I Am


I was a childhood of
too many so many
your house smells funny
you eat with your hands
you worship cows

I was a childhood of
denial and wishes
I could blend in easier
have straighter hair
wake up to wisp-like thighs

I was a childhood of
wants and needs
couched in the solace
of others’ opinions

I am a woman
who knows
there is enviable magic
in this beautiful
brown skin

my scent is an amalgam
of spices ground by my mother
sifted by my aunties
blessed by my amachi

I am a woman
who needs the
acceptance and approval
of none

I am a woman
who knows
love and
wonder and

The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance.

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Brown Girl Travels: CDMX

This summer I traveled outside the country for the first time in almost three years, which is hard to believe for a girl who used to travel outside the country multiple times each year. Then life happened, particularly my life, and my foreign wanderlust and avid beach-bumming was put on hold. Until this summer, when I headed down to meet my girlfriend, Michelle, for a week in the capital city of Mexico — she was working, but said she would love the company and would have plenty of room, all I needed to do was buy my plane ticket.


It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. The Kid was with my folks in Georgia for a month, and I hadn’t taken more than two days off at a time from work — I needed this trip. So I treated myself to a business class ticket and headed down south.

Mexico City, the capital of the country and also its most populous city, is located in the Valle de México, a large valley in the high plateaus at the center of Mexico. Formerly known as the Distrito Federal, in January of 2016, Mexico City officially became Ciudad de México or CDMX. The name change wasn’t all that was updated — the city has also liberalized its politics, allowing for abortion on request, a limited form of euthanasia, no-fault divorce, and same-sex marriage.

And after spending some time in CDMX, none of that surprises me. The city is a combination of the old and the new, the religious and the irreverent. It’s one of vast wealth next to dire poverty, business next to cathedral, artist next to executive. It’s vivid and alive and full of magic.

And there is a feeling everywhere you turn: art matters.

From the stunning Diego Rivera murals tucked away on the walls of the National Palace to the street musicians on the corner to the loving attention to every detail of the Frida Kahlo museum to the delicious beauty of the cuisine to poetry of the city itself, you cannot walk the streets of CDMX and not feel energized.

It is impossible.

The city demands it of you.

It’s as if the ghosts of past artists and writers and composers — the revolutionaries and thinkers and creators — are whispering encouragement in your ear with every step you take along the old city streets. They’re begging you to take a moment, sip a cocktail, and write that poem that’s been banging around in your head for days, the one about love and time and old bricks of a crumbling facade. And when you climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun and toss your head back and laugh because you’re giddy and life is goddamned good, they’re smiling because they agree: life is goddamned good.

That is CDMX.

My heart breaks for the city I grew to love in six too-short days, and its citizens as it recovers from the September 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck on a Tuesday afternoon of this year. I’ve read accounts of tremors being a part of life in CDMX, buildings shake and you move on. I mean, the city sits upon an ancient lakebed – there’s a reason building codes have been updated and earthquake drills are the norm. But still – the horror one must experience watching the earth buckle and rip at the seams, I cannot imagine. I can only hope the recovery is swift and the good people of CDMX move on from their collective experience stronger and more determined.

Something tells me all those ghosts and all of that magic wouldn’t have it any other way.Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 9.38.05 PM

And now, for my photos. Or some of them. Not that you want to see them…but then again, maybe you do.

The food is divine – the colors, the textures, the ingredients, the creativity with which all of it comes together to play on your tongue and make your tummy do a happy dance. I can’t say enough about it, or the drinks, or the ice cream. Because you know, I feel some ways about ice cream. Even the hotel breakfasts Michelle would order for us and have waiting every morning when I returned from my run on the treadmill were delicious. I’m not the girl who IGs all of her meals, and I sure as hell never thought I’d blog my food, but everything I put into my mouth over those six days kind of demanded a little space in this post. Especially my lunch at Contramar – thank you, Lissette – it was so good, I went there twice.

It wasn’t just the food though – it was the alcohol, too. We lost ourselves in the most amazing tequilas poured by the most skilled bartenders. We did shots, we laughed, we sipped cocktails at one of the top bars in the world – thank you, Limantour – we roamed the liquor store for wine and whiskey, we drank, we sampled, and we did it all again the next day.

And I drank coffee. Lots of it. Because it was so good – even Starbucks was delicious. And cheap. Oh, and for those of you who have followed my name game antics at the green mermaid, in CDMX I am nothing but smiles:


Of course, the trip wasn’t one big drunken meal.

Or maybe it was, with some sightseeing thrown in to break up the imbibing. Either way, we did it – sightseeing, that is – sometimes together, like the weekend when we arrived, or on my own, during the week while Michelle slaved away at the job. I had a good time dragging her butt around town, making her visit places she never thought to visit or never had the time because she’s always in CDMX for work (poor her) not play (yea me). Like the Zócalo and the Palacio Nacional and the Museo Frida Kahlo. Or the street markets and the mummies outside the Catedral Metropolitana and the cafes of Centro Histórico.

My book One Thousand Places to See Before You Die lists Teotihuacan as one of the places you must see if you’re visiting CDMX. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and really, anyone who’s been to CDMX is going to tell you to make the trip. And do it with a guide (I did an early morning tour with an archaeologist and he was amazing, so thank you, Viator). And be ready to be wowed. And be ready to not fully understand the magnitude of that “wow” until your own feet trod the Avenue of the Dead, linking the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. And you really can’t understand that “wow” until you climb all the way to the very top of the Pyramid of the Sun, take a look around, and smile. Because like I said before, life is goddamned good.

Also, I cannot post about Teotihuacan without a nod of admiration to the dogs of the pyramids. They are many and they are fierce. Please, respect their gangsta.

A big part of this trip for me was being able to wander. I love being by myself and because Michelle worked during the day, I had plenty of time alone. And it was fabulous. I was able to write and explore and watch, people and life and an entire city do its thing, at my own pace, on my own time, accountable to no one but myself. Anyone who has a child knows this is rare. Those of us doing the single-parent thing know not only is it rare, it’s freaking sacred. (Thank you mom and dad for allowing this trip to happen, and for being the best grandparents ever.) Sometimes my travels were purposeful, like the days I visited the Monumento a la Revolución or the Palacio de Bellas Artes, other times I came upon the stunning and beautiful by turning a random corner and stumbling into a garden or a cathedral or mariachis waiting for the bus. And one afternoon, I just chilled by the pool. It’s CDMX – anything is possible.

Finally, there is Michelle.

My girl.

We’ve known each other forever, having crossed paths years ago while working together at Paul Weiss, remaining friends ever since. She is funny and lovable and the kind of woman you want by your side when shit hits the fan. Also, she’s fun AF to travel with – we had a blast and I can’t wait to hit the road again together. Thank you for letting me be your plus one. I love you, mama.

Dutch’ing Up Wyatt Clayworth of The Sanctum

The past few weeks I’ve been back in the world of The Sanctum, editing THE GIRL, book one in the trilogy. It’s been fun to re-renter the lives of my troubled warriors, southern fried vampire, and Dev. The politics and intrigue. All of the love and death. I lived and breathed that crew for so long that returning to their story feels like slipping into my old skin to smooth out some of the wrinkles and get rid of the ashy patches.


gotta update my name to Madhuri Pavamani on these covers

One of the reasons I’m doing this is because I’ve always abhorred the opening scene of the novel and swore to myself I would re-write it some day. I’m also going backwards because four years later, I think I’m a better writer, with a more nuanced understanding of perspective and character development and rhythm.

Also, Sam.

Her character arc always bothered me — it switched up without much warning — so righting that wrong is a treat. Plus, I like her. A lot. I’m intrigued by the conflicts motherhood and marriage put upon women, and Sam embodies all of them. She fails at much of what society expects women to get right, and she never apologizes for any of it. Getting back into her head, allowing her true voice to hit the page, and watching the rest of the cast react to her feels good. I owed her as much.

You know who doesn’t feel good? Or doesn’t feel as good as I recall.


d8d3f9cf46ab2334da904c116da38151He’s soft and sincere, and there are too many scenes where all of him is devoted to Dev. So much sometimes that while reading through, I kind of want to vomit. I just edited a scene where he and Dev return to the Academy together and he’s killed some of his fellow warriors and yuck – the despair and pain and angst of it all. That’s when it hit me.

Wyatt needs to be Dutch‘ed up.

He needs a little of Dutch‘s edge, some of the Keeper’s darkness needs to sit in Wyatt’s deepest places, bits and pieces of that sexy brown man need to weave their way into Wyatt’s staid narrative.

I told a writer friend who is in love with my dark twisted Keeper that every woman needs a little Dutch in her life. Now I’m thinking maybe every man does, too.

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Random Thoughts

I’m going to make this quick because it’s late and I need some sleep. Also because I haven’t written in this space in so long and I’m feeling kind of shy and out of sorts about it. Mostly because I’m over myself – at least the version of myself I dealt with today – and am ready to put her to bed and see what tomorrow holds.

So here goes nothing much.

1. do I need to get Last Jedi tickets now? like right now?


2. I wish I had the kind of money that allowed me to buy last-minute plane tickets so The Kid and I could hop a flight to Chicago this weekend and make it to The Edibles’ birthday party.

3. FINN!


4. It’s October 10th and I’m still running the AC and these nut jobs out here want to deny climate change. GTFOH

5. I have a knot in my back that’s so bad it’s difficult to side plank…because side-planking at midnight is what’s important in these dire times

6. I have three words for you: Purple Suede Pumas. Watch for them…soon.

Goodnight y’all

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kissing couple

Can you love me like you did
the first time we kissed
in that pressed against the wall,
breath stolen, full of surprise
kind of way, or is that why memory exists?

To tamp down sudden romantic gestures and
fits of fancy, remind you to proceed with caution
lest she break your heart or steal your soul while you sleep,
to build walls and keep her at bay – but did you
know tree-climbing was her favorite childhood sport
so your wall means nothing, she will try and scale it –
to protect yourself from her everything when
she might be your saving grace?

Can you love me like you did
the first time we kissed?
Then can you love me
all over again?

*photo credit: Leon Levinstein

The pieces of poetry on this blog and Write Bitches are works of fiction, erupting from my incredibly over-active imagination. And my unending love for all things romance.

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Getting Proustian With…JOHNALYNN HOLLAND – The Interview Series

A couple of weeks ago I was one of the lucky few given the opportunity to make my way to Warren, Rhode Island — the tiniest town in the tiniest state — and commune with five other writers for two weeks at the Rhode Island Writers Colony. I’m only going to say a few words about RIWC2017 right now — it was magic and if you’re a writer of color, oh hell yes! you should apply — because that’s another post for another day. I’m really more excited to chat for a second about one of the RIWC writers: Johnalynn Holland.

Affectionately known to our group as The Queen of the Savage Slay.


I met Johnalynn on a quiet Sunday afternoon as everyone was arriving into Warren and staking space around the house. She was at the table with two of the other writer-residents, CP Patrick and Liz Acevedo, and since CP and I were already friends, she made the formal introductions. I remember thinking two things as I shook Johnalynn’s hand and said hi: 1) I love her glasses and 2) she is mad cool.

For  the record, her glasses are fierce and after living with her for two weeks, sharing a bathroom, cooking meals, laughing, drinking, writing, and building a cereal box camera together to watch the eclipse (then walking around town with said cereal box camera because we were hungry and needed to eat, but were also geeking out on the eclipse), I can tell you for certain, Johnalynn is mad cool. She’s also a little crazy, as evidenced by the mind-boggling excel spreadsheet she created — and uses!! — in conjunction with writing her novel. I could be wrong, but I think folks in the house asked her to share it with them. She offered to share it with me, too.  I gave her a look that screamed keep that monster to yourself, sweetheart and we both just laughed. Like I said, she’s mad cool.

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She’s also a brilliant writer filled with an uncanny ability to breathe life into her young adult characters with such honesty and humor that when you meet them, you know them. You can hear and feel them, you can smell them. You knew kids like them. You might be raising kids like them. Johnalynn is funny and cutting and wise, and you live all the many versions of her through those kids in her work.

Our RIWC2017 crew was so lucky – we got to sit around the table for group readings and  night after night, listen to her story to come to life. After that first round-table, we all had a favorite character and I think Johnalynn got pretty used to hearing one of us ask is Tika in this chapter?  as we settled in each evening with our laptops, our wine, and our words.

Fingers crossed she finishes her manuscript soon and the world gets a taste of her magic, her kids, and her special brand of savage slay. Until then, this little Proustian exercise will have to do.

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? being able to create unencumbered
  2. What is your greatest fear? dying in obscurity
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? too critical and too self conscious about my work
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?  dishonesty and the inability to empathize
  5. Which living person do you most admire?  toni morrison
  6. What is your greatest extravagance?  my glasses and my health
  7. What is your current state of mind?  anxious
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  leadership
  9. On what occasion do you lie?  when a dentist asks “Does this hurt?”
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? my forehead
  11. Which living person do you most despise?  #45
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man?  emotional intelligence
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? emotional intelligence
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?  um, nah, that’s fine, i’m good
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? my daughter
  16. When and where were you happiest? loading….
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? i want to be an acrobat with a big butt
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? believe in myself at a younger age
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? raising an ambitious child
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?  an acrobat with a big butt
  21. Where would you most like to live?  new york city
  22. What is your most treasured possession?  cameras that belonged to my grandparents
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? murder
  24. What is your favorite occupation?  chef
  25. What is your most marked characteristic? creativity
  26. What do you most value in your friends? honesty
  27. Who are your favorite writers?  toni morrison, august wilson
  28. Who is your hero of fiction?  shug avery
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?  frida kahlo
  30. Who are your heroes in real life?  spike lee, bradford young, halie gerima
  31. What are your favorite names?  elizabeth, brown
  32. What is it that you most dislike?  people who lack critical thinking skills
  33. What is your greatest regret?  every time i didn’t listen to my instincts
  34. How would you like to die?  as 97 year old woman in the middle of a jewelry heist
  35. What is your motto?   live and let live

NiumtGAs_400x400Johnalynn Holland is a Washington, DC-based transmedia producer, documentary/television editor and writer. A native of Emporia, Virginia she  finished Howard University’s Graduate Film Program in 2005 with a concentration in Screenwriting. In 2003, Johnalynn was named a Screenwriting Fellow in the ABC/Disney New Talent Development Program. During this program, she wrote the screenplay “B-Girls and Ballet Dreams.” It won the African American Women in Cinema Best Screenplay award and led to a IFP/New York Gordon Parks Emerging Writer nomination.  She is also the winner of the Puffin Award and the DC Artists Commission of the Arts and Humanities Grant.

Johnalynn likes to use humor to distill the contradictions and complexities of the African American experience that include economic hardships, family/relationship discord, class divisions and mental health issues.  She has edited for numerous networks including BET, Centric, CBS and ABC.