Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am a stay-at-home wife of a very hard-working physician, and mom of four fabulous kiddos. I made the decision to try to write for a living ten years ago, when I resigned from my job as a child advocate attorney. Writing has afforded me the opportunity to be fully present with my kids (for better or worse), while also providing me with the outlet I need to feel like I’m making a positive impact on society, beyond raising four wonderful human beings.
Describe your story in 5 sentences or less:
Tragedy uproots Iris and her sisters, all named after flowers, from the solid ground of middle-class life and plants them, unsupervised, in the rocky terrain of low-income housing. They befriend a boy named Liam who proves refreshing as a summer gale, gushing joy into their lives. Ma Moore, a church elder sprinkles the Flower sisters with spiritual wisdom, leading Iris to embrace her Heavenly Father with steadfast urgency. Petrified Flowers is Iris’ anthem – one African American girl straddling three worlds. It’s a song of hope, a triumph of faith, and a resounding refrain of the Father’s eternal love.
Are you a night owl or morning person?
I am a wannabe night owl who falls asleep on movies that start after 9 pm. I like to wake up early, before the rest of the house, pop in my headphones, and listen to a sermon or praise music while I run around my neighborhood.
Are you a plotter or a panster?
My method is a convoluted concoction of plotting meticulously, and then flying by the seat of my pants. I scribble plot ideas while I’m going about my daily life, or researching, or I write ferociously in my head on my runs. Then when I’m writing, those ideas blossom into spur of the moment revelations. No one will ever convince me that God is not in my head, pulling all of my random ideas together to form coherent design.
Are you part of a writing group?
Yes! And, their input is invaluable. The fact that we meet once a month puts a fire under me, holding me accountable to submit pages for their critique. And, their questions and suggestions about my writing always inspire me to go deeper into character development, or take risks that I may not have done on my own. They are brilliant, fun, and honest. One of them even wrote my PF query letter for me. They are dear friends!
Do you experience writer’s block? What do you do to get through it?
When I’m not taking time and space for myself to commune with God, to exercise, and to observe moments of Sabbath, I do struggle with coming up with words, even when I have ideas swimming around in my head. Knowing this, I take my time with God seriously, I exercise committedly, and I rest. I’m still learning not to feel guilty for the resting. Being locked up during the pandemic has given me an “excuse” to nap (although my husband doesn’t believe one ever needs an excuse to nap), and to sit quietly. Running is a catalyst for my stories, and I have written countless stories and poems in my head during my runs.
What’s next for you as an author?
In light of the long overdue radical awakening happening in America right now, I’m penning a collection of poems. First and foremost, the poems have been therapeutic for my family, in reliving some of our traumas and giving voice to them. I’m finding my poems have reached far beyond our home. My words have helped to illustrate the daily struggles faced by Black and Brown people in this country, and people of all colors are responding in positive ways.
are your favorite excerpt from your book:
Liam dropped down on our lives
himself like a canopy.
I had to give myself continuous
that Liam wasn’t God.
Maybe he’d been sent by God,
but he was not our Savior.
I didn’t mention this to my sisters.
I wrote M & S in tiny letters in the margins
of my notebooks
using the last letters of our names,
just in case they ever noticed.
Liam taught Dahlia to swim in two days,
exactly the way Daddy had taught the rest of us,
a flash flood of confident instructions
sweeping away any doubt.
Dahlia didn’t whine once.
He was still a stranger to us then,
this white boy with a
to be with us.
Was it a test from Mom?
Was she standing just outside our sights,
with hands on her hips,
tapping her right foot in irritation?
Daddy made us watch a kidnapping special
on television once.
The parents stood back and watched their kids,
distracted by promises of candy
and sympathy for lost dogs,
forget everything they’d been taught about Stranger Danger.
Trustworthy adults never ask children for help. Remember that!
Daddy had warned.
And, there was Mom, relying on us.
Trust no one.
The world is dangerous.
should have been unnerving.
We should have been suspicious.
Instead, we were
Soaked him up
like solar panels.
He illuminated our lives
days after he was gone.
We wanted to be him
or we loved him.
We all saw Daddy in him.
Freesia alone recognized
he needed fixing.
That white boy is like a life raft
with a hole in it.
None of us knew
she was absolutely right.
For those two days
of swim lessons,
I stood by,
ready to jump in,
ready to save Dahlia,
all the while suspecting I wouldn’t have to.
when she doggy paddled all the way across the pool,
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Where can readers find you online?
Thank you for being here today, Joiya! Your poetry is beautiful.