Today at Quotable Tuesday, I get to visit with my friend and fellow writer Stephanie Parsley. I think I first met Stephanie at a retreat with Kathi Appelt almost a decade ago. I still remember the manuscript she shared. That’s how good a writer she is. When I asked her what sustains her throughout the ups and downs of a writing life, she quoted Rita Marley from a 2004 O Magazine article about her life after being married to Bob Marley.
“To move forward, you have to return home.”
“When I read this article years ago, Rita’s statement grabbed me, and I clipped it and stuck it on my bulletin board,” says Stephanie. “I was recently divorced and had moved from Dallas with my young daughter to Wichita Falls, where I’d grown up. These words clarified why I’d needed to move back home: not only for economic reasons, but also for emotional survival—to be able to move forward.
“Moving home gave me a chance to replay (and revise) some bad scenes from my childhood. For example, my daughter went to the same elementary school where I’d attended first and second grades. I remember my teacher slapping my palms with a small, wooden paddle in a classroom supply closet there. (For what, I do not recall, but it can’t have been that bad.) But as an adult, I got to have a new experience with that closet. It was the supply closet in my daughter’s first-grade classroom. I brought snacks and placed them in that closet. As a volunteer, I went into that closet for supplies. No children were spanked there, or in the school, anymore. I got to push those old memories away.
“Fine, you say. But what does this have to do with writing? Everything. Moving home opened powerful doors to my writing. It sparked many brushed-aside childhood truths and gave me a new, more authentic place to begin. My writing developed a heartbeat and power that I had not accessed in Dallas.
“Once that door opened for me, nothing could close it, no matter where I lived.
“Move forward almost a decade. My new husband and I, along with my daughter and a new baby girl on the way, left our quiet life in Wichita Falls to move back to Dallas for family reasons. It was hard, coming back to the big city.
“Rita’s quote (along with my bulletin board) still sits unpacked in a box in my garage here. But that door to my writing has remained open. We may have many homes in a lifetime. Even our stories have homes: emotional homes, characters who spark our compassion or attention, places that give us a strong feeling—seeds from which stories and poems begin.
“Recently, those words came to mind when I was stuck in a revision. “To move forward, you have to return home.” So I asked myself: Where is this story’s home? Sometimes, to find the true story and move forward in it, I have to return home. Wherever that is.”
You see how gorgeous and intricately thoughtful her writing is? Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing yourself here.