The Purgery

A Writer's Blog & Resource Repository

A New Path for The Purgery

Have you ever heard the phrase: the world is only as good as we make it? If we spend a year or more of our lives curating facts and snippets of worldly experience to create art (or something like art), the least we can do is give some of it back. To take it a step further, I believe it is our responsibility as creators to give it back.

I am taking The Purgery in a new direction. I still plan to deliver lessons learned and research findings about the history of Brazoria County and the Texas Gulf Coast, but my new aim is to present this information in a way that helps others make a positive world impact through storytelling.

Why should we tell better stories?

If you have ever changed someone’s mind or advised someone on an important decision, odds are you used a persuasive story or an anecdote to do it. This is how attorneys win over juries, analysts sway policy makers, business start-ups attract investors, and campaigners influence voters. Really, the list goes on.

Human beings have communicated life lessons and cultivated empathy through storytelling for thousands of years. Effective storytelling is the transmission of truth through an interpretation of facts. It is not a gift that some people are born with and others are not. Anyone can do it, and we all have much to gain if we would only aspire to do it better.

In this age of alternative facts and skeptical media consumers, information’s credibility is only as powerful as the story that carries it. Strength of story can make or break a worldview.

How do we tell better stories?

The simple answer has four parts:

  1. Share your story with others. (It does not matter if it is fiction or non-fiction.)
  2. Request feedback.
  3. Use feedback to improve the effectiveness of your message.
  4. Repeat.

The more complex answer is something I hope to explore over time through articles I write and publish in The Purgery.

My Promise

This past year I have learned from countless individuals who I believe are authorities in their professional fields or areas of interest. I aim to impart their wisdom to you through The Purgery. Once or twice a month, I will update this blog with fun and/or useful articles on the following topics:

  • Writing & Process (Research, How To’s, Author Interviews, etc.)
  • Hard knock life experiences on the Texas frontier
  • Personal insights on what life is like living as a foreigner (which is exactly what the early 19th century people of European and African descent in Texas were: strangers in a strange land)

If there is any topic you think I can help shed some light on that aligns with one of these themes, please contact me. Let’s work together!

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How To Kill A Novel: Research It To Death

Research is a never ending quest for truth that can morph into a real productivity killer. Still, we love it.

Research is tricky. When I’m doing it I feel like I’m moving mountains, but in reality I’m not creating anything new. My novel’s outline has been in the can for many moons now, but as I plug away at my work in progress I find it difficult to resist this deadly distraction.

For example, last week I decided it was time to tame the beast. To grab it by the horns, and take a real jab at storytelling. You know? The creative writing part of writing a novel. After two business days of no-research-just-writing, I received an email from a woman offering primary source materials that I never knew existed. Scans of 160-year-old letters, photographs, a genealogy I had not seen — it was the mother lode. Before I knew it, I was back in the throes of a habit I thought I had kicked.

I suppose that is the nature of research, right? One good clue leads to another that brings us closer to the truth. But there is another reason why I have a hard time pulling myself away from research: the fact-finding journey is way too much fun.

What do you love most about the research process? How do you resist the urge to continue researching when you should be writing? Please comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Research is an adventure. Click the collage to see why!

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Lessons in Bravery, Creative Community, and Recounting the Past: An Author Interview with Sandi Giver

I love history. But as fascinating as the past can be, we cannot always count on it to be pretty. For every human achievement in history, there is the commensurate human failure. For each policy put into action, for each acquisition of land, for every battle fought and won, some group or individual suffered negative implications or losses.

A great way to learn from our societal misdeeds, the only way to address systemic inequities that we see today, is to consider (and talk about) past events that enabled the status quo – no matter how unpleasant or painful. Otherwise, we may never understand the true nature of problems we are hoping to solve.

I pondered that old chestnut one warm Saturday afternoon in late March, as I walked to the Eastern Market Metro station in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington D.C. Earlier in the week I had arranged to meet there with my friend and colleague, Sandi Giver, who is no stranger to discussing unpleasant and painful past events.

I knew our interview would not be relevant to Texas history, or even to historical fiction, but I hoped that our conversation would shine some light on the mysterious process that brings to life an informative, important, and meaningful piece of writing, or as Sandi described it: a thing of love.

Around the time Sandi arrived, street performers had just finished Steely Dan’s “Do it Again” on bongos and the electric violin. Families and tourists were milling about in the sunshine, taking selfies and tapping their toes to the music. The atmosphere was typical of the area surrounding Eastern Market, and also the first weekend of D.C.’s famous cherry blossom season.

We headed south on Pennsylvania Avenue toward a quieter venue, to one of my favorite local eateries Bayou Bakery. With bellies full of New Orleans-style beignets and fresh coffees in hand, we settled onto a wooden park bench behind the restaurant to talk shop and discuss the joy and toil of writing with a mission.

Read the adapted interview, or listen to the two-hour recording.


Author Sandi Giver has over ten years of professional experience in anti-trafficking in persons and women’s health issues. Her book, One of Us: Sex, Violence, Injustice. Resilience, Love, Hope. (published in November 2016), recounts her experience with the military criminal justice system following her sexual assault by an active member of the U.S. Navy in 2011. Since then, Sandi has continued to dedicate herself to destigmatizing perceptions of sexual assault victims, as well as raising awareness, community organizing, and advocating for sexual assault policy reforms. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and works at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington D.C.

Follow Sandi on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or visit her website www.OneOfUsMovement.com.

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