Hi, I’m Cheri L. R. Taylor…
Cheri L. R. Taylor holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College and is currently a writing instructor at Macomb College. She has facilitated writing workshops with the Arts in the Spirit Program at Oakwood Hospital and as a Writer in Residence with the Inside Out Literary Arts Project conducting writing workshops in the Detroit Public Schools. She has four chapbooks of poetry and has been published in Ellipsis, Awakenings Review, The Café Review, Reintigration Today, Clean Sheets, Current Magazine, Rattle, Third Wednesday, Strange Michigan, Jezebel, Love Notes, An Antholgy and others. Her book of poems, Wolf Maiden Moon was released from Pudding House Press in 2010. She recently released her first novel, Leaving Walloon to positive reviews. Leaving Walloon is currently under consideration to become a motion picture.
Cheri has facilitated clients in the completion of more than 9 books, multiple short stories, 6 poetry books, multiple full web site contents, and has coached dozens of students in poetry and public speaking performance.
Cheri is the recipient of a 2007 RARE Foundation Everyday Heroes Award for her work in dedication to the healing potential of expressive writing community settings and was awarded a 2009 Ragdale Foundation Artist’s Residency.
Director of Blushing Sky Writing Services, an organization dedicated to all things writing and creative, she established the Projection of Soul Poetry Workshop Program for Boysville in Clinton Twp. Michigan, and was the founder and Director of the Blushing Sky Poetry Performance Troupe.
Cheri has presented writing and/or performance workshops for The Washtenaw County Intermediate School District, University of Detroit Mercy College, The Vermont College Masters of Fine Arts in Writing program, Young Chicago Authors, The Neighborhood Writing Alliance, The Detroit Public Library, and many others.
Cheri also hosts her own weekly radio show on the A2zen.fm network, Creative Energy in YOU, which is dedicated to teaching people how to enjoy creative energy, and joyful writing in their lives!
I’d like to invite you to a brand new experience!
Welcome to The Joyful Writer!
For a long time now, we’ve bought into the lie that writing is painful. We have followed the lives and work of many brilliant writers who came before us, and because what they wrote was so profound and spoke to us in such amazing ways, we looked at ‘how’ they did it. For many people, that meant imitating them, including the sometimes tragic ways in which they lived their lives.
We all know, therefore, the cliche’ of the tortured writer (or artist!) for whom the writing is a kind of closed door, solitary torture that is the only “real way” to produce work of high quality, or resonance in the world.
Well, I’m here to tell you that this is not true! You do not have to be tortured, or melancholy, or depressed, to create wonderful writing. You don’t even have to consider it “hard work” to make it happen!
I am Cheri L. R. Taylor, The Joyful Writer and I invite you to a brand new experience!
What if writing could be one of the most joyful things you ever do in your life? What if when you are in the moment and writing, you are connected to all things joyful in the universe, and your own brilliant creative energy!
Would you like to experience a difference in your writing time? Would you like to connect to the joy and ban the tortured artist for good?
Maybe you’re brand new to writing, and you’re feeling intimidated by the whole idea?
Or, are you one of the many, many people who have always wanted to write a book, but you have no idea how to get started?
Perhaps you need some writing done for your business, or your website? Maybe you’re looking for someone to write some things for you!
That is what this website and The Joyful Writer is all about! It’s about finding the fun and play in your writing that will infuse it with the kind of energy that draws your reader with such magnetism, they will devour your work and beg you for more! It’s about encouraging you to follow your heart, and write that book, those poems, those stories, and to do it with total ease and joy!
It’s also about creating writing for and about your business that will draw clients and customers to you in droves!
What Does The Joyful Writer Do?
The Joyful Writer, is available for writing coaching, ghost writing, transcript to book writing, book organization, editing, writing for businesses, personal letters, brochures, web content and more!
If you need it written, the Joyful Writer can happily write it for you, or coach you into writing it yourself!
It is our belief that anything done with joy is done better! Quality and insight are our specialty and we pride ourselves in getting to know our clients so that we can provide the perfect writing solutions for all your needs.
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When you have the desire to write, it is because you have something to say, something in your heart and your being that you want to share. This can be a vulnerable and sometimes daunting, or scary thing to do. You may have been taught to be seen and not heard, or that your opinions, or the things you have to say, have no value or meaning.
We’ve often been taught to be modest and humble and not to seek attention.
Writing then, and publishing (oh my!) therefore, can seem like a pretty big step!
Cheri will personally guide you along this journey, offering support, practical advice and exercises, a schedule that helps you get it done, and a personalized plan to move you toward your success!
You’ll also talk about publishing options, and learn your best path to publishing!
Each plan is completely personalized, and is created in the best interests of you and the writing you want to produce. Your project is exciting and fun, and you will learn how to be joyful in every moment of it’s creation!
Are you ready to become the writer you’ve always wanted to be? You can be a joyful writer, too!
Have a presentation and you’re scared to death you’re going to mess it up?
Terrified of public speaking?
Pretty good at it but you’d like to get better?
Cheri has a joyful method for coaching you into your full potential as a public speaker and presenter.
The greatest fear among the general population is of public speaking. What if you could do it with fun, and enjoy every moment?
Contact Cheri for private coaching lessons and become the powerhouse public speaker you have within!
Businesses thrive on communication with clients and customers, but often the most dreaded job in the workplace is written communications! What if you could hire someone who not only could create that with ease, but also do it joyfully, in a way that gets you excited about your business communications?
That’s what the Joyful Writer is all about!
Your web site is your client’s first introduction to you and your company. It’s very important the the information there is accurate, up to date, interesting and represents your company in a professional and inviting way! Don’t leave that to the secretary with the ‘pretty good writing skills’ and hope for the best!
The Joyful Writer listens, gets to know you and your company and provides the perfect balance of information and invitation that your want your website to be!
We offer a free website analysis and evaluation, and a $50.00 consultation to determine if it’s time to replace or update the verbiage on your site! If you choose to work with us to give it an update, that $50.00 comes off your bill!
Got your website in place, but you’d love to have an e-blast, a blog, newsletter, or brochure for your customers? The Joyful Writer does that, too! We can create the perfect kind of information to keep your clients engaged and interested in what’s going on, what new offerings you have, as well as sales and special events!
For a free estimate contact us at:
Business letters can be tricky! If you need a perfectly worded, important letter done the right way, call the Joyful Writer! Letters are one of our specializes and your business will shine with professionalism! (Psst—Emails, too!)
All your business writing needs are our joy to complete!
Do you have poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, a presentation, a newsletter, letter or article that you’ve written, but you’d like it to have a professional edit? The Joyful Writer is here for you!
We offer editing services of all kinds, priced on a project by project basis!
For a free estimate and consultation today!
The Joyful writer can bring that polished touch to your work!
Cheri L. R. Taylor is available for writing workshops and public speaking events! A fun and engaging speaker, Cheri is a sought after presenter and facilitator.
What People are saying...
Cheri Taylor is the muse with the wicked sense of humor that sits on my shoulder eager to cheer me on!
When I tune into the energy of Cheri, it’s a bright fuchsia color, a huge smile and a hug waiting to embrace all of me.
I’ve hired Cheri to help me get motivated and to write some blogs for my business website.
She knows the angst that faces a writer when staring at a blank page . . . she’s even declared that she’s been the Queen of Procrastination. . . . and yet she’s turned out a poetry book, a novel and another one on the way!
Well, I wouldn’t expect anything less than royalty when in the company of Cheri.
She totally gets who I am, what I’m trying to say and she tickles out the best in me. She helps with those sticky points like beginnings, middles and ends. She never pushes, but is gently there & even lets me know it’s o.k. not to rush & to let something steep. Her kindness in a world that’s harsh and critical, not to mention my own inner critic, is beyond precious. Cheri is an invaluable gift of wisdom, wit and kindness that runs deep and wide. Her expertise in the craft and art of writing coupled with her generosity of spirit is the magic combo of fairy dust this budding writer craves! So far I’ve published 4 blogs on my website and am eager to turn them and others into my first self-help book. With building confidence & skill, based on Cheri’s coaching, I know I can do anything when it comes to writing for my target audience!
~ Juna G
Well, Cheri is a star-bright woman. Not so many around either.
She is present in everything she does, and that means she thinks above and beyond what is right in front.
She is one of the best students I've ever worked with and learns at the speed of light.
I rarely have seen anyone so engaged in living. I love her because she has a stake in everything she does, so she operates from a place of passion, totally involved with life.
~ Stellasue Lee, Ph.D.
Writing with Cheri is a gateway to a deeper part of myself.
When I write with Cheri, I get lost in the assignment and when I send it off to her there is a sense of completion and anticipation.
I cannot wait for her feedback... it's usually late at night when I send it to her and in the morning I look for her response.
It always lights me up and I cry.
Every time. It's a magical experience of exploring who I am AND learning how to acknowledge myself for all my greatness, even where I thought there wasn't any.
She shows you.
~ Danielle C.
Even for a writer it's a challenge to put into words the magic that Cheri is as a writing coach & more. Somehow she always seems to know the difference between when I'm avoiding writing, and when I've hit a spot where I don't know what's next. She asks the perfect questions to get me moving again, and laughing at the obviousness of the solution. Obvious for her that is.
Cheri nudges, coaxes and urges me to write - at my pace, not hers or some other imposed expectation. When my excitement wanes, she reminds me of what this project is to me, and the people waiting to read it order to inspire me once again.
If not for Cheri, the words would still be rattling around in my head, driving me slowly insane, and my book would still be a wish.
Warning, side effects of working with Cheri may include:
I adore her and am SO grateful for the forces that orchestrated our meeting.
~ Carol G.
I have been writing a book with Cheri Taylor as my coach, and it’s been a phenomenal experience!
I had no idea that bringing a book to life could be this fun, this ease-ful, and this fast!
I am very picky with my ‘coaches’… and am not really willing to hire people that don’t function from curiosity, non-judgment, and the willingness to follow the energy of what is asking to be created.
Cheri has blown me away time and time again!
Her ability to see what my book has ‘wanted’ to become, to be a phenomenal cheerleader and support for me, and to call me to the table when I’m trying to play small have supported me to create a book that I never in a million years imagined I would create!
They say ‘it never shows up like you think it will’—and Cheri’s willingness to not know, to not be the ‘expert’, and to just be in a playful space of wonder and creation has been an immeasurable gift to my life, my book, and my business.
I can’t recommend her highly enough!
She is a gem and a phenomenal person to have on your team—snag her up!!
~ Heather N.
I have had a very good experience having Cheri as an editor, but I refer to her more as a cheerleader, midwife, fairy godmother, and book-wisperer.
I do recommend her frequently, and one thing that I usually say to describe her style, in addition to the words above, is to say that she really reads the energy of what I'm writing, and what I want to say. She gives really useful tips and asks questions to bring the writing forward, even when I lack the wording for it at first.
~ Johanna C.
I absolutely adore working and playing with Cheri.
She is always so upbeat and she keeps it real while reaching, always, for the stars.
Love her style and her smile!
~ Kass T.
Cheri is one of the most enthusiastic coaches around. She really wants to see a novel get written, and she knows about pacing and plotting.
She has an excellent grasp of marketing and media.
~ Maureen M.
Cheri On The Radio
What is the spark, the inspirational moment, the wave that makes the difference when you want to write, or paint, sculpt, or compose?
What about when you’d just like to make something different for dinner or reorganize your sock drawer?
Is it the same?
What about when you want to change your life, or show up in the most present way possible?
How can you utilize creative energy in your life in order to make every experience a creative one?
Join Cheri LIVE on Wednesday everyweek or listen to the archives to explore these questions and more!
Books By Cheri
I was sixteen when I fell in love on the soft leafy bank of Walloon Lake. I can remember the exact moment that it happened. Angel Manotti and I were wading in the lapping blue edges of the water, still cold from springtime’s passing. We had our blue jeans rolled up as high as they would go, exposing our winter whitened calves. He squatted down, toad-like, to pluck a sparkling piece of beach glass from the shallow place just in front of the big oak tree that stood guardian at the edge of the lake. I’d wandered over to see what he was after and he looked up at me, holding out the treasure in his hand, his rich coffee eyes turned up at the edges in excitement, a smile pressing the dimple in his left cheek, the summer wind giving his hair an affectionate tousle.
The moment hung suspended in my eyes, and though I moved and squatted down beside him and lifted the softly polished glass from his gritty wet palm, all I could see, all my vision could comprehend was that look, the glowing half-boy expression showing on his young-man face.
He kissed me that day. It was the first kiss I’d ever had in my young life. It was 1978 and if my mother had seen it, or known about it, I’d have never had another. Mother didn’t approve of Angelo Manotti, his shortened name “Angel” had offended her, and his dark Italian looks frightened her. She’d warned me not to be alone with him.
“Men,” she told me for the seven hundredth time, “are only after one thing Susannah Suffolk, only one thing, and don’t you forget it!” Hearing it in my head, I could practically feel the sting of her hand across my mouth as he leaned in toward it.
But it didn’t seem to me that Angel was after anything, and anyway, I didn’t care. All I knew was that I felt things when I was with Angel that I felt at no other time and with no other person.
And so, clutching a rounded piece of azure beach glass tightly in my fist, I leaned against the oak tree for support and I let Angel get close to me. He rested a hand on my shoulder, his palm warm on my skin. He ran the palm gently down the length of my arm and tangled his slender fingers in my own.
I shifted nervously when his nose brushed the side of mine. My cheek stung with Mother’s imagined blow.
“It’s okay Susie-Q,” he said so softly that only the oak and I could hear.
His lips were still in the process of a smile when they actually touched mine. I felt his front tooth on my upper lip, smooth, wet, and then his mouth found the kiss
I closed my eyes.
He tasted sweet, like the cantaloupe juice that ran down my arm in the yard every summer, each supple mouthful sweeter than the last. His kisses were the same, each one a bit longer, a bit wetter, and a bit deeper. He held the back of my head in his palm, and I could feel the beach glass getting wet with sweat in my hand. He pushed one leg gently between mine, his knee pressing against the oak, his chest pushing into mine, the length of his body to mine, an unfamiliar hardness against my hip.
It was ten kisses, maybe twelve until we were startled by the sound of a boat across the lake.
I had never before seen a man’s eyes filled with that sweet dopey arousal; the kind of eyes that stay half closed even when they stare. I wondered suddenly what my eyes looked like, and the thought made me look away from him for fear that he could see what was happening to me. Something seemed to be blossoming between my legs. It was a strange swollen feeling, almost like a fat lip, but infinitely nicer. That I liked it was the most frightening feeling of all.
Without looking up, I gently pulled my fingers free and rested my palm on his chest. He leaned in and kissed me tenderly on the cheek before stepping away.
I remember clinging to the oak—my head, heart, and body spinning and dancing in ways I never knew existed. He held out his hand to me and we walked the entire circle of the lake holding the beach glass between our tightly clasped palms
As I think of it, that very day was the first of what I came to call Mother’s “inspections”. I don’t think I’d ever really realized how fearful she was of my sexuality until that moment. I was so lost in my own ecstasy that day I’d forgotten to be cautious about how I looked. It was always best to come in and head straight for my room, head down, eyes averted. That day, she’d cornered me in the bathroom.
“Take off your clothes Susannah,” she said.
Her slap across my mouth was so quick I didn’t have time to prepare at all.
“Take off your clothes,” she said again, and then pulled the metal slotted spoon from behind her back.
When Mother was being forceful she had a tendency to stand too close. She’d push her body up against mine, as if to enforce how much bigger than me she was. Today was no exception. She pushed against me with her breasts. I could smell her perfume and hairspray. I could see how she’d smeared the mascara she tried to put on that morning.
I didn’t dare ask why. I didn’t dare speak at all. I took a small step back, just enough to give me room and stripped everything off, grateful I’d already emptied my bladder.
I held my hands in front of my breasts, in front of my privates. I had no idea what might come next.
“Put your hands down! What are you trying to hide? Where did he touch you?!” She struck out with the spoon at my thigh. The sting was tremendous, and I yelped and dropped my hands. Now I understood, Mother believed she could tell if a boy had touched me.
“Turn!” she said and I did, tears now stinging my eyes worse than the welt from the spoon on my thigh. She put her face close to my body, so close that I could feel her breathing on my skin. She’d poke me every now and then with the spoon to get me to turn. She lifted each of my arms above my head, and pushed a heavy hand on my back when she turned me away from her to make me bend over as she examined my bottom.
I imagined myself turning into particles, disintegrating and falling through the tiles in the floor, nothing more than dust.
“If he touches you, I’ll know,” she said, jerking me around, her face millimeters from mine. With a final jerk, she released me and walked out, leaving the bathroom door open, to make her point that there was nothing I could hold private.
I didn’t speak, I knew better, I just gathered up my clothes and shut the bathroom door behind her as gently as I could. If I’d have slammed it, or acted as if I were the least bit angry, she’d have been back for me. She’d have beaten my legs raw with that spoon while I closed my eyes tight and tried to imagine I was somewhere else. I would cover my face and wait it out, imagining my body floating in the water of the lake, imagining that it was the next day, that it was over, that I was already healed.
I’m thinking a lot about Walloon today. I realize this with a turn of disgust in my stomach. These are thoughts I don’t often allow myself. It’s thoughts of those long rolling Michigan summers spent in the grass there and on Lake Charlevoix at Grand’s, and the winters when there was nowhere to be but inside the house. I know that I have to pick up the phone and call Grand now and tell her, but it seems to be more than I can manage to move my hand to the phone.
My assistant, Michelle walks in and sets a cup of coffee on my desk. I am startled, but I have learned to control those kinds of impulses and my body does not move.
“Can I do anything?” she says, the way that people say those words when someone has died.
“Yes, actually,” I say to her. “You could get me something hideously sweet to go with this coffee.”
She smiles. Michelle my friend, knows of my sweet tooth under pressure.
In another second she is gone and I wish I hadn’t sent her anywhere. I pick up the phone and wait for Grand to answer. A sudden tension springs into my chest.
I fight the urge to turn my head, and look behind me, my instinct to begin some kind of apology, to announce some kind of eternal grief to the ether and drop to my knees.
I take a slow deep breath and give in to the urge to turn my head. I am flooded with relief at the sight of the window behind my desk. Below, Woodward Avenue teems with cars. I can smell the faint hint of garlic from the pizza place on the corner.
“Leave me alone,” I say aloud, and turn my attention back to the phone.
“What?” Grand’s voice says in my ear.
“Grand, it’s Susie.” And after that my voice fails me. My throat goes tight as if there are fingers clenched tightly around it.
“Susie, what is it?”
My head swims. I force air down my throat.
“Mother is dead,” I say and hate myself for not being strong enough to break it to her in some gentle way.
“Well…” Grand says and I wish I were there with her, to hold her and set her gently on the sofa. Why in hell hadn’t I sent Father Satine over to sit with her first?
“How… how do you know?” she says, and I explain the call from the county office.
“They say it was a heart attack.”
“Oh… dear.” And then Grand is silent, too silent, and I know she is crying.
“I’ll be up tomorrow, Grand, I’m so sorry…” My own voice trails away and we cry together. I hate my own helplessness. I hate my own mouth for speaking the words that have hurt her and I hate Mother for causing her even more pain.
Grand tells me she loves me before she hangs up, making kiss-kiss noises even though she is sniffling and her throat is hitching.
Quick as I can hang up the phone, I call the church. I am vaguely comforted at the thought that there will soon be a veritable battalion of little white-haired church ladies standing on Grand’s porch, casseroles and tea cakes in hand.
I dab my eyes and feel a pang of guilt. My tears are for Grand, not for Mother. It has to be the worst of all possible experiences to lose a child. I cannot even let myself imagine what she is feeling. I trace the flower-gilded edge of the frame around Matthew’s smiling face with my finger. My son, my only child—I shudder and kiss the picture just for the comfort it brings me.
I had already called Matthew. He had taken the news well, as I expected he would and he was coming home from college to be with us at Walloon. He’d be driving from Ann Arbor in a day or so, and the more that I stare at his picture, the more I wish he were here now.
The skin on my inner arms aches at the thought of him. I can almost feel his infant body in my arms. I can smell the scent of his head. Almost twenty years ago and still it rests around me in memory so vivid, it’s as if I can feel my breasts leaking milk.
My chest begins to hitch. There is another call I want to make, a voice I want to hear. I pull out my cell phone and search my contacts to “M”. I find the name, and the phone rings in my hand.
I answer, knowing that Michelle is still out hunting me something of the refined sugar species.
“Susannah Suffolk,” I say in my best lawyer voice, fighting the shards that are stuck in my throat.
“Hey there Beautiful, how’re you doin’?”
At the sound of my brother’s voice I begin to weep. He hushes and shushes me, and when all else fails him, he makes me laugh.
“Geeze, I’m glad it makes you so happy to hear from me, Sis,” he says, and I can feel his wry side-winding smile through the phone.
“When are you coming up, Rob?” I ask, wanting him to tell me that he is already on the road.
“I’m already on the road,” he replies and I laugh out loud, and confess my thoughts.
“It’s okay, Susie, really…I mean…I think it’s for the best what with … everything …you know?” he says, not wanting to say aloud the things that we are both thinking: That it’s good that she is dead. That she was only getting worse, that she was making all our lives miserable and had been ever since we could remember. That she was headed for an institution and was spared it by dying.
I fiddle nervously with my necklace, twisting the gold chain with my fingers and feeling the smooth cool pendant with my thumb.
Susannah, you will RESPECT ME! Mother’s voice rings in my ears.
“How long before you get there?” I ask, hoping he will be there before me. The drive from Ohio would take him 12 hours. He says he is about six hours away and I am happy. It will be bad enough to go back there, but it would have been worse to have to go there alone.
He tells me that he is going straight to Grand’s and that he will call her next so she’ll expect him. I picture her changing the sheets in the guest room and baking her Walnut Oatmeal Delights, Rob’s favorites. She will be making her Infamous Apple Cake in the morning for me. It’s good she’ll have something to busy her head and her hands until we get there.
Rob says he loves me and I love him too and then he hangs up and I linger listening to the soft fuzzing sound on the phone. It reminds me of the sound of the lake and it takes me to another day with Angel.
It had been just a day or two after that first dangerous kiss and Angel borrowed his brothers row boat to take me out on the water. I wore my favorite cut off, blue jean shorts, the ones with the fluttering fringe of ragged denim on the edges, the ones that showed just a touch of bottom. They barely passed Mother’s inspection, as did my tube top and white button down shirt tied at the waist.
“Stay away from those boys at that rental cabin down the lake!” she’d warned that day. “You know what a gang of boys will do with a young girl if they get her alone!”
I left the house without a word, weary of her sexually assaulting warnings. It was ironic looking back now that she was already giving me the education she so feared they would. I don’t know which was worse really, the times when she was vicious and hateful or those rare times when she would sit down with me at the table and look at me with teary, terrified eyes. Those times when droplets of sanity would make her aware of her illness and she would reach out to me, a child, who could only sit there and stare back. I remember my legs going numb from sitting so very still.
Angel met me on the far side of the lake that day, at the peer under the awning of Mrs. Jablet’s boat rental booth. He took my hand, excited, full of his manhood as the breeze blew in off the lake with the same kind of gentle swooshing as the empty phone line. He was taking me out on a boat, me the damsel, and he the shining knight. I was to sit in comfort as he rowed and sweated in the high sun.
The boat was small and dented and dingy, but we didn’t care. We saw nothing that day but each other. We talked. He had dreams, big ones, and he shared them with me, unafraid. He was so different from the men in my family, those uptight, crane-like men with their stiff necks and stuck tongues. They spoke of “manly” things, of business, of sports, and when they thought I couldn’t hear them, of sex. They spoke of it in the locker room words that men like them liked to use, it was all “tits and the f-word” and I only listened in hopes of learning something about this mystery that my mother so feared and that men so adored. I never did learn anything from them, except maybe that they were not the kind of men I wanted to be around. I wanted a man like Angel.
Angel wanted to build a house. It was a house like nothing I had ever heard of. It was round, as he described it, but the roundness came from an intersecting of straight lines, of triangles.
“Triangles? How can a round house be made out of triangles?” I asked and laughed, thinking he was teasing me.
“It’s called a geodesic dome. It’s kind of like if you took a round ball and started cutting little triangles off each side.” His face went very serious, and he stopped rowing and gestured with his hands. He chewed is bottom lip between explanations and his dimple showed every time he started to talk again. I thought my heart would explode.
I’d never heard a boy my age talk about anything like this before. The guys at school wanted to make stupid dirty jokes or ask me what size my bra cups were. Or worse, they wanted to know if I was crazy like my mother. Angel never talked like that.
“Do you see what I mean?” he asked and I didn’t, and I loved that I didn’t because the more he could see that I could not get a picture of it in my mind, the more passionate his description became. He wanted to share this vision with me. He wanted me to see his dream as clearly as he did.
“I picture it on the east side of the lake, see, over there?” He pointed to a beautiful spot that had yet to be developed. It had a kind of natural bluff around one side and the adults spoke often of how they’d like to put something on that piece of land.
“If you look, the living room could have a row of windows, right there on the side and you’d get the sunrise over the lake. And in the bedroom there’d be a skylight right over the bed, you’d wake up to the sky every morning and fall asleep to the moon and the stars every night. Wouldn’t that be cool?” he said, and I could barely answer. I was too busy imagining what it would be like to wake up every morning in a bed with Angel, and to fall asleep again with him every night. I wondered if I would even see the sky. At that moment I couldn’t imagine looking away from him.
After twenty minutes of rowing and talking, Angel looked winded and we steered the tiny boat to the side of the lake, next to the big cabin owned by the wealthy family from Lansing. Grand would shake her head and say what a shame it was that such a beautiful cabin sat empty for so much of the year. She was right of course, because it was expansive and the front porch alone took up yards and yards. It was big enough to hold parties on, which they did during the two or three weeks a year that they actually made it up there.
We pulled the boat onto the sandy embankment and we ran up along the side of the big cabin. Angel had a spark in his eye and he pulled my reluctant hand all the way to the front door. I was squirming, pulling with all my might and laughing, trying to get off the porch of the rich people!! What if their butler came out and saw us here? To my further horror, he shushed me and reached into the potted plant on the porch and produced a gold colored key.
“Angel!” I cried. “No!”
“It’s okay,” he said. “I water their plants for them. They pay me fifty bucks every summer since I was twelve!”
He led me inside the most beautiful home I had ever seen. The great room was tall; the ceiling seemed to touch the sky, and our footsteps echoed up into it like ascending geese. The floors were polished to a glaze, and the whole place smelled of cedar and some sharp smelling kind of spice. Small carpets tossed about were fluffy white and pristine. An overstuffed sofa sat beneath a window covered with an amber curtain. The sunlight through it cast a pink glow into the room. A fireplace big enough to contain my whole living room sprawled across the far wall, stuffed deer heads stared blankly out from the space above.
Angel took me through the entire house. It all struck me as being so soft, and comfortable. So this was what having money meant. It was white carpets instead of fading braided toss rugs. It was a refrigerator stocked with food that no one would eat, a case of soda in the bottom, a dining table that could seat a convention, a hammock strung in a room full of books, a pink room full of toys for a little girl who would only play with them for three weeks a year, and then outgrow them before her next visit.
It was the biggest four-poster bed I had ever seen, with a hand made quilt that I knew the woman who owned this house did not make with her hands.
As we neared the bedroom it seemed like our footsteps became louder. The floor began to groan beneath our feet.
We stood awkwardly, looking at the serene paintings, the dresser top full of expensive perfumes, the armoire in the corner.
He shuffled to the edge of the bed and sat down tentatively.
“Come on, sit with me,” he said and showed me his dimple.
Men, Susannah Suffolk are only after one thing!
It was as if Mother was in the room with us, standing just behind me, glaring at Angel over my shoulder.
I hesitated, clinging to the wall, backing against it just a little, and wishing it were the oak. This room seemed smaller all of a sudden, the walls seemed to have stepped in.
“Susie…” he said
I went to him slowly. I took small deliberate steps, hearing mother in my head.
One Thing!!! she was shouting over and over again. I pictured myself naked in the bathroom, Mother swinging the spoon. . .
Angel held his hand out to me. He gathered me to him as soon as he could reach me, wrapping his eager arms around me, his biceps emerging from beneath the sleeves of his t-shirt. He sat me on the bed beside him, and with one arm around my waist he started to kiss me. He lingered with his lips just millimeters from mine. I breathed in as he exhaled, breathing his breath, tasting it. He licked his lips and I licked mine in imitation. My chest began to feel tight. Why was he waiting? I didn’t understand. All I knew was that with every second that he hovered there with his lips so close to me, I was feeling more and more swollen between my legs. Soon, I started to go cold in my chest, anticipation and fear and arousal stealing the air from my lungs and tripping my heart into fast, unpatterned beats.
When he finally pressed in to me, I startled with the feeling of it, the open loose feel of his upper lip finally contacting my mouth made something in my stomach twist in on itself. I felt a kind of shiver that traveled from that swollen place into my chest. It stole my voice and I made a high-pitched kind of sound. The sound I made, and the fact that I was starting to shake seemed to move him and he lifted me by my hips and laid me on my back. He lowered himself onto me quickly, kissing me faster and harder.
I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see. I didn’t want to. The world had tossed itself inside of Angel’s mouth and I went with it.
Susannah Suffolk can't stop thinking about her first kiss, which took place on the shore of Walloon Lake. She can't stop thinking about that boy, and her childhood years spent growing up there. Foggy with memories of her mother's tirades, the sound of a pot being repeatedly banged on the kitchen counter, watching her meals fly out the door at her mother's hand, and punishment that came with pain, Susannah struggles to defend her most public court case while she returns to Walloon Lake to arrange a funeral for her mother. Though she has since moved far away, and created a life for herself, her life at Walloon has remained present in her mind and in her heart. Amidst the chaos of her memories,the pressures of her family and reminders of lost love, Susannah is faced with a choice: Will she remain entrenched in her memories, or will she finally find a way to leave Walloon for good?
Hot Off The Presses!
It is raining the day we leave Paris.
I wipe the droplets from Fever’s whiskers, her ears back, that look of aloof irritation in her green eyes.
“Oh, it’s only water,” I say, re-closing the little door on the kitty carrier, and she swears at me in Cat.
I don’t speak Cat, but I know when I’m being sworn at.
Fever not only speaks Cat, she speaks it with a French accent
She tosses her ginger head to the left, adding a quiet snort for emphasis.
Contempt, she wears it well
I knew she would to pout all the way to the states, and why not? I certainly will.
My mother called me that morning before I left the apartment for the last time. It was hard to close the door behind me, and Mom’s voice in my ear made it even harder.
“I can’t believe you’ll be here in less than 12 hours!”
I did my best to swallow down what felt like a dust bunny stuck in my throat.
“Me neither!” I said, as excited as I could muster.
“Now, I’ve got your room made up,” she went on “and a little bed for Fever. I bought you some new pajamas and two pairs of socks. I read an article by a very prominent podiatrist that said that you should buy new socks every three months because of those new super bacteria that happen from hand sanitizers. How old are your socks?”
My throat tightened another notch. Was there even such a thing as a “prominent podiatrist”?
“Mom, could we discuss the age of my socks when I’m not on my cell phone paying premium minutes to talk to you from 3000 miles away? I’ve got a few things on my mind right now.” I said.
“Well, you have to take care of your feet, Allie, it’s important. You know your Aunt Sissy had all that terrible trouble with her feet and it ruined her marriage.”
“Yes, Mom I’ll take care of my feet. Look, I have a taxi downstairs. I’ll see you at the airport okay?”
“We’ll be circling. It’s ridiculous what they want you to pay just to park your car in those lots. You know my neighbor Lewis March once left his car in one of those lots for a weekend trip to Schenectady and when he got back, they had changed the parking rates and he owed six hundred dollars! I think it was a holiday. But it wasn’t a major one, it was a “President’s Day” or a “Labor Day”, something like that. Can you imagine? Six hundred dollars for a President’s Day!”
“Okay Mom, see you circling.” I cringed. “We” meant that mom’s gentleman friend, Mr. Callbert would be doing the driving. Mr. Callbert wore coke bottle glasses and drove with his nose practically pressed against the windshield. Neither seemed to help. His take on leaving proper space between his bumper and the car in front of him had something to do with whether or not he could read the license plate. It meant he drove so close to the poor driver who had the bad luck of pulling out in front of him that other cars would go around them thinking he was being towed.
“I’m so glad you’re finally coming home.”
With that, I hung up the phone a little too quickly.
The last thing I wanted to do was move back to the states. It wasn’t just because Paris had held so much magic for me, but I didn’t know what I was going to do once I got to Canton. Canton, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, isn’t exactly a hotbed of international style and intrigue. It’s more a hotbed of mid-priced chain restaurants, small factories, warehouses and lots and lots of suburban houses filled with suburban people.
The literary scene in Paris had offered me opportunities to read my poetry in public, to work with stylish editors and highly respected authors. It also allowed me to put thousands of miles between myself and Mark, whom I would be very pleased to say I felt no connection to with anymore, but I can’t. Canton offers me frighteningly close proximity to Mark, a quaint library and exactly four book stores: two chain, two Mom & Pop. Oh, and all the Wonderbread I can eat.
Not to mention, a new roommate; my mother.
All of a sudden the taxi driver turns up his radio. Glenn Campbell sings, “Everybody’s talkin’ at me…” and I am struck by a feeling of surreality. The rain pouring down the windows makes the whole scene look like a Salvador Dali painting. I press my face to the window as we pass by Cartier, the letters running into a mass of watery blur, the cars whirring past on the Champs take on the form of rivulets, racing toward some unseen cosmic drain.
Yup, one big flush and it was all about to be over.
Paris had been a refuge. My life had spun out of control and there was nowhere to go that felt separate enough to allow me time to think. Nowhere but Paris.
My mother had let me know that I could live with her a-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-times after Mark and I decided to split, but it was her grandest gesture that sent me all the way to Paris.
“Come for lunch today!” she chirped into the phone that morning.
It was seven a.m.
“Mom, I was sleeping.”
“At one,” she said.
“Yes among other hours.”
“No, lunch at one.”
“I’m going back to sleep now, Mom.”
“And bring that nice friend of yours.”
I smacked myself in the forehead trying to pull the quilt up over my shoulder and juggle the phone.
“Ouch. Mom, I have a lot of friends. Which friend?”
“The one with the nice teeth,” she said, and I could hear noises in the background that, if I’d been fully conscious, would’ve upset me immensely. It sounded like furniture scraping the floor. And … was that hammering?
“Gonna’ need more than that,” I said, wincing again.
“You know, the one that liked my tea cups. Winnie? Wyatt? Weller?”
“Phillip, Mom, his name is Phillip. You know Phillip.” Phillip had once remarked on Mom’s collection of antique store cups and saucers.
“Yes, yes, Phillip,” she said, “He’s such a nice young man. Why didn’t you two ever get together?”
“Phillip is gay, Mom, you know that.” My head was starting to hurt.
“Oh, Honey, that’s just something people say.”
This was my mother’s favorite thing to say when she found a concept too upsetting to believe it was real.
“No, it’s when two men fall in love and—”
“And tell him I’m going to serve tea! Does he drink tea? I have some nice D-Store brand. I know it’s not the fanciest or anything, but I like it. It’s got that nutty taste I like. Oh, and I have milk and sugar. Does he take diet sweetener?”
“Mom, did I mention it’s SEVEN A.M.?”
“And I made cookies. But that’s for after lunch.” Suddenly an upsettingly loud scraping noise rang into the phone. I groaned and dropped it with a start. It got tangled in the sheet and by the time I finally righted it back to my ear, I could hear my mother yelling things like: “No, no to the left!” And “Overrrrr overrrrr okay. . . stop!”
I decided to pretend that I accidentally hung up.
So I did.
Six hours later, I was in Phillip’s car and we were racing along I-696 toward my Mom’s place.
“Phil, could you please slow down,” I said, eyeballing the speedometer, which kept hovering dangerously toward 95mph.
“It won’t keep us from getting there Miss Daisy, so just close your eyes like you do during sex. This’ll pass quickly too.” He checked his teeth in the rear view for the third time.
“For God’s sake, will you at least look at the road? A 67 year old woman who thinks that people shouldn’t own birds because they learn to repeat what you say and can be used in identity theft, said you have nice teeth, are you really that desperately in need of validation?”
“Ohhh and nipping at me won’t make this any easier either. You know she’s going to ask you to move in with her again when we get there, so just rehearse your un-acceptance speech, and stop snapping at me like some kind of hormonal debutante on speed!”
My heart was racing like a gerbil’s by the time we pulled into the driveway. My mother was standing on the porch with a tea towel pinned to her skirt.
We were exactly five minutes late.
“I was starting to worry that you’d had an accident on the freeway! I read that good conversationalists have forty percent more accidents than the average person. You’re always such a good conversationalist, Phillip, you really had me concerned,” she said, and Phillip trotted up the steps and kissed her on the cheek!
“Oh Bette, you worry too much!”
She giggled. I suspected that Mom really invited Phillip because he always flirted with her so shamelessly.
“He always calls me that! He calls me Bette, not Betty. Did you notice he calls me that? Like that singer Bette Maudlin. He calls me a singer!”
“Midler, Mom,” I said, and fought the urge to roll my eyes.
“What?” she said absently, and lead us inside.
The dining room table was set with all of Mom’s favorite antique store finds, and Phillip raced over to it and began fussing over each piece. It was a great moment for me to dash into the bathroom and try to catch my breath. It was like waiting for a nuclear strike. You knew it was coming, but you were powerless and could do nothing but sit and wait to be vaporized.
Twenty minutes later we were sitting around her table consuming one of my mother’s classic meals: Lasagna, roast beef, braised chicken, salad and dessert. My mother is a firm believer in the main course. Every meal she serves has at least three. Side dishes, she feels, are too trivial to be considered real food.
“Phillip, why don’t you and Allie go out on a date?”
Mom’s voice rang into the air like a singing bird. Phillip did his best not to spit out the mouthful of tea he was straining against, and I dropped a chicken bone on the floor.
“Mom, Phillip is gay,” I said, as he swallowed so hard I could actually hear it from across the table.
“Now, Bette, you know that. Besides, I’m on a boyfriend hunt right now,” Phillip said, and patted her on the arm.
“Oh, Phillip, the things you say!” She poured him another cup of tea. She fluttered a bit and forked a giant slice of roast beef onto his plate.
This tipped her to take off on a speech about beef prices being affected by the mouse population eating too much of the world’s grain stores, and Phillip winked at me.
Soon we were wiping the crumbs of Mom’s gigantic home baked cookies from our cheeks, and just as I’d set my teacup down, she stood.
“Are you ready for the big surprise?”
“I am!” Phillip piped up cheerfully and I shot him a sideways glare.
“Come on, you’ll love this!”
She pulled each of us by one hand as if we were small children being led across a busy street. All the way up the stairs she kept giggling softly to herself. The level of terror in my chest had just about reached cardiac arrest when she pushed open the bedroom door and stood back in triumph.
It was my old room. Only it appeared that someone had blown up a case of bubblegum in the center of it. The entire room, from floor to ceiling, had been painted a bright Double Bubble pink. The curtains were pink, the shades were pink, the bedspread was pink, the six throw pillows on the bed were pink. The carpet was pink. On the wall, hung a painting of pink tulips in a pink frame.
“It’s your favorite color!” She fluffed the pillows.
Phillips mouth was hanging clean open. It is the only time I have ever seen him entirely speechless.
“Do you love it? You love it don’t you?!” she said, and smiled in total satisfaction. “I kept trying to figure out why you wouldn’t move back in, and then I saw a television program that said that people who suffer from depression should change their décor at least once every three months to elevate their mood! That’s when I understood that you needed your room redone!”
I didn’t know what to do. Her intentions were good, but after having just broken up with Mark and knowing I had to leave our wonderful warm earth tone and white apartment, the thought of Mom and the Pepto-Bismal room was so overwhelming that I couldn’t stand it.
“We have to go, Mom,” I called over my shoulder, and ran like my butt was on fire.
“What?” she said, as Phillip chased behind me.
“I’ll call you, Mom,” I yelled and we jumped into the car. I didn’t mind Phillip’s speeding so much this time.
We were silent, whipping along the freeway, my mind racing as fast as the car, until I noticed that his chest was moving up and down.
“Don’t…” I said. Which only made it worse, and Phil exploded into laughter.
“Oh my God! You’re going to be the Princess of Bubble Yum Town!”
My head had begun a full on throb. I put my hands over my face and tried not to take out my venom on him. It wasn’t easy.
“I’m glad you find this so incredibly amusing.”
He wiped tears from his eyes. “Do you think she dyed all that stuff to match? I mean really, where would a person even FIND that much pink tulle?”
“Well if you don’t know, I’m sure I don’t,” I said.
“Oh yes, yes the gay guy knows where to buy pink tulle, very funny. Listen, it’s not my fault that you have to live in Cotton-Candyland! Come on, Allie, where is your sense of humor? Oh dear God, you’ll get some kind of weird color blindness living in that room! Everything outside will look blue!”
“I can’t do it, Phil, I just can’t. I can’t live there with her in a sea of neon pink, eating beef and chicken and pasta every meal and hearing how flossing 30% more every day will improve my sex life! I can’t. I just can’t, Phil. I can’t!” I was aware that my voice had become a bit shrill, and he reached over and put his hand on my shoulder.
“Okay, Cupcake, you’re losing it.”
“What if I run into Mark?” I said, and Phil snorted.
“You’re going to run into Mark if you are living here in Mayberry! It’s going to happen. Since when can you not handle running into Mark?”
“I just can’t. I don’t want to see him, not for a while.”
Phil made a fake phone with his hand and talked into it. “Hello, is Allie there? It’s reality calling.”
“You’re not funny, have I told you that lately?” I snarled, and he patted me on the leg with his phone hand.
At the next stoplight he turned to look at me.
“Phil,” I said. “I have to get out of here.”
A scant three weeks later, I had the task of explaining to Mom that I was moving to Paris. I couldn’t just tell her the truth, which was that it was the farthest place I could think of to go. My high school French was long dead in my brain somewhere, but I did know the literary scene was good there, and with my MFA in Writing completed, it seemed like as good a place as any. It seemed a place more far away than most. This was the key.
I sat on the sofa in the living room, and waited for her to bring me a glass of iced tea.
“You know, you should drink your tea with lemon it. Lemon has lots of vitamin C, and I heard on Dr. Phil that most people only get a fraction of the vitamin C they need. It makes a person emotionally edgy,” she called from the kitchen.
“Lemon gives me canker sores,” I yelled back.
“Oh Allie, you don’t get canker sores. Our family doesn’t get canker sores.”
She brought me the tea with four lemon slices floating amidst the ice.
“Mom, I wanted to talk to you about the room,” I said, and winced. The image of it flashed in my mind and for a moment, I had the weird feeling I was caught in some kind of pink blizzard.
“I know, I know, the tulle was too young for you. I’ve been shopping for some nice cotton,” she said, and sipped her tea.
“No, it’s not that, Mom. Listen, I’m moving somewhere else.”
“Oh now, Allie there’s no sense in you moving into some expensive place when you can live here with me. The mortgage was paid by your father’s life insurance. It’s all taken care of! You can save money and work on your little limericks!”
“I’m moving to Paris,” I said. I blurted it, spit it out of my mouth like a lemon seed.
“Oh Honey, people don’t live in Paris,” she said. “Have you had your blood pressure checked? There’s a new kind of high blood pressure going around that affects people who’ve just had a break up. They say that love relationships actually do affect a person’s heart, isn’t that something?”
“Mom, people most certainly do live in Paris!” I said, feeling my cheeks go flushed.
“Oh Allie, people don’t live in Paris. No one just goes and lives in Paris. There’s too much cheese there.”
“Mom, I’m moving to Paris. In a week.”
She stood up then, and went into the kitchen.
“I know I have an extra lemon zester in here somewhere. I want you to take it home and start putting lemon zest in your soups,” she called over the sound of her clanking kitchen implements in the drawer.
I walked into the kitchen and stood beside her.
She looked at me and smiled. It was a sad little smile. She’d tried so hard and I felt bad, but I knew that I just had to go.
“Well, you’ll have to send me some perfume. I keep hearing all about French perfume. Somehow they know how to get more scent into it in France. It’s something about the strainers they have there.” She reached up and moved my hair out of my eyes. I felt my throat welling a lump. She pushed the zester into my hands.
“And take this with you. There’s a lot of scurvy in France.
After poet Allie Young turned down her live-in boyfriend’s sixth proposal, she knew she needed a change. Fleeing her hometown of Canton, Michigan, she has spent a year in Paris working at a literary magazine, and toying with her poetry manuscript. When the magazine closes it’s doors, she realizes she must return. With no other options, she moves in with her widowed sixty-seven-year-old mother, who seems to live her life based upon sound bites from popular daytime talk shows and women’s magazines, and who has embarked upon a rigorous dating life in Allie’s absence. Floundering, and unable to complete her manuscript, Allie runs into her ex and his new fiancee’, and is stunned by her spectacular engagement ring, which on its own, outshines all six of the rings he’d given Allie. With support from her best friend, handsome, gay bartender Phillip, she begins the adventure of putting her life back together, plotting about her ex, and constantly running into a certain odd stranger. Will Allie discover why she can’t stop thinking about that engagement ring? Will Phillip find the love of his life at wine camp? Will Allie's mother become senior playmate of the month? Will Allie sell out before she’s really even begun? All of these questions and more will be answered as you laugh and cry along with Allie in Falling Down Girl.