The True Spirit of Writing

About a year ago, after giving me the bad news that my novel needed a lot more work than I expected, my editor added, “I know you know this, but it’s just a reminder — you can write just for fun. It doesn’t always have to be a big and important idea.”

Well, I shelved the novel, and found myself with nothing to write, important or otherwise. Eventually I produced the mini-collection A Bowl of Pho just to prove to myself that I really could bring a project to fruition, but it wasn’t really enough. Then I stumbled on a book that turned everything around.

It purported to be a collection of recipes transmitted to the author by ghosts. The book was transparently fiction although it claimed to be real, and all the recipes sounded like they came from the Mt. Olive Baptist Church Women’s Bible Study cookbook from Centralville, Ohio, circa. 1963. It was a terrible book and I loved it.

I’ve always been a fan of ghost stories, which is connected to my longing to be able to see and know the past. According to this book, some ghosts stayed on earth because they were attached to something and couldn’t let go. Obviously all of these stories involved recipes of some kind, but it fired up my imagination. What if a ghost was attached to a baby who had her name? What if a ghost never realized that her shift at the diner was over? What about somebody who was sure she was so essential that she had to stick around and make all the right decisions?

From that seed of an idea, a new project flourished. Not only did I write ghost stories, but I was able to put together a collection of stand-alone stories with a unifying thread that tied them together into a larger story. I’ve wanted to write this kind of thing for years, and in 2021, I did it.

In tone, they’re much closer to Go Right and A Bowl of Pho than The Fellowship. Yet I do still touch on themes of women’s empowerment, racism, and faith — not because I feel I need to, but because my stories deal with humans (both alive and dead), and those are human issues.

I’m still deciding exactly what to do with my ghost stories, but rest assured that you’ll see them in some form sooner or later. I can’t wait to share them. Not because I think it will change the world, but because they were born from the sheer joy of writing.

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