In the third grade, my teacher didn’t like me. I was constantly in trouble. I don’t remember what for, but I have my theories. Often, as a result, my teacher instructed me to eat lunch in a separate room from all the other children. You could consider this to be third-grade-detention. I don’t believe my teacher knew, at any point, that I was living in an abusive household, surrounded by domestic violence, and that I was constantly in defense mode. Child Protective Services were frequent visitors. Screaming was expected. Hiding was a skill. From what my teacher could see, I was just the kid who got in trouble, but I think what baffled her most was that I wasn’t just a troublemaker. I was the kid who volunteered first every Friday to read my week’s writing from Workshop Time aloud, and she was impressed. I developed (and still have) the ugliest callus on my ring finger because writing stories felt safe and once I started, I couldn’t stop. It’s likely she will never know that.
For a kid who didn’t quite understand that she was in pain but understood that stories made her feel good, reading and writing became the end-all-be-all. I could create safe spaces on the page—spaces that I could become enveloped in, lose track of time and any sense of reality, and forget that I was hurting. Muppy the Puppy was the name of the child-book series that led me through the entirety of my third-grade year. Muppy was, of course, a puppy, and he went on the most daring adventures around “PuppyvillKentucky,” as my third-grade-self spelled it. Chatting with fairies. Meeting Santa Claus. Taking his little brother, Spot, for trips in spaceships around “Puppyverse.” You name the adventure; I probably wrote it. (There are upwards of a hundred stories, each several pages long.)
There is a story that caught my eye last December when I was returning to the collection for the first time in years. Muppy is preparing a story to read aloud at a school event. He asks his mother to come, but she says, “Maybe,” and Muppy asks, “Why not a total yes?” and a spew of excuses commences from his mother. Devastated, Muppy retreats to his bedroom, “dragging his paws up the stairs,” thinking his mother will not attend the reading. But out of this heart-aching scene is a startling and healing line—all nine-year-old grammatical errors included—that reminds me, even now, why I have chosen to be a writer: “But then Muppy said to hiself I still have to write my story no madder what.”
I created The Giving Room Review to provide a safe space in the world for other creatives to share the work that must go on. Being an artist is our choice—a difficult choice, a choice that might make us wish we had been born pre-destined to be a surgeon or a neurologist, some career that might ensure us a great financial future no matter where we come from—but that’s the point. One way or another, as artists, we have found more safety amongst a potential idea than a future that relies solely on materialism. For many of us, art is our focal point of healing; it is a place we can encourage ourselves to improve our skills; a place we can completely mess up, hate ourselves for it, but forgive and start again; a place where we can find a moment of blissful kindness; a place we can call home, which is to say, being an artist is a choice but also isn’t. We may have chosen a hard path to follow, but we chose it because our souls needed us to choose it. Without the ability to create, how do we breathe?
The Giving Room Review is dedicated to uplifting BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, and women-identifying artists because we believe in the vitality of providing an accessible platform for the communities that need it most. Our mission is to create a safe space for artists of these communities to submit their work, knowing we will consider them with empathy and care. I gave The Giving Room Review its name with the idea that I wanted to give room to the voices that are too often dulled and manipulated so they could speak their truths at their desired volumes. I wanted a name that would encourage empathy and compassion in the world (God knows we need it), and for our readers to feel the importance of nurturing these communities and their ability to create. Creating is healing. Creating is connecting. It is finding a place in the world that makes you feel whole. Our mission is to uphold a space for these artists to come together and feel heard, authentically seen, represented, loved, and provided with a moment of peace.
To say this year has been a shit show would be an understatement. It has been downright ugly, evil, and traumatic, but not for everyone. The reality of living in the United States is living in a country that is utterly racist and terribly cruel. Social justice has been a key element of this year and rightfully so with the reprehensible number of Black lives, especially Black trans lives, that have been taken one after the other by a system that doesn’t have a single bone of empathy in its body. Systematic racism and police brutality are alive and well, and Black lives are still facing the inhumanity of these heartless forces every day. It should not come as a surprise that Black and brown people are disproportionately dying and struggling at higher rates from the pandemic. These communities have been living without proper resources on all fronts for much, much longer than the duration of the pandemic, so it makes perfect and obvious sense these communities are hurting in more ways than many Americans could ever understand—before the pandemic and now, yet, where is the overdue relief? Mutual aid and crowdfunding have become a main resource for these communities throughout the past year, and for all reasons above and a million more, The Giving Room Review will collect donations and redistribute 100% of these funds to BIPOC organizations throughout the duration of our reading period to aid Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in their healing process.
The Giving Room Review is determined to create a home for the most compelling art. We will strive to provide our contributors and readers with a sense of unity in our individual search for identity, in wholeness, and in the home we can all rely on to hold us while we heal. Creativity allowed my child-self a home when I needed it most. To say writing saved my life wouldn’t capture the half of it. It gave me purpose. It gave me a future. It gave me love. Back then, disappearing into writing or reading was a thick layer of protection, and as I have battled my trauma and mental illness throughout the years, writing has never abandoned me. Creativity is my source of reliability, and while I continue to heal, writing acts as a medium of reflection: a body of water that allows me to see the truth behind the curtains of trauma I’ve racked up in my brain. To put it simply, writing is home, and I want to share every room.
About the Author
Cerissa loves buying too many books all at once, and doesn’t like sleeping with the lights off. (A ghost problem that she doesn’t like talking about but will write about.) Her work has been published in Cathexis Northwest Press, Chronogram Magazine, Two Sisters Writing & Publishing, and more. Her favorite books are The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Girls by Emma Cline, Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, and Luster by Raven Leilani. She enjoys writing work that looks at trauma and grief from the perspective of girlhood and womanhood.
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