Mirror Mirror

Women who grab power, or try, are generally reviled or at least held in suspicion (see the day’s news for examples). Mistrusted. This was true throughout our long history, when stepmothers were always evil and maidens always powerless and pure. When independent or sexual women were accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake-that’s not some cute historical narrative-those women were murdered. Funny how the Brothers Grimm were writing their misogynistic tales full of violence toward women about the same time. And all the women and girls watching learned a powerful lesson. Namely, it’s safer to hide under the protection of a man, shut up and keep your head and skirts down. Ever wonder how those themes play out in society today?

Much serious scholarly research has already been done on this subject, but I have written an unserious poem about Snow White’s stepmother for an assignment in my creative writing class. (See also Forbidden Fruit) I know it’s not a serious poem because my professor told me it isn’t. Maybe that is why it was fun to write.

Here it is:

Dead Madonna

Her loving arms a memory now

An intruder’s face emerges in the

Mirror, Mirror on the wall

Who is the fairest of us all?

No longer you, faded queen

The Virgin waits with her little men

unsullied body

a heady cocktail

of youth and beauty

waits to quench the thirst of the prince.

She is the only draught worthy of rescue

Resignation to fate her only

hope of elevation

Attempting escape

Renders her attributes mute

Else she will fall

To the dark magic of assertion

The witchcraft of power

The banishment of desire

In that case

Boil her lungs and

boil her liver

Use plenty of salt

Set a place for one

Lips smacking

bloody in the middle 

Mirror Mirror…

Still the young one

Why is it only Witches

demand a place at the table?

And where is her father now?

He rides away with

a nudge and a wink

 and his men and his horses

pockets full of money and deeds

and larger concerns

And so I ask you

Do we write our stories or do the tales tell us?

P.S. My memoir, The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid, releases on April 4th! It is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Words from Anneliese Kamola

My friend, Anneliese, has been in the writing trenches with me since I first showed up at The Narrative Project with a fistful of blog posts. Anneliese is a singular talent, in both writing and editing and… dare I say…. clairvoyance. That’s the only word that comes close to what she is able to do in a critique session. She read The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid for the first time in completed form.

Here’s what she had to say.

“Something magical happened in your book. Did you do this intentionally?? After the chapter ending where the Narrator says to herself, “I want a divorce from both of you,” the VOICE of the writing catches up with the Narrator’s voice of wisdom. I’ve been admiring how seamlessly the Narrator’s voice grows through this story. I was just reading a couple chapters further and thought, “Oh hold on, wait, when did she grow up all of a sudden?”

Whether you intentionally crafted this way or not, well done, Ronna. Gorgeous lesson in showing how creating wise boundaries propel growth and maturity in a super subtle way. I’ve been so engrossed in reading your book that I’ve been playing hooky from my editing, staying up until midnight, and carrying it with me in my purse. So good. I’ve already told several people that they have to read it.

That last chapter-where did it come from? I’m fucking sobbing.”

My heart is full of gratitude for Anneliese’s words, her help along the way, and her friendship most of all. She never once made me feel like I couldn’t do it. Also, keep your eyes open for Anneliese-her book is gonna blow your mind.

P.S. The picture is Violet the cat, not Anneliese.

Forbidden Fruit

I am the Serpent, I am I am

Now everyone knows that the serpent is more subtle than any beast which the Lord God made.

I am a beast I am I am

Which is what I’m thinking as I slither and slink like vapor through the bows of the bewitchment tree and smell the woman below

The scent of her innocence coats my tongue as I descend onto the soft curve of her bare shoulder

And I said to her I said have you tried all the fruit in the garden yet? Which one did the Lord God forbid?

Even though I already knew the answer.

And the woman she whispered against my scales she said we can eat all the fruit from any of the trees in the whole garden except this one right here. That Lord God guy-I think he owns the place-he said we can’t even touch these bananas or we’ll die.

And I said to the woman, I said Naaaah you’ll be fiiiiine. He just doesn’t wanna share. He knows your eyes will open up, you’ll seeeee stuff, man. You’ll know things just like the gods do. And the colors… you won’t believe your eyes. You’ll feel like you’re floating away. It’s a trip, man.

I headed back up to the branch with the low-hanging pretty, pretty golden pears and watched her eyes begin to gleam. She wanted it. The power and the colors and the floating. She wanted it, man. Her long, dirty fingers reached up and wrapped around the bulb of that shiny red apple and she plucked it right off the stem.

Then she snatched another one and ran off to find her old man, her greasy curls slapping against her back. Didn’t even say thanks. They came back for more in about two seconds. I knew that was a mistake but I wanted to see what was gonna happen so I looped around the skinny branches up in the sun, turned myself a bright sick citron and settled down to watch the show. They were rolling around in the grass, giggling, and slurping those purple plums, nectar dripping down their chins. They didn’t even have the smarts to hide-just ate ‘em right out in the open.

They were high as kites-barking like dogs and licking juice off each other. Then they started stringing together those giant fig leaves with these spiky little sticks they picked off a bush, making some kinda crazy pants. It was fucking hilarious.

And then, oh shit, all of a sudden we heard the voice of the Lord God. He was coming. Adam! Where the hell are you? He sounded pissed. They scrambled to hide but Adam chickened out and called, over here. I could practically feel the woman rolling her eyes.

They were right under me now so I stayed real still.

Then the Lord God saw their wonky aprons and went ballistic.

 And he said, who told thee that thou wast naked? You ate those bloody peaches I told you to leave alone, didn’t you?

 Adam sold Eve out immediately-what a douchebag. She gave ‘em to me, he whined.

So the Lord God whirled around on Eve all puffy like-I could see everything-and he hollered, what the hell, Eve? You had one rule.

And then-you won’t believe this-she blamed ME like I made her do it. The serpent tricked me-he said it was okay, she blubbered.


And the Lord God looked straight up at me like he knew I was there the whole time-super creepy-and he’s so mad he’s screaming now and he said to me he said this is all your fault! You are fucking CURSED from now on, even more than the cattle, even more than all the other beasts! I am NEVER gonna let you grow legs and you can eat dirt, man. I am gonna make Eve hate you and her kids are gonna hate you and they will kick you in the head every chance they get forever and ever.

He was out of control. I got the hell out there-just launched myself into the next tree and got out of that fucking garden before the lightning bolts started flying. I don’t know what happened after that.

Signed Copy Anyone?

I have a few books left in the box! I can ship a signed copy for a flat $20. Email me at ronnarussell23@gmail.com for details!


I am so grateful to the authors who took the time to read my manuscript in its painfully pre-edited state and still said nice things! Links to their books are included below-they are all great reads!

REVIEWS for The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid:

From Valerie Tarico:

Caught between the archaic religious dictates of her Pentecostal family and the complexities of the world outside, Ronna Russell fights for survival and more in The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid. Loneliness, raw sexuality, unexpected kindness and cruelty, and through it all an understated endurance with solid granite at the core, Russell’s memoir is alternately hard, hungry, raw, and tender–like sex and love and parenthood and simply being. I sat down to read the first chapter on a busy day and instead read straight through.  -Dr. Valerie Tarico, author of Trusting Doubt

From Steph Auteri:

For those who fear sex. For those who feel shame around it. For those who feel guilt around their own desire. The chapters in The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid are puzzle pieces that, when put together, reveal a picture of how the way we are brought up and the life we live can leave an indelible mark on the way we see ourselves, and the way we end up moving through the world. If you’re looking for insight into your own grappling around sex — and a sort of absolution — Ronna’s story is for you. — Steph Auteri, author of A Dirty Word: How a Sex Writer Reclaimed Her Sexuality

From Lara Lillibridge:

A frank, intimate account of one woman’s search for herself as a woman, mother and sexual being. Ronna Russell’s narrative weaves together memories from childhood, young adulthood, and the more recent past as she recounts her upbringing as a preacher’s kid in the United Pentecostal Church—where she wasn’t allowed to cut her hair, wear slacks, or fraternize with non-church members—and details her journey to find authenticity. Written with the level of confession normally reserved for close friends whispering secrets over a glass of wine, Russell’s memoir is a no holds barred revelation of self-discovery and acceptance. —Lara Lillibridge, author of Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home

From Lisa F. Smith

Ronna Russell takes us on a no-holds-barred ride through her unconventional childhood and how she emerged as her own person on every level. She is fighter, a survivor, and shines a light on the things we often choose to keep in the dark. And she does it with remarkable, unapologetic honesty.-Lisa F. Smith author of Girl Walks Out Of a Bar

From Claire Robson:

The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid is one of those stories that you couldn’t make up as they say – a cascading series of dramas that take the reader through Ronna Russell’s rigid fundamentalist childhood, the disgrace of her preacher father, her sexual explorations, and the slow decline and dissolution of her marriage. Russell’s sparing, matter-of-fact prose is the perfect vehicle for this autobiography, offering a counterpoint to the often painful and shocking events described. Her seamless chronological shifts from childhood to adulthood and back remind the reader of the ways in which the past informs the present and abuse of any kind is sticky and enduring. Though Russell’s confessions ultimately celebrate the capacity of women to survive and thrive, they are never preachy, or self-indulgent. Indeed, the book opens with the most sizzling sex scenes I’ve ever read. This is a book to devour at one or two sittings, then pass on to your bestie! – Dr. Claire Robson, Author of Love in Good Time and Writing for Change

From Cami Ostman:

The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid is a brave, unflinching look at what happens when secrets go untold and questions go unasked. Ms. Russell’s no-nonsense voice carries the reader into the dark crevices of TWO nuclear families living in hypocrisy and shame. And when she finally finds her own way into the light, she gets there in the most unconventional way. Uncomfortable Confessions is a must-read for all of us who have ignored what was right under our noses. Cami Ostman, Editor of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religion and author of Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continent

From Amber Garza:

Ronna writes with an honesty that is refreshing and authentic. Her conversational writing style draws you in and keeps you reading. Her story is at times painful, but her wittiness and raw humor shine through. Amber Garza author of For the Win





The Virginity Chronicles

Hey Hey! I’m in another anthology! The Virginity Chronicles: an Anthology of First Times released on Kindle today! Self-explanatory. Sure to make you laugh, cringe, and cry.

The Virginity Chronicles

I’m so excited to be included with these brave storytellers!