Monday, November 11, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

New Horizons Youth Ministries Founded by a Pedophile

New Horizons Youth Ministries (parent organization of my reform school, Escuela Caribe) was founded in 1971 by Pastor Gordon  Blossom, a former juvenile delinquent who'd served a stint at Michigan's Floyd Starr Commonwealth Home.* By the time I arrived at Escuela Caribe in January 1990, Pastor Blossom was not active in the "ministry"  except during Spiritual Emphasis Week in the Canada branch, Missanabie Woods Academy. Then he would deliver a sermon in the chapel, segregated by sex, first to the boys, then the girls.  I don't even want to go into details here- but it was awful and we had to sit there and take it because the Pastor was speaking and he was always right. Scarred me for years.  I wrote a chapter about it this summer.

Yesterday a fellow alum rocked our cyberwaves- she discovered Pastor Blossom molested one of his daughters, Shirley Jo Petersen.  Petersen wrote a book, the Whisper, about healing from sexual abuse.  Petersen also alleges (and I believe her) that the pastor physically and emotionally abused her other siblings. She says that in part she has healed because she realizes that he was abused. Which I get on one level, yeah we all are constantly replicating trauma until we resolve it, but there is no excusing it, because at some point you have to face the monster within yourself and change. And I know that I probably am thinking more about my situation with my parents than hers. It is important to note- when she wrote my friend, Petersen said it didn't excuse what he did.

But I don't know what to do with the concrete proof that my parents entrusted me to a pedophile over my grandparents, who loved me and wanted me, to reform me, all because Blossom's "ministry" was Christian®.  And I don't want to think of all the predators who blatantly abused me and my friends.  I'd rather focus on how my writing is taking off in Sabrina Orah Mark's workshop, or the way right now the gingkos are my favorite gold, or that on Thursday night my guy and I saw one of Television's only U.S. shows.  

*Fun fact:  Blossom was once recognized for his civic work by Gov. George Romney, father of Mitt.

Monday, October 14, 2013

October Status Check

Deirdre Sugiuchi with Killick Hinds
I co-curate the New Town Revue, an Athens, GA music and literature series, which is hosted at Athens' Avid Bookshop. Friday, October 11, was sublime.

I volunteered at the Great ARTdoors, a fundraiser for the Hambidge Foundation. They have hosted me for three different residencies; it's one of my favorite spaces on earth. I led a tour of Didi Dunphy's studio. There were so many exciting things to discuss- she made a swing that was set up in the garden. This video was linked to an embroidered QR scan.  This punch list was drawn on her studio wall, things she did every single day at Hambidge. I love the way she reminds us all  to integrate play.  

I began my third workshop with Sabrina Orah Mark. For our first assignment, she asked us to select a piece of work we wished we had written.  I chose Steve Almond's essay about Kurt Vonnegut, Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt.  You can read the first part here.

Brantley Senn has been rebuilding my website. Heads up- this blog will soon migrate to wordpress.  The whole site will be much more user-friendly. Soon we will debut the design.  

And all of this means so much more to me because this weekend marked the 24th anniversary of my entry into the teen treatment industry.  My gateway to Escuela Caribe began at a place in Olive Branch, MS, then known as Parkwood Behavioral Health Services. I wish I could go back then and show myself how much I adore my life now.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lost in the Letters, Elf Power, & a User's Guide to Unreformed

I read for Atlanta’s Lost in the Letters this weekend. Listened to some fab writers (Jamie Iredell is hilarious!). Really enjoyed meeting LIL curator Scott Daughtridge. Am looking forward to future collaborations- he's doing much to build the regional lit scene, like this festival in November (to be linked soon) which features some of my heroes- Roxane Gay, Jericho Brown, Mary Miller, and more. Stoked!

I read two Unreformed excerpts*- Certificate of Affection (you had to have a commitment ceremony to have a relationship at Escuela Caribe- which was then horrifying but now is funny- provided you yourself didn't experience it) and First Gulf War, which delves into some of the apocalyptic dogma.  My husband, who is a musician (fave album- Ham 1: The Captain’s Table), helped me prep. When I came to the part where I referenced this verse in First Gulf War, he stopped me. “Wait, so that’s why you make jokes about riding the beast (when referring to difficult situations/people)?" “Totes, babe!”

Saturday night we walked down to the World Famous for Elf Power- a band we LOVE to see live, especially in this current iteration.** Former collaborators Bryan Poole and Jamie Huggins have reunited with Andrew Rieger and Laura Carter, and Peter Alvanos (who plays in our off/on project, High Ranker) is on drums. They closed with one of their oldest songs, Down to the Drugstore, which is about being all messed up in high school. Adored!

And after the show Andrew and I were talking about how much I enjoyed their set. When I watch them play they remind me of how my life could have been- had the adults in our town not shipped so many of us off to teen mistreatment facilities (and my parents not been religious control freaks) but instead helped us find some sort of creative outlet. But that's why I love how my Athens' friends were raised in Greenwood, SC, Ruston, LA, Charleston, Orlando, etc., because they have helped me discover how to be. And even better, that's how the kids in my town (especially my son) are being raised now.

One last thing- a reader (<3) emailed and asked for excerpts from Unreformed. Danzas Con Lobos en Santiago was published in Marco Polo. This Rumpus interview with Craig Zobel begins with a scene from Escuela Caribe. My Guernica interview with Julia Scheeres is essentially a comparison and contrast between Escuela Caribe and Jonestown. And the following posts from this blog include research or explore various topics pertaining to Escuela Caribe/ Caribe Vista/ Caribbean Mountain Academy. Enjoy!

*My buddy Scott M. and I were both super stoked that Eno's Needle in the Camel's Eye was my entry music to walk onstage, a song which (ZOMG- coincidence!) Elf Power also covers.
**Not that we haven't loved the other combos- Eric Harris and Derek Almstead from the In a Cave era- wow!

Friday, September 13, 2013

September- So Much!

This past month has whirled by...because this lady has been busy.

I returned to my job as a school librarian. I love it, though it keeps me from writing all day.  I still wrote almost every day. So close!

LITL12I re-read Jeff Jackson's Mira Corpora.  We are currently collaborating on an interview. Fun!

I am prepping to read for Atlanta's Lost in the Letters on Sunday, September 22.  Stoked!

I helped curate and promote the September edition of the New Town Revue at Athens' Avid Bookshop.  Thibault Raoult, Ari Lieberman, and Kara Kildare performed. Was a blast!

My husband spoke at Rabbit Box about our friend, Vic Chesnutt. <3...

On Labor Day I drove out to the near country for my friend's birthday. We set off fire balloons, flaming red beacons that drifted across the night sky.  It's a memory that will stick forever, but I love Ray Bradbury's description best.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole Audio- Delta Edition

I was one of Rabbit Box's storytellers in July.  I spoke about discovering the unspoken history of racism in my home region, the Mississippi Delta, which is where my father's family lived for at least seven generations.  Audio is posted here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Learning to Fly- July Recap

Ever since I left the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, I've spent almost every free moment in my studio, because, while at Tin House, I figured out where Unreformed stops and starts.* I owe this revelation in part to my mentor, Jodi Angel, who read and critiqued the whole hot mess of my manuscript, Steve Almond, the leader of our “Gimme Fiction" workshop (a.k.a. The Almond Joys),** as well as the crew of writers with whom I studied.  You all ROCK!

On this past Friday, my last true Friday of the summer, my friend Bart Lemahieu recorded me reading Burnt Norton by T.S. Eliot, a piece that has helped me come to grips with accepting loss in my life.  Amazing! Afterwards, as the sun set, we listened to the cicadas.  Audio will be posted when we get it right.

During the past few weeks I also began conversations with Escuela Caribe alumni who came after me- and all I can say is- Crosswinds/ Caribbean Mountain Academy/ Escuela Caribe/ Caribe Vista- despite your denials- I KNOW YOU ARE THE SAME PLACE. You kept the same people on as staff.  You were mentored by former abusers.  Many of the procedures remain the same- the only major change seems to be the name (and we have seen that before!).*** And I will address that matter soon- in another post- but now I am writing, writing, writing...

And to all of you who read and engage and comment here- know that I appreciate you.  And I cherish your assistance in helping me expose the abuses of Caribbean Mountain Academy/ Escuela Caribe. Thank you so for being... <3 <3 <3...

*This is huge- I was meandering way over on both ends.

** Album by the band Spoon. My mental soundtrack in Portland. I write nonfiction, but studied fiction this workshop to learn more about craft. Love learning outside the box.

***Newsflash- Crosswinds/ CMA/ EC- in regards to your blog post: writing is NOT a lucrative career.  Most writers have jobs to support their passion. And understand- I am extremely passionate about ensuring that other kids are not abused.