Intelligent erotica that’s both hot and heavy

The first time I heard the name Anais Nin, it was in Jewel’s “Morning Song:”
“You can be Henry Miller and I’ll be Anais Nin.
Except this time it’ll be even better,
We’ll stay together in the end.”

As a teenager, I had no idea Nin would have a huge effect on my life, but eventually, I found an aged copy of Delta of Venus. I found Anais Nin, and I fell in love.

Some would consider her the mother of modern erotica. Her work is gritty, dark, depressing, and lovely. In real life, she paired up romantically with author Henry Miller (and his wife). She and Miller inspired each other … and me. I even went to the Henry Miller Memorial Library when I was out in Big Sur.

What does this have to do with Mofo Pubs’ newest anthology, HOTEL? Editor Megan Lewis mentions both Nin and Miller in her introduction. For the collection, she sought out “authors who weren’t afraid to explore human sexuality while still maintaining a standard of literary excellence.”

When friends first read my HOTEL story, “Breathing Underwater,” they looked at me kind of funny and asked if I was feeling all right. I had fun stepping outside the playful banter that usually characterizes my work, and I went to a dark, angry place.

I am truly honored to be part of the HOTEL anthology. I’m among authors who amaze me with their prose. Although most of the stories are quite short, each writer manages to create complex characters who not only leap off the page but also writhe, scream, and claw your eyes. Are there happy endings? Several. (Bad joke.) There actually aren’t many happy endings in the emotional sense, but that’s what makes the stories feel so real. I think Anais Nin would approve.

Below, read an excerpt from my HOTEL story, “Breathing Underwater,” then buy the anthology. Not only is it an erotic adventure, but it’s a lesson in great literature.

“Breathing Underwater” (Excerpt)
By Sara Dobie Bauer
Featured in Mofo Pubs’ HOTEL anthology

We skipped the elevator and took the outside stairs all the way down to the pool. Middle of the week, the hotel was kind of deserted, except for the boys at the other end, splashing each other in their tiny trunks. I took off my shoes, sat on the edge of the pool, and stuck my calves in cold water. Amused me to no end when David Francis knelt down, untied his wingtips, pulled off his socks, and rolled up his trousers. His bare feet hit the water with a quick plunk as he took a cigarette from me and we wallowed in a silence of mistakes.

“How the hell did you knock a woman up? Half the country is hungry for your sperm.”

He exhaled a cloud of white that floated on a wave of classic Beach Boys. And we’ll have fun, fun, fun … “We used a condom. I don’t know.”

“She probably poked holes in it.”

His tall brow furrowed. “But it was my condom.”

I rolled smoke around my mouth—a cancerous jawbreaker. “Maybe the baby isn’t yours.”

“Maybe. So what kind of man cheats on a woman who looks like you?”

“It’s not all about looks, dude. I can be a real bitch.” I tossed ash right into the crystal clear water. Death to imaginary fishes.

He chuckled, but the sound came out through his nose, so it was half hiss, half deep rumble. I didn’t like seeing him that way. I don’t mean his pale calves in the water; he had nice calves. I mean shoulders slumped with pathetic face. In a movie, David once squeezed a guy’s head until his eyes popped out. Now, some crazy wench had him trapped via crotch fruit?

Oh, Jesus, but what did he see in me? Jaded, washed up thirty-year-old in a slutty dress. I probably had pathetic face on, too.

You know that moment when everything seems so clear? Like when you’re really drunk and you suddenly realize no amount of water is gonna sober you up? Water. We needed water.

I grabbed the front of his navy blue suit and leaned back. I had just enough time to watch him flail before my head went under, which was the first time I learned they played Little Mermaid ballads beneath the surface of the Clarendon hotel pool. I opened my eyes, holding onto him for dear life, and shit, David even looked hot under water. Pathetic face was gone, replaced by something like glee. Glee or horror, I suppose. Depended on how expensive that suit was.

We came up for air, both sputtering, laughing. I looked past six stories of balconies and the edges of white umbrellas on the roof to that cheerful cerulean sky and wished for a big strike of lightning. Bring it, God. Go ahead.

But then his hands were on my waist, and those lips of his were good for more than just talking—they were good for kissing. Naw, they were fantastic for kissing. We both tasted like chlorine-soaked ashtrays, and yet, our tongues shoved, lips sucked, and teeth nibbled, nibbled. My hands latched onto his ears like handlebars and tugged him underwater again. I’d never done much underwater kissing, but I give it two thumbs up—big thumbs—especially when his hand made it up my dress.

(Read the rest of “Breathing Underwater” and the HOTEL anthology in all its gorgeous glory. Buy your copy HERE.)

The Clarendon Hotel pool in Phoenix.

I’m the featured speaker at Arizona’s Mental Health Awareness Week

For the past month, I’ve been weaning off my anxiety meds—little blue pills that have been my crutch for six years. Meanwhile, University of Arizona called and asked me to fly to Tucson to be their featured speaker at Mental Health Awareness Week. One of the reasons I started taking anxiety pills was due to my fear of being in public. The irony is not lost on me.

So why on Earth did I agree to speak in front of God knows how many complete strangers in the Arizona desert? Honestly, I was pleased as punch with the theme. My contact at the university informed me that they want my speech to be funny, happy, and cheerful. Instead of bemoaning my depression and PTSD, they want me to talk about not just surviving mental illness but thriving despite it.

treeApparently, I’m the poster child for this thriving thing, which is surprising to me as I currently battle drug withdrawal, insomnia, and depression. I don’t feel like I’m thriving right now. I feel like I’m drowning. Despite my head being underwater this week, however, I sort of see what Arizona means.

Despite my social anxiety, I attend book conferences and speak on panels. (People actually consider me charming and funny at these things. I find this shocking.)

Despite my depression, I continue to write and work. I go to the gym and beat up weight machines. I cook dinner for my husband even when my appetite is gone, and I laugh at ridiculous things even when my heart hurts.

Despite my PTSD triggers (never walk up behind me when I’m sitting at my desk), I create. One of my friends recently called me the most prolific writer she’s ever seen—probably because I write to combat my mental illness.

I now have a speech to write. I need to talk about what it feels like to have a mental illness. I need to discuss treatments and techniques to manage. I need to put a positive spin on all the bad stuff, and even though it’s hard to be positive when you’re not sleeping, it’s possible. Anything’s possible.

On March 30, I will stand at the high tide of University of Arizona’s Mental Health Awareness Week, completely terrified to be the center of attention. I will share my story, though, which is something I’ve never been scared of. I’ve always been open about my illnesses, because demystifying a taboo steals its power. I will be funny, I hope. I will be honest. I’ll also be free of anxiety pills for the first time in several years.

Part of thriving is acknowledging our problems. We can’t hide behind mental illness. We can admit to it and move on. As I told a friend recently, “Slay the day.” Even if you’re terribly sad. Even if you’re scared to leave the house (or fly to Tucson, for that matter). Even if you’re just too tired. Don’t just survive … but thrive.

(Photo of me by Bill Thornhill Photography.)

Flesh-eating cacti attack slow-moving Phoenix residents!


I’ve been in love with Stoneslide Corrective since they published my Pushcart Prize-nominated short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” what seems like a bazillion years ago. Ever hopeful, I entered their 2015 writing contest and was gleefully bewildered when my story, “The Saguaro Apocalypse” won “striking use of wit” (which allows me to walk up to strangers and say, “I’m officially funny,” because Stoneslide said so).

Their new issue came out yesterday, so head on over and read my completely ridiculous imagining of what might happen if saguaro cacti suddenly came alive in Arizona and developed a taste for human flesh. Inspired, strangely, by my mother.

The Saguaro Apocalypse (excerpt)
by Sara Dobie Bauer
From Stoneslide Corrective

The night of the Waldendorfhouse Meteor Shower, my idiot boyfriend forgot to meet me at the Star Tower. Nine PM. I told him: “Tommmmm, be there by nine PM, because the meteor shower will only be visible from 8:30 to 9:30 and then it’s gone forever.”

I called him “Tommmmm” because he hates when I call him Tom, which, in hindsight, may have pissed him off to the point of ignoring our date at the Star Tower, where crowds were out in throngs to watch little lights flicker across the sky. I didn’t stay long, just long enough to “oooh” and “awww” a few times with a bunch of strangers, surrounded by the spiny saguaro cacti that grow in the deserts of Arizona.

I went home and found Thomas on our front patio in the dark because we kept forgetting to replace the porch light. I avoided tripping over him because of the small, orange glow from his pipe. The night smelled of burning pine.

“Where have you been? I forgot my keys and I’ve been sitting out here for half an hour.” He choked on a heavy hit and handed me the bowl.

“You were supposed to meet me at nine. Remember? Meteor shower? Now, it’s almost over. Congratulations.”

“Oh, shit.” He stood and brushed his hands against his jeans. He wasn’t that tall, but people assumed we were tall: Thomas because he had the thin stretchiness of Gumby and me because I always wore heels. “I’m sorry, Kylie.”

I hit the bowl hard until my throat burned but held in the dingy smoke, the flavor of which reminded me we needed to clean our pipe. “Save the apologies for your mother,” I exhaled, which was a low blow, since Thomas was always apologizing to his Christian mum who once told me my work as a sex columnist would land me in Hell.

She just loved me.

“Don’t be a bitch. I forgot.”

“You always forget.” I shoved the pipe at him and unlocked our front door. The foyer was its usual disaster of kicked-off shoes, dust, and unopened mail.

Thomas slumped inside. “I do not always forget things. You just do too much.”

“And you do nothing but smoke weed and play video games.” I threw my purse on the second-hand sofa we bought at Goodwill. If you stuck your nose in it, you could still smell senior citizen.

I heard him kick off his black high tops. “It’s my job, Kylie.”

To be clear: not the smoking weed part, the video game part. He was a video game designer, which meant whenever he talked about his job, I visited a la-la land where Colin Farrell sang me Irish lullabies.

I went for the fridge, which was… yeah, empty except for pickles. I bit a pickle. Thomas came up behind me and stole the half-eaten pickle from my hand. “Dude!”

He slumped into one of three chairs that surrounded a kitchen table we never used because we always ate dinner on the couch to get a better view of Jeopardy!

“You need a haircut,” I said. “Your head looks like a mushroom.”

“You’re always picking at me.” He finished my pickle with a satisfied hum.

I headed to the bedroom to put on PJs when I heard a thumping knock-knock against our front door. “If that’s one of your good-for-nothing gamer friends, no.”

Thomas didn’t stand up but instead dug into a bag of potato chips he’d apparently been hiding behind the couch. “Tell ’em yourself.”

I sort of hoped it was some late-night Jehovah’s Witness to tell me the Waldendorfhouse Meteor Shower meant the end of the world. I liked to tell them I was a stripper who worshipped Lord Voldemort.

I looked out the peephole, but since our porch light didn’t work, I saw nothing. Thomas and I lived in a safe neighborhood in southwest Phoenix, so I doubted it would be a robber. Plus, robbers don’t knock. I opened the door. At first I thought it was some really tall, skinny dude with short arms.

Then, I realized it was a saguaro cactus. Must have been a young one, since its limbs were only about two feet long, but they were long enough to swipe at my face. I had the momentary thought: What the hell was in that weed? I tried to slam the door, but a wily, green arm got in the way and swung the door back open. The cactus kept brandishing its T-Rex arms at me.


“What now?” I heard the shuffling of his sock-clad feet.

By the time Thomas reached me, the cactus was banging its rounded top against the doorframe; guess it couldn’t figure how to duck. I glanced down in the darkness. Roots spread like a floor-length ball gown, which I assumed was how it walked to my house.

The measly T-Rex arms spun with more fervor.

Read the rest of “The Saguaro Apocalypse” at Stoneslide Corrective.

“Hope in Orange” featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul

chicken-soupAs many of you know, a big part of my life in Arizona was prison ministry, but I wasn’t peddling religion; I brought books behind bars. For three years, I was honored to be a Gina’s Team book club volunteer at Perryville Prison. I wrote about the experience sparingly, but thanks to writer friend Beth Cato, I eventually sent something about Perryville to Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Miraculously, it was accepted, which was amazing to me, since my short fiction usually revolves around sex, violence, or romantic, gay cannibals.

Tomorrow, Chicken Soup releases its most recent collection, Volunteering & Giving Back, in which my essay, “Hope in Orange,” is among many featured pieces. I suggest you buy the edition, not only for my work, but for the inspirational stories of so many others doing good out there in the dark, scary world.

For your reading pleasure, you’ll find an excerpt below. Read it and head to Amazon and order your copy of Volunteering & Giving Back. Then, do one better: find some way to get involved in your community. Find a way to make a difference. It’s worth it, and if you’re doing it right, you’ll soon realize the people you help are actually helping you. This essay is wholeheartedly dedicated to the women in orange of Perryville Prison.

“Hope in Orange”

by Sara Dobie Bauer

(Featured in its entirety in Chicken Soup for the Soul.)

Perryville Prison is located on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona. Surrounded by desolation—dried desert and mountains of dirt—the prison could be hell, except people don’t leave hell whereas they do leave Perryville. And often return.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe Perryville Prison is haunted by the women themselves. The ghosts of the past surround their heads like teased hair, and I see reflections of loved ones in the edges of their eyes.

Dear friend Sue Ellen Allen harassed me (in a good way) for a year before I finally agreed to volunteer at Perryville. Sue Ellen, an ex-con herself, started a book club during her lengthy tenure at Perryville, and what better place for a writer like me than a book club?

Why the initial hesitation? Was it because my father was once a parole officer? No, although he wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of his daughter working with ex-cons. Was it because I don’t like to volunteer? No. The main reason I didn’t want to volunteer at Perryville Prison was because I was scared.

I had visions of Con Air. I just knew I would end up running from some Steve Buscemi freak show. Or maybe end up murdered. Or kidnapped. Something. Because to an outsider, that’s what prison is—a dark, scary place filled with hardened criminals who know how to turn a toothbrush into a lethal weapon. Was I wrong? Of course.

(Read more by ordering your copy today: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back.)


I won’t call it a mental illness, but if I was to name how I’ve felt for the past year, I guess you could call it “Desert Fever.” As of today, Jake and I have lived in Arizona for a little over five years. Amazing friends have been made; amazing things have happened (including our wedding). I owe my fantastic career to Phoenix. I would almost call her My Muse. Still, something has been missing …

In October, it’s still 90 degrees outside. Trees don’t change color. The sky isn’t the color of a dirty puddle, and the air doesn’t smell live clove. It is distinctly un-horror-movie-like at Halloween time in Phoenix.

In December, the sun refuses to go away. There are blue skies everyday. Christmas feels fake and forced, because everyone knows, Christmas is supposed to be cold and white. You’re supposed to want hot chocolate, not iced coffee.

In April, it doesn’t rain. The grass doesn’t grow green, and flowers don’t bloom. Instead, everything prepares to die, because summer is coming, and summer carries with it the oppressive sensation of being burnt alive.

My Desert Fever involved more than weather, though; it has been about family. My blood relatives are, for the most part, on the east coast, as are all of my oldest friends. Sadly, two of our biggest family occasions since I’ve lived out here have been funerals, so basically, I’ve been paying Southwest to let me cry a lot.

Jake was the one who first suggested we move east. (He was probably sick of me watching all my horror movies, obsessively, because they always take place in the Midwest around Halloween, and I longed, longed to be someplace that looked like the places in my scary movies.) Deep inside me, there has been a longing for small town life again. Lack of rush hour traffic. Backyards not brimmed by concrete walls. Not having to travel 50 minutes to meet a friend for lunch.

This is not to say I dislike Phoenix. I’ve fallen in love with her over the years. I love her downtown, her Day of the Dead, her restaurants, and the smell of creosote after a monsoon. I’ve enjoyed getting to use the word “haboob” and eating authentic Mexican food surrounded by artful graffiti in the shape of skulls (my favorite).

Then, while on a “vision quest” road trip three weeks ago, Jake got the job offer of his dreams at a farm outside of Chardon, Ohio, near Cleveland. He called me while I was on my way to my college reunion in Athens, over the moon. Just like that, it was official: we were heading back to my home state.

We’re moving in two weeks. Have I had moments of terrific panic? Yes. Been a bit weepy lately? Of course. But not because I’m leaving Phoenix; it’s because, again, just like when we left Charleston, I’m leaving friends. I know it doesn’t do to stretch things out. It’s okay that we’re leaving in two weeks, but it is odd when you have a beer with someone you care about and realize this will be the last beer … possibly for a very long time.

I will miss things about living here. I will miss, most of all, my friends. I will miss being an active volunteer for Gina’s Team (even though I hope to continue my prison book clubs elsewhere). I will miss the food, the photo shoot fun, and the well-hidden dive bars.

But for the first time since I left Ohio ages ago, I will have a proper Halloween this year, complete with falling leaves and clove-scented rainstorms. I will have snow and the possibility of a white Christmas. I will have April showers and a green backyard filled with trees. Speaking of, maybe I’ll leap into an autumn leaf pile. Maybe I’ll try to teach my dogs how to make snow angels and buy them little sweaters. And my parents and auntie will be a two-hour drive away, as will friends I’ve kept since first grade.

There will be going away parties the weekend of the 14th: one Friday and one Saturday. I am available for impromptu happy hours and hugs. I will not leave this city without letting people know I love them and value them and will never forget them. But it’s time to go home. Home.

Goodyear, AZ, author featured in new book (Hint: it’s me)

Photo by Ray Thomas.

Photo by Ray Thomas.

(Article by Jeannette Cruz, featured in the West Valley View.)

Most people don’t spend time discussing literature with inmates, but Sara Dobie Bauer isn’t most people. The Goodyear author established a book club three years ago at Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville in Goodyear.

Dobie Bauer, who is a board member for the nonprofit Gina’s Team, which works to improve the lives of inmates and ex-convicts in the Valley, said she was inspired to write an essay about her experience at the prison after realizing the importance of hope.

Her essay “Hope in Orange” will be featured in the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back.

“I wrote an essay about what it’s like going to a prison, spending time at a prison and realizing that no matter how much I think I have to offer, the women behind bars have so much more to offer me,” Dobie Bauer said. “Together, we lift each other up. Together, we bring each other hope. Together, we laugh, together we cry — all through the catalyst of books.”

With shows such as Orange is the New Black, many people think all inmates are “scary and tough,” Dobie Bauer said.

“Once you sit down, you realize most of them are the same age as you and they just made one mistake, or maybe life dealt them a bad hand and they had a really bad upbringing, and the only way they could get out was through crime,” she said.

She considers herself an ideal candidate to go into the prison, because she suffers from mental illness, Dobie Bauer said.

“I have depression. I have an anxiety disorder. I have post-traumatic stress. So, some days, even though I am not behind bars, I still feel trapped by fear and by sadness,” she said. “Emotions can be my prison, whereas these women have emotional prisons and literal prisons. But, despite the prisons we inflict on ourselves and that we suffer through, there is hope.”

She believes books have an amazing power to heal, and when selecting books for her book club, she looks for those that have had an emotional impact on her life, Dobie Bauer said.

“These women are really into it. They are so smart and so good at taking out the important things in these books, talking about it and really relate to everything,” she said.

Earlier this year, the book club read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and explored a plot surrounded by murder, a poisonous marriage and dark elements.

“I didn’t think it was that great when I read it, but I was curious about what the women would think, and it was the most fiery conversation we’ve ever had because the opinions were so divided on who was more of a psychopath — the husband or the wife,” Dobie Bauer said. “I didn’t even have to speak the entire time.”

(Read the rest at West Valley View. Pre-order your copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back HERE.)

LIFE WITHOUT HARRY official release on Amazon: For the Harry Potter fans


Cover art by Katie Stout Purcell.

Today, I re-released my 2013 novel LIFE WITHOUT HARRY on Amazon. What’s it about? Consider it an homage to my love of Harry Potter …

Xanax-dependent author Samantha Elliot is on deadline with a literary festival three weeks away when a white owl flies into her windshield and then disappears. This wouldn’t be the strangest thing, if not for the magic wand that soon shows up and the Invisibility Cloak that just happens to make Sam invisible.

Then, there’s Paul Rudolph: the office crush who finally asks her on a date. With the help of anti-depressants and her friend, Julie, Sam must navigate an ever-escalating world of Harry Potter and an ever-hotter relationship with Paul while finishing a manuscript before her agent (who might be Lord Voldemort) arrives for the literary festival … and possibly Sam’s head.

An excerpt for your enjoyment!

“An owl? You hit an owl in the middle of the day on a crowded downtown street?” Sam had her best friend, Julie Grant, on speakerphone while she brushed her teeth. “Are you sure?”

“I’m pretty damn sure.” She spat toothpaste into the bathroom sink. “Then again, there was an ambulance involved.”

“An ambulance?” The volume of Julie’s voice increased. “Are you hurt?”

“No. I had a panic attack.”

“I thought you weren’t having those anymore.”

“Yeah, well.” Sam rested her palms on her bathroom sink. “Tell that to the owl.”

“I thought the drugs were supposed to help with all that.”

“They have been helping, generally, but there’s no pill that fits the category, ‘Feel like you’re going to pass out? Take this.’ You should have seen the paramedics. I swear they thought I was dying. I’m pretty sure I was the color of sea foam.”

“What about the owl?” Julie asked. “Its bloody corpse must have been nearby.”

“The critter disappeared.” She made a heebie-jeebie noise and rinsed her toothbrush before grabbing the mouthwash under the sink. “Or maybe I’m just nuts.”

Sam’s dog, Ripley, watched from the hallway, listening. She was the color of Bambie with a wrinkled forehead that made her look constantly concerned.

“Is hallucinating owls a side effect of your meds?”

“I don’t think so, but I can check.” Sam poured mouthwash into her mouth and swished it around. She tried to remember all the Paxil commercials she’d seen on TV. When they listed possible side effects, she didn’t remember anything about birds.

This is a novel for the true Harry Potter fan but also for the true romantic … and for people who generally just want a good laugh and some magic in their day-to-day. Head on over to Amazon and buy your eBook today!

You’re not pretty enough to be a model

"Dark Beauty" by Scott Miller.

“Dark Beauty” by Scott Miller.

I used to be the chubby girl. Not in the obvious way but in a way that made me think, No matter how much you work out, you’re just big-boned. Not to mention large-breasted. In college, I never felt like the “pretty one,” probably because my close knit group of gal pals were all absolutely stunning. I was the wild one. I was the funny one. Pretty? My roommates were pretty; I wooed via wit.

Guys didn’t seem to mind my fuller figure. I didn’t mind it … most of the time. Then, sometimes, I just felt big and ugly.

Through all this, I had a friend who was an amateur photographer. Janine was not only my roommate, post-college, but she was another one of the “pretty girls.” Nay, she was smoking hot; yet, she wanted to take pictures of me.

Me? Why?

I agreed because I trusted her, and I liked the photos she took, even though I still felt kind of nervous about how I looked and the occasional appearance, on film, of my lazy eye. When I moved to Charleston, I didn’t think about photography anymore. I thought about beer, beaches, and boys and mastered all three, thank you.

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

I didn’t think about having my photo taken again until I moved to Phoenix with Jake and only did so as a boudoir shoot for his eyes only. Then, something weird happened in Phoenix. I lost thirty pounds. I wasn’t big-boned after all. I had become a “skinny bitch.”

One day, I received one of the funniest compliments EVER from a dear friend of mine. She said: “You could be a model. Or a hooker. At Cannes. I hear they have expensive hookers at Cannes.”

My first official photo shoot in Phoenix was in character as Fight Club‘s Marla Singer with the super talented Chris Loomis. And for the first time in my life, I looked at those photos and thought, “Huh. I look pretty good!”

I’ve since gone on to do many, many photo shoots, some completely nude. I’ve become utterly fearless about my body, and I question: Why? Is it simply because I’m “skinny?” That would be the easy answer, wouldn’t it? That would be the stereotypical, media-embraced answer. But I don’t think me being skinny has anything to do with it.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.

For the first time in my life, I have a man who loves me, supports me, and tells me I’m beautiful all the time. This may be controversial and old-fashioned. I understand we are supposed to love ourselves. We don’t need a man to give us self worth … but it doesn’t hurt.

With Jake, I have grown to become more confident. Trust me, I never needed a man. Until I found a man I needed.

But I don’t do the photo shoots for Jake. I do photo shoots (and runway) because I think it’s fun. It’s fun putting on makeup, wearing crazy hair, and dressing up in costume. It’s fun playing a role and seeing how that role comes across on film.

Modeling has shown me that being skinny isn’t the “pretty” part. Certain poses aren’t exactly complimentary, let me tell you, but who cares if I look a little bloated one day? Who cares if my hair is a frizzy mess? And okay, yeah, I have a kind of strong, manly jaw, but with that camera looking at me, I feel beautiful.

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

I wish I had done this earlier, back when I considered myself the “chubby girl.” I wish I had more of a visual time line of where my body has been and where it is now … and eventually, where it’s going. I wish I could tell my younger self just how empowering it is to own the skin you’re in, no matter the shape or size. Marilyn Monroe sure as shit wasn’t a size two, and she’s considered the most beautiful woman in history.

So to all of you (the friends of mine who say they aren’t pretty enough to do a photo shoot, aren’t confident enough to walk the runway), YES YOU ARE. It’s a mental state; not a physical one. Think you’re beautiful, because damn it, you are.

I’m lucky to have Jake as a confidence booster, but I still believe a man is not a self confidence necessity. Single, married, pregnant, post-kids: do a photo shoot, just so when you’re seventy years old, you can look back, see where you’ve been, and know you’ve been beautiful. Always.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.

The Art of Love

Saturday, I MC’ed an event for Gina’s Team called “The Art of Love” at Cup O’ Karma in Mesa. It was a fundraiser where we featured musicians, spoken word poets, roses, hand-painted coffee mugs, and inmate art. Even I sang a couple sets.

Needless to say, I was terrified. Let’s face it: generalized anxiety disorder feels like heartburn in your brain. I’d already give myself permission to consume a vodka martini post-event, but first, I had to make it through the event.

Once things got rolling, I found a rhythm, assisted greatly by the likes of emotive piano player Nate Rosswog, sexy chanteuse Tiffany Brown, and Gina’s Team co-founder Sue Ellen Allen. Ex-inmate Sandi Starr and one of the phenomenal Gina’s Team interns, Samantha, brought us practically to tears with their witnesses on how the organization saved them both.

me-and-russWe kept on rolling with kingpin poet Tristan Marshell, gravel-voiced god Jon Rodis, and Rasheda Poe, who translates pain perfectly into poem. It was a relief for me when I got to sing two sets—one with jazz prodigy Jesse Sumter; the other with my gifted, spirited guitarist, Russell Braman—because I could just shut up and sing, wrap myself in lyrics like warm ocean waves.

The ever-glamorous wordsmith Emily Cimino reminded us that love ain’t always pretty. Then came the cast from Four Chambers Press, Jared Duran and Jia Oak Baker, who made us laugh and consider what love is all about (even if it involves Costco). We closed the afternoon with Teneia: a melodious married duo that had us dancing in our seats.

But let me be honest: all my artists, my volunteers, were not the highlight of the day. A small busload of teen girls from Mingus Mountain Academy came for the show, as well, and a certain girl (let’s call her Mary) who I’ve connected with in the past sought me out because she needed to talk.

We headed to the alley behind Cup O’ Karma, and Mary admitted she’s been barely able to cope with her depression. She’s been having nightmares. She wants to isolate herself from everyone. She’s scared she’ll never feel okay again.

A strange epiphany: Mary and I have been experiencing the exact same emotions, she in Prescott, me in Phoenix, for months. Divided by miles; connected by despair—connected by “The Art of Love” event this past Saturday.

I told Mary I didn’t have the answers, because if I did, I would have remembered how to eat by now, how to get out of bed in the morning, how to smile at good news. I told her that the only way I make it through the day is one step at a time: one hour of one day of one week … I told her, “Just make it through this hour and the hour after that and the hour after that.” She seemed relieved. We hugged a half dozen times before she had to leave.

I wondered later, while surrounded by Gina’s Team supporters, if I’d done enough. I always wonder if I’m doing enough. Then, I remembered, we do what we can for who we can when we can.

That’s what Saturday was about. That’s what Gina’s Team is about. That’s why all my musicians and artists agreed to do an event for free for a good cause—no, a great cause. Like Sue Ellen says, “Been there, done that; now, how can I help?” I’ve been in love; I’ve been broken by love; I’ve cut myself until I bled.

If not for our own experiences—the good, the bad, the ugly—we couldn’t help other people. And because we survived those experiences, we can give back, hence Saturday’s “Art of Love.” What can you do today? (If you’re moved to do so, donate to Gina’s Team.)



Little girl, you are my light


Yesterday, I participated in the Gina’s Team monthly road trip to Mingus Mountain Academy in Prescott, a safe haven for troubled girls. The girls know me by now. I’m the depressed poet who sings. I didn’t do much speaking yesterday, but apparently, it was enough, as I admitted to over a hundred girls that I almost didn’t make the trip because my depression had me slugging through the mud of early morning life.

Before I left, a small, spindly girl with pink hair came up and handed me a note. She said, “I want you to have this.” In her note, she told me of her own struggles with depression, anxiety, cutting, and worse. On the back was a poem.

Into the Darkness

I reach out into the darkness, grabbing, opening and closing my hand. I can feel it brush against my fingertips. It’s cold, so cold. I reach forward impossibly closer and clamp my right hand around it. My back rests against the cold and damp floor. I stare up with my tear-stained face. My eyes hurt, they ache, and they leave me with a migraine.

I slowly pull my arm closer to my body. I rest my hand against my opposite arm. The cold metal makes me shiver. My heart pounds and my breath stops short in my throat as I drag my hand across my left wrist. I paint my arm in dark red. Eventually, my hand falls into a routine of back and forth movement.

My eyes start feeling heavy, my head starts to spin, my stomach clenches, my chest aches, and my arm tingles. I start to take shorter breaths, gasping almost. I close my eyes and suddenly feel a sort of relief.

The pain in my chest stops. I don’t feel like I’m spinning in circles anymore. The urge to throw up is gone, and now my whole body is slowly starting to become numb. I can feel myself letting of of everything, once again reaching out into the darkness.

This is a young girl who understands cutting, how physical pain is so much better than emotional. She told me yesterday that I was such a help to her, but I need to tell her when I go back to Mingus in February: “Little girl, you help me.”

Those of us who suffer from depression often feel closed off, alone in the world, like no one could possibly understand. This little girl understands. She is not alone; I am not alone. There is hope and love and, if we’re lucky, joy.

When Gina’s Team travels to Prescott, we might think we’re helping those girls, and we are, by letting them know that things can get better: that life doesn’t end at eighteen. But I hope they understand they also help me. The little girls are the heroes, and I am the damsel in distress. Together, we commiserate, cry, and share poems; together, we heal and bring light to the darkness.

I’ll always remember the little girl with the pink hair. I hope she remembers me, too.

Photo credit: Samantha Nina / Flickr