumia Abu-Jamal: Chained Up and Left to Rot. I read about his plight – how the prison guards and administrators are denying him the daily pill needed to alleviate the ravages of his Hepatitis C – signed the petition, and once again, felt the fire of righteous anger brew in my belly.

I’m not going to tell anyone how to feel about Mumia or the death penalty or anything along those lines – that is not what struck me as I read the email about Mumia’s current state and it is not my place nor my desire to bring you over to my line of thinking. What I am going to say, what I am going to wonder here after reading about a man shackled to his bed and denied medical attention, what I have wondered with each mass shooting, each black man murdered, each innocent woman raped is this:

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR HUMANITY?

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My thoughts are with Mumia and his family and I hope this current campaign succeeds in getting him the medical attention he needs.

My fears, my concerns, my disbelief – they are for us, all of us. We need to come together, embrace our better selves, and make serious strides towards rediscovering our humanity – it’s quite simple and really, it’s our only hope.

*UPDATE: this Brexit decision to leave the EU only adds to my angst for finding and realizing our humanity. I’m hardly a religious soul, but seriously, may the gods help us.

 

 

Thoughts On Revisiting Joyce

Joyce

It was through James Joyce that I learned to see something in language that carried a radiance, something that made me feel the beauty and fervor of words, the sense that a word has a life and a history.

-Don DeLillo

I came across that quote while scrolling through my Instagram feed, paused, and read it again. And again. And again.

That is the effect James Joyce has on me. I have to stop what I’m doing and read, over and over, really digest, and swim around in what is being written about him, what accolades are being showered upon him, what greatness is being celebrated, mostly because I do not feel the same. At all. In fact – and this is probably admitting to some sort of writerly sin – I rather abhor him. So much that I’ve never read anything he’s written besides Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

And I read that in my high school AP English class.

When I was 17.

Jesus, Madhuri. Talk about holding a grudge.

[It’s worth noting that is the first time I have ever addressed myself in the third person. It’s worth noting it will also be the last.]

Up until today, I’ve been rather expert about letting Joyce testimonials go in one ear and out the other, all the while rolling my eyes, and thinking back to the torture I felt as I turned every page of his novel during high school. But that DeLillo quote stopped me in my James-hating tracks, made me do a double-take, and for the first time ever, reconsider myself and Mr. Joyce and the fact that perhaps all these years, I’ve been wrong.

For anyone who knows me well, that moment of reflection was significant for two reasons, one being based upon what I’ve clearly set forth above, James and I are not friends, and two being that with regard to such passionately held beliefs, I’m always right. I can and am very much a jerk like that – ask my son’s father, he’ll give you an earful on that aspect of my personality.

Hence my refusal to consider James Joyce and his body of work at all, in any way, shape or form, for the past twenty-five plus years. Because I am always right.

At least I thought I was until I crossed paths with DeLillo and his interview, especially the phrase: the beauty and fervor of words.

Something there – the beauty and fervor of words – hints at all kinds of magic, the sort of magic I love, magic that springs from playing with words, fitting them together to create beautiful, rhythmic, complicated ideas within ideas within ideas, layers upon layers of fantastical literary acrobatics. More Garcia Marquez than Joyce…more Naylor than Joyce…more Amado than Joyce…more Rushdie than Joyce…more Morrison than Joyce…more Lahiri than Joyce…

Then again, maybe not.

I pondered this for a couple of hours, toying with the idea that perhaps there is magic hidden in the pages of a Joyce novel. I lawyered while questions of Joyce worried my mind, danced along the edges of my reality, gnawed at my conscience until finally I texted my childhood partner in crime, the one person who knew my AP English James Joyce woes better than any other, and released my thoughts into the ether:

I love the magic of words and couldn’t help but wonder whether I, too, would love James Joyce had he been introduced to me (us) by someone better at making such introductions than _________?

And therein lay my quandary – was I willing to place my distaste for Joyce at the feet of another? For so long, I’d taken ownership of our non-existent relationship, feeling something akin to pride in my long-standing refusal to acknowledge the Irishman (remember? I am always right). But perhaps he was never presented to me in the proper manner? Maybe under different circumstances – high school English, didactic teacher, authority-questioning student – our relationship would also be quite different. Maybe under different circumstances, I, too, would know and understand the beauty and fervor of Joyce’s words.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

My childhood friend believes Joyce is my perfect literary foe and I must dive back into his work, if for no other reason than to go to my grave saying I gave him another shot and I still find him unworthy. I think I have little choice but to dive back into his work because I cannot walk around constantly wondering about his words and their magic and our potential love affair.

Because if nothing else, I am a sucker for a brilliant wondrous freakish love and nothing would be more freakish than some of me wrapped around some of Mr. Joyce.

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#Poesia -BOY, PLEASE

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BOY, PLEASE

you want to comment
on my hair
my breasts
my thighs

boy, you better watch yourself
and understand

all of this brown magic
is a privilege
I bestow upon you

and just as I have given
so can I taketh away


The #Poesia pieces on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. They are slightly edited, totally unscripted, spontaneous, super loose, and probably some of my favorite works. They are perfect in their imperfections and I hope you enjoy.

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On Poetry

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In the wee hours of this morning, as my eyes tried to wake up and I convinced my body that yes, I needed to get out of bed at 5am to write, I glimpsed the title of a writer friend’s blog post – Our Stories Are Not Meant For Everyone. Based upon the belief that our vulnerabilities are not meant for indiscriminate public consumption, my friend suggested  others must earn the right to learn them. This idea of who gets to read our stories, slip under our skin for a few moments, move around in our head space, got me thinking about poetry and an essay a friend sent me the other day by Emily Carr on writing, and writing poetry in particular.

One section of Carr’s essay quotes Irish poet David Whyte as saying “the deeper discipline of poetry is overhearing yourself say things you didn’t want to know about the world.” That statement spoke to me as I continued through Carr’s words and I found myself returning to Whyte, and my interpretation of him, repeatedly. Mostly I toyed with the idea that the poem is chameleon-like in nature, a place one might hide their own stories within its words, and leave all who read it wondering: is that piece about her? or someone else? or is it about no one at all and simply pure fiction?

Soon afterwards, I penned the following admission: “much of my poetry is personal, although I’ve written plenty about imaginary lovers or my characters or my friends and how I want to see them at that moment in my dark world of torment and heartbreak…much of it is what I don’t want to admit out loud – things I didn’t want to know about the world (especially my world) – but am able to put down on paper.” This amorphous nature of the poem, this is-it-personal-or-is-it-fiction is precisely why I love the form. (Or fell in love with the form after I stopped being so scared of it and just dove in and swam around in the rhythm of my work.)

Awash in deadlines and words upon words upon words, the poem is the perfect tool for me these days, a respite from my prose, but keeping me within my art because trust me, one too many dance breaks, and I’m going to dance myself right into a blown deadline. It disciplines while allowing the freedom to explore the different beats in my head, the rhythms that thrum in my blood, the ways word and sound come together just so, and I’m able to do it in smallish spurts of intense creativity.

The poem enables me to get my story out there – my desires vulnerabilities sadnesses victories – without having to actively admit, oh yeah, this piece is about me. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, no one really knows and I’m confessing nothing.

The poem allows me to send secret love notes or poison barbs, all veiled in the beauty of wordplay and rhythm and sex and desire. It helps me corral the words bouncing around in my head, those wanting to come “bursting” out of me in a very Bukowski-like manner.

Most of all, the poem indulges my extroverted introvert, providing me a space to hide and be myself or be someone else or be no one at all.

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#ThursdayTeaser – DUTCH, The Keeper Series Book One

IMG_5395If you haven’t heard, I have a book coming out next year.

Actually, I have three books coming out next year – holy shit! – from St. Martin’s Press Swerve. My erotic urban fantasy – probably not a searchable genre, but it best captures my work, so I’m going with it – THE KEEPER SERIES trilogy will be published in Spring 2017.

I feel like I’ve been talking about Dutch and Juma and their dark sexy for a while now and that’s mostly because I have – I started working on them as soon as I said goodbye to Wyatt and Dev and closed the cover on The Sanctum Trilogy in early 2015.

It’s been a hot second and I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me, but that’s fine. Sometimes these things happen quickly and other times, not so much. The “not so much” is good for a girl like me – here and there I need to learn the art of patience. Of course, learning and being are two different beasts and since this morning I woke up on the more impatient side of shit, I’m teasing you all with a little of Dutch from DUTCH, The Keeper Series Book One.

He’s a nasty fuck and I love him.

Enjoy.


I was eight years old the first time I rode an elephant.

I was visiting my grandparents, and the local zoo’s specimen had given birth to a dwarf, so everyone in the household wanted to witness the freak. They bustled up the whole lot of us, waved down some auto rickshaws, and off we went, zooming toward the unimaginable feat of nature.

I knew the dwarf was scared. I also knew it was a complete bore.

The mom was much more interesting and already back earning her share, offering rides to any souls brave enough to climb atop her back. My cousins needed no invitation, and before anyone knew what was happening, grandparents included, they scampered up the poor beast’s back and were raring to go.

I stood off to the side and watched, shy and somewhat quiet, still a bit ill at ease in my new environs. It was not every day I was shipped half way across the world on a bird in the sky, summarily deposited with two elderly souls I barely knew and certainly did not trust.

The elephant was a good move.

I was warming up to the two brown people smiling at me while their eyes flashed back and forth in rapid succession to the brood atop the grey beast. My grandmother clucked warmly in my direction, offering some words of encouragement as the Mahout waved me over.

He was awfully scrawny, rather filthy, and I shot him a foul look. No fucking way was he controlling anything if that grey monster decided to stop taking anyone’s shit. But I was eight, and I was curious, and it was an elephant for fuck’s sake. So I stopped putzing around on the outskirts of the action and leaned in
contemplative
somewhat curious.

Which was enough for Mr. Mahout. Faster than I would have ever assumed he could move, he grabbed me by the nape of the neck and hoisted me onto the dwarf’s mama.

Not on her back, with my cousins

but right behind her ears, on what seemed to be her neck, my hands resting on her head.

She was just like the old man who swam laps at the YMCA every Monday and always bent over to lotion his legs, providing me the perfect view of his ass – hairy and wrinkled and grey.

The Mahout settled in behind me and gave his signal, but old girl wasn’t going anywhere. She bobbed her head side to side, and he yelled something in whatever language he spoke – probably Tamil, but I couldn’t tell since I didn’t speak a bit of anything from the motherland.

At least not at the time.

He yelled again and gave her some swats with his whip, but she didn’t give a shit. Instead, she lifted her trunk into the air, pushed it about like a show off, promptly raised it to her head, and sniffed my hands.

I froze, for a second worried I might piss my pants.

I did not want to piss my pants, sitting there high in the air, because I did not want to soil her neck, but really I did not want another excuse to be the laughing stock of my unruly gang of cousins. So I let her do whatever she needed to do, praying all the while her trunk wasn’t full of tiny teeth that could suddenly inhale my hands and then my arms and then my head to chew me up and feed to the dwarf.

I had not flown halfway across the fucking globe to wind up dwarf fodder.

So I shut up
and homegirl sniffed me up
and eventually she started walking, doing a slow rotation of the park, giving us kids the ride of our lives.

I was eight, and it was magical.
I am now thirty-seven, and let me tell you, this world is anything but magical.

My name is Dutch Mathew
I kill for The Gate
and I am a Keeper.


I told you – he’s kind of nasty but trust me, I think you’re going to fall for him. Watch out for Dutch and Juma early next year.

#TheKeepersAreComing.

Be magic.

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#Poesia – BOY HAIR

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BOY HAIR

he told me
as he teased my skin
with his sinful touch
and grazed his teeth
along my throat
“You have boy hair”
I laughed
pulled on my short mane
and let him know
in no uncertain terms
I had MY hair
and there wasn’t
a damn thing
boyish about it


The #Poesia pieces on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. They are slightly edited, totally unscripted, spontaneous, super loose, and probably some of my favorite works. They are perfect in their imperfections and I hope you enjoy.

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