Ashley Franklin

Kitchen Conversations (for Char and Michelle)

This was one of the first pieces that I wrote that I was proud of. It’s not something that I’d intended to send to an agent or a magazine. It’s something that I wrote for me. I wrote it to see if I could. I’d been writing academic papers for so long, I wanted to see if I had lost my creativity.
If you followed my other blog back in the day, you’ve seen this before. Why have I chosen to share it here? Though I wrote it just a few years ago, the first people that I shared it with have both passed away within the last couple of months. Both of them had encouraged me to write a follow-up, but you know how it goes. Busy, busy, busy.
Michelle and Char, you both believed in me when I wasn’t sure that I believed in myself. I’ll never forget that. It never crossed my mind that neither of you would be here this time next year with a copy of my book in your hands. Besides, y’all were around my age. It never crossed my mind that we didn’t have plenty of time.
But y’all fussed at me for not having written a follow-up time and time again. I’m sorry. I’m revisiting (and sharing) the story here. I’m mentally getting back into this space so that I can hold up my end of the bargain and write a follow-up, like y’all asked. I don’t know how long it will take me to write Part 2 of “Kitchen Conversations,” but I will start it today. Forgive me for my tardiness.
Make time for what and who matters. Love others. Love yourself. Love your craft. Take nothing for granted.

KITCHEN CONVERSATIONS

If home is where the heart is, that heart beats in the kitchen. Every morning, breakfast came with a side of questions. This one also came with crayons.
“Mama, how come we don’t match?” Mama laughed. He loved her laugh. It reminded him of the sound his trucks made when he revved them up on the kitchen floor.
“What do you mean, baby?”
He took a crayon out of the box and sat it on top of his picture. “There is one brown crayon in my box, and only one of us is that brown”
“Let me see what you’ve got here.” Mama looked down at the white piece of paper with the family drawn on it. He was right. Only one of them was the color of the crayon.
“I’ll have to change my picture, or it won’t be right.” He looked sad.
There was no room for tears at the breakfast table. Mama slowly stirred milk into her coffee.
“What’s your favorite color?” she asked.
“Green!”
“Green is a good color. It’s things that grow, things of life. But now brown, that’s for roots, foundation—solid things. Those are the things that give you a good start.”
“What does coffee help you start?”
“My day!” There was that laugh again.
“Why don’t you measure the milk?”
“I know how I want it to taste. The lighter the color, the sweeter it tastes. Still, no matter how much milk I add doesn’t change the fact that this is a cup of coffee. It’s the same with people. We all have our flavor, but we’re people just the same.”
He thought about his family– how different they looked, how different they acted, and how much fun they had when they were together. He smiled. “I don’t have to change my picture.”
“No—just your box of crayons.”
Breakfast was over, but that’s what happens when you stay up late playing video games. She didn’t see her mom or brother, but she was happy to find her aunt in the kitchen. Her aunt was amazing! With skin the color of sand, eyes that shined like steel drums, and clothes as bright as rare tropical flowers, Auntie Celise wasn’t just from the islands, she was them. Auntie had style!
Picture day was tomorrow, and she had no idea how to ask Auntie to fix her hair. Cornrows, afro, twists, ponytail, braids? She just didn’t know. Most of the girls in her class wore their hair bone-straight. That was going to take some effort. Overwhelmed, she let her head fall onto the table with a thud.
“Girl, what’s wrong with you?” Auntie asked, putting down her magazine.
The girl lifted her head.  “I hate my hair! Can you just make it super straight like everyone else’s?”
Auntie reached over and ran her fingers through the girl’s hair. “Ooh I know what you mean. How I hate having hair with so much personality! Who would want hair that stands up to the Sun with sass, curls and twists to defy the bravest of combs, or threads into designs that would make a spider jealous? Go on and get my flat iron. I’ll hook you up.”
The girl didn’t move. “Let me think about it some more.”
Dinner had come and gone by the time Papa walked through the door. He found the two of them in the kitchen with their evening treats.
“Can we get an allowance like our friends do?” they asked sounding hopeful.
“Why hello to you too! Allowance? I’m allowing you to eat up the rest of the ice cream. How’s that?” said Papa.
The four eyes looking up at him from two bowls quickly looked back down.
“Be about your business!” he said, loosening his tie. “Keep that in mind, and money will always come your way.” It seemed like a new twist on the money doesn’t grow on trees speech was coming. “What do you need money for anyway?” asked Papa.
“We’re saving for a new video game and some new crayons,” she said.
Papa placed a quarter and a dollar on the table. “Which do you want?”
The boy was faster and got the dollar. She cut her eye at him with a look of disgust that comes naturally to big sisters.
“When you’re about your business, you never lose focus of what’s important.” He kissed their foreheads. “I’m about to run to the store to grab a few snacks. Either of you want to come along to pick up something?”
The boy hopped off his chair and ran to the door. Papa smiled at the girl still sitting at the table.
“You are about your business,” he said as he patted her on the shoulder. He walked over to the boy and patted his head. “You, son, have a lot to learn. You two go ahead to bed. The kitchen is closed.”
 
 

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Why Cree had to win the day

I took an unexpected detour on my writing journey and did a bit of editing. How did that happen? An old college friend who knew of my published picture book quest reached out to me. When she told me of what she and a colleague wanted to do, I couldn’t say no. They didn’t just want to write a picture book, they wanted to birth a unique character to add to children’s bookshelves. That’s just what they did.
Ti and Lora created a perfectly imperfect African-American girl character. Think on that. Two African-American women from Philly saw a void and filled it. It’s as simple as that. See a need. Fill a need. While self-publishing can come with its difficulties, they persisted. Their community of friends, family, and loved ones helped their dream become a reality. Not only did Cree win the day, Lora and Ti did as well.
Cree Wins the Day isn’t just a story for girls. I have two boys, and the closest rival to this book in our home right now is Pete the Cat. What makes Cree so appealing to them? My 5yo likes that Cree wets the bed. My 2yo likes Cree going to school. (Those are all the spoilers you get. Go buy the book  from Amazon if you want to know more.)
Cree embraces what makes her different. Cree’s abilities, that sometimes make her days  a little crummy, show readers that our day-to-day lives may not be perfect or go as expected and that’s okay. We should always love ourselves and know who helps us to have a healthy mental space. That’s a lesson anyone can get behind.
 
cree
 

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Writer's Life: Waiting, more waiting, and then anxiously waiting.

Hey, I’m all about honesty. If you’ve read even one of my blog posts before, you should be well aware of that. So, now I want to have another one of our good old sit-downs where we take a moment and I hit you with a truth bomb.
I am no less anxious now than I was when I didn’t have an agent. I still check my emails an unnatural amount of times during the day.
I know that may seem a little hard to believe, but it’s 100% true. How can this be? It’s simple. Having an agent has opened the doors for my work to be seen by editors and publishing houses that I typically would not have access to. (Yay!) Having an agent gives me some muscle, if you will, a support system, and a sounding board.
Having an agent has not given me access to a magical fast lane in which my work ascends to the top of an editor’s email queue and said editor then falls over herself at the chance to bask in the glow of my manuscript.
Nope! I still anxiously await to get good news. Even the good news that I wait for has changed. While I would love to only get showered with contracts, it is also a treasure when an editor takes some time out to offer notes on a manuscript and/or even agrees to review it if I’m interested in making some changes.
Waiting is hard at any stage of the writing journey. If it helps, know that you’re not waiting alone. And while you are waiting, use your time wisely. Hone your craft. Experiment with your writing. Do a bit of reading. Take a class. Take a minute away from writing and live. (Yes, imagine the fresh influence on your writing when you’ve had an awesome experience.)
What’s really helped me? I’ve buddied up with other writers who are pretty much on the same leg of this journey, and help encourage each other. We vent to each other. We support each other. We pretty much remind each other that we’re not alone. In all honesty, they are my anxiety cushion so that when I reach out to my agent, I seem like I have it halfway together.
Find a buddy, and buckle up. The path to publication is an unpredictable ride.

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Don't be the post-election troll

I am an online instructor, so I know a thing or two about online discussions. Job aside, I also have my own Facebook account. Fortunately, students quickly adjust to the different expectations. I have only had one occasion of someone trolling a discussion board in one of my online courses, and I was able to quickly kill that noise.
Social media trolls, on the other hand, are monsters in a caliber all of their own. We’ve all experienced them before. We recognize their extremely disagreeable nature. We roll our eyes at their name calling. We smack our heads at their inflammatory remarks. We walk away from our computers at the sight of their willingness to spread misinformation if it’s in the name of what they believe. More often than not, it’s best not to engage with a troll. Doing so is not for the faint of heart or short on time.
Here is yet another post-election request that I have:

Please don’t become the troll.

Each of us can easily slip into destructive rhetoric when our passions are high, our souls are weary, and our agreeable temperaments are tested. Feed your soul; don’t be the troll. A troll cannot compromise your character and what you put out into the world unless you become the troll. That’s something to consider.

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What now? Promise to keep pushing!

I’ll get right to it. Many of us are upset or downright distraught over the election results. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. We have that right. Here is my only plea:

Let’s not become paralyzed in our fears or frustrations.

Continue to do what it is you always do, but be more mindful. If you’re a writer, write the world you want to see. Write the normal that you wish for and make it the new normal. Strive to get marginalized voices out of the margins.
If you’re a parent, help your kids to recognize the beautiful array of people and cultures and lifestyles that call this country home.
Overall, everyone can show compassion. Show love. Let’s keep it real. If you honestly dislike a group of people, find out why. Could it be that you don’t really know any of them as individuals? Could it be that you fear what you don’t know or understand? Could it be that you fear change?
I find it a good practice to check myself. Maybe that’s something each of us can do. Let’s check ourselves. Check our biases and fears. When we learn and accept more about ourselves, it may be easier to love and accept others.
Keep pushing to be great, and as a collective, we might just achieve that greatness in America that we seek. I promise I will do my part. How about you?
 

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Moving. My Birthday. My 1st Sockibration.

We’re moving! Louisiana has tried to drown us for the last time. Who moves on their birthday, right? Hey, life happens. That’s the wonderful thing about it. It’s still happening for me. I am 32 today. Little kid me would be absolutely perplexed if we met face to face. My life is not going at all the way she planned out. I am not working as a famous journalist, living in a huge city, free of kids and all things boring. But guess what, there are a few things little kid me hadn’t considered:

  1. I genuinely hate big cities.
  2. I love writing fiction.
  3. I am good at working from home.
  4. I’m not as bad as I thought at this whole mom/wife thing.

Okay, 4 is still debatable on most days, but whatever.
I may not be where I want to be financially or physically right now, but I am working to be in a good mental space. What’s my birthday wish? To be content. To be better at appreciating the little things and to see how big their value can actually be.
Speaking of little things, that leads me to Sockibration. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know wonderful people in many online interaction. Particularly, one of my coworkers from a college I still work for is AMAZING! We bonded over our random, and often ridiculous for no reason, life experiences. Despite now knowing each other for years, on Monday we discovered our birthdays were just days apart. That’s how I was introduced to Sockibration. She sends socks to her friends in celebration of her birthday, friendship, and solidarity. It is one of the most random things that I’ve ever been a part of, but I like it. Here are the socks:
sockibration-socks
 
 

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