Monday, September 10, 2007

Act of Grace

About three years ago I started a novel loosely based on an incident that happen in Ann Arbor, Michigan in which a young woman decided to live up to her values. My novel has a more paranormal, spiritual edge. For a long time I ignored beginning this story until one night a voice in my dream shouted out the first line.


Here is the question the people in my hometown of Vigilant, Michigan want answered: Why did I, Grace Johnson, an African-American high school senior, an honor student, take two bullets to protect the life of the white supremacist jackass, Jonathan Gilmore? I haven’t really ventured to explain why I saved Mr. Gilmore’s life. Those who love me already understand, for them it is enough for me to say the ancestors made me do it. However, other folks, especially other folks of color, feel I need to testify to them and God, in that order, about why I have committed racial treason.

Mr. Gilmore was supposed to have died the day at the Racial Justice Rally, instead I got in the way and now people are either calling me an ignorant hero or hissing that I’m a double -stuffed Oreo bitch. Actually I’m neither, but I realize now that one of the reasons why people’s attitudes about me are as thick and nasty as dried snot is because there is a critical lack of information about my motives. Only trivial and bizarre evidence of my mission of justice exists. If it were up to me I wouldn’t say anything, I would just leave everyone in the dark and go on about my business. However, the voices of the ancestors tell me I do owe others an account of my story as an example of the true meaning of my name. Now, I can blow people off, I can tell folks what part of hell to go to and give them detailed directions on how to get there. The ancestors, however, cannot be ignored. They can’t be told to mind their own ethereal business because we, the living, are their business.

This morning they made Dr. Davies, my hospital appointed psychiatrist, tell me that if I write in a journal about my experiences and observations as if I’m talking to others, especially to Mr. Gilmore, it will speed up the process of my mental and physical healing.

“Writing a journal,” he said, his blue eyes reflecting some other soul besides his “will stop the fires of anxiety and anger from blackening your dreams and moods.”

If Dr. Davies had been himself he would have been appalled at the New Age dreamy psychobabble poetry coming out of his mouth, but of course he wasn’t himself. Their words on his pale-dry lips were a direct order to press my pen to notebook paper. Pain and suffering have made my hindsight telescopic, so let’s begin at the true beginning, a breath to prime my memory, “Rise, story, rise.”

Copyright 2007 Karen L. Simpson

All rights reserved


Josephine Damian said...

Hello Karen,

I'm honored to be the first to welcome you to the wonderful world of blogging!

After reading Keisha's story, I can see how any writer would be inspire to build a story around such a brave act, such an active, dynamic and complex young lady.

Two of your enteries made my own personal favorite list - you were the only person with multiple entries who made my cut more than once. You can view my entire list plus critiques of each line at

I hope this contest exposure leads to bigger and better things for you.

All the best,

Ello said...

I knew I recognized your blogger name right away! I loved your first line and the only reason I didn't include it on my list of what I thought Nathan Bransford would pick was because it started with a question and you know how he goes on and on about them! However, I thought your opening was extremely effective as a hook as it makes everyone want to know the answer to this question. Awesome! I loved the real incident behind your novel. This is excellent. How far have you gotten? Beginning? Halfway? Are you finished? Are you editing? Are you close to querying? Lots of questions! I think we have a wonderful writing community available with lots of writers in various stages of writing. I am in final edit mode and hope to be querying soon. Would love to read more if you post more. I hope to see you around the blogosphere!

Carleen Brice said...

Hi Karen. I think you used to comment on my blog?

I love the opening to your story! My wip also involves the ancestors speaking to one of my characters. So it's something I can definitely relate to.

Shauna Roberts said...

Sounds like a fascinating book. I look forward to its publication. Although I agree that the first line is a grabber, I loved better the last of your excerpt: "Rise, story, rise." That's certainly how stories often feel.

Heidi the Hick said...

This sounds like a wonderful, challenging book. I'm so relieved that you got direction to write it from a dream. That has happened to me too, and there's no backing away from it when you've got that kind of motivation!

Keep up the good work.

sweetmusicinharlem said...

Hi, Karen.

I am a stranger to blogging, but no stranger to you. I am always delighted when I read excerpts of Grace, but am no longer amazed at your talent. I simply take your brilliance for granted. I know that Grace has been sent out into the world of agents and publishers and I have no doubt your manuscript will reap all of the honors it is due.