Writing Prompt

Screenshot-2017-11-29 Instagram post by Writing Prompts • Nov 28, 2017 at 1 56pm UTC

Sophie was a rather articulate seven-year old. She was the best reader in her school district for first-grade. She could even spell a few fourth-grader words.

This was due to her parents. Every night, Mommy would tuck her in. Daddy handed her a book. They read aloud together. Then Mommy would sing. Daddy turned out the lights. And they left their darling Sophie to her sweet dreams.

In the shadow of the closing door, the monsters came out. Sophie was assigned to the Shadow Unit because of her intelligence.

Smug was the captain of the Shadow Unit. It was his job to log her nightmares and her justifications, if she turned it sweet or woke up scared. They’d only managed one midnight terror since her last birthday and the Counsel was not happy.

Smug chose tonight to do it himself. He waited for the moonlight to disappear behind the tree of her window. Then he skittered out and climbed her bedskirt to the comforter.

Smug screamed.

Yelling and cursing, he searched the twin bed. No Sophie.

Smug screamed again.

In pain this time. He fell off the bed and ran back to the shadows. He had 2nd degree Moon Burns. But that couldn’t be right. The moon didn’t move backwards, ever. Smug watched the window. SOPHIE!

A black clothed adult carried a sleeping Sophie under the tree and Away!

Smug scaled the window curtains and watched in disgust and outrage. Then he saw it: a hair wrapped around a nail on the sill. It wasn’t Sophie’s.

“I’ve gotcha now,” he muttered to himself, wrapping it in an Essence Pouch.

“So how’d it go, Boss?” inquired Fear, an ogre and bear type creature who usually handled Sophie. Though, lately, she’d been lucid enough to make him a harmless cub. Outwardly, he was disgruntled. Internally, it was the only time anyone had ever loved him.

“We have a situation,” Smug announced to the cavern designated the headquarters of the Shadow Unit. This got everyone’s attention. Smug never admitted to anything wrong, not on his watch, not in his unit. It’s why the Counsel was itching to replace him for incompetency.

“Our target was stolen,” Smug said calmly. “As I approached at what I thought was Moon Down, a grown-up carried our target out of her Bed, through the window, and Away. However, he left a piece of his essence behind,” Smug held up the Essence Pouch. The hair was halfway transformed into shimmering translucence.

“I can track it when its done, Boss,” Aria piped up. A fairy like creature with vicious fangs, Aria was the best tracker in the whole Dark Dominion. “But what’s he want with our Sophie?”

A chorus of “Yeah,” and “We’ll get him” and “Who does he think he is?” went round the crowded cavern.

Smug calmly held up a hand. Silence was instant. “We know he is male. We know he is Grown. We know he knew the house well enough to find the window to the bedroom. We know from last week’s logs that Sophie was nervous about a new Grown Up in her school. I’d actually planned to use that tonight. We know they are Away,” he took a moment, allowing everyone to process this information.

“Aria, when you track this fella, remember to keep to the bloody shadows. I’ve already been Moon Burned and we can’t afford to lose you.” She nodded soberly. Moon Burns took weeks to heal. Moon Sickness consumed the victim’s energy, until nothing but dust was left. “When you find him, Mark his Shadow in Sophie Pink light so we can find him again if we lose him.”

“Fetch! I need you to deliver my reports to Chancellor Stone Coat. Do not engage in conversation, do not mention what has happened tonight, and do not wait for his reply. Get in, deliver, get out. Best if you’re not seen at all,” Fetch was a pup. Well, a three-headed pup. His dad was in service in Hades and his mom had been taken some weird place called Hogwarts. Left on his own, he’d joined the Shadows.

“As for you, Fear, I’m sending you to the Light Legionnaire. Take on Sophie’s interpretation of you, a harmless cub, and deliver my reports to Titania. Same orders. No conversation, no reply. Try not to be seen.” He handed an amulet off to Fear. “You’ll need this. It protects from the damage of Light.”

Silence filled the cavern. The last time an emissary visited the Light, that emissary was obliterated on sight.

“And, um, wh-what e-e-exactly are y-you going to be d-d-doing, Sir?” squeaked a shadow-mouse.

“I’ll be investigating. And healing. I can’t go in the field, not with these blasted Moon Burns, but I can suss out information, spy on the House and the Room, find out what those Grown-Ups she calls parents know.”
He walked away, leaving murmurs and speculative conversation in his wake. Takings weren’t unheard of, but usually the Nightmare Units were simply reassigned. No one had ever attempted to find the missing target before. But that’s exactly what Smug was doing. His orders made that clear. As leader, he was fulfilling his obligation to report it. Barely. Denying both Courts the opportunity to question, or possibly Trial, was a ballsy move. The type of move that, if failed, could get them all executed.

“Nooooo!” wailed the female Grown, Sophie called Mommy. She was holding a talking device to her ear. Smug could faintly make out the voice on the other line. Something called Police were on the way. She was curled up, just like Sophie did, on the rug in front of the window. The male Grown, Sophie called Daddy, was Outside. He had gathered all the other Growns in the area on the porch. They each had a Light and a Dog.

Smug watched. Listened. Observed. Everything was written in his field journal. Not the official one, no. There could be no official documentation of this, at least, not until it was over. The Shadow Mice were tailing the Dogs, staying out of the Light, relaying messages in high and fast Morse.

A bow was found in the tree. A shoe was found in a gutter. One Dog tracked Sophie’s scent to the neighborhood gates. The Grown with it started yelling something about security cameras, footage, “maybe we got the guy.” The Police came. Lots of questions and crying and yelling. Smug managed to get a copy of every officer’s notes.

Though he didn’t understand human technology, “what on earth is a camera and how is it going to be helpful?” he thought, all of the information went into that field journal. Smug set two shadow-mice to each car, to tail the officers. Their instructions were to find the one in charge and stay on him. The others were to return.

By Sunrise, all but two shadow-mice had returned. Something called a Detective was put in-charge.

Aria stamped her pixie foot impatiently, watching the shadows retreat as she waited for the Essence Pouch to finish. She paced her lab, wings fluttering sleep dust everywhere. Just as the Sun crested the window, the hair disintegrated entirely into dust. This, she could track.

“Finally!” she harrumphed, holding the pouch up to the Light. Carefully, she opened the corner of the pouch, tasting the Essence to the tip of her forked tongue. She scented the air, snakelike, finding a trail. She yelled the only four-letter word Sophie new, and spiraled up in the air, only to crash back to the floor. She had almost flown straight into Sun Light.

“Yes, Miss?” squeaked a shadow-mouse. She was smaller than the others, hiding in the corner of the lab, as far away from Aria as she could be without leaving the room.
“Report to Smug. I have the Scent. Advise on how to proceed in Sun Light. If we wait till Moon Down, we’ll lose the trail.”

The shadow-mouse repeated the message verbatim then fled to find Smug.

Fetch was new to skulking. He was clumsy, slow, and painfully obvious. He was a pup, still, and his heads were easily distracted by toys and ropes and boxes and paper and, especially, food. Still, Smug was counting on him, and Sophie needed him to be brave and silent and focused. He refused to let his target down.

Fetch had only visited the Shadow Council once before, on official business. He knew where the Chancellor’s office was. He didn’t know the passphrase. So he waited, ears perked in all directions, listening for someone else to enter and then leave.

“Why hasn’t that blasted slug failed yet?” yelled a voice. A familiar voice.

“One cannot underestimate tenacity, especially in Shadow Society,” said a cool, authoritative voice. Fetch knew this voice immediately. The Chancellor.

“Isn’t his report due today? Can’t we fire him for being late?” said the plaintive voice.

“The issue is, every time you file that complaint, by the time the Council gets to it, the report is already in hand. Tis more likely to bite you for wasting their time. I have no doubt it will arrive at some point before Moon Down.”

Silence. Footsteps, two, no, four pairs. The Chancellor only had two feet, so the other six must be…

“Shiva,” Fetch whispered to himself. His other heads nodded in agreement. The shapeshifter had it out for Boss since they both finished Scare School.

“Moon Blast” Shiva and the Chancellor said at the same time. Their conversation echoed down a corridor heading away from Fetch’s post.

When Fetch could hear them no more, he approached the door and all three heads whispered “Moon Blast.” The doors opened silently. Fetch left the report on the desk, then exited the same way.

He returned to the cavern under Sophie’s bed. He’d done it. He did the job clean and without attention. He decided to take a well-deserved nap.

Fear growled through his massive ogre chest. He hated Light. He hated travel. He hated leaving the cavern. But most of all, he hated that someone had stolen Sophie. Sweet, loving, adorable Sophie. Smart, curious, adventurous Sophie. He understood the desire to steal her away but that didn’t mean someone should!

Smug’s amulet was almost a choker round Fear’s neck. But it was saving his hide in the Light Legionnaire. His glamour of a harmless cub was working perfectly. Anyone who looked his way thought nothing of a small teddy cub headed to the Capital. Probably for training or a mission.

The Light’s compound was a mirror image of the Shadow’s compound. Where Fear would usually turn right, he had to turn left. Rather than getting turned around, lost, or frustrated, Fear simply traced his steps mentally then did the opposite.

He found himself at the gate of the Queen’s Office in record time, if only because this was, in fact, his first visit. He witnessed Titania herself exit the office with a murmured “Sun Shatter.”

Fear waited for her to disappear down a winding hall and then let himself in. He dropped the report on her desk and left as quickly as he’d arrived. The trip back to the cavern was an exercise in stealth.

He joined Fetch in a well-earned nap.

Aria walked into the main room of the cavern, startled to see both Fetch and Fear already back from their tasks. She sat at the bar and fixed herself an Ambrosia, watching in fascination and envy.

She didn’t need sleep. She fed on energy. Sophie’s energy could sustain her a week, or more, depending on the quality of her fright.

And so they gathered, awaiting new orders from their fearless leader. They all knew that what they were doing could get them executed. They each silently agreed the risk was worth it. Sophie was worth it.

Smug was exhausted. The Moon Burns were taking their toll on his energy reserves. But he had leads. A few leads.

The Detective had watched the footage and identified a profile. White male, mid-30s to late 40s, charming, predatory, a loaner with lofty self-delusions, a con artist and compulsive liar. Smug only understood half of what that meant. People had colors? He understood Charm and Predatory behavior. He understood artists and liars. The rest was lost on him. The concepts were too complicated for the child brigade.

Smug wasn’t about to let that get in his way. He tailed the Grown-Up to a fancy room with machines and screens. He observed the kidnapping. It was like a movie but not made up. He watched what those camera things must’ve seen. Though the movie didn’t show the man’s face, Smug recognized him from Sophie’s memory logs.

Creepy Man from school. Sophie was afraid of this man. She didn’t know why. He was nice and kind and generous. But she avoided him if she could. Smug understood. He, too, avoided certain people for unknown reasons.

Smug watched Creepy Man lay a sleeping Sophie on the backseat of a car. Like Grandpa’s car, but bigger, and a different color. The Detective was “running plates.” Smug knew that dishes didn’t move, but didn’t know what the heck the Grown Up was waiting for.

He’d received three shadow-mice reports. Aria had the trail. Fear and Fetch had done their jobs. He sent a return message to Fear and Aria: transfer the amulet to Aria and let her get started. He gave a letter to the shadow-mouse detailing what more we knew about Creepy Man.

He sighed, and settled in to watch the Detective work. It was boring. Paper work and phone calls, mostly. Then he was called into an office by a bigger Grown-Up wearing more badges. Curious, Smug followed into the office. Sergeant Grown Up wanted an update from Detective. Perfect. Smug pulled out his Field Journal, ready to fact check what he had so far.

“What do we have on the kidnapping case?”

“The perp came in through her bedroom window, on the backside of the house. No one from the street could’ve seen him. The lock was broken, but no glass. We got a footprint on the window sill, but the interior had a rug. CSU is still processing that for evidence. No fingerprints or hairs, yet, we assume he was wearing gloves. According to her parents, she was already asleep when they left her room. They didn’t hear anything.” Detective looked up from his note pad to the Sergeant, making sure he was following.

“The father organized the neighborhood watch approximately four hours after the kidnapping. Two scent hounds found her hair ribbon and her left slipper. The trail ended at the community gate, where we got security footage. Its an old system, black and white, but the man is about six feet tall, two hundred pounds, medium cut dark hair, dark eyes, slim build. The vehicle he used is an 80s model sedan, light in color, license plate CSX-9280, State of Wisconsin.”

Smug jotted down this information he had missed. Sophie didn’t know much geography, but she knew that she lived in New Mexico, and she knew that Wisconsin was really far away and famous for making cheese. Her uncle lived there, though she’d never been. Smug noted this as well.

“Chief, we got something,” a Police said from the door. “Plates just came back. Car was reported stolen yesterday afternoon, couple on vacation was carjacked at dinner. Description matches our kidnapper, too.”

Smug followed the three Grown-Ups into the lobby. Two more Grown-Ups were waiting, nervous. The lady was crying and wringing her hands. The man was holding her shoulders. Smug couldn’t hear the conversation in the noisy lobby, but they all went to another room, quieter.

Another man came in with a large notepad and pencil. Sketch Artist, they called him. The couple spent hours talking at the man as he drew, erased, drew again, shaded. Finally, there was a portrait of Creepy Man. Smug copied it into his own Field Journal.

Smug decided that his best chance of finding this “perp” was to help the fumbling, bumbling Police. He left his notes that the Detective didn’t have on his desk, in the Detective’s own handwriting, thanks to a bit of glamour.

Sophie knew this man from school
She was afraid of him but didn’t have a reason to be
He was new to the school environment
Not a Parent or Teacher
Always giving candy, toys, other rewards, especially at recess or in the library

Smug watched, waiting for the Detective to notice. He picked up the note, read it, looked around, scratched his head, then went back into the Sergeant’s office.

“Hey Sarge, I must be sleep deprived or something, but have we interviewed anyone at her school?”

Sergeant stares blankly then yells a four-letter word. He goes into the workroom and gathers all the Police. They start sharing information as he writes it down on a white board. Pinning photos, taking notes, making lists. Smug has never seen anything like it, so he copies it to his own notes.

Aria takes the amulet from Fear. It hangs heavy down her tiny torso, but she’s grateful for the protection. She ventures out of the cavern to the edge of the bed’s protection and scents the air. The window is still open but yellow tape surrounds the area outside. Ignoring it, Aria flies at top speed, over the gates and around the left corner.

The scent winds, following the streets. Left, Right, Left again. Soon, Aria is outside of Sophie’s World. She slows down, following her instincts of caution in new territory. Aria finds herself, and a strange car, in a dead-end alley. She inspects the windows. Sophie was here. Not anymore, but she had been here.

Aria whistles up her shadow-mouse. The shadow-mouse makes a dust-map and stores it in an Essence Pouch, then delivers it to Smug.

Aria scents the air, turning slowly, forked tongue flicking to find the next concentration. She’s lost the Man, but she finds Sophie. The girl had woken up and pitched a fit, leaving a trail of anger and fear.

Smug takes the dust map and compares it to the map on the Police board. He takes a marker and draws the road trail, then sticks a pin where Aria found the car. Then he whistles as loud as he can and dives into the shadows.

Detective walks over to the board and shakes his head, disbelieving. “Alright, very funny, who did this?” he yells, throwing his thumb over his shoulder at the board. Silence ensues. Sergeant walks over then yells, “I want two units at this pin location yesterday!”

Aria hears the wails of distant sirens approaching the abandoned car. She leaves them to it, following the scent of Sophie’s fear. Sweet and tangy, like candied bacon, the trail is easy to follow but does nothing for Aria’s energy.

She finds herself at the back entrance of an abandoned warehouse. No windows, a garage-style door bolted to the ground, and the distinct scent of Creepy Man and Sophie going straight through the door.

Smug follows in Detective’s car to Sophie’s school. Teacher is crying for “sweet Sophie,” praying for a safe return. Smug is less disgusted than usual because he wants the same thing. Principal is an unhelpful, evasive man. His words drip sympathy but his eyes are empty of emotion.

“Who is new to the school? Staff, janitors, groundskeepers? Who did you hire recently?” Detective asks.

“I’d have to get that list from my secretary, who is on vacation in the Swiss Alps,” he says unhelpfully. “I suppose you could request it from the school board, though,” he adds with a touch of…something. Glee? No, that’s not right. Satisfaction. Yes, that’s a good fourth-grade word.

“You haven’t noticed someone hanging around at, say, recess? Or the library?” Detective presses.

Principal hesitates. “Well, I hardly spend my days in those places. I’m usually in meetings or with troubled students. I never saw Sophie in my office, so I wouldn’t know,” he says honestly.

Detective wraps it up and moves to the Librarian. “Oh, you must mean my new assistant. I’d been requesting help all school year and the board finally approved the salary last month,” she informs Detective.
“How much contact does he have with students?”

“Not much. The occasional check out. He takes his breaks on the playground, preferring fresh-air, he says. Not that I blame him. These stacks get quite dusty.”

“I see. Did you ever see him with Sophie?”

“I don’t think…well, let’s see now. She was in here last week and he checked out her books. She was very proud to be checking out something from the Third-Grade shelf. I think he gave her a sucker.”

“Thank you. That’s quite helpful. Can I get his name and address from you? Just to rule him out, standard procedure.”

“Of course, let me get that for you.”

Detective copies it down from the librarian’s computer and is on his way. Over the radio, he calls in the information to dispatch. A unit will meet him there.

Aria finds a way in through the ventilation system in the roof. Flying cautiously down the shafts, she finally emerges into the garage. Sophie’s scent is impossibly everywhere. Instead, Creepy Man’s scent is easier to follow into a back room. A small office, of sorts.

He’s sitting at the work desk. Sophie is asleep on a pallet behind him, breathing the dreamless sleep of a carefree child.

Aria snuggles into Sophie’s pajama pocket and whistles up a shadow-mouse. The mouse sees the both of them, and immediately runs to get Smug. Aria goes to sleep with her target.

The shadow-mouse is running frantically around the Police house and can’t find Smug anywhere. She notices the board and Smug’s essence on the map. A ball of nerves and unsure what else to do, she wills a glamour.

20 minutes later, she’s glamoured herself a hand big enough to draw on the map. She follows a foot path from the car pin and sticks a pin in the warehouse. She scampers to the corner of the board and screams as loud as she can. A few Police look up in the direction of the map as she runs to hide in the shadows once more.

A Police looks around, looks at the map, then calls for the Sarge.

“I don’t know what the hell is going on around here, but get four units and medical out at that warehouse. Something is helping us and I’m gonna take it!”

Detective picks up the radio call. “Roger that,” he says, then flips on lights and sirens, speeding to the warehouse. Smug doesn’t know what’s going on, he missed the call, but he makes a split-second decision and jumps in the Detective’s shirt pocket.

When they get a block away, Detective turns off both and creeps up to the warehouse. Four other Police cars are already there, with an ambulance around the corner.

Smug jumps down and follows Aria’s trail. She found Sophie. He knew it. He guessed he’d missed the message because he wasn’t at the station, but that’s alright. She’d found a way to get him there.

Police break down the garage door and bust in with lots of noise and light. Creepy Man was tackled and handcuffed. Sophie, with Aria, was carried to the ambulance. Smug climbed in with Aria, and they stayed with their target all the way to the hospital.

Sophie blinked her eyes. Bright hospital lights were disorienting, but she made out two familiar shapes. “Mommy? Daddy?”

Both started crying, Daddy kissing her forehead, Mommy holding her hand. Nurses said she’d been drugged to sleep, but she’d be fine, no lasting damage. Maybe some memory loss, but Creepy Man hadn’t had time to hurt her.

“What about Mr. Davis?” Sophie asked, quietly afraid that she’d be in trouble.

Detective came in. “He’s going to jail. Then he’ll be tried. You’re too young to testify, but I promise you, he’s going away for a very long time.”

“How did you find us?”

“That’s my job, to find little girls and boys like you, to bring you home safe, to put away the bad guys.”

She nodded then went back to sleep. The Grown Ups went to the hall.

“Who is this Davis?” Daddy asked,

“He’s the assistant librarian at your daughter’s school. He used a deceased cousin’s information to pass the background check. His name is Richard Davis. He’s a convicted pedophile and wanted in four states and two countries. Thankfully he was on the move so there wasn’t time for him to harm your daughter,” Detective said honestly.

“How did you find him?” Mommy pleaded.
“Honestly, ma’am, we had a little help. Security cameras, sketch artist, and some anonymous information. We don’t exactly know where the information came from, but it sped along our investigation by hours, if not days. Your little girl has protection, no doubt about it.”

Aria and Smug looked at each other and smiled. They had their target back. And no one was ever going to hurt her again.

“Thanks guys,” Sophie breathed in her sleep. “I know it was you. Thank you.”

They started. How in the world did Sophie know they existed? How long had she known? This was an abortive protocol if ever there was one.

“Protocol shmotocol,” Smug said. Aria nodded her agreement. They went to sleep with their target, no nightmare plans to enact. Sophie had lived one, and nothing they came up with could top it.


Word Nerd Diary: “Themself”

As I pursue my M.A. Fashion Journalism, I often find myself mentally editing the works of my classmates and (usually) successfully stamp down the urge to publish these remarks within the class because I’m not the teacher and it is not my place. I understand this.

Today, in writing an essay for Current Developments & Debates in Journalism, I stumbled upon a grammatical anomaly. “Themself.” Is it a word? Is it correct? It makes logical sense as a gender-neutral singular reflexive pronoun.

themself5So I posed the question to the experts: former and current teachers and/or professors. The wife of a former history teacher immediately posted on my Facebook question that it should be “himself.” This is not gender-neutral. A former English teacher provided the same answer.

A former college professor said there is no such word, and to make the sentence plural to use themselves. Saved me the headache and my deadline, but didn’t answer the question at hand.

So I posed the question to current Language Assistant Professors in 3 of my 4 courses this semester, then proceeded to research the issue.

The Oxford English Dictionary blog has an entire post devoted to “themself,” and the rather heated debates it brings up. The author of the post, Catherine Soanes, breaks down the history and revival of the term, and offers this advice:

“the wheel has not yet come full circle and themself remains a standard English outcast. . . for now. You can be sure that Oxford’s lexicographers are keeping their eye on the situation: given the strong evidence for themself in all types of writing, it may well merit reconsideration within the next 20 years or so.”

The Language Assistant Professor in the Debates course, Alice Clay, got back to me this evening, listing my options to “be gutsy…and give themself a try,” or “be bold…and go with themselves,” or “to please most grammarians, go with himself or herself,” and finally to save myself the headache, make the sentence plural and go with themselves. Oh, and I may have inspired her next tutorial on the subject.

The Language Assistant Professor in Researching, Writing, and Reporting Features course, Sheila Hancock, applauded my decision to make it plural with the comment “I would have done the same because themself has never been considered a “correct” form of the reflexive pronoun.  I am inspired by your question to do more research myself.”

The Language Assistant Professor in Lead & Short News Bootcamp, Thomas Donahoe, provided an interesting bit of information: “Oxford says that “themself” is acceptable…but British grammar isn’t entirely the same as American grammar (so you could argue that it depends on whether one is writing for a British or American publication).”

Thomas also sent me to this GrammarGirl post which discusses the many facets of the issue without actually referencing “themself” as a potential solution.

Final Thoughts: After asking 5 professionals, researching 4 style guides, and researching in 3 dictionaries/databases, I have found:

1) “Themself” is a word, dating back to the 14th Century.


2) It is not an accepted reflexive pronoun in American English, but it is acceptable British English.

Which makes it either an archaic pronoun or a British dialect, and either way, the Steampunker in me is happy to use it as such colloquially, but I will continue avoiding it in formal writings until either American  lexicographers deem it valid or I start writing and publishing within British demographics.

Charlotte Fashion Week & Misadventures

This year, I took on a project. I contacted Charlotte Seen back in February or March, inquiring about a press pass to the 5th Annual Charlotte Fashion Week. Rita Miles, the producer of Fashion Week, got back to me and asked me to write a few pieces for their book. The verbal agreement at that moment was 10 profile pieces. Since I wasn’t doing much else this summer for lack of online grad classes, I decided to take it on for the opportunity of being published.

I spent the majority of my summer either traveling to the cities of Asheville, Charlotte, and Raleigh, or holed up in my tiny coffee shop here in Cherokee, conducting interviews, taking notes, and spinning tales.

On Tuesday, August 25, I packed my waist-high Oakley suitcase in Silvermist (my trusty Fusion), and headed to the NoDa district of Charlotte. I stopped in Hickory for gas, and my air conditioning would not come back on when I left the gas station. I drove with the windows down to the rented loft on Air BNB for the week.

I checked in, unpacked, showered, changed, and set my GPS to the first event location, Blue Restaurant of Hearst Tower. I get to uptown Charlotte, surrounded by tall buildings, and my GPS says “arrived at destination.” And I’m sitting in traffic looking around me thinking “where?!”

I turned off the street, drove two blocks, turned off another street, and parked. I paid for street parking in the mobile app Parkmobile. The app has this handy feature called “Find my Car.” I again set my GPS for blue, following a zig zag 6-block trail to Hearst Tower. I walked all the way through Hearst Tower and found the restaurant….two hours early.

Behind the scenes at Blue Restaurant, Angela Kim designs, Charlotte Fashion Week.

I proceeded to the “Model Room” where HMUs from Sigma prepared models for designer Angela Kim of Asheville. This was a sampling of the same collection she debuted just two weeks prior at Asheville Fashion Week.

As the evening wore on, I met some of the people I had interviewed by phone, Heather Dignan and Lesley Ann Thiel and Howard Spikes. People I had captured on paper in 200 or 400 words and never even seen a photo of. It was thrilling moment as a journalist.

At 9 PM, I decided to call it a night and return to the loft. I stepped out of the restaurant and pulled up Parkmobile, and clicked “Find My Car.” The map pulled up and showed my car was in the vicinity of College St. I start walking, looking at street signs and my phone. I found a police officer at an intersection, and he pointed me in the correct directions. About ten minutes later, I’m still hopelessly looking for Silvermist near Time Warner Cable Arena.

It was here that I met Ellis. Ellis was an older man, dark skinned, and looking for a different kind of help. As he helped me search, we strike up a conversation in which I learned he is homeless, can’t afford to eat or bus fare to get to and from his new job. As a rule, I never carry cash on me, so I stop at an ATM to help him out: to find my account nearly empty from my travels. I tell him the truth, and he continues to help me look.

We get to Church St, and a police officer in an unmarked car asked me what we were looking for. I show him the app and explain that I can’t find my car. He asks if Ellis is with me, if I actually know him. I say no. I tell Ellis that the officer is going to help me look and to have a good night. I get in the car, and the officer drives me all over uptown, (as we search, he asks where I’m from, what brings me to town. His daughter is actually a student at my alma mater, Western Carolina University) until I find Silvermist…on Poplar St. A good 4 streets away from where the app said. At 10 PM.

It took an hour, a stranger, and two police officers to find my car. Thanks, Parkmobile. Thanks a lot.

The next morning, I take Silvermist to Capital Ford because her air conditioning still isn’t working properly. They work me in as fast as they can. Three hours and $175 later, they tell me that my car needed a software upgrade and that should be the end of it. Arielle Bailey had come to my rescue at the exact moment they said I could go.

So I followed Arielle to the other side of Charlotte where we had coffee and lunch. Arielle had worked with Charlotte Seen projects before, and we met during this particular project. She is a talented art director, and I believe we may have formed a lifetime partnership here.

Afterward, I head to “a private club in Charlotte” which is the venue for the rest of Charlotte Fashion Week. (Thank the Creator I did not ever have to return to Uptown Charlotte!) Everything in the hall is white. White curtains, white chairs, even a white ironwork interior balcony. I check in with the Seen Team and gather my press pass (the entire reason I went to Charlotte).

I settled into my second row seat, and watched as models from little children to a dancing elder took the runway in ensembles reflective of who they are. While it was an interesting show, and I gathered the theme, it didn’t entirely make sense to me from an industry perspective.

Runway Shows are designed to sell fashions to the public, from a selection of designers, lines, or collections. This particular show represented hundreds of different merchants. I couldn’t have gone out and bought one of those outfits if I wanted to, because there were too many to keep track.

Back to the loft.

Thursday, I went to Smelly Cat Coffee, as recommended to me by the host of my loft. Organic, fair trade, shade grown coffee roasted in-house, just like home. I went to the Southpark Mall to finally do some shopping, asking myself how I’d been in the city for 3 days without shopping yet.

I was excited to explore the Hermes. Lovely customer service and assistance, even for a lost and astonished mountain girl like me. The Neiman Marcus was like a dream come true for my inner fashionista. I was happily surprised to find a Lush Cosmetics, and purchased a lip scrub and mascara. (Seriously, their mascara is the only one that makes my lashes soft and not brittle.)

I went to Dillard’s and found my dress for the Charlotte Seen Ball for Saturday. While I had brought formal separates in the form of corsets and bustle skirts (in true Steampunk Style), I realized rather late that I had no assistant available to properly lace me up in said corsets. The dress has a corset lace in the back, but easily slips over my head with the ease and luxury of a silk nightgown. Perfect.

I found an Earth Fare, tried to buy just enough groceries to last the remainder of the trip, and returned to the loft. Put groceries away, changed my clothes, and back to the club.

At this point, I’m a familiar face to the professionals in the photography pit at the end of the white runway. I met some truly gifted people here, whom I look forward to working with in future.

As I resume my seat in the second row, I’m rather excited for this show. Tonight is the competition of designers in the categories of Emerging and Recyclable. Asheville’s own Charles Josef won the Emerging Category, and I look forward to interviewing with him soon.

The collections presented here that truly caught my attention were by Aiperi Yusupova, Michael Concha, and Bell et Corge by Jolina Roberson.

Bell et Corge is a luxurious line designed for real women in mind, with modern simple silhouettes in velvet and silk fabrications.

Michael Concha’s collection, aptly named “The Dark Phoenix,” began with the innocence of Irish stepdancing children in white and green, followed by harrowing characters in blacks and chains. This was the edgiest collection of the entire fashion week.

Aiperi Yusupova’s collection was the epitome of simple elegance. Her partner, Yves, is from Rwanda. Aiperi herself is from Kyrgyzstan. They met in college in Charlotte, and I look forward to interviewing them soon.

The Recyclable competition was the most creative of the week. Often, designers only showed one piece, but these were crafted from the stuff of dreams and imagination. The winning design was a rendition of Maleficent, made of tissue paper.

Friday was a personal battle with my demons in the forms of anxiety and depression. I returned to The Smelly Cat. I had a meltdown. I called my mother and my boyfriend. I went to the loft, ate a sandwich, and binge-watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the millionth time. I changed clothes, and returned to the club.

Because I arrived at 7 and not my usual 5, I wound up parking nearly a mile away on the street and taking a tram to the doorway. It was here that I met Andre of The Face Magazine, which I may be contributing to in future. The theme of the night was Emerging Designers and Boutiques.

My favorite collections of the night were Moniquea Renee Couture, The Tuxedo Lady of DW Designs, and Seelah Boutique.

Moniquea Renee Couture showed a collection entirely in white. White ruffles, white lace, white rhinestones. From work to cocktail hour to just because, this collection proves that the modern woman can live her life in white without appearing the least bit bridal.

The Tuxedo Lady of DW Designs is a work and formal wear couturier for men. She opened the collection with a Sherlock Holmes ensemble, and I was sold. Everything was impeccably crafted, from the rugged leather accessories to the massive fur robe.

Seelah Boutique is an inspirational collection from an inspired soul. Seelah comes from the biblical book of Psalms, which meant “pause” or “rest” from a musical perspective. Her objective was to create beautiful clothes for everyone, and she succeeded with this black and gold collection.

Back to the loft.

Saturday. The day of the ball. I meet with my college friend Olivia Bellamy for brunch. It was good to catch up with her, and we’ve decided to catch up more often. (3 years is a bit long.) As I cranked Silvermist to head out, the air conditioning failed again. So I drove to the loft with the windows down again, and changed for the ball, arriving at the club at 5 PM.

The photographer’s pit is missing. The risers have been replaced by a single red velvet rope. The hall is redesigned, from 4 rows of seats on either side of the runway, to a single row with a table. In the middle, where the runway had been, is a third table with dessert spreads laid out, minus the sweets themselves. Four ballerinas are rehearsing to Phantom of the Opera, models are practicing the U-shaped runway, and I finally found my way to the balcony. (I’d been dying to get a view from up there all week!)

Here is where I met the opera singer Xela Pinkerton and the runway dj Benita Kerr. Only six collections showed that night: Angela Kim couture collection, Alice Andrews at Canvas, A Boutique, Estbythelna children’s couture, Darpan, a reprise of Tuxedo Lady, and Pixton.

The ball itself commenced after the runway shows were over, with seasonal summer hors d’oeuvres and scrumptious pastries with sweet creams on the dessert table. DJ BK got the party started with The Cupid Shuffle and The Electric Slide back to back.  Later in the evening, dance extraordinaire Berhan Nebioglu and photographer Laurence Logan took the floor in contrasting styles of ballroom and Michael Jackson footwork.

Charlotte Fashion Week No. 5 The Story was the experience of a lifetime, that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Asheville Fashion Week – Part 1

On Thursday night at the Altamont Theater in Asheville, NC dozens of people find their seats 4 and 5 rows deep surrounding a runway. The dim lighting and club mix beats filled the air with a palpable anticipation.

Modeling the Hattitude collection from McKinney Gough, Day 2 of AFW, courtesy of Asheville Fashion Week Facebook page

Over 100 models take to the runway, showcasing looks from local designers McFarland, McKinney Gough, Southern Charm/Charmed, Deirdre Blume, Tasha Lief, Runway Ready, Chapeaux by Simone, MG&B, and Diamond Outdoors.

Thursday’s most impressive surprise was the debut collection designed by a pair of local 16 year old girls, MG&B. Their designs are fun, colorful, and bold. A white knit dress with spoons on the front, a green chiffon ball skirt with a black bodice, and a fun mix-print crop top and skirt were crowd favorites (based on the amount of cheering).

On Friday night at the Millroom of Asheville Brewing, The crowd was larger, the runway staggered in a Z shape, and the lights were pulsating color-changing orbs. Collections shown included Sacred Garden by Anna Gordon, Tricia Ellis, a reprisal of Diamond Outdoors and Deirdre Blume, KatDog Couture, Legends of Hollywood retail, Wildflower Bridal with accessories from Uber Kio and Hatchett Creative Group, and Xen by Rachele swimwear.

Models for Xen by Rachele after the show, courtesy of AFW Facebook page

Friday’s presentation was phenomenal. From casual date night looks by Diamond Outdoors to opera-worthy ensembles by KatDog Kouture, to fairy-tale wedding inspirations by Wildflower Bridal, there was something for everyone on the runway.

What these two incredible nights showcased wasn’t just fashion: it was the creative soul of Asheville. Produced by Gage Models and Talent Agency, which created Chattanooga and Knoxville fashion weeks, the models of Asheville were guaranteed a spot on the runway. These were real men and women of real proportions from petite to traditional model to plus size wearing real clothes from local and talented designers.

This afternoon begins the last day for Asheville Fashion Week with the children’s collections, and tonight is the Grand Finale at the Renaissance Hotel.

Author’s Note: I am honored to bear witness to these historic event. I am blessed to have found my path as a fashion journalist in the same time as the blossoming of Asheville’s Fashion community. Special thanks to model and stylist extraordinaire Sarah Merrell for making Asheville Fashion Week a reality.

Pub is Short for Public House

  Welcome to Frog’s Leap Public House in historic Waynesville, NC. 
Those of you who follow my Twitter or Instagram may have seen a pair of photos from my lunch earlier today: caprese salad and a hummus veggie plate. 

There are several notable things about this pub: 

1) It calls itself a public house. This is a gathering place for families and friends to feast and celebrate within rustic, comforting walls. 

2) They work and partner with several local, even family owned, gardens and farms to provide a natural ever-changing menu. 

Local Farmers and Partners

3) That ever-changing menu? It’s dated. Today’s menu was created on 7/31/15. They can only prepare what nature, and these local organizations, provide. 
4) The entire staff, from my waitress Anna to the head kitchen chef, is understanding, educated, and helpful with dietary needs. Whatever your restrictions or requirements are, they will take care of you with kindness. 

5) The food is good. I can’t believe how fresh everything was. And delicious, healthy, and satisfying to boot. 


Caprese Salad
I, for one, will definitely be frequenting this gem much more often. After all, on the same block is The Classic Wine Seller, and around the corner are many of my long-time favorite shops, including Fifi’s, The Jeweler’s Workbench, and Twigs & Leaves

Costume Drama Delivers

Summers in Asheville, NC are nothing short of alive. From the street performers to the purple comedy bus to the PubCycle, Downtown Asheville has a thriving energetic ambience, defined by the Artistic Community. Asheville Community Theater is but a part of the growing Fashion Scene in Asheville, having contributed by creating and hosting its signature annual fundraiser for the last 4 years: Costume Drama: A Fashion Affair.

It’s a fundraiser, a fashion show, and a fun competition with audience participation. This year, the event was expanded and sold out. A pre-party, a silent auction, four categories of runway, voting, a post-party, and silent auction on the very costumes from the runway.

“[This event] shows Asheville talent. The designer is a pastry chef. No matter the day job, people have hidden talents,” says model Gessi Boyd in the green room backstage.

The four categories of competition were Christmas in July, Nature, Tape, and Inflatables. 

 The Christmas in July category was full of breathtaking, angelic, and magical constructs, from Olivia Mears modeling her own red and gold wrapping-paper Tree Topper with mobile white angel wings to McKinney Gough’s blue, silver, and white Nutcracker, to Susan Vonceil’s candy-cane striped poolside pinup.

Susan Vonceil's creation Model: Sarah Merrell Photo: Hannah Silberman
Susan Vonceil’s creation, modeled by Sarah Merrell photo by Hannah Silberman
The Nature category was definitely a crowd favorite, featuring woodland warrior fairies, dragonflies, garden wardens, and an ocean goddess.

Caroline Williams entry, modeled by Gessi Boyd
Caroline Williams entry, modeled by Gessi Boyd, photo from model’s FB page
The gown is a gorgeous blue and white goddess dress, with cascading ruffles at the mermaid hemline remniscent of waves cresting on the beach.  The bodice is constructed of pearls on one side, bringing to life Caroline Williams’ vision of “surf and elegance.”

Despite Gessi’s nerves of her first runway (ever), she felt “empowering, exposed, and freeing” in the gown.

The Tape category was interesting, to say the least. Designers were challenged to use tape to construct their designs. (If you’re anything like me, your mind goes to duct tape or scotch tape.) The creativity presented here is nothing short of inspiring, from VHS and Casette tape flapper dresses to painted painter’s tape fairies to caution tape tulle ballgowns.

The papparazzi dress, by Stephen Lange,  constructed of light reflection tape materials, looked like something Lady Gaga would wear (if she hasn’t already).

The most whimsical category, inflatables, presented the most memorable creations and characters. From Charles Josef’s balloon bridesmaid to Sheila Thibodeaux‘s lionfish to Marla Looper‘s jellyfish, ensemble after ensemble left the audience excited and craving more.

The house was packed, warm, and filled with applause and laughter as the Category winners were annouonced: Danielle Chaboudy & Sue Ellen Black with their golden tree-topper (a month in the making) took Christmas in July, Olivia Mears with her woodland fairy took Nature, Sally Garner took Tape with a VHS film party dress, and Carina Lopez with her doctor’s glove cocktail dress took Inflatables.

Applause, laughter, and nervous indecision filled the air as the audience took one final vote for best in show. Christmas in July, modeled by Jessica Robin Riley took home the victory.

All four of the winning designs are currently on display through Saturday, July 18 at Bellagio Everyday in Downtown Asheville.

Lafayette on Lexington

“Making my way downtown…” Wait, what happened to The Local Taco?

The hipster texicana locale has been jazzed up and taken over by Lafayette, featuring authentic Creole and Cajun cuisine inspired by “La Louisiane.”

The maître d’ is lovely. The interior is modern and open. The patio is clean, partially roofed, with a perfect view of Lexington Ave for the people watcher in all of us.

The water is a relief from Asheveille’s Summer heat. The cocktail menu was libated- I mean liberated- from the French Quarter. The classics are well crafted, personally opting for a mimosa, which was delightfully more bitter than most.

Like sister venues Le Creperie and Bouchon, Lafayette is welcoming and accommodating for those with food sensitivities, including gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan needs.

I tried the crab crepe with a side of dirty rice. The crepe is well balanced sweet, spicy, and flavor nuances dancing across the palate. The dirty rice is traditionally gamey and oh-so-filling.

For dessert? Bananas Foster. I’ll let you know if it’s just as yummy. (It smells heavenly).


Tony’s Tip: Also order Beignets to dip in the excess rum sauce for a decadent diabetic coma.


Cultural Misappropriation

This last week, I’ve come across several articles about regular people abusing Native Culture in various ways. From Adam Sandler’s Western Satire “The Ridiculous Six” to Coach’s Summer collection to Christian Louboutin’s “Tribaloubi” line, it seems the Fashion and Entertainment industries are cashing in on Tribal themes.

But what else is new? The presence of Indian Country, vast as it is, goes largely unacknowledged by the masses because the American Government spent decades brainwashing the citizenry into believing we are either extinct or just disappeared without a trace. It seems we only make headlines when there’s a link to Pop Culture, such as Robin Thicke’s cancellation of a performance at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.

Things are slowly changing, as we begin to have an established voice in publications like Native Max Magazine, and in walking away from “opportunities” which only further existing stereotypes and stigmas harmful to our spiritual health.

In the film and entertainment industry, Natives are grossly misrepresented as being almost nonexistent. And in the few roles that do present themselves, rarely are actual members of that People cast to play the role. Adam Sandler’s first mistake was hiring Navajo’s to portray Apache’s. Who better to represent the Apache’s than, well, an Apache?

1) They are not extinct

2) They have functioning civilized sovereign governments

Why does the have such a problem with Native’s representing themselves? Louboutin’s use of Hopi designs without consultation, input, research, or permission from the existing Hopi Nation tells the world that Christian Louboutin speaks for a Nation which is perfectly capable of representing itself. Except for the fact that “…the Hopi don’t have thousands of Instagram or Twitter followers, or hundreds of thousands visiting their shops in the way Louboutin does.”

The definition of Minority is Indian Country, consisting of 566 Federally Recognized Sovereign Nations and 64 State Recognized Tribes within the borders of the United States, we are still the smallest representation of the American population.

Basically, it boils down to this: If you wouldn’t wear a Swastika or Black Face, don’t wear a Headdress. If you wouldn’t tell a Jew to “stop being so sensitive” about the Holocaust, don’t say it to a Native. (That’s exactly how Sandler lost a dozen Native actors.)

Because guess what? Adolf Hitler’s inspiration for the Holocaust was the American Government’s Indian Removal Act, aka The Trail of Tears.

There is a difference between appreciation of indigenous cultures, and abusing it for profit. By taking that design you are stealing from an entire Nation.

New Year, New Adventures

Let me start with: WOW!

I worked diligently and with critical eyes on my courses for the Fall Semester. And it paid off. 4.0 GPA and I’m registered for Intro to Fashion Journalism, Intro to Styling, and Advanced Short Form Production for the Spring Semester.

I spent New Year’s at home with my boyfriend. It was quiet and perfect. Usually, I host a NYE party because I hated spending it alone, but sadly most of my friends had other plans. The day he had to fly back home (to Mississippi), I contented myself at the wonderful Crow and Quill bar in downtown Asheville.

As I was leaving, I found an inaugural meeting of an actual Bridge Club. As in, little old women playing the card game no one knows in Hollywood productions Bridge Club. But what was amazing about it is that no one there actually knows how to play. We’re all learning together! And so far, I enjoy it. The game actually challenges my brain and it is truly a pleasurable distraction. (Think Chess and Poker in a 13 move card game.)

I also discovered a group of media professionals who host regular Photoshoot Socials. I intend to take full advantage of this networking opportunity as I move forward in my degree, with my Thesis Project, and into my career.

And I’m way ahead on that Thesis thing. As I started reading the Midpoint Review and Thesis requirements, I became more and more excited. I have a theme. I have a concept. I have a 21 page cover-to-cover storyboard of a Magazine prototype on piece of scrap paper in my purse right this very moment. But I’m not up for Review until the Fall, assuming I can take 9 hours in the Summer.

This revived enthusiasm even pushed me to once again venture into the world of job searching. Because while I have learned a lot working in Surveillance, it is not my future. It is not my path. I will do the job with everything I have for as long as it is my job, because that’s just how I do things, but I am not happy with it.

We only have one life to live: why would you waste it doing something you have no passion for?

An Epic Return…Sort Of

I know I neglected the blog for quite a long while, but I’ve had quite a time of it. Let me fill you in.

2013 was a hectic year. The radio station let me go due to budget cuts in a failing rural economy. I spent the summer unemployed and heartbroken. In the fall, I started working at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in the Surveillance Department. And, of course, I was helping Mom take care of Grandma.

This year has been the hardest year of my 23. In February, I caught a gastrointestinal virus that had me vomiting for five days straight. I couldn’t keep water down, so I became dehydrated. My kidneys started to shut down. I was admitted to Mission hospital, my first hospitalization since birth. I stayed for two days. IV fluids got me back to normal.

The next week, I was back at Mission visiting Grams. She passed into the Spirit World on March 16th at the age of 70. I miss her terribly.

Over the next six months, I was admitted to the Academy of Art University’s MA Fashion Journalism program. I moved into my grandmother’s house. I had three car accidents, six more deaths, and friends diagnosed with cancer. Also, a friend in a horrible car accident that fractured her pelvis in seven places and required three surgeries. She had to learn how to walk again. And my cousin, shortly after giving birth to a healthy baby girl, developed Bell’s Palsey and a pulmonary embolism as complications from the birth.

Finally, last week, the chaos seemed to stop. Thank the Creator! I am currently enrolled in 6 credit hours with the Academy: Dynamics of Fashion and Essential Editing Skills. I currently have A’s in both classes. And I hope to share some of my editing work with you here after finals.

I love my home. I love my family and friends. I love my studies. I’m in a healthy, happy, loving relationship. But I am not happy with my day job. So keep up with me to see where the next stop on the journey might be!