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.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: it’s complicated

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS HUGE SPOILERS AND INCIDENTS OF ALL CAPS.

Seriously, this is a review for people who have already read this book. And you should definitely read this book.

Several friends suggested I read City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert-one went so far as to come to my house and hand me their copy. I found City of Girls, a refreshing story of female autonomy, engrossing from page one. It’s amazing, fantastic even, and I couldn’t put it down, but I do have some bones to pick.

The main character’s voice jumped off the page into my ear and I rooted for her every step of the way, even when she was being awful. Vivian is helped by being tall, skinny, and beautiful and for having the foresight to get really good at sewing in her youth. Looking like a supermodel and having superior skills in fashion design isn’t a bad set-up for life in the big city. The vibrant setting-New York City showbiz in the 1940s-makes you want to visit that time and place, in fact, I almost felt as though I had. Gilbert seamlessly weaves real-life events and people into the story, which enriches the historical context.

City of Girls explores nontraditional ways to live a woman’s life by showing how other women did it when alternatives were not readily available, and it is glorious. We see the benefits of hard work, natural talent, good looks, and learned courage. We see what a woman’s life looks like when she chooses self-determination and abandons norms: fulfillment of sexual desire on her own terms, loss of family connections, missteps that cause real pain to other people, freedom.

My issues with the story are as follows:

Young Vivian is the third party in a sexual threesome comprised of her best friend and the husband of a famous theater star. She is kinda coerced and kinda dumb and also really drunk when the tryst occurs. Unfortunately, the make-out session that led up to the encounter happened on the street and was photographed. Long story short, Vivian learns not to have sex with married men, but still spends the rest of her life sleeping around at will. That, of course, is not my problem. My problem is that even though she vows to never sleep with another married man, she picks up men in bars and beds them whenever she feels like it. I have bad news for Vivian and Elizabeth Gilbert-those men were probably ALL MARRIED. Men in bars who jump into bed with you ARE MARRIED, even in the 1940s. This seems like a significant oversight to me, especially since sisterhood is a main theme.

The star whose husband cheated dumps Vivian, but keeps the husband and the whole thing unfolds like Bill and Hillary. This dynamic goes unexplored, but it shouldn’t. IT SHOULDN’T, damn it. I don’t believe that unfaithfulness must automatically lead to divorce. How great would it be to spend some time mulling over how and why some couples stay together? And why the star forgave her husband, but not her friend?

And another thing, Vivian develops a long-term, secret friendship with a married man that can only be described as an emotional affair. How is that any better than having sex with him? Hell, its worse. This also goes unaddressed. The man and his wife lead separate lives and he is incapable of sex, so that makes it ok. Then why is it secret? Its secret because that goes to the main plot structure of the entire book. There, I have just about completely wrecked it for you.

All of my gripes aside, I loved this book because it’s about female desire, resilience, and how we can be when we decide to live the way want to. It shows the power of sisterhood while, perhaps inadvertently, admitting it’s shortcomings. Gilbert is a trailblazing voice for autonomy, not only in her writing, but by her willingness to share the details of her own life and loves. And I love her for it.

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

 

Lovely New Review

I so appreciate everyone who has taken the time to post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Good reviews are the lifeblood of book sales-literally nothing else matters more.

This one made my day:

5 out of 5 stars

Harrowing, heartbreaking, and hopeful

Ronna Russell takes us behind the curtain of fundamentalist Christianity and reveals a world little of us know about. Her insular upbringing causes her to make choices about her partner and then her marriage that lead to heartache and more. Yet, her grit and resilience allows her to overcome her past and forge a positive future. This book is for any woman who has ever wondered whether it was too late to change her life. Russell’s answer is a definitive no.

More reviews on Goodreads

The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid for purchase on Amazon

Party Train to Hippocamp

The road to Hippocamp Writers’ Conference is dark with no bathrooms and requires driving for hours through torrential rain, tunnels and construction zones, and being blocked in by eighteen wheelers. Holding my pee, I eased through the EZ pass gate where I took a wrong turn last year, nervous to get it right in 2019. I glanced at the map on my phone, but there were flashing lights all around and too many choices, so I took another wrong turn, but a different one this time, so not even the wrong surroundings were familiar. It was a brand new wrong turn, and now I’m in a detour lane with no shoulders or exits.

PROCEED TO THE ROUTE my British male Siri barks, clearly annoyed.

At this moment, from the bowels of my iTunes library, came the sound of an oncoming train-ch-ch-ch-ch WOOOOOOOOT WOOOOOOOOT ALL ABOOOOAAAARDParty Train by The Gap Band circa 1983 thumps out of my stereo speakers. PROCEED TO THE ROUTE British male Siri insists urgently. Every all aboard Anybody want to take this ride the funky beat surges louder.

My churning gut emits a fetid belch and I catch a whiff of nervous sweat blossoming in my armpits. PROCEED TO THE ROUTE PROCEED TO THE ROUTE British male Siri screams, as if somehow I can comply. I cannot PROCEED TO THE fucking ROUTE because I’m in a fucking detour lane in bumper to bumper traffic, flying through the darkening dark with orange and white striped barrels on one side and a solid barrier with angry reflectors on the other. Our reluctant trio flies on through the night, The Gap Band, British male Siri, and I.

Suddenly the highway widens into two lanes and traffic spans out.

Get down, get down, get down tonight We’re gonna party, gonna party on the train tonight…

Jesus Christ, can I take my hand off the wheel to turn off that goddamn song now?

The car directly to my left rear-ends the car in front of it with a screech and bang.

Nope.

Damp fingers grip the wheel until a blessed exit sign appeared. I silence British male Siri and an iTunes library in need of serious updating, and enter Lancaster, PA through side door.

P.S. Hippocamp19 was AWESOME and I am so glad I went. Next year I am flying.

gap band rear

Rape Culture: What the pedophilia cover-up at Calvary Gospel Church has in common with the Jeffrey Epstein case

We see it over and over in the news-priests in the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist scandal, Michigan State University, countless youth ministers in Christian churches… the list is endless. Adults rape children while other adults actively cover-up the abuse to protect their institution.

How can this be?

The short answer is that we live in a world wherein rape culture thrives. Rape culture is defined as follows, just so we are all on the same page:

Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence, or some combination of these.

Pedophilia is a subset of rape culture, when the descriptions above are targeted at children. Because, honestly, if the bodily autonomy of anyone, man or woman, is not respected, it’s a short downhill slide to minors. What’s a year or two or three when you’re already depraved?

Children are generally more easily manipulated than adults. Kids who are poor, hungry, and lonely are most often the victims of sexual abuse. We see this in every story that comes to light. It’s the kids no one is keeping track of, the kids whose parents aren’t paying attention, and don’t have the resources to sue anyway. These kids have needs and when they are offered comfort, often don’t see the erect penis coming at them from behind the ice cream cone.

If they object or tell, they are shamed, blamed, and threatened. When Debbie McNulty told her pastor at Calvary Gospel about her molestation by a man in the church she was sent away with an “I’ll get back to you.” He didn’t, but somehow everyone in the church found out and blamed Debbie, who was branded a slut at eleven. Even the molester’s wife blamed her. Debbie’s molester was moved around, forgiven, and still pastors a church.

When Jeffrey Epstein ran an international sex trafficking ring for billionaires, a whole community of people knew: recruiters, pilots, housemaids, neighbors, etc. His victims, poor kids who needed money for food and clothes, were threatened to prevent them from speaking about their abuse. His joke of a prosecution chalked it up to soliciting prostitution, as if the little girls he raped were engaged in an equal exchange of power.

Men in power allowed him to get away with it.  They protected the system in which they control the power dynamic on a global scale. It isn’t one church or university or even government; it’s a world wide web of men. Yes, sometimes women are involved, but let’s be honest, it’s mostly men. Calvary Gospel’s cover-up of pedophilia in their church is a microcosm.

Their response to accusations of abuse is predictable. Accuse the victim of being a slut or a whore, no matter her age, and instantly no one cares about her. Easy-peasy.

She had it coming.

She was asking for it.

She wanted it.

You can’t rape a whore.

What was she wearing?

And there you have it, the men involved were seduced. They couldn’t help themselves. Even women will join in to hurl blame at the victims, so immersed are we in this culture of rape.

A shift is happening now, though. Not quickly enough, but change is coming, after millennia of voicelessness. For all of social media’s flaws, the ability to tell our stories to a wide audience is a pretty big plus. All it takes is one brave soul to go first and then other victims come forward. There are always other victims.

And then accountability begins, because everyone has to pick a side on this subject.

*Eve was framed.