Sunset at God's Whisper FarmLast Thursday, I sent the manuscript for my new YA novel to the kind folks who agreed to be my first readers so that project is in stasis while I wait for their feedback.  I keep reminding myself of something Brenda Miller told me – “Submission is part of the writing process.” She was talking about the act of sending your work out for publication, but of course, the other definition of submission applies here, too.

So I find myself in the place where I need a new project of my own. Laraine Herring once said that the thing you do while you wait on one project to come to print is start the next one, so that is where I am today – ready to start the next project.  (Goodness, that idea makes my heart quicken.)

Currently, I have two book projects going on for clients, and so I am directing my time and creative energies there with great enthusiasm, but I believe very strongly that I need to always be working on my own books, so I’m left with a choice:

  • Research my own family story – with the help of my cousins – and begin to write about the way that free people of color became white people through the life of one man, my 3rd great-grandfather James Henry. For obvious reasons, I’m intrigued by this story, and I’m thrilled to say that my cousins and I are working to pull together as much genealogical information about the Cumbo/Cumbee/Cumby line as we can.  (If you have a link to our family, please check out this page.)   I’m feeling, though, that this project is one for our family to take on, not for me to carry on in alone.  I’d love to write this book with my cousins, and perhaps in time, that will come to pass.
  • Research the people who were enslaved here at God’s Whisper Farm. My research on the slave census, thus far, tells me that approximately 13 people were enslaved on this land.  One of those people was a woman who was 30 in 1850; sometimes, I feel her sharing this place with me. Because I am rooted to this place now, because I want to know it more about it – both farm and county, because I believe in the very deepest parts of myself that my work on this earth is to help bring to light and words the stories of enslaved people, I will be pouring my energy here.

Thus, today, I continue the research I have just begun.  The process will be long and frustrated, I have no doubt. But I am also absolutely confident that I will be changed by what I find, and if – as I pray happens – I am able to connect with the descendants of people who were enslaved here, perhaps my work may return the stories to their rightful owners.

I imagine Judith, the enslaved woman who resides here still, standing at the front window. She’s watching. I want to make her proud.

If you or people you know have links to Radiant, Virginia in Madison County, I’d love to hear from you. My hope is to weave the stories together to help us all see our history as full and rich, hard and beautiful as it is.