Ashley Franklin

Why I Wrote about My "Failed" Ramadan

Yesterday, I had a piece published in Romper that discussed my first “failed” Ramadan. You can find it here.
We are naturally inclined to hide our faults. After all, we want others to think of us fondly or in a positive manner. Then why did I choose to discuss the time when I did not complete my Ramadan fast as I’d expected? Easy: I thought that maybe it could help someone.
No one wants to fail at anything. No Muslim wants to have an unsuccessful Ramadan. It can be an isolating feeling. After all, Ramadan isn’t supposed to be easy, right? Eh–not so much. Ramadan shouldn’t feel like an impossible task. If there is something causing Ramadan to feel particularly cumbersome for you, I encourage you to reach out to someone. Find that auntie you trust. Consult with your imam. Seek those who are more knowledgeable than you are, and make dua.
While I may not have been able to successfully fast for my second Ramadan, I didn’t feel like a failure thanks to having a support system.
For my fasting brothers and sisters in Islam, during this blessed month of fasting, I pray that your fast is accepted and that you feel the love of your community. Ramadan Mubarak.
And to my friends of no faith or other faiths, thank you for the “Happy Ramadan” messages.
Much love to all!

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My first time at Moms Group (aka the time someone else's kid peed in public)

There’s a group for everything on Facebook. We all know that. That’s how I found this local Moms Group. I’ve seen their events for quite some time, but I always had other obligations. This past Wednesday, my time had finally come. I really had no excuse. The weather was okay. They were meeting at a park that we always go to. It was going to be over just before naptime (or…the time period I always hope a nap is taken).
So, we went! We were about thirty minutes late because my 3yo didn’t want to put on pants, but we made it nevertheless.
Y’all know people are not my thing. I always have to mentally amp myself up for social settings.
Me to Me: You’ve got this! You can do it. You’re amazing!!! It’s only two hours, you can talk for that long. Okay, look. Just find a couple of people to attach yourself to until it’s over.
I found “my people.”  That pretty much means my kid did something weird as we were walking up to them, I cracked a joke about it, and they laughed. That’s all it took. They were my people. They had no choice.
It was actually nice to swap mom stories of praise and woe while making sure our kids didn’t trample each other. They even had genuinely weird this-can’t-be-my-life-I’m-just-trying-to-make-it-through-the-day stories.
It was perfect. My 3yo was even behaving pretty well despite probably being close to needing a nap due to his nighttime TV sneaking. Nothing could go wrong, or so I thought.
But then it did. But not for me.
I looked up from my mini mom circle to see a little boy under the slide stand, twisting from side to side, peeing. A few of us moms who noticed scrambled to get other moms’ attention, as THIS KID HAD RANGE. Kids were giggling, and I was the lucky one to get the attention of the mom engrossed in conversation.
“Umm…excuse me. Is that kid over there, who’s peeing everywhere, yours?”
I can’t accurately describe the horror on her face, the yelling that followed, or the speed in which she packed up and left.
I can happily say that my 3yo has never done that, but he has done his own fair share of cringe-worthy things. It was great to see other moms having a crap day and life still going on. I needed that reminder. It was worth conquering my anxiety and being social.
Who knows. A story may even come from this.
 

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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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Tinkering around with a new revision strategy

I wrote a picture book story of Black Creole girl a while ago. The few editors that responded did like it, but they either a) weren’t in love with it enough to buy it OR b) wanted me to up the stakes.
One particular editor commented that as she read it, it made her want to get up and dance. This is actually my favorite piece of criticism so far. It stuck with me.
Last week, I decided to dust off the manuscript and try it again. I printed it out and took notes directly on it. I made a list of things that I wanted the new manuscript to do. I went through with my trusty pen and crossed out everything that I didn’t think would help  to reach my list of manuscript goals.
I have about four sentences left, and they’re still not fully exempt from the chopping block. I even changed the title! Was it hard to get rid of that much text? I’ll admit that I did pout for like two minutes. I got over it though.
I feel fortunate that I”m not one of those people who gets extremely attached to their writing. Did I love this manuscript enough to revisit it? Yes. I guess that does show some attachment. However, I’m not so attached to it that I’ll horde words just for the sake of keeping them, especially if they’re not beneficial.
I’m sorry! I haven’t touched upon the title of this post yet. I mentioned that the editor mentioned liking the sound of the manuscript. So, that’s one area of focus I’m really trying to bulk up. Remember the cartoon Madeline? I loved how it sounded as a kid, so I’ve started listening to old YouTube episodes of it as I do my revisions.
Will this land me an agent or result in a sale? I have no idea, but I”m having fun. Never stop having fun on your writing journey.

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The other storyteller

You may recall me saying that my kids prefer my husband’s stories since they’re predominantly action-driven. Well, it looks like I’ve been one-upped again, this time by my mother-in-law.
I was in the middle of reading a story when my 5yo interrupted,”Where’s grandmother?”
“Ummm…in the kitchen doing grandmotherly things.”
“Grandmother was telling me stories of Mama Frizz last night. Do you know any?”
“Nope, so I’ll see if Grandmother is available.”
Of course she made herself available. That’s what grandmothers do. She set the mood and told stories of Mama Frizz. She told stories of being in the country as a little, city girl.
She gave him a bit of family history for story time. It was wonderful. As she left the room, she said something that I couldn’t help agree with.
She said, “For stories, I think that sometimes the real thing is best.”
 

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A little Aesop, a Bit of Thunder & Self-Actualization of my Writer Self

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before: my mom was all about representation when I was younger. Sure I lived in a predominantly Black neighborhood and attended a predominantly Black church, but school was on the other end of the spectrum.
I was in one of those gifted and talented programs, and there were only a handful of people of color in it at any given time. Clearly I learned a great deal, but there were also a few experiences that clearly stand out from the rest.

  1. My third grade math teacher was a Black woman. I don’t remember her last name, but I remember her first name was Bathsheba. She probably didn’t know it, but she made my day–Every. Single. Day. Her being brown made me feel less awkward, less alone. Seeing her made me feel like maybe I could grow up and feel like I could have an important job too. Maybe I could even be teacher.
  2. In my elementary years, I was also introduced to the first Black characters in a school-assigned book. My English teacher was white, and I couldn’t tell you her name now if my life depended on it. But I am thankful for her. Having followed the traditional route of reading what most kids read, what you naturally assume are books featuring non POC–Where the Red Fern Grows, James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web, Bridge to Terabithia, etc., imagine my surprise when we started reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Brown characters! Brown characters all around! I guess this class was also when I had my first of what we would now call “woke” experience. I was surrounded by white people and was reading about ill-intentioned white people. It was a new layer to the feeling of difference. But, I was reading about brown people. It was also the first book I remember making me cry. It was also important because it was the first POC book that I remember beyond Aesop’s fables. Yes, it was also dated, but it made me feel relevant.
  3. The first two events sparked something another first-the first time I changed my mind about what I could be when I grew up. Maybe I could write too. I vaguely remember that we had a reaction assignment. I remember writing about slaves. My Uncle read it before I turned it in, and I remember him asking if I’d really written it because it was really good. My teacher also thought it was good. Maybe that’s when I first became a writer. It just took me until my 30s to remember my purpose and step back into it.
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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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On writing when inspired

I know that everything ain’t for everybody. I also know that we writers have our own methods that we use when working in or craft. Still, I am often left somewhat perplexed when people say they only write when they inspired.
First off, I imagine them staring out the windows of log cabins, waiting for nature to show some sort of sign before they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I see their faces light up as a majestic bird swoops down from the sky and hovers effortlessly right in front of a window while an assortment of animals exits the woods, congregating to awe at its beauty as well. Aha! Inspiration has hit, and the writers’ minds are now flooded with ideas that will certainly bloom into masterpieces. The heavens have provided divine guidance, after all.
I know that’s a bit much, but that’s how my mind works. Personally, I think that my writing depends more on my motivation than inspiration. To me, they’re totally different.When I’m motivated to write, I have clear-cut goals I’m trying to reach. I’m trying to be on somebody’s bookshelf. I need to write to do that. Uh-oh, an unexpected expense popped up. I need to rekindle the flames of one of my freelance writing gigs. See, that’s concrete. If inspiration happens to kick in at some point, that’s fine, well, and dandy.
I honestly can’t trust myself to solely rely on divine inspiration to write. I would be sitting around like “Oh wait. Was that it? Was that a sign? Hmm…maybe tomorrow the sign will be clearer.” I’d get nowhere.
This morning, I’m neither motivated nor inspired to cook breakfast. Hopefully, my husband feels one of them. I mean, seriously….Who can write on an empty stomach?

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Storytime showdown

Well, here I am trying to be a professional writer, and my 5yo tells me he’d rather have his dad tell him his bedtime stories. What kind of foolishness is this?! It’s bad enough both of them said dada first. Can I catch a break?
I’m joking, sort of. For real, I did feel some type of way that I wasn’t given the title of supreme storyteller of the Franklin household. Like, that’s supposed to be my thing. I do the writing/ story thing, and hubby does hubby-like things.
Of course I made it my mission to figure out why my kids like my husband’s stories better. The answer:They’re totally action-driven. Apparently, I take too long to get to the good stuff, and they want mostly good stuff.
So, last night, I tried out a story about a frog that gets carried away by a huge storm. It was short, sweet, and full of action. My 5yo said “I really loved this story.”
I’ve said before that I sometimes get inspiration from my kids. It looks like my husband is a good source as well.
Let’s hear it for #TeamFranklin. (smile)
 

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