This beautiful collection features 40 authors from around the world and a wide variety of short stories covering the complex relationships we hold with the idea of home. I was surprised by the arrangement according to the author’s first name. So who’s up first? Yours truly!
It’s the first time my name has been published with a fiction title and I am thrilled to break into the industry. Even if it’s in an entirely different genre and format than my primary writing. Creative license, right?
It’s the perfect topic and collection to spend a little time with over the holidays. If you need some airplane or road trip reading material, check out the digital download from Fragmented Voices here and be sure to read about the authors at the end. Before you go, I’ve got a sneak peek at the psychological thriller that kicks off the collection.
It was during the potato famine of the mid-1800s, when an Irish immigrant and his cousin showed up in the United States speaking mostly Gaelic. When the immigration officers tried to issue their official documents, they asked the ruddy Irishmen for their last name. The Irishmen replied, “Ó’Dochartaigh.”*
The poor officials stared at the men and asked them to repeat it. “Ó’Dochartaigh.” And one more time? Perhaps out of laziness, or misunderstanding, the “Ó” was dropped entirely. One official wrote down “Dockerty,” hardening the middle “ch” sound a bit too much for the sake of clarity. Meanwhile, the other one wrote down “Daugherty,” attempting to recognize the sound, the voiced pause in a name, without following any laws of the English language.
It only took a single generation, maybe two, before Mr. Daugherty’s children and grandchildren had lost touch with their Gaelic side entirely. Speaking only English, they had no ability to form the gutteral middle stop that belonged between “Dah” and “her,” before ending with “tee.” It was only a matter of years before they stopped bothering to pronounce all three syllables at all. By the time the original Ó’Dochartaigh passed away, his misbegotten grandchildren were simply known by “Darty.”
However, dropping sounds is a simple, natural matter. Language evolves over time quite by itself. Changing official documents is another matter entirely. No one was willing to lose touch with their Daugherty heritage, or bother with the lines at DPS to change their driver’s license (I suppose I’ve jumped a few decades here). So they continue to live with the cumbersome middle letters “ughe.”
This isn’t even my own story, of course. I married into the problem of those four extra letters, leaving behind a life of ease and fluency as a Dobbins—plain, English, straightforward Dobbins. And despite his own struggle to live with the name, my husband is a traditional American male whose very identity is bound to his last name. So we continue, forever missing emails that were addressed to a Daughtery. Because, after all, most English speakers are used to writing the word “daughter,” misplacing the T in Daugherty, and tacking a Y on at the end for good measure. Daughtery, Daughtery, Daughtery.
I’ve learned to live with it. When I check-in anywhere or give anyone my name, I spell it slowly and deliberately, particularly around those middle letters. “DAU- G – H – E – R -TY.” And every time, I can’t help but think how lovely, how simple it would be if they had anglicized it to its true destiny: “Darty.”
If you don’t think it’s really that bad, just tell that to Social Security. It took them three tries to print my new card after I got married. And you should see the looks I get in public spaces. At a doctor’s office, for example; when the nurse comes to the door, clipboard in hand, and calls out, “Anna…” [cue look of panic] “Dau– Daughtry?” There’s a reason we carefully chose first names for our children that were easy to say and spell.
Luckily my mother-in-law passed on a handy rhyme that helps: “‘Darty,’ like party.” I use it often. And that’s how most people remember it. The few who do, at least. Though if they ever need to send me an email or look me up, God help them.
I live in an area with a 50/50 voter split. You never know if you’re talking to a gun-toting Texan or a free-college Californian. (Oh, don’t look at me like that, I’m leaning on some cliches here.) People here tend to tread lightly when it comes to politics, depending on the social circle you’re currently in. There are certain topics people steer clear of in conversation. But now, my very own job title has joined the ranks of Undiscussable. (Not a word.)
I didn’t realize it until several months ago when I had a well-meaning, old-school Texan sit me down and run through a list of “alternative websites” for me to use when fact-checking. As an anti-politics Millennial (sorry?), I was more confused than anything. I reassured him I was thorough in using various sources, though I explained his had nothing to do with the type of work I did.
That was when he mentioned Facebook and it clicked. All of a sudden, I realized those strange looks I was getting had nothing to do with spinach in my teeth. It was because saying I was a fact-checker had become a political statement.
Somehow, the job that nobody knew existed two years ago has become a political weapon. Now, I can’t just say I fact check. I have to say, “I fact-check for magazines regarding small details like if so-and-so’s grandmother made bonnets or if the shop’s tiles are really green. I don’t do Facebook-type fact-checking.” It’s a distinction I never had to make before. And one that makes my job description significantly longer.
But honestly, as much as I try to downplay the work I do for the sake of politics, I’m proud of it.
I call dozens of people for each article that goes into a magazine like Texas Highways. I speak to former Olympians to fix things like the wrong date listed for when they played their first game. I speak with passionate conservationists, excited to share their story, and particular that we don’t call a lizard “pregnant” because apparently the right term for reptiles is “gravid.” And I speak with everybody’s grandmother named Betty Mae up in the Panhandle to confirm that she has owned the little cafe since 1962, when she bought it from her father—no, scratch that, it was her uncle.
That’s what I do.
I’m not telling anyone how to live their lives. I’m helping authors share their stories accurately. I’m catching those little details that fall through the cracks of a thousand words. And apparently, I’m now spreading information on fact-checkers. Honestly, I’m not sure how companies like Facebook do it. I’m not sure if they’re hiring trained journalists or if it’s all computer programming. But as a professional in the field, I’m just here to say: it’s not all the same thing. On the rare chance that you meet a fact-checker soon, have a little more curiosity and a little less presumption. Because I can guarantee you, they’ve got some stories to tell.
My daughter recently recovered from a bad case of the Gimmes. Of course, it’s like the cold, there will be different variants of it that pop up over time—particularly over the holidays—but thankfully we seem to have found a quick solution.
After a rough week of the Gimmes, my daughter came home from ballet class immediately demanding MORE. She wanted to eat out for dinner, she wanted to be entertained, she wanted someone to play with her. All this from the child who had just had a grandparent visit and gone to her weekly ballet class. That should be treat enough, right? Of course, the Give Me bug can be a nuisance to anyone, but I seem have a personal pet peeve that goes beyond normal reactions. So I was upset, more upset than I should have been, and I set out to fix it.
We talked. As any [honest] parent of a preschooler will admit, that does nothing. So we moved on to the next step and read a nice story about generosity. Also nothing.
Step three. This is where the real magic happened. In a particularly lucid moment, I grabbed a brown paper bag, a paper plate, and two green markers. I handed my daughter the paper plate and markers and told her to color a big, scary, green monster. She did her absolute best. I told her to keep adding details until we both felt it was complete. Then we glued the monstrous head onto the paper bag to make a puppet and we played two games.
The Green Monster Games:
The first was a tickling game. The Green Monster would attack unsuspecting passersby, growling, “I want more!” And the only way to stop him was to name something you were thankful for. So that mean old Green Monster attacked my daughter, nibbling at her ticklish neck and growing for “More! More!” until my daughter shouted out, “I’m thankful for my dress!” And with a whine, he melted away like the wicked witch of the west.
The second was reading game. We have a book of Aesop’s Fables, so we pulled it out and found the story about the goose that laid golden eggs. In short: a poor couple discovers their goose lays golden eggs and they soon become quite wealthy. But they always want more. Eventually, they cut into that goose to get all the gold at once, only to find it’s a plain goose on the inside. Throughout the story, I had my daughter hold the puppet, and any time she heard a phrase like “I want…” or “I wish…”, she was to attack the book (or me) with her puppet.
Honestly, with fun and giggles, it worked magic. She even started to think wanting or wishing was bad, so we had to backtrack a bit and tell her it was alright to want something, but we needed to stay grateful for what we have. The Green Monster got such a workout that the paper bag died before long. But since then, when she starts to catch a case of Gimmes again, we are usually able to offer a quiet reminder that “it sounds like you have the Green Monster,” and she tends to calm down.
Going into the holiday season, when they are given so much, many children begin to get the idea that they can have anything and everything they ever wanted. As Joshua Becker beautifully explains on Becoming Minimalist, “You allow them to keep looking for happiness in the next toy, the next game, the next purchase… Maybe if they were required to find happiness in the toys they already have, they just might find it.” (Quote changed slightly from “he” to “they” because hello, girl mom here.) It’s also part of the Diderot Effect. The more we have, the more we want.
So as we wrestle against the tyrants of consumerism and marketing to keep our Christmas sane and sweet, we’re probably going to need a new Green Monster to have on hand. And in the meantime, we’re focusing our November on two immune-building activities: Thanks and Giving (not just giving thanks). We’ve cleared out toys to give to others and we’re filling in our Thankful Tree every evening at dinnertime. It’s been a sweet month and I see my children growing, but I know they (and I) will continue to wrestle against the Gimmes throughout life. It’s only natural. I’ve realized my original anger at the problem was unjustified—she had simply caught a bug that we all catch from time to time. But I want to do everything I can to help my children grow a healthy immune system. Because hey, I need it too.
About three months ago, I was out for a run at dusk, when I came up with a creepy idea for a novel. I had the whole synopsis in my head in an instant. The only problem is I don’t write psychological thrillers. And I have another novel I’m working on publishing now, with several more planned in my head. So I turned it into flash fiction instead. To my absolute shock and joy, Fragmented Voices accepted it and will be publishing it in their autumn anthology!
They just released the cover of the book and I am so excited about it. It’s a collection of short fiction and essays from 40 authors about the complicated topic of home.
I must admit, this is going to be far from my usual writings. It’s not the Christian women’s fiction I’m currently looking to publish, but it was so fun to stretch my fiction-writing skills to a new genre and style! Also, after working on a novel for months that is now languishing in the waiting-to-be-published stage, it was encouraging to be able to put a piece together and see it progress to publishing more quickly. I’ll be sure to post it when it’s available!
This month has been entirely non-fiction. After a very stressful few weeks, I’ve been on a self-help binge. I try to solve all of my problems through books (not sure whether to attribute that to my introvert nature or my Type 5 personality). That isn’t a bad thing, of course. There’s a wealth of information out there, why suffer with a problem unnecessarily? For some reason we tend to believe things like parenting and relationships should come naturally. But they don’t. In fact, I love Herbert Spencer’s take on this:
“What is to be expected when one of the most intricate of problems is undertaken by those who have given scarcely a thought to the principles on which its solution depends? For shoemaking or housebuilding…a long apprenticeship is needful. Is it then that the unfolding of a human being in body and mind is so comparatively simple a process that anyone may superintend and regulate it with no preparation whatever? … Better [to] sacrifice accomplishments than omit this all-essential instruction.”
Without further ado, here’s a sneak peek at the things I’m working on.
The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Rearing the Preschool Child, Thomas Millar 10/10. Book of the month pick. Good luck finding this 1990s out-of-print book. But do try. Because it is absolute gold. My mother-in-law gave me this book a few months ago and it sat in the long queue of my reading list until I was utterly fed-up with certain toddler behaviors and started looking far and wide for a resource (see picture above for some of my personal parenting library). Honestly, I was tired of the modern parenting advice: Talk about their feelings, let them express their feelings. Most modern parenting advice is focused on correcting the parent and calming their responses. Which has its place and I’m not bashing it as part of parenting, but when that is your only method, you’ll soon find yourself living with a tiny tyrant who believes you are slave to their fits and emotions (ask me how I know). So I remembered this book and pulled it out for some good old-fashioned advice. And Millar delivered! It’s old-school without corporal punishment. This book is short. It’s easy to read. And it lays out a plan that walks you step-by-step through every conceivable toddler behavior (buy a good timer). My favorite thing? It provides reasons for correcting behaviors. He talks about training children out of egocentricity, teaching them to respect authority, and building a healthy conscience, among other things. He addressed one of my personal struggles, which was the transition from saying “no” to young children only for dangerous things to training them up in good behaviors (because it’s much easier to allow a messy room than letting them touch a hot stove). And he does it all with a heavy dose of absolute sass. You’ll need a sense of humor to read Millar. One of my favorite lines was about teaching a child to hang up his coat. Paraphrased, Millar says, “Sure, you can pick it up for him. Then when he’s grown, ask his wife how she feels about doing it for him too.” Oh snap.
No More Perfect Kids, Jill Savage I actually listened to this one instead of reading it. Why don’t I do that more often? It’s better than podcasts and I could fit in so much more “reading” in the little pockets of time like driving and running errands, washing dishes, etc. Back to the book itself: There have been moments that really connected with me, and other parts where I wasn’t sure I was the right audience (there was a lot of talk about older children). Based on this book, I’m now interested in her other one too, No More Perfect Moms. She has some wonderful tips on accepting our children for who they are. I think the part I appreciated most was early on, when she said we set our children up with an impossible expectation: We want them to be unique and special, yet also entirely normal and accepted. Yes.
Boundaries, Henry Cloud Everybody’s heard of this one, right? It’s hugely popular. I had no idea it was so Biblically based, but I was fine with that. In fact, coming from the “be nice” Christian culture, it was very helpful to see Biblical support for boundaries. I’m only about halfway through this one (picking and choosing chapters based on “hot spots” in my life). The thing I’ve learned so far: that I’m not nearly as good at setting boundaries as I thought I was. That’s a hard pill to swallow.
Anger, Gary Chapman The relationship expert behind the Five Love Languages writes about discerning “good” anger from “bad” anger, how to handle either, and how to handle it in various relationships. I appreciated the brevity of this book and the quick summaries at the end of each chapter. It was a highly readable ebook for me. I’ve struggled with anger as a go-to defense in high-stress situations and am working on it. I’m not feeling any radical changes in my life yet, but hey, it’s only been a month. His thoughts on anger definitely float around in my head during potentially heated moments.
Help! My Bible is Alive!, Nicole Unice If you can get past the slightly cheesy title (sorry, Nicole), the book itself is wonderful. It has been a godsend (ha). Unice walks you through the basics of studying the Bible, and it really does make that big, intimidating, seemingly outdated book come to life. It’s an easy read for beginners, with plenty of depth for experienced Christians. I was familiar with many of the concepts, but actually walking through them in the book made it become personal. I find myself automatically dissecting verses in my head now. I started the month of October literally avoiding my Bible, and I now find myself reaching for it automatically. That’s as good a review as a book can get.
Honestly, there’s half a dozen more self-help books I’ve picked up this month, but these are the only ones I’ve really read through. If I get back to the others, they’ll be on my November list. Otherwise they’ll languish in book purgatory until I have a bad day and need tips. I’m a slow nonfiction reader, I can’t quite gobble them up the way I can a novel. But I love them nonetheless. Anybody else have a list of nonfiction titles waiting for you? What’s on your list?