Interview with Suzette Mullen, wherein we chat about the publication process

Hey, I did another interview! This time with writing coach, Suzette Mullen, of Your Story Finder. Suzette and I met at Hippocamp 2018 and never stopped talking. She asked me some questions about my publication process for The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid.

If you are a writer and want to publish, this conversation is for you!

Interview With Suzette

Check out Suzette’s business, Your Story Finder, if you need a writing group and a coach! She is located in Lancaster, PA.

Also, The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid can be purchased on Amazon.

 

 

Recovery From Religion Podcast interview drops!

New podcast interview on Recovery From Religion! Big thanks to the hosts, Tim and Bill, for being so thoughtful and welcoming. We had a wonderful conversation about my memoir, The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid! I deeply appreciate the opportunity to talk about the journey out and love questions that urge me to think deeper about the subject. Please join us at the link below for a listen.

Listen here: Recovery From Religion Podcast

Recovery From Religion is an invaluable resource for those who are extricating themselves from any religion. They have EXCELLENT PODCAST interviews:), books and videos, as well as connections to mental health services and a hotline number when you need help right now:

Need To Talk To Someone On The Phone? Call

Purchase The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid here.

In Depth Review of Uncomfortable Confessions

You know when a review starts with a quote by Freud it’s gonna get into the details…

“Freud observed, “How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.” Ronna Russell in her book The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid, embodies the kind of selflove that enables one to share the most intimate and challenging details of life without fear.”

Scot Loyd’s review of The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid:

Uncomfortable Confessions
— Read on scotloyd.blog/2019/09/06/uncomfortable-confessions/

I am so honored and frankly stoked to share this review. It is a rare gift for a reader to connect and understand my story on various levels and with such pertinent insight.

Thank you, Scot.

*art by Rob Snow, available on poster lounge

 

The Next Step

Liberal white women, with our pink pussy hats and iPhones, want to do the right thing so badly. We want equality, a government that doesn’t cage immigrants. Healthcare. An end to rape culture and poverty. Etc. We usually get what we want, let’s be honest, but now we watch in horror as racism and bigotry we thought vanquished emerges from the shadows. It’s like Voldemort is back.

Speaking for myself, I am only just beginning to comprehend how I have benefited from white supremacy. The words choke me; shock me with their truth. I live in a system designed by white men for their benefit and white women, as their sidekicks, have sidled up to their desire, complicit participants of patriarchy. We have enjoyed protection, money, power, and a perception of safety within their system. Our compliance does not protect us from their rage and misogyny, however, we have accepted that, perhaps even getting off a little bit on the attention. Until now. But even as we creep ever closer to the halls of autonomy reserved only for them, sneaking in through the windows and side doors, we have left women of color behind. There is no sisterhood, only allegiance to race.

Finally, liberal white women leaders with voices loud and clear are helping us understand the betrayal and racism built in to our societal position. Glennon Doyle, Dr. Brené Brown, and Elizabeth Gilbert.  To name a few.

As Glennon Doyle explained, “We have struggles and problems despite being white but not BECAUSE we are white.”

I am starting to get it.

Now I have a call to action. Strong leaders who have the ear of white liberal women: please continue speaking AND direct your audiences to the women of color who are the educators, the women with lived experience who speak to us with eloquent rage.

Dr. Brittney Cooper

Layla F. Saad

Tori Williams Douglass

Kaitlyn Greenidge

To name a few.

As Kaitlyn Greenidge says, “Until you recognize the harm white women can cause to Black people, even while being the subject of misogyny by white men, you aren’t equipped to do the work of liberation. You’re merely advocating for this same system, with you at the top.”

As Dr. Brown says, “Our comfort is not on the table.” And “Yes, we are going to have our asses handed to us.”

Please bring these speakers, scholars, writers, educators to the forefront of this conversation where they belong. You have our attention, please turn it to them, if you have not already done so. (Disregard this message if you have already responded.) Because the next step, after understanding the depth of our privilege, is to be able to articulate the damage we do to those who don’t know and don’t care.

Equality means for all us.

We cannot slay the patriarchy without opening minds. We cannot open minds if we are clumsy with the conversations. If we are scared of being “not nice.” Of rocking the boat and disrupting Thanksgiving dinner.

It’s time, its way past time, to get uncomfortable.

The clock is ticking. Our democracy is rapidly slipping away. The lives of women of color depend on our willingness and ability to do this work.

Cooper’s perfect response to that horrible CNN interview.

 

 

Women (Not) Supporting Women

Women were property since before the beginning of recorded history. How did it start? Because of differences in physical strength or because of chemical differences in the brain? Whatever the reason(s) we got owned. Religion and politics combined to use that power to keep women as possessions and make us believe we belonged there. We were bought, sold, and traded along with children and livestock.

Like trapped rats, we turned on each other as we competed for men, protection, for resources for ourselves, and for our children.

We have a little bit of power now. A little bit of a voice. The separation of church and state, laws allowing women to own property and to vote are relatively new phenomenon. We are still fighting for bodily autonomy. We are still fighting to be heard and believed.  In Ohio, where I currently live, marital rape is not illegal. We still have so far to go.

My question is, what are the white evangelical women who vote against themselves (and the rest of us) thinking? Every vote for a conservative white male, every moment of disinterest, every shrug at the expense of other women is action taken in favor of our own oppression. Is there any way to throw open the doors to sisterhood and consider women first? To see the larger picture of bringing us all along together?

If we do not support each other, we are choosing to maintain the web of power, secrecy, and rape that allows men like Jeffrey Epstein to have a Pedophile Island at his disposal. For billionaires and politicians around the globe to satisfy their sick, perverted whims at the expense of little girls.*

Having more women in power puts a chink in the web of male protection that is currently in place. Every single female in office, or in any position of power, rips a hole in that web. In the web of smug winks, nudges, and open secrets. The web in which little girls are raped.

It is time, it is way past time, for women to stand together to burn down the web of protection that exists for the benefit of men.

It is time, it is way past time, for good men who would never participate in such things to understand how they benefit from the status quo.

It is time, it is way past time, for white women to understand how we benefit from siding with the money, power, and security supplied to us by our relationships with white men. We have hidden behind them, cloaked ourselves in comfort. Quoted scriptures to justify our betrayal. We are no longer silenced by branks. We are no longer burned at the stake for speaking out. We cannot pretend we do not see institutional racism, poverty, sexual assault, and bigotry.

We cannot pretend the balance of power is not within our grasp.

Vote like your life depends on it because someones does.

vote

*Epstein was assisted by at least one woman, Ghislaine Maxwell. She is evil, too.

 

A Conversation, Lightly Edited

Beta Reader, male:  I hope you and yours are well. I just was curious, how is your book coming? I really enjoyed reading the chapters you sent. Have a wonderful day. 

Me:  My rough draft is done!  I am in revisions now.  Hoping to be ready for a publisher by the end of the year.  Are you interested in reading more?  I always need input!  Thanks for checking in. 

Beta Reader, male:  Yes, I would love to read more!

(Sound of chapters zooming through space)

Beta Reader, male:

Me:  Did you get the chapters I sent?  Just checking, no hurry!

Beta Reader, male:   Hi! I did and read it with great pleasure. I can tell you’ve spent some time tightening up the characters and developing them in more detail.  I found the detail of your relationship with (redacted) interesting. May I ask about the choice to include such erotic detail? Not judging, just curious. I certainly think those details are fascinating and stimulating, just sincerely curious about sharing the details.  I don’t think it is necessarily a bad choice, but it will be interesting when your grandchildren read it.  Who else besides the grandchildren of celebrities and rock stars know the sex life details of their grandparents? Because of my sexual repression earlier in life I probably now tend to have an unhealthy obsession with all things sexual.  To most reading your story it’s probably not a big deal. 

 I want to commend you on your bravery in writing. I grew up in the same religious context as you, although I didn’t nearly suffer as much. I’m sorry you had to endure that. I suspect because I am male and my dad did not attend church I escaped a lot of what many of my peers have endured at the hands of Pentecostals. But in some ways I envy you. I’ve always been a rule keeper of sorts and you knew a certain freedom of rebellion at an early age. I did all the typical teenager things but never had any of the adventures you describe in tantalizing detail. And now I’m at an age where the “What if’s” start to flood the mind. I wish I would have made some different choices earlier in life. But you did and now you are writing about them. Kudos. I want to read more!! Keep me posted. 

(Me, looking in mirror: GRANDCHILDREN?  Shit, I do look old.)

Me:  I appreciate your kind words.  You bring up some interesting points that have me thinking and refining my themes,.  Please allow me to think out loud here…

Regarding explicit detail and why I write it:

Sex and eroticism is and has always been a focus of mine, so I love writing about sex.  Also, everybody knows sex sells and I want to sell some books.  To that end, I also want to pull in male readers because I have something to say to them.  Men rarely read memoirs by women.

This brings me to what I want to say to men.  I am interested in their experience of sex and sexual interaction.  I also deeply believe that rape culture and the end of female oppression comes not only from women rising up but from “good men” listening and giving a shit about the effects of their disinterest.  People in power aren’t going to give it up voluntarily, but all men have a mother and most have sisters, female friends, daughters, etc.  It is important to understand our experience.

Which leads me to our experience.  Most women know what it feels like to be a sex recipient if you know what I mean.  A faceless receptacle.  I am fascinated that you find my experiences erotic as opposed to simply explicit.  They are descriptions of trauma.  Not rape.  Not non-consensual, but a search for belonging and love.  The narrator was not a free spirit out having a good time, but a damaged, sad, lonely girl.  Female readers get this.  I want male readers to get it, too, and I think they will when I’m done with the story, but I have to get them to pick it up first.

Also, no one gets out of fundamentalism without sexual damage, male or female.  You mentioned your own repression and the what-ifs that are coming around now.  I can’t help but notice that there is an assumption of shame associated with sexual experience in your response.  Sex is the best part of life.   People literally die of loneliness.  Lots of people are trapped in sexless marriages.  Many of the mass murderers we see in the news have a history of sexual rejection.  I think it is a worthy talking point.  Who decided sex should be associated with shame and guilt?  There is probably a provable answer to that question.  I am betting it is rooted in controlling women’s sexual behavior, which became a popular thing to do when humans started owning property:

Sex At Dawn

Do you mind if I use your response as part of a blog post?  Anonymously, of course.

Beta Reader, male:  Thank you for the thoughtful response. I suppose I did reveal my ignorance. I agree there shouldn’t be any shame associated with sex, I apologize for missing the point in your expressions of your experience. I was wrong to interpret them so. I confess that I’m still learning and not being a woman or someone who has suffered as you have I’m limited in my ability to fully understand. I’m sincerely sorry if my observations came across insensitively. Not if, they did. Thank you for confronting me on that point. If my ignorance will help inform others feel free to publish it.

ME:  Oh geez.  There’s really no need to apologize.  I appreciate your forthrightness.  You’re helping me form my thoughts on this subject in a very real way.
We are all dealing with this subject from different angles. Thanks for letting me use your thoughts to further the conversation.  I really do have a point to make with the explicitness of my writing and I want to make it thoughtfully and well.

And you know, if readers get turned on, so much the better!

 

Fiance:  If you want male readers to understand why the sex is traumatic you will have to beat them over the head with the point.

Writing Coach:  I agree.  Do it.

 

Isolation

I’m thinking about isolation.  Not what you do on a Sunday morning? Just me?

Several recent conversations with my sisters and my mother have reminded me how isolated we all were from each other in years past.  The stage was set within our family for absolute obedience and we were a perfect storm of noncommunication.

Firstly, the cult of Pentecostalism required isolation from the world in general, effectively taking away any context for normality.  Intrinsic to that religious culture is the submission of women to men.  Women cannot hold positions of power or have a public voice.  Their submission must be evident in behavior and appearance.

But you know that.

Add in an ambitious, power-hungry, sexually frustrated narcissist on a mission from God with a public persona to protect and we have a family of women who were not allowed to talk to each other.  Not because we didn’t want to, but because we were forbidden and didn’t know how.

When crises came around, we were already in a state of silence.  By the time my teenage fallopian tube exploded (see Close Call for the story) and I was near death, we were all perfectly trained. All Dad had to say was do not speak and we didn’t.  Our silence went far beyond lying to church people who would judge him for having a wayward daughter.  He didn’t have to tell me not to speak.  I hadn’t spoken out loud in my family for years and was not about to start.

Mom knew I was sick but was not allowed to visit me in the hospital, nor to comfort me afterward.  Dad told my sister that Mom didn’t know what happened to me and not to tell her, so she didn’t.  My sister was the only person who spoke to me during my six weeks of recovery following surgery.  I sat home alone with no one to blame but myself. My other sister was told nothing at all.

Silence filled our home, the air too thick to breathe. Not one word was spoken between mother and daughters nor sister to sister about the fact that one of us had a tragic, terrifying, near-death experience.

Thirty-ish years later, with the threat of Dad’s wrath long gone, we talk.  Now we know what we were forced to deny.  Now we say the words.  Now we are free to love each other.  And breathe.