Sunday, March 16, 2014

Today, the woman who gave me life, turns 71 years old...

Today, my mother celebrates her 71st birthday. If genes have anything to do with it -- she'll be here for another two decades. Her own mother, my grandmother will be 89 this year.

I am my mother's first born child. I've seen a lot and know even more. We never had a sisterly type of relationship. The boundaries were always clear: She is the parent and I am the child.

Those labels mean something different with each decade that passes. In the beginning I leaned on her and now as she ages, she leans on me. That is how it is supposed to be.

She is not the woman she once was. And that has taken some getting used to. At times, it may seem that my anger at her decline is aimed at her, but the truth is, I'm damn mad at time, which is not being especially kind to her.

We don't see eye to eye the way we once did and I know that's more her mind than it is her heart. I'm glad I'm mature enough to recognize that. It doesn't mean that it hurts any less - it just means that I am conscious enough not to harbor any long term ill feelings towards her.

She has and continues to be the best mother she knows how to be.

This is all any one of us can ask of our mothers.

She's the only mother I have and I must cherish her in good times and bad. That is it and that is all.

Happy Birthday Mommy!

**My grandmother talks about giving birth to her daughter/my mother 71 years ago today)

  • Bernice L. McFadden
  • Saturday, March 08, 2014

    #LifeAfter Rolls on.....

    No, I haven't abandoned this blog - I've been working on my new novel!

    The Book of Harlan is a little over 60K words and growing. In the next few months I hope to post a few savory snippets of the book. So stay tuned.

    While I'm not as active here, I do frequent my other online homes:

    Please feel free to visit me on Facebook Twitter and Instagram

    In the meantime, please check out my 2014 tour schedule - I might be in your area of the world at some point this year!

    Oh! if you're interested in taking a Creative Writing Workshop this summer with me or Thomas Sayers Ellis in Washington, DC -  you should totally apply!!

    The Hurston Wright Weekend Workshops are open to Black writers working in the genres of fiction, poetry, nonfiction and memoir. 
    Join an intimate group of writers for a weekend of intensive writing and discovery that will stretch the bounds of your imagination and your writing. Working with award-winning authors who lead each workshop, you will be mentored and find and create a nurturing community of support.
    Workshop Schedule: Saturday and Sunday, 9am to 3pm (lunch included).
    AUGUST 2-3
    The Hill Center in Washington D.C.'s Historic Capitol Hill Neighborhood
    Deadline for applications is April 18th!

    Fiction: Writing from the Heart and Soul - 
    How to Access Your Authentic Story
    This workshop will introduce techniques fiction writers can use to mine their own interior terrain to create a well-structured narrative that contains a variety of different voices and perspectives. In this workshop you will discover the essence of the story you want to tell and how to write with power and authority. 
    Workshop Leader: Bernice McFadden
    Bernice McFadden is the author of the national bestsellers, This Bitter EarthThe Warmest DecemberSugar and most recently Gathering of Waters, (a finalist for the 2014 Hurston Wright Legacy Award in Fiction.). She has been awarded the 2011 Black Caucus of the American Library Association Fiction Award.

    Poetry: Crank-Shaped Poems 
    This workshop will explore the possibilities and the uses of cultural attitude and the percussive behavior known as poetic swag. Goals of the workshop-new sense and new music; lyric poetry with an eye toward and against tradition.

    Workshop Leader:  
    Thomas Sayers Ellis
    Photographer and poet Thomas Sayers Ellis is the author of Skin, Inc: Identity Repair Poems. His first full collection,The Maverick Roomwas awarded the John C. Zacharis First Book Award. Ellis co-founded the Dark Room Collective in Cambridge Massachusetts in 1988, and his poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including The Best American Poetry. He teaches in the low-residency Creative Writing Program at Lesley University and he is on the faculty of Cave Canem.

    Classes will meet at the Hill Center and the Capitol Hll Hotel 
    is providing a discount rate for workshop participants.
    "The only entity of its kind to discover, develop, honor and serve 
    Black and African American writers at every stage in their career."

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    Hurston Wright Foundation | 611 Pennsylvanie Ave. S.E. | Suite 173 | Washington | DC | 20003

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

    Happy Holidays…#LifeAfter

    Happy Holidays!

    I left Kalani two weeks ago. Already it feels like a distant dream. I miss the sound of the ocean and the coqui frogs lulling me to sleep at night. I forged some wonderful new friendships and was able to delve back into my novel-in-progress. All in all, the experience was very good for me. I was surprised at how emotional I became when it was time to say my good-byes. There is some magic at work at Kalani. It's subtle but penetrating.
    Since I'm leading this Free Your Mind and the Rest Will Follow sort of life..I jumped at the chance to do something I've always secretly wanted to do...
    On a warm Tuesday morning, I posed nude for four artists. It was an exhilarating experience that I hope to revisit in the near future.
    (Bernice by Toko Fujisaki)


    Kalani hosts a number of different groups, organizations and a variety of artists. While there, I was very happy to meet Kathryn Jenkins and her husband Seung Yoon Lee. Katherine is the author of:

    Lessons from the Monk I Married
    by Katherine Jenkins by Seal Press
    List Price:$15.00
    Our Price: $4.20
    Buy Now

    I'm looking forward to reading this in 2014.

    Perhaps you've heard that Martha Southgate, has started a petition to stop educators from using Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel: The Help, to teach students about The Civil Rights Movement.

    We were alarmed to read in a recent article in 
    Slate that many high schools are assigning Kathryn Stockett's The Help as a text of choice (sometimes the only text of choice) in both English and history classes as the basis of their teaching on the Civil Rights Movement. One could hardly think of a worse choice, not because of its literary merits or lack thereof, but because of the way in which it utterly distorts the real story of the Civil Rights Movement and the thousands of people, most of them African-American, who fought and died to end American apartheid."

    This move on the part of educators is old hat. Passing off fiction for fact. Say NO to this white-washed version of the truth....SIGN THE PETITION....
    Once upon a time in the Bedford Stuyvesant Section of Brooklyn, there lived a man with a dream. His dream was to share the songs of his heart with the world. In between dreaming, he helped his brother and sister-in-law run the neighborhood coffee shop (Breadstuy). 

    One day someone walked into a club and saw this man singing from his heart. The rest as they say, is history.............
    So happy to know this dude...he inspires me. If you don't know him or his music -- you're missing out on a truly gifted individual...!

    Gregory Porter - 1960 What? - Official Music Video (Jazz, Soul Music)
    Gregory Porter - 1960 What? - Official Music Video (Jazz, Soul Music)


    I'm so happy that we are all alive at the same time....!!
    Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays and all of the best in 2014 and beyond.........!!

    In honor of Madiba's life and in order to shine a spotlight on  injustices in Africa that still need to be eradicated 
    I've put my eBook/novel: My Name is Butterfly
    on sale for .99 centsuntil the end of the year." -

    Is it just me?

    "Your life is an occasion. Rise to it." - Suzanne Weyn
    STAY IN TOUCHLike us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter     Find us on Pinterest
    123 Street Name City, ST - 555.555.5555

  • Bernice L. McFadden
  • Sunday, November 10, 2013

    Musings about entering into eldership….

    I spend a lot of time thinking about my family. I think about the ones who are still here in the physical sense, but my musings are usually focused on the ones who have gone on to glory - those I knew and those I did not know in this life.

    Mostly, I think about the women who were around me from the time I was born - well into my adulthood. My great-aunts - who were great in every sense of the word.

    I didn't fully comprehend during their time here, just how much of an impact they would have on my life.

    They were strong women. No doubt about that. I like to think that I am a strong woman as well. How could I not be - their DNA flows through my veins.

    I do however, have my weak moments - and so did they. But they were resilient women. They had their cry - their brief "woe-is-me" moments and then pulled themselves up by the proverbial boot straps and marched on.

    Their lives didn't really allow them to pursue their dreams -- they were born and grew up in a time when black women did what their mama's before them did: Got married, worked hard, had children, worked hard - raised their families - worked hard - assisted in raising their grandchildren - worked hard and then died.

    Without the love of and connection to family it would have been a thankless existence.

    They sacrificed their dreams so their off-spring could follow theirs…

    It's humbling and heartbreaking all at the same time.

    I am bloated with appreciation…

    I wonder what they are thinking about us - the descendants.

    I think this generations sense of family has waned. We cousins are not as close as the previous generations. Years will go by before we all come together and break bread - which is mostly at funerals. That was not the case when I was growing up. Holidays were reserved for the family -- all of the family. Twenty or thirty of us would cram into my great aunts tiny one-bedroom apartment for Thanksgiving or Easter dinner - and it didn't seem crowded - it was cozy because it was family.

    These events were mandatory. The gatekeepers would have it no other way. This is what family was all about.

    But most of the gatekeepers have passed away and it seems that their sense of tradition has passed on with them.

    We are now a bloodline scattered to the wind - visiting each other on Facebook instead of in person. Can you sense the sadness I feel about this?

    In the next few years I will move into an eldership position. My grandmother is 88 years old - and while she is physically healthy, her mind has started unravel. My mother is only 70 - but she too is having mental difficulties. In New York that leaves me and a small generation of cousins….

    What will we do to restore the family traditions? We have off-spring that don't even know one another! It's so very disheartening. I wonder if the ancestors are as disappointed in us as I suspect they are…

    The women who came before me left some pretty big shoes to fill… I don't know if I'm worthy or even ready………

  • Bernice L. McFadden
  • Monday, November 04, 2013

    The Meaning Of Life.......... #LifeAfter


    I write this post from Kalani Oceanside Retreat in Pahoa, Hawaii; where I am the Artist-in-Residence for the month of November.

    Now...although I've only been here for three days - I feel like I've been here for two weeks. There is something eerily familiar about the people here. Perhaps, it's because so many of us are transversing the same road.

    The road to happiness...rediscovery...spirituality...clarity and healing. So in them I see me.

    The "volunteers" who live and work in this intentional community range from ages 22 to 80 and come from a variety of different backgrounds. Many of them have similar stories to mine; quit their jobs, sold their businesses and homes, gave away their worldly possessions (or stored them away) bought a plane ticket and got the hell out of dodge.

    We are Ohana - All of us - me, the cancer surgeon, the firefighter, the IT man, the college student, the graphic artist, the mother of the former heroin addict who after giving her life to making sure her child got clean and sober - is now taking time out for herself -  and the  dozens more who I have not yet come into contact with - are all here searching for the real meaning of life, because we figured out that it's certainly not in the type of car we drive or the square footage of our homes, or the expensive purses, shoes and clothing we wear. It's not in that over-priced education I didn't receive (but maybe you did) from that five star university. Happiness is not in the awards that line our walls and mantles, nor is it in all of the money we have in the bank.

    So we come here  and move into our tents, shared rooms or no frills A-Frame cottages, and take on duties that in our other lives would have been deemed beneath us: housekeeping, bussing tables, washing dishes, pulling weeds...etc....and we ponder the now and the before and the what's to come and we surely -- maybe slowly maybe quickly - but certainly surely - come to the realization that the meaning of life might actually be nestled in that unbelievable night sky chock full of stars (you can see the milky way) or in every breath we take - because the cleanest air in the world is located right here on The Big Island of Hawaii. Or maybe the meaning of life is in the Pacific ocean that happens to be right outside our door or in the trees or the active volcano or the many hugs we are sure to receive throughout the day.

    Maybe the meaning of life is that feeling that comes over us when we think about all of those things we sold off and gave away and now can't remember what they were or the dollar amount we received, because we have bigger, more full filling things on our minds like the sunrise, the next full moon or a scoop of homemade Lily-Koi ice cream.

    And perhaps still the meaning of life is that expression we wear on our faces for most of the day and no one admonishes us with: Wipe that stupid expression off your face! Because ain't nothing stupid about a smile...

    I'm not saying that the meaning of life is here where I am - and I'm not saying it's not. I'm just saying Kalani is a good jumping off point if you're inclined to begin your search...

    And I'm also saying that for me, the meaning of life is happiness, community, Ohana, contentment, serenity, love and passion...and Kalani is swimming with it.

    I thank the universe for guiding me here...........I'm feeling a bit awe struck and am bursting with Mahalo........

    ********Follow my adventures on Instagram.**********

    P.S. On November 10th, Please check out my travel essay: "Looking For Fish In Trees" in the travel section of The New York Times.  

  • Bernice L. McFadden
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