Angela McGee, age 50, is originally from Chicago. She’s been back in Portland for about three months. She has a daughter and three sons, Amellia, Joe, Darius and DeCarlos (pictured, right).
Angela likes to dance and go to concerts, festivals and parades. She is especially proud of her cooking talent and makes very good soul food, including stuffing and sweet potato pie. Someday, she would like to write a memoir or a cookbook.
Angela participated in our workshop this summer for adults living on a low income or with a disability. Her piece, In My Shoes, was published in our new anthology, A Handful of Bright/Un puñado de brillo. You can read the piece below, followed by an interview with Angela.
In My Shoes
by Angela McGee
...But besides all the things I went through, I still end up back on my feet, with all my children. I had Amellia my daughter, Joe my son, Darius my son, DeCarlos my son. Now we all live a comfortable life. From all that I learned from abuse, I was told I was ugly, I was slow, I was being controlled, my self-esteem went down and down.
I started feeling all those negative things so I walked around with no teeth in my mouth, not because I wanted to but because of being penniless. But I have no shame because I’m worth more than a penny. If I lived those negative words then I have lived them, but I learned I’m much more than that. So whoever puts you down, get back on your feet and wipe the dirt off, and find your path for yourself, man or woman. If not that’s because you haven’t found your path.
© 2012 Angela McGee & Write Around Portland
from our anthology, A Handful of Bright/Un puñado de brillo
Interview with Featured Writer Angela McGee
You did such an amazing job reading your piece, In My Shoes (above) at our anthology release on August 29. Many people have told me they were deeply moved by your writing and how you read it. How was the experience for you?
When I came there, I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to stand up there because of the crowd, because I was so nervous. I wanted to read but I wasn't sure. I was trembling and shaking and my knees were knocking, I was so scared. When I decided to read, I thought, “I can do this.”
I started feeling my story when I started reading. I stumbled across a few words, but it paused me for only a second. The impact I had on people, I wasn’t expecting that. At the start I said, “I’m glad to see you all here,” and then I felt OK and I was glad I was giving it a try.
When the audience gave me the standing ovation, I was shocked. When I went to go sit down with my three sons, they said, “you did good, Mom” and I said, “did you see that standing O?” I felt so good about that. I didn’t know I could touch people like that.
A lady came up to me at the end. She went through some of those things that I went through, too, and I gave her my autograph. It was touching for me.
I had a really good time at the reading. It was one of those moments I haven’t had in years.
How did you first hear about Write Around Portland and decide to join a workshop?
I always wanted to write. I went to the library looking for writing workshops. One day I went to HOTLIPS Pizza to get a slice for my sons. It was about two years ago. They had a flyer for these writing workshops, and I went to the Write Around Portland website. I signed up for the workshop, but I was living at West Women’s shelter at the time and there was all this going on in my life and didn’t end up going. But I never forgot about the workshop.
Then I got situated, lived in a hotel for a month and then JOIN helped me get in the apartment I’m in now. I went back to HOTLIPS to get the phone number, called Write Around Portland and got a spot in the summer workshops.
What was the workshop like?
It was so comfortable. [The volunteer workshop facilitator] Ed made all of us feel comfortable. It felt like we were a team. We all respected each other.
I had to miss one week, and Ed never made me feel bad for missing. I liked the postcards he sent each week. That was so nice. I started looking forward to getting them!
We would share our writing with each other. One lady, when I gave her input, tears came to her eyes and she thanked me. When I gave feedback, it was really important that it felt real. I wanted it to be right.
How did you feel sharing your writing in the workshop?
It was good. People were telling me how great it was. I don’t feel that way about myself. I have experienced so much abuse. [The other writers] let me know that I’m a special person.
[Through the abuse], people beat me down, but there’s a reason for me to be here. The abuse stays with me. The only way I can get past it is to write.
What was your favorite part of the workshop?
The prompts. Ed gave us five words and then we would make a whole paragraph out of it! In seven minutes, I’d have a whole page done! He’d give us pictures from magazines, a dog or whatever, and I’d make something out of it.
I liked being able to be in a writing group. Period. [Laughs.]
You’re a published author now. How does that feel?
I called my friends, my family, everybody! I felt famous! That was the first time people really talked to me, and I told my story. Now they talk to me like I’m a real person. I want the book to go all over the country.
I always wanted to write, since I was 11 years old. For my 11th birthday, I wanted a typewriter, and my mom got it for me. I had a big thick notepad that I filled with writing, but I lost it, moving around.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
I’ll be 51 this December. I’ve been experiencing domestic violence and other abuse for 30 years, since I was 21. There are some things I don’t write down. I’m comfortable where I am now. But when I’m not busy, then I remember [the abuse]. I keep it in here. [Points to her heart.]
If I write, I can heal myself. I can bring it out and leave it. I won’t let it break me. For some reason, I always get back up and start over. Some people give up. They stop pushing. Not me.
"There’s a reason for me to be here. The abuse stays with me. The only way I can get past it is to write."