Writing Prompt from Scare Your Soul

I submitted an essay to the outfit, Scare Your Soul, who issued a callout to writers to submit an essay on what they’d lost and what they’d found during the world-wide pandemic. My essay is one of ten, chosen to be narrated by a New York City based actor. For ten weeks, the selected essays were feature, one at a time, on Scare Your Soul’s Podcast.

My essay appears this week. Here is the essay, and below it is the Podcast link where you can hear actor, Keith White – Georgia and California raised, now living in NYC, with a host of Broadway credentials, narrate. I loved hearing his interpretation of my essay!

Watching Doors

I lost my eldest brother right before the pandemic. Grief is no fit master when the world is on pause, and oh, how the mind rankles when enclosed in four walls—one has little recourse but to climb them. There by the grace of God go I, and what could I have done to prevent this collided. I had no distractions because the rules of the pandemic are such that there’s nowhere to run.  

 I’m the last in my family standing. Because my brother died unexpectedly, it was as if he threw the ball of his life in the air, and it was incumbent upon me to catch it. When I got out of shock, I had his worldly goods sent from Chicago to a storage unit near me in Southern California. I was so overwhelmed that when the deed was done, I adopted an out of sight, out of mind approach and tucked away the key. But one can only procrastinate for so long. As the shut-down dragged on, I was shorn of excuses for not addressing the unit’s 74 boxes. In the interest of closure, I prioritized the task and stepped up.

A large envelope was at the bottom of a box marked papers. When I opened it, out slid a nine-page document titled, “Notes on Father Fullerton as told by him to his daughter, Ora.” I’d never heard of Ora Fullerton. What’s more, I’d never heard the name Ora, but it turns out it’s not unusual in Ireland’s Isle Magee, County Antrim.

The document was a Xerox copy, a rag to riches chronicle of my great grandfather and his siblings that began in 1876, and led them, one after another, from famine-ravaged Ireland in search of the American dream. The eldest sibling arrived in America first, with twenty-five dollars. He took a look around and discovered, instead of brick and stone, everything in America was built with lumber. After apprenticing as a carpenter, he worked for a man who owned a sawmill. When he became co-owner of that sawmill, he sent for his ten Irish brothers and expanded the business. By the time the full story was told, the immigrants owned a total of eighty American lumber yards. At the helm of it all was one Samuel Holmes Fullerton, whose photograph I found on the last page of the document as he appeared in a 1906 edition of American Lumberman’s Magazine, and whom the town of Fullerton, south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana was named, which is now on the National Historic Register. 

Because I knew none of this, I’m researching my Irish lineage. I sense there’s a triumphant story in my forebears finding the American dream. It’s affirming to realize the pandemic hasn’t changed my optimistic belief in the possibilities of human existence. I began the pandemic grieving the loss of my brother, but I’ve found my paternal lineage. This seems to me beautiful testimony to one door opening as another closes.  

Scare Your Soul is a volunteer-led, science-based movement that inspires people to ignite their best selves through living a courageous life.

Here is Keith White’s Narration:

Keith White is an NYC based actor/singer/writer. He’s been seen performing on Broadway, in National Tours, on Cruise Ships, eating at Vegan brunches, dancing at hiphop concerts, celebrating his friends and family, and most recently lounging in sweatpants at home in his apartment spending time with his love Erin Kommor and their dog Bear as the world slows down in the middle of a pandemic. If you want to know more, visit Keith’s instagram @ItsyaboyKeithWhite.

Here are the other writer’s essays that were recorded for the podcast:

Podcast (scareyoursoul.com)

And here is The Website where you can discover the mission of Scare Your Soul!

https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

Gather at the River: 25 Authors on Fishing ( Edited by David Joy with Erick Rickstad)

At the heart of every well-beloved novel is that one riveting scene that verges on transcendence and stays in the reader’s memory as the very soul of the book. Gather at the River is a collection of those resonant moments, one right after another, and there’s not a weak story in the assembly. I use the word story, instead of essay, on purpose. These are first person accounts rife with insider’s knowledge in the hands of those that know nuance and how to describe it down to the last rock in the river. These writers know what from the woods as they recount their individual fishing stories and gift the reader with their own version of universal nostalgia. They work the depths of the seemingly simple themes of family connections, childhood innocence, and pivotal moments all within a bucolic setting that expands the visceral margins of character as place. You can see, hear, and feel the mood of every setting, and though fishing is the common premise, the central experience in each is so much more. There’s such art in the craft of a briefly told story. The sure sign of success is when the reader, in this case, yours truly, is so moved by the reading experience that they wish for more.

Southern Writers on Writing

The easiest way to portray how much I loved Southern Writers on Writing is to tell the truth as it happened: After reading each moving essay, I sighed and thought, “This one is my favorite.” Apart from the fact that I’m a lover of the first-person narrative, these confessional essays held me at every turn. What they all have in common is an honesty not easily revealed unless the recipient has earned complete trust. These essays are more than Southern writers pontificating on their “process.” These essays are personal—sometimes painfully so. As an assembly, they are variations of a truth that seeks to put into words the profound impact of what it means to be part and parcel of a storied land, more than the sum of its disharmonious parts. A sense of nostalgia runs through Southern Writers on Writing, and what strikes me most is its unified theme. Task a Southern writer with writing about craft, and invariably, all roads lead back home. Southern Writers on Writing is a treasure for both readers and writers. Each essay contains the intrigue of a gripping short story, and each compelling voice allures the reader’s undivided attention. Thank you, Susan Cushman, for gifting us with this book. And to each author who contributed to this gem, thank you for sharing your story.