Anjuelle Floyd is the author of Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an Incident, a collection of interconnected short stories, and a novel, The House, due for publication in Fall 2009.
A wife of twenty-seven years, mother of three, she is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in mother-daughter relations and dream work.
Anjuelle graduated Duke University, and earned a MA in Counseling Psychology from The California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, and a MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, Port Townsend, Washington.
She has also attended the Dominican Institute of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley, California. Anjuelle has received certificates of participation from The Hurston-Wright Writers’ Week and The Voices of Our Nations Writing Workshops.
Anjuelle is a writing instructor at Perelandra College.
A student of Process Painting for the last decade, Anjuelle has participated in The Art of Living Black Exhibitions 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 held at the Richmond Art Center, Richmond, California.
Anjuelle facilitates writing groups and provides individual consultation of fiction projects.
She also hosts the weekly blog talk radio show, Book Talk, Creativity and Family Matters.
Read Anjuelle’s blog @ AnjuelleFloyd.com!
another as a tale of passionate
confrontation in a restaurant travels from
eyewitnesses to others present.
Memories of the Hindu icon of dancing Siva compel wife and mother, Raven Clarke, to intervene in the attack of one restaurant patron on another.
Watching from a distant table, Lahni Irete finds herself driven back to the violence of her childhood and adolescence. She shares her account of the happening with psychiatrist, Reynard Williams, who embraces the tale in efforts to confront the pain that has left him sexually and spiritually impotent.
Williams seeks consultation from Sahel Denning, an injured psychologist no longer practicing psychotherapy.
The restaurant incident offers engineer, Michael Banks, a map to recalling the events of the morning before he fell from scaffolding on the Richmond Bridge.
Rumor and innuendo cloud Ariane Gadsen’s acquaintance with the story that propels her towards reconciling her childhood loss.
The restaurant scene stirred regret and despair within Trey Williamson, a widower on his first date since the death of his wife.
Newly discharged Captain Darryl Sharpton receives safety and redemption from his most dark and intimate truth in the restaurant where the incident took place.
On receiving the very thing she wants, a divorce and the power to sell their house, Anna Manning learns that Edward, her soon-to-be ex-husband, is dying. A faithful wife for over three decades, Anna endured Edward’s constant absences while traveling on business for his international real estate firm, and his extra-marital affairs.
Anna takes Edward to live out his last six, possibly three, months in the house she fought so vigorously to sell. But letting go of someone who has caused so much pain does not come easily.
Edward has changed.
As their children return home, and say their farewells Anna confronts the challenges that Edward’s impending death delivers each of them. Then there is Inman who loves Anna, and provides the one thing Edward denied their marriage—passion and intimacy.
Anna must also face the hopes and dreams she abandoned as an art history major turned wife, and mother out of college. In requesting the divorce she had planned to use her proceeds from the sale of the house to move to France. She would study the great art works of Europe, perhaps work as a docent in a Paris museum.
News of Edward’s terminal illness provokes Anna to understand the present rooted in the wellspring of the past, and pouring into a future without him. The House shows what happens when we adopt the belief that, All hold regret, and are seeking forgiveness. Our salvation rests in the hands of others—most particularly the ones whom we love most, and who have treated us wrongly.
Where do you find inspiration to create your stories?
Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an Incident contains 8 interconnected short stories. The major characters and their situations in the first 4 stories come from novels I wrote, and still unpublished, prior to earning my MFA in Creative Writing. I created Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an Incident as my thesis for required to earn my MFA.
I gain ideas for my stories from my work as a psychotherapist, and from my own experiences in psychotherapy as a client.
Prior to earning my MFA I had earned a MA in Psychology and completed an internship wherein I earned a license to practice psychotherapy. I was also a client of psychotherapy for nearly 25 years.
Studying psychology and becoming a psychotherapist allowed me to investigate and explore not only the lives of my clients, but for me to learn more about myself. Like writers, psychotherapists are drawn to our work in an effort to heal our own wounds. We accomplish this by assisting and giving to others.
Our work with clients requires that we continually examine our wounds. Tending our psychic injuries we reflect back to our clients what they have catalyzed us to learn about ourselves. The work of a psychotherapist is quite rigorous, at best. Patience, lack of judgment, internal honesty, and a willingness to observe our own scars are but a few of the requirements.
The first 4 stories in “Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an Incident” show protagonists who are in the helping profession. Raven Clarke, at the center of “Dancing Siva” is psychotherapist turned stay at home mom of three daughters. Her husband, Drew, is a partner at a law firm that provides legal counsel to corporations who are being sued. A wonderful husband, Drew defends the guilty. He knows this. So does Raven.
Though she loves Drew, Raven hold holds judgments about the nature of his work. Raven’s mother is a federal judge. Her mother’s longtime friend owns the San Francisco law firm where Drew was invited to join on asking Raven to marry him. He was made partner immediately after their wedding.
But Raven has her own crimes. Raven lived with a man named Absylom while the two studied in graduate school to become psychotherapists. A corporate scion that had traveled the world marketing electronics for a computer firm in China, Absylom had lived his life according to a chronometer before meeting Raven. Absylom’s mother was of Rajasthani/South Asian descent. His father was of the Bakonjo tribe of the Ruwenzori Mountains located in Uganda. Absylom’s parents met as young adults when his father was a student of the father of Absylom’s mother, Abysylom’s maternal grandfather. Absylom’s parents married.
When Absylom was eight he and his family fled the regime of Idi Amin that ousted all peoples of South Asian descent. They went to London where they encountered other social difficulties placed upon immigrants. Abyslom’s father, then at teacher at an all-boy’s preparatory school died of a heart attack. Absylom and his mother believed the heart attack was rooted in his father having made the choice to leave Uganda to return because of his wife being South Asian and his son being of mixed descent.
Though accomplished at marketing computers and the accompanying software, this was the psychological wound that drew Absylom to San Francisco where he would study to become a psychotherapist. Absylom sought to become a psychotherapist, and then to travel to Rajasthan, the home of his maternal grandparents, and a place he had never seen. He would establish an ashram, a haven of rest and acceptance, for women abandoned by their families, much like Idi Amin had forced Absylom and his family into exile from Uganda.
Raven had promised to go with Absylom. But Raven’s mother hated Absylom. The first African American woman to achieve federal judgeship in the 9th Federal District of California, Raven’s mother despised the close and influential relationship Absylom held with Raven. Absylom had touched Raven’s soul and awakened Raven to her spirituality, an aspect of life with which the judge grappled concerning her own life. That Raven was beginning to examine the hidden aspects of life unnerved her mother.
Raven and Absylom are working as student psychotherapists at a counseling center when she meets Drew. Drew’s father is a former Lt. Colonel who survived two tours of duty in Vietnam. His family, Drew and his mother, hold remnants of the scars reflecting his battle to overcome the experience of the horrific war. Struggling with his own hidden demons, Drew has come for his first session of psychotherapy.
Drew and his mother endured much pain during his father’s brooding depression while re-adjusting to civilian life. A career serviceman, Drew’s father had worked as an orthopedic surgeon in the Marines. The transition had been rocky. Though they survived with their family in tack, Drew, as an adult, coped with his wounds by being good at what he does, defending corporate giants, who though arrogant, must kneel to his will, if they are to gain freedom from the courts and remain out of prison.
The vast majority of the corporate criminals that Drew defends are headed for Federal court where Raven’s mother oversees cases. The nature of Drew’s relationship with Raven’s mother prevents the judge from hearing his cases. Still her presence looms within his mind as he prepares defense strategies. Neither does it hurt to have a relative reigning in that area of the courtroom.
Drew’s expertise at pre-trial litigation allows the corporations to avoid court, but at a hefty price. Hence Drew receives a nice salary, what he feels the U.S. government owes him and his family in that his father fought in Vietnam, and that Drew and his mother gave so much in their efforts at supporting his father’s difficult re-adjustment.
Raven is crying when Drew enters the waiting room of the counseling center. A psychotherapist in training she is waiting for a colleague student to vacate the office she and the fellow student share. Drew hands Raven a tissue. She does not tell him that she is not a client. She instead answers his question of why she is crying.
“My father is dying.” An hour earlier surgeons explained that her father’s cancer was inoperable. Raven’s father and mother, the federal judge, divorced when Raven was 11. The divorce threw Raven’s family in to emotional disarray from which Raven, and her two siblings, one younger and one older sister, have yet recovered.
“He’s my only friend,” Raven says to Drew of her father. She mentions nothing of Absylom with whom she has, and still lives from 3 years past, when they met during registration for earn their graduate school. Drew asks Raven on a date. Raven agrees. The fellow student vacates the office Raven shares with her. Raven goes across the hall to her office, Drew never the wiser that Raven has actually gone to see a client, not as a client to have a session. Minutes later Abyslom greets Drew. Drew’s session is with Absylom. Absylom, the man with whom Raven is living, becomes Drew’s therapist.
The daughter of a judge, Raven carries much guilt. She has lived with Absylom against her mother’s wishes. And now she has been smitten with a man while living with another. She has also promised to accompany Absylom to Rajasthan and help him establish the ashram. Raven has dreamed about this project. She longs to travel to India and meet Absylom’s mother. She also wants to escape the watchful, preying and judgmental eye of her mother.
Hours after the engagement party feting her and Drew’s engagement, Raven, goes back to Absylom’s apartment to get a book she as left. She assumes that he is the counseling center. And in truth he should be. She called first to ensure he was not there. Receiving no answer she is surprised to find him present when she enters the apartment. The two subtly spar for a moment, then on retreat from each other, Absylom apologizes for having worked so much during the last months. The two are six months from completing graduate school and Absylom has been absorbed with raising money and making plans for the ashram. On accepting his apology, Raven falls weak to her loss of not being able to go to the ashram. She and Absylom make love.
A week before she is to wed Drew, Raven learns she is carrying Abyslom’s child. Raven and Drew have not made love. Hesitant to end the pregnancy, Raven goes through commencement with Drew and her mother looking on from the crowd. Absylom has left for Rajasthan, India. The graduation service holds an anticlimactic note that over shadows the small ceremony wherein Raven weds Drew, to whom she says nothing of the pregnancy. Two months later, and at her mother’s insistence, Raven undergoes an abortion. The fetus was 16 weeks old.
My unpublished novel, Absylom, provided the basis for my short story Both the novel, Absylom and the short story, “Dancing Siva,” open 16 years later. Raven and Drew still married. They have three children, ages 13, 10 and 4 months.
In the short story, “Dancing Siva,” Raven’s and Drew’s four-month-old infant will not stop crying. This, coupled with the fact that Raven has decided she will have no more children, delivers Raven a sense of dread. Her infant daughter’s constant cries remind Raven of the 4-month-old fetus she aborted 16 years earlier, and for whom Absylom was the father.
“Dancing Siva” opens with Raven frantically searching for the wooden icon of the Hindu god Siva. Absylom’s father carved the statue for Abyslom’s mother. Absylom’s mother then gave it to Absylom when he left for college. Absylom gave the icon to Raven before he left for Rajasthan. Raven’s mother, a federal judge, had threatened Absylom with deportation if he did not leave the U.S as soon as he completed graduate school.
Absylom told Raven none of this. Aware of the threatened deportation, Drew said nothing to stop Raven’s mother, even though Absylom had been his therapist. Drew has grown over the years of his marriage to feel immensely guilty for his silence. In a more subtle way it mirrors his actions of defending the corporations. Absylom had done much to help Drew come to grips with his internal problems.
“Dancing Siva” shows what happens when Raven does when she witnesses a couple grapple openly in a restaurant with an abortion that has taken place.
The novel, Absylom opens with Drew defending a company that has marketed and sold a brand of poorly designed baby seats. The company is facing a substantial class action lawsuit for the deaths of over 100 infants.
Though successful at what he does, Drew has grown weary of his work.
The novel, Absylom, shows Raven and Drew are fighting for their spiritual lives, and to save their marriage from destruction by the secret that sits between them—that Raven slept with Absylom on the night she celebrated her engagement to Drew.
Absylom, the novel, shows how Raven, Drew and Ravens’ mother respond when Raven receives a call summoning her to Abyslom who is sick at the ashram he established in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, India.
I gained inspiration for this novel from my experiences of sharing and listening to the stories of fellow students with whom I became close during my four years of studying psychology at The California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, California where I earned my MA in Psychology.
So much of becoming a mental health helping professional involves self-inquiry. Haridas Chaudhuri, a student of Sri Aurobindo, founded The California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco with the belief that the process of becoming psychotherapist required one to look not only their mind and that of their clients, but also to examine her or his soul in an effort and an example for facilitating clients in doing the same.
Course requirements for students of psychology at the CA Institute of Integral Studies include not only classes on Jung, Freud, Rank and Carl Rogers, but also those in Philosophy and Religion that explore eastern approaches to understanding life.
Hindu and Buddhist principles form the major cornerstone of the bridge that connects the study of psychotherapy at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and how students can use psychotherapy, combined with knowledge of these principles, to facilitate clients in addressing their problems. Attention to one’s spiritual life is seen as an important way of taking what one has learned through self-inquiry fostered by psychotherapy, and using that information to alter life patterns of manipulative, self-sabotaging, and destructive behaviors.
The character, Absylom, in my novel symbolizes The California Institute of Integral Studies. Raven learned to meditate when living with Absylom. In many ways be was her spiritual teacher. The two spent an inordinate number of nights sitting before the wooden icon of Siva, the icon’s eight arms out stretched, and dancing in the ring of fire. Siva is said to dance only when angry.
These hours spent in meditation preceded Raven and Absylom’s lovemaking, experiences wherein and through which Abyslom, several times over, endowed Raven with the spiritual heartiness he had inherited from his father, and mother.
Raven holds much anger towards her mother, the federal judge whose character symbolizes an adherence to the rule of law without the benefit of mercy such that it engenders self-loathing. Yet Raven was destined to marry Drew of whom her mother greatly approved. And it is Drew whom Raven truly loves.
Raven holds a huge internal conflict that prevents her from experiencing spiritual freedom, and peace. The roots of her conflict lie in the depths and nature of Raven’s relationship with her mother, the symbol of criticism and condescension. Raven manifests this conflict through her interactions with Absylom who like the ideal guru, mirrors aspects of Raven she has yet to claim.
A loving wife, and devoted mother, Raven has given her daughters the stable and loving home she never experienced with her sister when under the federal judge’s care. Raven grows spiritually, psychologically and materially when living with Absylom. In choosing to abort their child, Raven set her hopes for success in the material and mundane world with Drew. She also belabored her spiritual quest of traveling to the Thar Desert and establishing the ashram.
Sixteen years of marriage and mothering teach Raven the truth of the adage, “Man cannot live by bread alone.” Raven holds dreams and wishes for her soul. And like her mother, Raven too has personal ambitions.
Raven secretly wishes to devote herself to meditation, and exploring the realms of her inner consciousness. Like Absylom, Raven yearns to use her skills as a psychotherapist to facilitate others who desire in learning how to meditate and to use their experiences in meditation as a way to heal.
On a higher level, Absylom addresses the battles we all fight between loyalty to our jobs, the actual work of which poisons and kills the desires of our hearts.
“Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
I’ve shared quite a lot about one novel, yet published, and the short story that opens my collection in Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an Incident. My aim in doing so was to demonstrate the kind of thought that goes into creating characters that tell a story. Many of the details I’ve shared do not go directly into the story. They instead inform me as the writer in shaping the narrative. They also guide me in establishing plot.