Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, October 28, 2016

Please welcome Bish Denham

Thanks for letting me lurk on your blog, Karen! Today I’m going to share about one of first and most *successful* slave revolts to take place in New World.

1733 Was a Very Bad Year. There were 109 plantations on the tiny island of St. John in the U. S. Virgin Islands. The population was 208 whites and 1,087 blacks.

To supplement the food staples supplied by plantation owners (rice, flour, corn flour, and such) slaves were given plots of land on which to cultivate vegetables like okra, pigeon peas, and squash. They had to work their gardens after they had labored all day, and sometimes into the night. What meat they ate might have come from the sea or the occasional goat or sheep. Rarer, there might have been pork. Rarer still, beef. In good years, the slaves might have eaten quite well.

But like I said, 1733 was a very bad year. Early on there was a plague of insects (probably grasshoppers) which ate up crops. This was followed by a terrible drought and two hurricanes. These natural disasters led to hunger and deprivation, which led to unrest. Then, in September, an extremely harsh slave code was adopted, by which slaves could be punished in the most severe ways (hand, foot, ear, tongue amputations, terrible beatings, torture etc) for different infractions.

Among the 1,087 slaves, were a group of Africans call the Amina, a fiercely proud and intelligent people who had, in their homeland, been royals and slave owners themselves. It was they who carefully planned the revolt. For days before the first attack, drums could be heard across the island beating out messages. Then they went silent.

In the early dawn hours on November 23, 1733, a group of men, armed with cane knives, attacked the small fort in Coral Bay, killing six of the seven men garrisoned there.

The ruins of Frederiks Fort at Fortsberg at Coral Bay, St. John, where the revolt began. (source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHABS_Frederiks_Fort_St_John_USVI.jpg)

The seventh man escaped and was able to get to St. Thomas to tell authorities what was happening. For six months the Amina held the island. Their goal was to take the island for themselves, run the plantations, and become independent. But it was not to be. The Danes, unable to capture or kill the rebels, eventually called in the French army from Marinique, which included among the 200 men, some Swiss and an extra 34 “free Negros.” Between the 23rd of April and the end of May, 1734, the rebels were beaten back. Those who did not surrender, which was most of them, chose instead to commit suicide. Those who did surrender, or were captured, were most horribly executed through torture with hot pincers, being burned at the stake, sawed in half, or having hands and heads cut off.

In the end between 30 and 40 whites were killed and 35 sugar plantations and other buildings were “pillaged and burned to the ground.” It made the Danish plantation owners uneasy, caused them to look over their shoulders, as it were.

Today the revolt marks the first step in a long struggle for human freedom which eventually led to the slaves, through their own efforts, winning emancipation in 1848. It is unique in that emancipation wasn’t given to them, as England gave freedom to their slaves. Nor was a war fought for them, as in the case of the American Civil War. It makes for a certain sense of independence and self-respect which Virgin Islanders wear with pride.
Although the slave revolt plays no part in my book, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, the violence and degradation of slavery does. In this excerpt, Sam and her best friend Nick come face to face with the brutality when they discover how the ghost that’s been haunting them, was killed.

He (the slave owner) has Ersgumé dragged out of the house, chained to a pole, and whipped until his back is raw and bloody. I cringe, remembering what I saw at the quarry; him kneeling, blood dripping from his shoulders, and the drops hissing as they hit the ground.

It’s getting hard for me to focus…. His suffering is more than I can take, and I want to turn away, but I’m locked in the waters of the bowl, and can’t shift my gaze away.

Bloody and broken, Ersgumé is half-carried, half-dragged between two other slaves. The white man leads the way. Slaves line the path. They’re keening and reaching out their hands wanting to touch Ersgumé one last time.

They take him to where the slaves live, crowded together in tiny stone huts. Near one of them is a dried up well. The white man orders the slaves carrying Ersgumé to throw him into the well. His pistol is drawn. They could refuse and overpower the white man, even run away, but they realize it’s useless. In time they’d be found and punished. There’s nothing they can do except obey him, even when ordered to throw dirt and rocks into the well.

Ersgumé is buried alive.

And here's the scoop about Bish's new novel.

Pirates. Explorers. And spooky ghost hunters.

It’s 1962. Sam and her best friend, Nick, have the whole island of St. John, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, as their playground. They’ve got 240 year-old sugar plantation ruins to explore, beaches to swim, and trails to hike.

But when a man disappears like a vapor right in front of them, they must confront a scary new reality. They’re being haunted. By whom? And why? He’s even creeping into Nick’s dreams.

They need help, but the one who might be able to give it is Trumps, a reclusive hunchback who doesn’t like people, especially kids. Are Sam and Nick brave enough to face him? And if they do, will he listen to them? 

As carefree summer games turn into eerie hauntings, Sam and Nick learn more about themselves and life than they could ever have imagined.

Available now at:

About the Author

Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over one hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there whom she visits regularly.

She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor, litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.”

The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel. You can find Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail, at Amazon.com.

To learn more about Bish, you can visit her blog, Random Thoughts, at www.http:/bish-randomthoughts.blogspot.com.
She can also be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BishDenham/Author
Twitter @BishDenham

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Insecure Writer's Support Group - September

First of all I can't believe it's September. Where did the summer go? But Fall is my favorite season. It always means new beginnings because on the East Coast, school began right after Labor Day. This post is for the Insecure Writer's Support Group September post. Please visit Alex J. Cavanaugh www.alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com for details on how to participate in this wonderfully supportive group.

I'm not writing a novel. I'm not writing a book at all, so my insecurities are for different reasons. I'm putting together an anthology of essays on aging. I've started receiving submissions. Now I'm in a whole new ball park--reading other people's work and having to say yeah nor nay, or having to tell someone that the piece needs this or that. It would be different if it were complete strangers, but I've solicited submissions from those I know, so it's much harder. So far, the few people I've received work from have been super wonderful about my comments and suggestions. I haven't had to tell anyone yet that the piece won't be included. I dread that. I am reminding myself that this is a professional situation. The anthology has the potential to be a powerful book that could be inspiring to many people. I can't allow friendship or fear of hurting someone's feelings to prevent me from having integrity about the quality of work that will go into it. So my insecurities are becoming strengths as I learn to speak my truth and let go of fear of someone getting upset with me.

How about you?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Plugging along

It's been awhile since I've written a new post. I didn't realize how little I've been blogging until just the other day. I do read your blogs, but I haven't been commenting much either. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm not really writing anything right now. I'm collecting submissions for the anthology I'm working on, but those are just trickling in. Perhaps it's because I don't want to just put something out here just for the sake of having a post. I want what I say to have some meaning to those who read it. Perhaps because, for the first time in my life, there are no major "issues" I'm working on. Oh yes, I'm still trying to lose a few pounds, but that's no big deal in the scheme of things. And I have an ache here and stiffness there. Again, no big deal. I'm still taking tap dance lessons and loving it. I'm still doing Sugartime (my singing duo--we perform at retirement communities). Both of those activities feed my soul on so many levels. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm more at peace emotionally than I've ever been. Perhaps I can begin to write about that...hmmm.
Anyway, how about you? Where are you in your life and are you at peace?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Still Me After All These Years

Still seeking submissions for an anthology: Still Me After All These Years

For those who don’t know me, I retired from a 30+ year career in marketing and public relations in 1999 to write full time. Since then, I have published a variety of non-fiction articles, a memoir, and most recently, a novel.

I’ve thought about writing something on aging for the past 10 years. I’m a sixty-something baby boomer who cared for both my Dad and my mother-in-law. I also helped two older friends who’ve since passed away. My friends and I have had many discussions about growing older and dying and about how we want to move through this process with grace and dignity. But other projects took precedence and I never got clarity on what this aging project should be. Until now.

Several weeks ago, my friend Ellie, 87 years young, said to me, “I don’t see ‘me’ anymore when I look in the mirror.”

“Who do you see?” I asked.

“An old lady who walks with a walker or a cane.”

“But, you’re still you. The walker doesn’t define you.”

“Yes, but it’s the first thing others see,” she said.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that conversation. Then, while on a writing retreat with my friend, Wendy, inspiration came: Why not make this an anthology? How much wiser and richer it could be if others shared their experiences of this journey called aging. Several days later I heard Paul Simon’s song “Still Crazy After All These Years” on the radio. Boom—there was the title: Still Me After All These Years.

That conversation with Ellie gave me the theme. I think an anthology such as this could speak about aging in a unique and fascinating way—through the eyes of those going through it. It will be about the challenges and opportunities that come when you reach that point in life where mortality is a more imminent reality. About how aging changes you, or doesn’t. How it impacts your life, both positively and negatively. Does your way of thinking change? What about your behavior? Have priorities shifted? Do you think about dying? Do you hate the way you look? These are just some of the topics I’d like to see included. 

I am seeking essays from adults 50 and above. If you’d like to participate but can’t write for some reason, I would be happy to interview you. Whatever the age of our readers, hopefully they’ll find a kernel of wisdom that touches their hearts.

At this point I’m not sure whether I will seek traditional publishing or self-publish. The traditional route could take years and well, I’m not sure I want to wait that long. At any rate, this is probably a good time to mention that there will be no fee paid for submissions. I will review entries myself, choosing and editing selections for inclusion. If you decide to submit, I can’t promise that your work will be included, but I can assure you that your name will be listed in the acknowledgements for helping to make this project possible.

If you are intrigued and think you might like to participate, please drop me a line and I will provide submission guidelines and more information on this process and how it will work.

I’d like to receive your submission by September 30, 2016. So, if you have something to share regarding your experience of aging, please let me know as soon as possible. Of course I’d be happy to answer your questions in the meantime.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.