My name is Dana Ellington Myles, and I’m a story-teller. I’ve been telling stories since 1974, when my family moved to Denver. I’m an Air Force Brat, and by the time we took up residency in the MileHi, I came complete with a birthplace in Germany, had lived in three different cities in the States, and spent preschool and the first half of first grade in England. I landed in the Gateway to the West with a British accent, and no memorable experience with American culture. You can imagine my difficulties being a Black kid with a foreign accent in my first predominantly Black, inner city school. The bullying started within hours of my being introduced to the class. I learned fairly quickly that I could deflect some of the teasing by telling these exotic stories about my life. I sold them on the idea that I was African – they didn’t believe the truth that I was born in Germany and had lived in England. As far as they were concerned, Black people only existed in Africa, so I went with it. It stopped them from picking on me about my hair, my skin tone, my accent, and all the other things that set me apart. But as life would have it, we moved to a different part of town and I found myself in a different school. The bullying began anew, and I had to tell different stories. Unfortunately, time brought my truth to light and the bullying took on new heights. So much so, my storytelling stopped and I turned to reading for escape.
But the storyteller in me didn’t go away entirely. My stories had to be told, so I began writing. At twelve, I wrote a short story all about a girl who was recruited to save an entire planet from an alien invasion. That summer, at camp, I turned that story into a play which I produced, and stared in. We performed it for the parents at our end of summer extravaganza. We got a standing ovation. My inner storyteller was reborn. I would go on to write almost daily in a journal for the next 31 years – poems, bits and pieces of stories, and the ever dramatic details of my day-to-day life. All the broken hearts, infatuations that went unfulfilled, and the bullying that turned to physical and sexual abuse, that lead to self-loathing and issues with alcohol. My stories were dark, desperate things, but I lived them with fierce determination.
Fast forward to 2007. I was a single woman, with a teenaged daughter, scratching out a living 1500 miles from where I’d grown up. I’d run away from Denver to Atlanta two years before. I don’t remember what sparked it, but I got the idea that it was time to share my stories with the world again. I had a BA in English, for goodness sakes but career-wise, I hadn’t done much in the field since I’d graduated. Save for the year I wrote theater reviews for a community paper, or the couple of writing contests I’d entered, my stories had been confined to my journals. For whatever reasons though, in 2007 I was driven to see my writing in book form. I poured through my hard drive and my journals and pulled together a bunch of sexual fantasies I’d written. I figured erotica would be easy to sell so, my first book, Satin Sheet Memoirs, Vol. 1 was born. I self-published, had fifty copies printed and promptly did everything I knew to do to get my stories out into the world.
Now, just about all of the pieces in that collection tell stories of a woman who wants desperately to be WITH a man. After two unsettling readings (at bachelor parties no doubt) I realized all the women in those stories were aspects of me. I was living a tale of the lonely woman searching for love. My experience with self-publishing awakened a desire to live a different story.
So, after realizing I didn’t know much about the craft of writing coupled with the latest crappy relationship I was in falling apart, I took some time to do a little soul-searching. I went back to school to study the craft (resulting in earning my Master’s degree in Professional Writing). Pulling from all that I was learning, I produced my second book; my novella, Let There Be Life. A fictional recounting of how things had gone since my divorce in 2000.
At this point, I’d like to explain something about my writing process. I hear voices in my head. Sometimes it’s my characters repeating chunks of dialog, other times, it’s the different personalities I share this body with – you can laugh, most people do, but the voices are as much a part of my day as breathing or writing. I’ve gotten used to them, but there was one in particular that started speaking quite loudly after Let There Be Life was done. That voice was my Divinity. I don’t subscribe to any particular religion but I do believe in a higher power. God, Goddess, Allah, whatever you want to call it. My Divinity is God within me and She works with my Muse to bring me the lessons I’m supposed to be learning. Case in point, Hello Diva, my first full length novel.
Self-esteem, acceptance, self-worth were all things I was struggling with. I knew I had to build my self-esteem up in order to change the way my story was being lived. I’d begun the process while writing Let There Be Life but I was far from having made the transition completely. You see, there was this little thing that kept me caught in the “two steps forward, one step back cha-cha”. I was losing my hair. Now, you know what hair means to Black women. I’ll spare you the rhetoric and sum it up with what it meant to me. At a time when I was struggling to look myself in the mirror and see my worth, there was this balding patch spreading across my head like fire through a dry forest. By 2008 I was wearing wigs because there was no other way to cover the loss. As far as my self-worth was concerned, losing my natural hair dropped my value down to that of a counterfeit three dollar bill. I was on the verge of giving up the fight.
Instead, my Divinity and my Muse got together and brought me Charise, the leading lady of Hello Diva. Of course, she’s a writer who came from a childhood filled with bullying and abuse, who is also losing her hair. She is on the verge of giving up when things take a sudden turn in her career and her look. She sells her first novel to a big name publisher, then gets this fabulous weave. As I was writing the pivotal scene in the story – where she discovers a fundamental truth about the power of self-love – I started thinking it was probably what a lot of women needed to hear. Hello Diva hit the streets in 2010, and in promoting it I changed. I stopped stressing over what was going on under the wigs; I stopped equating my hair loss to my self-worth and I stopped worrying so much over what others might think. That one book and I can now stand in front of an audience and say, yeah, it’s fake, but what’s underneath is one of the real-est women you will ever meet.
But you know how life works, two steps forward, one step back. There were still lessons to be learned. Que the dramatic music and bring on a new leading man. Yes, I met a man, New Year’s day, 2011. I wish I could tell you that it was love and that he and I are blissfully together to this day, but that wouldn’t make for a good story, now would it? Up until him, I’d thought I had a fairly solid hold on my feelings. By hold, I mean, I believed I didn’t have any. I had channeled my feelings for so long into my writing that I had convinced myself they only existed on paper. I didn’t cry, didn’t “love”, didn’t trust, I didn’t FEEL. Then he came along. I won’t bore you with the details, suffice it to say that when it was all said and done and he’d gone on to see other people, I was an emotional wreck. I had all the feels, as my daughter’s generation puts it. I’m sure menopause played a part as well, but what it boiled down to was in 2012, I suffered an emotional breakdown. And the book, Breaking Point was born.
Published in the fall of 2013, it brought me from a place of emotional overload, to discovering what my Divinity revealed to be my purpose. You see, the reasons I’ve gone through all I’ve gone through were to fuel my writing which in turn, helps me process my self-worth, which then gives me the confidence to share my writing, WHICH then reaches women who may be struggling to recognize their self-worth. They read my stories and see that they’re not alone; that what they’re going through is a normal part of growing up and they’re worth the effort, hard work, highs and lows, we go through in the process. Granted, here in my late 40’s, I may be considered a little late to the game, but never the less, I’m here now. I’m on a mission to help as many people as I can who may be traveling this journey as well.
I am determined, through my writing, to stand in all my crazy glory: an independent, self-published author, who finally realizes, in my truth – I am a story worthy of being told.