A couple of years ago, I walked into FoxTale Books, an indie bookstore close to my home, for a writers’ workshop. A group of three women chatting near a long table in the back turned to look at me. A man dressed in khakis and a button down at the center of the group smiled invitingly. I forced a smiled and squeezed my notebook to my chest; there was no turning back now.
Before I could speak, the man introduced himself, shook my hand, and welcomed me to the group. As we made small talk, my inner voice tried to bewitch me, whispering in my ear, “They seem like nice people, but they’re all fantastic writers. This instructor is going to laugh when he reads your stuff!”
My fingertips picked at the top of my short story’s pages, and I forced myself to stay in my seat. Who would want to read these scenes flavored by my life, full of masala and macaroni and cheese, accented by foreign words and southern drawls hanging in the air, dripping poison and honey. I was the wife of an Indian man and a mom of five kids driving a minivan just trying to get by. I wasn’t a writer, and this white male instructor with a southern accent was not going to understand the mixed pot of spices I lived every day and cooked up on my pages. He was going to call me out.
However, when this guy began to lead the group discussion, I found out he was going to inspire, motivate, and show me that I was more than how the world sees me. He was going to show me that I am a writer. And. I. Can. Do. It.
That was the day I met Wayne.
Since then, Wayne South Smith has privately coached me in writing memoir shorts and a fictional novel, as well as the content development for my blog. We have consults via phone and internet as my crazy family life allows. We have developed a smooth working relationship because we have found common ground beyond our southern, white culture.
Shortly after that first day, Wayne openly shared about how both his natural grandfathers were deceased when he was born, but his maternal grandmother had remarried an immigrant from El Salvador. Though his grandfather’s skin was brown, his accent thick and his culture different, he was a proud American who very much loved his family. Wayne’s reciprocation of this love was completely natural. “He was my Papa,” Wayne said. Therefore, he easily relates to the multicultural issues I write about.
Wayne credits this relationship with this Latino man in his childhood’s very white and black west Georgia culture as the eye-opener to discover and celebrate unique differences in other cultures while finding similarities. “I think most people size up others on sight, like judging a book by its cover,” he said, “but just like with the people I meet, I seek relationship with what’s inside each writer’s work.”
For me, Wayne remains open-minded and inquisitive, and therefore, well represents the reader, no matter their background. Above all, we share another culture — the culture of the writer.
Coming from a blended cultural identity and life, it is so fulfilling to find a culture of people who are open to reading what I have to share and to move through the writing journey together, cheering each other on. Not only does the writing culture provide support, but it also sustains me in reaching out to readers who need the same embrace. My words are an invitation into a community of blended culture, where people of different backgrounds can relax and share who they really are…just people.