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The Way the Artist Sees Things:

A couple of weeks ago, my partner and I were turned away from someone’s house for Christmas dinner. The identity of the someone in question isn’t important. What matters, and what stuck with me: It seemed like high school all over again … or a plotline from Grace and Frankie or The Help. It was an awful thing that happened, especially considering that it was Christmas time, and turning people away isn’t exactly in keeping with the holiday spirit. And above all, I hate that it was done out of ignorance and in the guise of religion.

Over the last few days, I’ve often thought, “How do you combat this type of deep-rooted hatefulness?” Every now and then I laugh, because I think of something that one of my favorite actresses, Whoopi Goldberg, has mentioned on occasion (and of course, I’m paraphrasing): “If you don’t like gay sex, then don’t have sex with a gay person.” There. Problem solved. Of course, in all seriousness, the solution runs deeper than that. The ultimate solution is education and worldliness, whether it be through reading or going out into the world and meeting others who are different. The book that I just published, Portraits of Familiar Strangers, at its heart, brings the dilemma of ignorance vs. acceptance to the forefront. Hopefully it will be read and enjoyed by many. So, to the unnamed someone that turned us away … your door may have been closed, but mine is open. It always will be. And I’m about to open many more. Portraits of Familiar Strangers is available now from Amazon.

During a recent visit to Kennesaw State University, I found an old copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass at the campus library. Though his work often appears within the syllabus of many lit courses, I had never really taken much of an interest. As with many great authors, it's often not until much later in life, when one isn't being forced to read something for school, that any interest takes hold. Alas, I wanted to share an excerpt from one of his poems that caught my attention. I imagine many of us can identify with its sentiments: "From pent-up aching rivers, From that of myself without which I were nothing, From what I am determined to make illustrious, even if I stand sole among men... From the hungry gnaw that eats me night and day, From native moments, from bashful pains, singing them, Seeking something yet unfound though I have diligently sought it many a long year, Singing the true song of the soul fitful at random... From plenty of persons near and yet the right person not near... From the long sustained kiss... From the bedfellow's embrace in the night... From the act-poems of eyes, hands, hips... From the cling of a trembling arm... From side by side the pliant coverlet off-throwing, From the one so unwilling to have me leave, and me just as unwilling to leave... From the hour of shining stars and dropping dews... From the night a moment I emerging flitting out, Celebrate you(r) act divine and you(r) children prepared for, And you(r) stalwart loins. - by Walt Whitman, excerpt taken "From Pent-up Aching Rivers"

A Garden of Storms is now available as a digital book for pre-order through Amazon. The book will be released next week on August 4th. In anticipation of this, I wanted to share a clip of my friend Mark, reading a selection from the book at a writer's workshop:

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