2021 New Release: (TRUST) FALLING FOR YOU

I had a lot of high-flying goals at the beginning of 2020, but you know the rest of the story. Like many romance writers, I was overwhelmed and bummed out. All my travel plans were canceled, Sweden bungled the whole pandemic response, and creating sexy things was… challenging.

But I managed to write something!! This novella is a little light on conflict, but it’s got lovely characters and a cute premise. The tropes: Enemies-to-Lovers, Workplace Romance, Opposites Attract, “Only One Cabin,” and A BEAR. It’s coming out February 19th, 2021!

by Charish Reid

Yolanda Watson is the “fun professor.”
She makes literature exciting, she brings students donuts for Finals Week, and her colleagues love her. The only thing that will make teaching better is if she can learn how to write a grant and skip those boring committee meetings. In short, a History professor is her problem. He stole her grant and he chairs the most boring committee on campus.
Sure, he’s cute… but he can afford to loosen up.

Samuel Morris is a work-horse.
He puts his head down and proves his worth at Franklin University. That means no inane chit-chat with colleagues, no treating students like friends, and no shenanigans during the Assessment Committee. But a certain English professor happens to be full of shenanigans. She’s late, loud, and disorganized.
Sure, she’s sexy… but she can afford to tighten up.

They’ll both have to compromise.
A university team-building retreat to the woods of Wisconsin will ensure that. After a lodging mix-up, the opposites are forced to share the same cabin for six nights. As Team-Building Buddies, they will: sleep together, eat together, and play embarrassing bonding games together. One of them will have to budge. The sexual tension will get harder to ignore, especially when one Buddy requires rescuing from spiders, grasshoppers, and bears. Oh my…

Multiple Purchase Links here: books2read.com/u/bQdjD0

Pitch Wars Mentor: Wish List

Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to spend three months revising their manuscript. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more. You can learn more about it at www.pitchwars.org

Since Denise is in the US and Charish is in Sweden, we don’t get to hang out in person, but we’re pretty sure when we do, it will look like these photos. Look at us pretending to enjoy this tandem bike ride!

Hello! We’re Denise (she/her) & Charish (she/her) and we’re so excited to form #TeamLeo as Pitch Wars adult mentors in 2020.

Why Team Leo? While Di Caprio and Da Vinci are dope, we’re both July babies and try to bring big Leo energy to everything we do. Go big or go home, right? Below, we’ll share our writing experiences, dream manuscripts as adult mentors, and mentoring style.

🚨🚨Some of this also may reference topics that are NSFW, so take care from here forward🚨🚨

Give us your adult CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE manuscripts. We love love stories!
*A romance should center the relationship between two or more people and end in a happily-ever-after or a happy-for-now.

We are NOT a good fit for:

  • Other sub-genres of romance (i.e. historical romance, romantic suspense, inspirational romance, paranormal romance)
  • Science Fiction or Space Operas
  • Fantasy
  • Historical
  • Literary fiction
  • Inspirational
  • Erotica (we’re good with high heat romance, though!)

What are we looking for?
We love a wide variety of things in our romance novels, so this is not an exhaustive list, but we hope it gives you ideas of the kinds of projects we’d be excited to see.

At the top of our list: We’d love to see OwnVoices stories from People of Color, especially stories that include intersectional identities (i.e. LGBTQIA+, disability, neurodivergence, body size, etc.)

We think this is what we’d look like seeing manuscripts that include these. Cinnamon roll nerd meets bad ass fighter pilot? Here for it. Sexy banter between two chefs competing to make the perfect halloween meal? We’re in. Literally any other combination of these? CHEERS!

Tropes We Love:

  • Enemies-to-lovers
  • Friends-to-lovers
  • Forced proximity/Only one bed
  • Workplace romance
  • Vacation
  • Next door neighbors
  • Marriage of convenience
  • Found families
  • Small town (but make it multicultural)
  • Comedy-of-errors

Things that leave us tickled:

  • Swoony moments–is there a confession of love that makes our hearts burst into glitter? We want that.
  • Heroines (if the stories feature women) who have agency. We ❤ feminism.
  • Cinnamon roll main characters
  • Stories with meaningful stakes/realistic conflict
  • We prefer to read Medium to Spicy heat level or sensual closed door (that’s what we write). If the physical intimacy is closed-door, we want to feel the heat on the page, even if we don’t see the act.
  • Consent is sexy.
  • We are here for fat main characters and body diversity!
  • “Get stuff done” main characters
  • Holidays (and not just Christmas and Valentine’s Day)
  • International travel/Interesting locations
  • Interesting occupations
  • Sexy banter
  • If you make us laugh, that is huge.
  • Nerds. The more the merrier. We love them. We write them. We married them.
  • FOOD- We love reading about different cuisines. If your book makes us hungry for Ethiopian food, Charish is gonna be mad (because her town doesn’t have a decent restaurant) but DELIGHTED.
  • Comedy. We don’t only want RomComs, but if you pitch a RomCom, it should make us laugh and the story should be rooted in a comical situation. RomComs Denise has watched on repeat during the pandemic: Always Be My Maybe, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Love Birds (which is maybe more suspense than romance but their swoons are serious swoons and I’m counting it)

Things we are NOT seeking:

  • Secret babies. They are some people’s catnip, but not these lions.
  • Dubious consent
  • On-page sexual assault
  • Bully heroes/Alpha-holes
  • Major age gap or minors involved as heroes or heroines (this should go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway)
  • Helpless/damsel heroines

Mentoring Styles

Okay, we’re leaning into a Point Break vibe… Publishing feels a little like jumping out of a plane and free-falling. Who who have with you when you jump is important!

We both have enough teaching experience to know how helpful office hours are for our own students.  We want to have regular and consistent check-ins with our mentee to discuss progress, questions, or talk through roadblocks. We also want to celebrate wins, be they busting through a difficult scene or managing to write during a hard day.
We’re likely to assign my mentee “homework” in the form of beat sheets or character questionnaires (if needed). We don’t plan to micro-manage because the story ultimately belongs to you, but we’ll be there with plenty of suggestions.

We are really good at pep-talks. Self-confidence is necessary in the publishing industry and we want our mentee to know we believe in them every step of the way. Denise started an empowerment and personal development program for womxn that includes silencing the inner critic and harnessing the inner mentor—we would hope to bring those conversations to mentoring in terms of writing and revising.

Like Patrick Swayze in Point Break: We’ll take you to the edge…past it.

Meet Charish

Charish Reid currently lives in Sweden with her professor husband, who enjoys walking and biking way more than she does. While he walks and bikes, she writes contemporary romance featuring sexy academics, who are trying to find love and adventure from under stacks of student papers. After earning her Masters in Literature, she went on to teach English and Rhetoric at several universities before penning her first book. When she’s not writing or teaching, Charish enjoys watching movies and talking to folks in other countries. Travels to Thailand, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, and Sweden will probably find their way into future books.
 A few authors whose books are insta-buys for me:

  • Katrina Jackson- “high heat, diverse and mostly queer erotic romances and erotica.” (lgbtqreads.com, 2/6/20) Pink Slip, From Scratch, Room for Three, Office Hours, Neighborly. LGBTQ characters, menages, and characters who “get shit done.”
  •  Tessa Dare (historical) I’ve read almost everything Dare has written. I know she’s a Historical Romance author, but her characters and tone are what really shine for me. The characters usually feature intellectual curious women who are strong-willed and passionate. The novels are steamy and humorous rollicking good fun, and low-ish angst.
  •  Alyssa Cole- The first Cole books I read was A Duke by Default and whew! It involved everything I love: #ADHD rep, Interracial, interesting occupation, international travel, found family, workplace (competence porn)
  •  Sierra Simone- Priest and Sinner were steamy and angsty as hell. This series feature brothers and their respective romances. Taboo-ish, religion, and steamy scenes. Sinner made me cry and swoon and hot.
  •  Sarah Smith- Faker and Simmer Down. Phillipina main characters who “get shit done.” Smith knows how to do great enemies-to-lovers. High steam and fantastic stakes, Simmer Down has food, comedy of errors, international travel, multiculturalism, and workplace competition

 Other authors I love:

  • Rebekah Weatherspoon
  • Jodie Slaughter
  • Melissa Blue
  • Sarah McLean
  • Zaida Polanco
  • Robin Lovett
  • Suleikha, Snyder
  • Alisha Rai

Meet Denise

I wrote my first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books I like to write. After penning those early works, I finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD in education. I’m represented by Sharon Pelletier at Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret who I connected with through DVPit in fall 2018 and I was a 2019 finalist for the Golden Heart award though Romance Writers of America. My debut novel, HOW TO FAIL AT FLIRTING is out December 1, 2020 from Berkley.
 A few authors whose books are insta-buys for me:

  •  Charish Reid, but maybe that’s a given! I could re-read Charish’s books over and over again because of her strong and soft heroines, sexy and vulnerable heroes, and S-E-X-Y scenes. Hearts on Hold is in my top reads of 2020.
  •  Mariana Zapata – The queen of the slow burn, the contemporary romances always feel rooted in real world problems and the slow burn leads to delicious heat and lots of pining. The Wall of Winnepeg, Dear Aaron, and Kulti are some favorites.
  •  Christina Lauren – This duo has written too many books to list, but a few favorites are Dark Wild Night (high heat + nerds? YES!), The Unhoneymooners, and My Favorite Half-Night Stand.
  •  Olivia Dade – Swoony moments, cinnamon roll heroes, fat heroines, sexy times? Here for it. Olivia writes big-hearted, realistic books that always leave me smiling. Teach Me is in my top ten romance novels of all time.
  •  Kennedy Ryan – Beautiful prose, unflinchingly realistic, and always featuring women of color taking the world handed them and molding it. Kennedy writes eloquent, descriptive prose and love scenes that make me blush. Queen Move and the All The Kings Men Duo were recent favorites.

Other authors I love:

  • Priscilla Oliveras
  • ​Talia Hibbert
  • Rebekah Weatherspoon
  • Helen Hoang
  • Katee Robert​

We’re so excited to meet your characters!

The field of Adult mentors is wide–please visit the other mentors’ pages.

Pitch Wars 2020 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

  1. Mia P. Manansala and Kellye Garrett (Accepts NA)
  2. Rochelle Karina (Accepts NA)
  3. Ren Hutchings (Accepts NA)
  4. Mary Ann Marlowe
  5. Rachel Lynn Solomon
  6. Anna Kaling
  7. Gwynne Jackson (Accepts NA)
  8. Kristen Lepionka and Ernie Chiara
  9. Rachel Howzell Hall
  10. Lyn Liao Butler
  11. Michael Mammay and AR Lucas
  12. Paris Wynters (Accepts NA)
  13. K A Black (Accepts NA)
  14. Heather Van Fleet and Jessica Calla (Accepts NA)
  15. Hudson Lin (Accepts NA)
  16. Sonia Hartl and Annette Christie (Accepts NA)
  17. Taj McCoy (Accepts NA)
  18. Ian Barnes (Accepts NA)
  19. Keena Roberts (Accepts NA)
  20. N.E. Davenport (Accepts NA)
  21. Elizabeth Little
  22. Anne Raven and Janet Walden-West (Accepts NA)
  23. Charish Reid and Denise Williams
  24. Kalyn Josephson and Kat Enright (Accepts NA)
  25. Gladys Qin (Accepts NA)
  26. Tanen Jones (Accepts NA)
  27. Clay Harmon (Accepts NA)
  28. Jake Nicholls (Accepts NA)
  29. Layne Fargo and Halley Sutton
  30. Denny S. Bryce and L. Penelope
  31. Roselle Lim and Farah Heron (Accepts NA)
  32. Morgan Rogers (Accepts NA)
  33. Samantha Rajaram
  34. Rob Hart
  35. Damyanti Biswas (Accepts NA)
  36. Maria Heater
  37. Cynthia Pelayo (Accepts NA)
  38. Gia de Cadenet
  39. Nicole Glover (Accepts NA)
  40. Rosie Danan and Ruby Barrett (Accepts NA)
  41. Cole Nagamatsu and Sequoia Nagamatsu
  42. Carly Bloom and Sam Tschida
  43. P.J. Vernon and Kelly J. Ford (Accepts NA)
  44. Matthew Quinn Martin (Accepts NA)
  45. Stephen Morgan (Accepts NA)
  46. Alex Segura and M. J. Soni
  47. Roma Panganiban (Accepts NA)
  48. Tricia Lynne (Accepts NA)

Click here to view all Pitch Wars 2020 Mentors’ Wish Lists

Work-In-Process Teaser: Jewel Heist

Dear Reader, I’m in the middle of writing my third book! The working title in my word files is “Jewel Heist” because I’m terrible at titles, lol. But I’ve got characters and a halfway decent plot, so that’s good enough for now. Let me introduce you to Celeste (prolific art thief) and Magnus (geology professor), former lovers who, after 10 years, are teaming up for one last heist. With the recent death of their mentor, Dr. Doris Grant, they’re left with a mysterious request in her last will and testament: One last job. Together. They might be able to pull it off, if they can stop hating each other… Here’s a taste of their enemies-to-lovers relationship:

I can’t believe where I am. 

Celeste tried not to look at Magnus’ powerful forearms as he switched gears and tapped his fingers against the shaft. He’d always had beautiful arms, tanned and muscular, peppered with golden blond hair. She tried to avert her gaze from his arm and turn back to the Long Island Expressway, where traffic was beginning to lighten up. They were not talking, and it made Celeste uncomfortable. Magnus should have known that. He knew that she talked to fill space, to distract herself, to avoid dealing with her feelings. He was once the quiet sounding board for her, the kind of man who could patiently listen to her ramblings without judgement. But that was a decade ago.

“So, how was teaching this week?” she asked in a nonchalant tone.

Magnus grunts something that sounds like an affirmative before switching lanes. He checks his mirror and increases speed. Celeste checks his speedometer and raises a brow.


Magnus glances at her. “What?”

“You might want to slow down through here.” Celeste sensed a familiar argument presenting itself. Magnus was a stick in the mud in most ways a Swedish-American man could be, except for his excessive speeding habit. They fought about it in the past, it usually ended with her bracing herself in the passenger’s side, waiting for the joyride to end.

“The L.I.E. is basically the Autobahn,” he said in an irritated voice. “I can do eighty-five out here.”

She rolled her eyes and blew out a sigh. “Mags, you know that’s the Ronkonkoma exit, it’s a speed trap.”

“And we just passed it,” he said pointing at the exit sign. “We’re fine.”

“You’re going close to ninety,” Celeste said. “Slow the fuck down.”

“Celeste.” His voice was a low growl that would have normally aroused her, would have made her cross her legs to keep the throbbing at bay. Now, she rubbed the bridge of her nose and tried to contain her frustration.

“Magnus,” she said, matching his tone.

“Everyone drives at this—”

Before he could finish his sentence, the sound of sirens interrupted their argument. Red and blue lights reflected in the mirrors, proving her point. “What did I tell you?” she shouted.

“For fuck’s sake,” Magnus muttered, slamming a fist against the steering wheel. As he veered towards the side of the expressway, he eased up on the speed and eventually came to a complete stop.

His small-scaled theatrics didn’t impress her. Magnus had rarely gotten angry while they were dating, but it seemed as though he saved up a lot of anger for her. Celeste should have expected that. 

“Okay,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Let me do the talking.”

She gave him a look before saying, “You’re the one driving. Who else is going to do the talking?”



The state trooper finally made his way to the driver’s side and tapped on the window. Magnus rolled down his window. “What seems to be the—”

“—License and registration,” said the burly man with the wide brim hat. Celeste leaned forward and noted the walrus mustache, beer belly, and mirrored aviators. She quietly slipped one of the rings from her right hand to her left.

“Sure officer,” Magnus said reaching across her lap and sifting through the glovebox. “Is there a reason I’m being pulled over?”

Celeste bit back a smile as Magnus attempted to talk his way through a potential ticket. If he knew him as well as she remembered, he would attempt to negotiate by using his own brand of stubborn logic. He would argue with an authority figure before he would bow to one. And by the looks of this state trooper, the man would most likely let his pad of tickets do the arguing for him. She worked a little differently. As a thief, she was better at playing roles and blending into her surroundings. 

Charm was always the best weapon. 

“Oh honey, you were definitely speeding,” Celeste said in a sweet voice. To the police officer, she flashed a good-humored smile and wagged her left hand towards the window. “We just got married and guess who can’t wait to get to the Hamptons?”

She felt Magnus’ body tense next to hers as his eyes landed on the silver ring on her left-hand ring finger.

Just like Celeste had hoped, the state trooper softened just a bit. “Newlyweds, huh?”

Magnus coughed. “Yep,” he said, flashing her a covert glare. “I just couldn’t help myself. She’s so… damned lovely.”

She let out a throaty chuckle and laid a hand on his thigh. As she squeezed his leg, she took note of the tense muscles that twitched beneath his slacks. “I told him to slow down,” she chirped. “We don’t need to spend our first days of marriage in the emergency room.”

“Hmm,” the trooper grunted. “Hold on a minute and let me check these.”

When the man walked back to his police cruiser, Magnus wheeled on her. “What was that?” he asked in a dark growl. His face had gone red with embarrassment and his Nordic blue eyes darkened as much as the impending storm that trailed them.

Celeste smirked, almost missing his flushed face and how easy it had been to provoke. “The Ball and Chain.”

“We don’t do that anymore,” he said in an exasperated voice.

The Ball and Chain worked well enough when they were in the field… and dating. She didn’t see a problem with employing it now. “You looked like you needed some help.”

“I had it under control.”

“I’m going to disagree. You tensed up and started off defensive.”

Magnus glanced down at his leg, where her hand still rested. She could have moved it right after the trooper stepped away from the vehicle, but the familiar warmth of his body drew her closer to him. “I wasn’t tense,” he muttered.

Beneath her fingers, his muscles were still firm, giving off tiny twitched as he willed his body to remain still. Celeste finally withdrew her hand, returning to her own lap. “Just promise me that when he lets you off with a warning, you’ll admit that I’m a better actor than you.”

He rested his elbow on the console between them and leaned closer to her. “Don’t congratulate yourself on being a good liar, Celeste,” Magnus’ voice dipped to a low purr that filled the small space of his car with a warm vibration.

What is he doing? Her brows furrowed at the middle as she watched him slowly invade her personal space. If she didn’t know any better, it appeared that Magnus was leaning in for a kiss. His lips were parted slightly, the bottom one just as kissable as she remembered. Her heart began to pound against her chest as she waited in anticipation. A flash of lightening lit the sky just behind his head, causing the hairs on her arms to lift.

“He’s on his way back,” Magnus said.


In an instant, his mouth covered hers, swallowing any question that may have been on the tip of her tongue. Magnus Larsson, her lover from ten years ago, took a firm grip on the back of her neck and gave her a crushing kiss. A jolt of pleasure traveled down her body and hit her just below the belly. Tingling sensations spiraled from his fingertips as he teased her mouth open with his tongue. Celeste remembered this rhythm and found herself falling in step with an eagerness that shocked her. Her tongue quickly caught up and slid against his in a delicate exploration. Without thinking, she reached for him, letting her fingers graze his neck. His skin was burning for her touch, the tendons stretching as he angled his head for a deeper kiss. We shouldn’t be doing this. But the familiarity of Magnus Larsson’s lips was like a warm blanket. She felt warm and safe.

Only when she heard the tap against his car door and the trooper clearing his throat, did Celeste open her eyes. She hadn’t realized that she had closed them in the first place. Magnus pulled away with a laugh that she was not familiar with and released her.

“Sorry about that, officer,” he said. “Just apologizing to Mrs. Larsson.”

It took her a second to realize what Magnus was playing at. He was trying to act. And a well-timed kiss was his prop. She quickly changed her stunned expression to a beaming smile. 

The officer gave a good-natured chuckle as he hitched his thumbs in his belt. “Best to get good at apologizing now,” he said. “Remember: she’s always right.”

Magnus took her hand and kissed the back of her knuckles, another intimate gesture meant to close out the show. “Yes, sir.”

The officer handed him his documents and leaned over the vehicle. He tipped the brim of his hat back and gave them a once over. “I’m gonna let you off for a warning, son. But you listen to your wife. A storm is coming through and if you want to make it to The Hamptons alive, I suggest you drive slower. This isn’t the Autobahn or something.”

Celeste suppressed the barking laugh that wanted to make its way up her throat. “Exactly,” she said with a straight face. “Thank you so much, officer.”

He gave the roof of the car a tap before returning to his cruiser. Magnus quietly rolled up his window before resting both hands on the steering wheel. Scarlet blooms colored his cheeks as he took a deep breath.

“Is there something you want to say?” she asked.

He turned to her with a raised brow, daring her to laugh. “You’re a better liar than I am.”

Celeste couldn’t help how smug her grin was. “To be fair, Mags, you’ve gotten a little better yourself.”

Magnus turned the ignition and pulled back onto the expressway. “I don’t think I have,” he murmured while checking his mirrors.

Her grin faltered as she spotted the muscles in his strong jaw clench. “The kiss looked convincing,” she tried.

She didn’t get a reply. Apparently, Magnus was done talking about it. As he continued the drive, he kept his speed in check and his eyes on the road. Celeste settled back in her seat and switched her simple silver ring back to her right hand. They were returning to the silence he was comfortable with. As the first raindrops hit the windshield, she shoved aside the nagging thought about Magnus’ lips pressed urgently against hers. Between that and still feeling the strong pressure of his fingers at the back of her neck, Celeste knew she was in trouble. A kiss shouldn’t have been enough to unlock everything she’d stuffed away in her heart. 

I Can Still Save you, Robert

Previously publishing on The Motley News, September 6th, 2017.

As a Black female professor, I’ve often felt the pressure to perform better than my colleagues with little institutional support. I needed to be at diversity meetings, act as a psychologist to my students (even though that’s definitely not my job), and take care to ensure my lessons weren’t too “liberal” on a conservative campus. My students of color and I always seemed like we were on the other side of the door, trying to push our way into the institution. I often came home asking myself the same question: “Do they even want us here?” I tried answering that question with this essay. Elements of this experience have filtered their way into my latest novel, Hearts on Hold. In it, my heroine, Dr. Victoria Reese, struggles with similar concerns. Being a Black woman in academia has its joyful moments, the work is tireless and mostly thankless. I hope readers can get an insight into Victoria’s character as they read this essay.

“Have a good day, Charish,” RJ* says, every time he leaves my classroom. I wish him well as I wipe down the white board. When the classroom is clear of my college freshmen, I sit down and stare into space. In the empty room, my thoughts feel loud and echo against the walls. There’s something about RJ that bothers me. There’s a nagging thought that is burrowed in the back of my mind. This young man with his goofy grin and enthusiasm for classroom discussion reminds me of someone in my past. When RJ speaks up, it always comes from the gut, visceral and emotional. He, like most of my students, have learned that they can slip curse words into their vernacular and I won’t judge them for “keepin’ it real.”

“So like, I didn’t know how to be Black when I was in high school,” he began with an nervous laugh. “I wasn’t white enough for the white kids and I wasn’t Black enough for the Black kids. Like, shit, cut me some slack. You know?”

I did know. We were reading a short excerpt from a memoir that echoed RJ’s sentiments. It was a lighthearted piece, but there were definitely undercurrents of pain and a desperate desire to belong. I think RJ picked up on what the author put down in a major way. He is a biracial boy, who might have a white mother and Black father. I began to pick up on these clues when students talk about themselves in regards to our readings (I’ve hit the sweet spot in classroom discussion where students feel comfortable having a dialogue among themselves while I stand on the sidelines).

When it dawns on me, who RJ reminds of, it hurts my heart. When I was ten-years-old, living in Indiana, the only other black kid in my elementary school was Robert.* Well, I was the Black kid and Robert was the “mixed” kid. We were known as the one and a half Black kids at North Elementary. We rode the same bus and were in the same 5th grade class. While I was the poor student who barely did homework, I was also a nice kid. I was sociable and polite, keeping my rude comments, hands, and feet to myself. Robert was none of those things. He was loud, combative, and angry. So very angry.

At what, I wasn’t sure. I remember him playing basketball with the white boys and always ending up in fights with them. He was put into the corner by our teacher, Mrs. Hoffarth* and if it got bad enough, she sent him to the hallway for a spell. Mrs. Hoffarth was a very old woman who enjoyed children who were seen and not heard. I’m not entirely sure what she got out of teaching elementary-aged students, but she seemed especially intolerant of Robert’s Nonsense.

And naturally, the girls decided that Robert would be perfect for me because even then, Indiana kids knew “likes go with likes.”

My relationship with Robert was complicated. At a time when we started to notice boys, got our periods, and worried about our breast sizes, the girls of my class were a mess. Suddenly, it was decided that we should all make moves to obtain boyfriends. And naturally, the girls decided that Robert would be perfect for me because even then, Indiana kids knew “likes go with likes.” Never mind that Robert was more like a brother to me. He loved goofing around with my mother and me at our bus stop. She’d ruffle his tight sandy curls and make faces at him when he got on the bus, like he was her son. She once revealed to me: “I feel sorry for that Robert. His white momma doesn’t know what to do with him.” In my child-mind, I wondered if Black kids having white mothers was a bad thing. But his family seemed like a sensitive subject, so I decided to leave it alone.

I wondered if family was what made Robert so angry that he fought so much on the playground. Was it his parents that made Robert bust some white kid’s lip (I later learned that the word “oreo” had been thrown around one to many times)? That was the incident that earned him week-long suspension, which was rather extreme at our school. While he was gone, there seemed to be a lightness in our classroom. It was as if the “bad element” was gone and we could finally learn in peace.

Racism can be hard for a 10-year-old to spot.

In his absence, Mrs. Hoffarth did the unexpected. She took this opportunity to air her grievances about a 10-year-old Black boy and invited us to do the same. We had an impromptu meeting about The Robert Problem. I watched as, one by one, all of my white classmates voice their “concerns” about his behavior, while our teacher nodded thoughtfully. She interjected with a few “Mmh-hms,” and some exasperated “I know’s” before turning to me.

“Charish, you can tell us what wrong with Robert? Why does he do the things he does?”

My face grew hot under the sudden scrutiny. Up until then, I had quietly listened to the child mob tattle to their mom. I cringed when my secret crush, Eric, described how he felt when Robert shoved him and called him a “stupid white boy.” I didn’t have anything to add to this discussion, knowing that it felt like a betrayal to talk about my friend. All head turn to my direction; all eyes were on me. My mouth went dry.

“I don’t know.”

That didn’t satisfy our teacher and back then I didn’t know why. She tilted her head to the side and narrowed her eyes. “You and Robert are very close. . . Are you sure you don’t know?”

Racism can be hard for a 10-year-old to spot. I couldn’t articulate the discomfort that I felt, I just knew this line of questioning was wrong. What she wanted to ask was: Is Robert’s behavior a cultural issue? Is this a Black thing? Can you tell us more about the Black experience?

Robert eventually came back to school. And when he did, he was transferred to Mr. Easton’s class. I rarely saw him, but when I did, he was quiet. His eyes were always downcast. When I tried to say hello to him or talk to him on the playground, he evaded me. He avoided all of the students from his former class. It wasn’t until we all got to middle school that Robert became a new boy. He was tougher, slicker, and understood long before I did, what it meant to be a Black kid in Indiana.

I moved from Indiana and lost track of everyone from that school. But Robert was in the back of my mind wherever I went. It wasn’t until a year ago, I thought about him and couldn’t shake him. I tried to look him up on social media, but his name was too commonplace. Hours of clicking led me to something startling. My chest felt tight when I saw his photo. His eyes were the same haunting green that I remembered. As my eyes scanned the web-page, I began to cry.

I was reading what appeared to be a profile for inmate pen pals. My old friend was in prison, seeking female friends who could write him letters. He was sent there the same year I took my first teaching job in Thailand and he wouldn’t be released until 2026. We’re the same age. We came from the same bus stop, same classroom with Mrs. Hoffarth, same middle school with lockers down the hall from one another. We were on the same track: One and a half Black kids from Indiana. 

Students from my next class are starting to filter in. As they find their seats, I sigh inwardly. When we were kids, I didn’t know my path would lead me to the front of the classroom just as Robert didn’t know his fate lie behind bars. RJ is not Robert (most of what I think I know about him might be speculation), he’s made it much further than my old classmate. This kid is in college sorting out his major, making friends, and expressing himself in my class. I’m not his mother nor am I the lady at the bus stop who can ruffle his hair and make funny faces at him. I’m not even his friend. He has plenty of those already.

I’m his professor. The best thing I can do is not be the white teachers who give up so easily; the teachers who can’t see past the surface of a “bad attitude.” Had I known how precarious Robert’s future was, I would have tried harder. I still don’t know what that would have looked like but I know that 10-year-old Charish could have been more fierce with her loyalty.

Higher Education wasn’t meant for the underrepresented students like Robert and me. It doesn’t just open it’s gates to the black and brown kids of America. The students I get are diverse in class and race, but I can spot the kids who got to my class by the grace of God. They’re hanging on by a thread, worrying about their grades, money, or family back home. They haven’t shaken loose the past like I did. It’s all so tenuous and I can see it on their tired faces when they show up.

If I can just remember that every time I start class, maybe I can keep them on track for a little while longer. Maybe I teach because I’m still trying to save Robert. Perhaps I’m still trying to stand up for the Black boy who was absent that day. I’m still desperate for the opportunity to articulate what Robert and I couldn’t. I suppose in a Trump world, now seems like a perfect time to be fiercely loyal to the Dreamers, the LGBTQ kids, and the Black kids who need the loudest voice. I can keep trying to be that loud voice.

*names have been changed

Hearts on Hold (Feb 3rd)

Hearts on Hold

Purchase E-Book Here

What happens in the stacks stays in the stacks…

Professor Victoria Reese knows an uphill battle when she sees one. Convincing her narrow-minded colleagues at the elite Pembroke University to back a partnership with the local library is a fight she saw coming and already has a plan for. What she didn’t see coming? The wildly hot librarian who makes it clear books aren’t the only thing he’d like to handle.

When a tightly wound, sexy-as-hell professor proposes a partnership between his library and her university, children’s department head John Donovan is all for it. He knows his tattoos and easygoing attitude aren’t quite what she expected, but the unmistakable heat between them is difficult to resist.

And then there’s the intriguing late fee on her record. For the Duke’s Convenience… A late fee and a sexy romance novel? There’s more to Dr. Reese than she’s letting on.

John might like to tease her about her late fee, but when he teases her in other ways, Victoria is helpless to resist. Mixing business with pleasure—and oh, it is pleasure—always comes with risks, but maybe a little casual fun between the sheets is just what Victoria needs.

Black Don’t Craic Series: Part 2, Meeting Steven

*I published this piece for my other blog, The Motley News, on June 9th, 2017

I talked to man who fishes on the Renvyle coast for lobster. Steven is a short but solidly built man, who’s wind-swept ruddy face broke into a million wrinkles when he gave a less-than-toothy grin. It really didn’t take a lot of effort to get him talking. I just wandered out to the front stoop of the pub to have a smoke. That’s all you need, really.

When he revealed he was a lobster fisherman, I used what I remembered of David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster” essay to fill in some awkward gaps in the conversation. I may have impressed him when I asked about hard-shell shedding. Speaking of shedding one’s shell, Steven took that opportunity to switch gears and tell me about the missing tips of his two fingers.

“You know how I lost them?” he asked. Of course I didn’t. I guessed that the hunt for crustaceans may have led to missing fingers. Turns out, Steven had been careless with the lawnmower. The blade took off half of his ring-finger and the tip of his middle-finger. “What did you do?” I asked. He didn’t pass out from the trauma like I would have, Steven ran himself down the road to the doctor.

Apparently lawnmower incidents are rather common in the Irish country-side. In fact, when Steven arrived to the hospital, there was already a man in the waiting room who was missing half a foot. He kicked his lawnmower. I asked Steven what happened to his missing fingers. Urgency made him leave the fingers in the grass bag. However, he did retrieve them later. He planted them in his backyard: “They’ve yet to sprout anything.”

I asked him if, after two years since the incident, he’s more careful with the mower. He admitted that he doesn’t fool with it anymore. He bought himself a donkey instead, it’s a good environmental alternative. I think Steven and I both learned that unlike lobsters and crabs, humans can’t grow back their limbs.

There’s that dark Irish humor.

Black Don’t Craic Series: Part 1, Quick-Wit

*I published this piece for my other blog, The Motley News, on June 7th, 2017

I’d like to think that I’m quick on my feet when it comes to witty repartee, but the Irish have me beat. I should have known better, of course. The Irish gift of gab is real and I’m so delighted that I can experience it for the next month. I’m a natural talker; I’ve been getting in trouble for excessive chattiness since I was a small child. I finally feel at home in Ireland, where the conversations keeps rolling like the hills.

I love being chatty, but I’m also a slow talker. I’m especially slower when I’m two pints of Smithwicks in. Collin Coynes, the proprietor of Paddy Coynes, asked me and Noah a series of questions in rapid-fire: Are you with the school? Do you know so-and-so? How long you here? What do you teach? How many student did you bring? ‘Bout how old are the kids? Which cottage are you staying in. . .

It didn’t take too long after that, for Collin to become our best friend. That’s the thing; everyone I’ve met in the Paddy Coynes establishment is like a new best friend. I’m especially flattered that whenever I introduce myself, the locals freak out over my name. Four different people have said: “Charish?? Whoa, that is a class name. Real class. My god, Charish, is it?”

Yesterday, I met Jackie, a world-class champion fly fisherman, who drank Coors Light and bragged about the poetry he wrote. I gave him a little shit about drinking piss beer in Ireland and he took it in good great stride. He and Collin, who was apparently not working that evening, revealed secrets of Guinness, like when a pint was finally ready to drink, that it’s wasn’t originally an Irish beer, and if you hold the glass to the light, the beer was a beautiful ruby red. So I went ahead and ordered a pint. For research. While I was talking with Jackie about his poety, which was hanging on the wall behind him, the cook came out from the back and asked roughly: “How long have you been in town?” I told him, just two days. He shook his head and remarked: “And you’ve managed to become friends with this kook?”

We all howled in laughter. That is apparently what you call “a good craic.”

Now I know I’m only a visitor, an American tourist who will be gone in two weeks. My group and I will invest money in this small village, which seems to be growing because of the visiting university students. But I feel like I’m at home. Tullycross has been so welcoming, it’s like going down to Arkansas to see my family.

Pub craic is easy enough to fall in love with, but I can’t drink like I thought I could. Yesterday was a little too much rollicking fun with three Guinness, three Smithwicks and three whiskeys. It was an unholy trinity that I paid for the following morning. I’ll be in Tullycross for two weeks, so I should learn to pace myself. After all, I’ve got to set a good example for the students. . .

Being Black In Finland

*I published this piece for my other blog, The Motley News, on July 12th, 2016

I lay on the hotel bed, laptop propped on my belly, grading student papers. Ru Paul’s Drag Race is on in the background, a queen tells us about her withholding mother. I’m in Estonia and it’s still hard to imagine why. My husband, who is out scouting Tallinn alone, is having the time of his life. I, on the other hand, am still stuck in the surreal daze of: “I’ve just been to Finland, I took a ferry across the Baltic Sea for Tallinn, Estonia. And here I am, in Estonia, grading papers.” I’m teaching an online English class for my university.

When my sister calls through Skype (software invented in Estonia), she’s with her best friend, J. Through the jerky pixelated screen I can see their smiling faces. “How are you? What’s it like there? What are you eating? What’s the city called again?”

I pause the Drag Race and laugh with them. I answer all of the questions as fast as I can, trying to add meaningful details and pausing to remember what I’ve eaten. It probably sounded like: Cobblestone streets, fresh salmon, black bread and bicycles! I ended with a “I still can’t believe we’re here.”


My sister grins. I know she’s excited that I’m here. “Hey,” she starts. “Have you seen any black people yet?” It’s a loaded question. She’s my big sister and I know she’s concerned about my comfort and safety. “Have you seen any black people yet?” means, “How do they treat blacks over there?” “Have you been harassed yet?” “How do service workers interact with you?” and possibly, “Do you recommend it to other black people?” I think of all of these questions before going anywhere. Understanding a country’s history, geo-political atmosphere, and their class system is always helpful before you take a trip. Black people, especially, are always concerned about comfort and security while traveling abroad. But sometimes we’re so concerned about comfort and safety, that we stop ourselves from going off the beaten track. Did I ever see myself going to a Scandinavian country, then crossing the sea to a former Soviet state? Not at all. But I also happen to be married to mischief making man (our original plan was to go to Russia). I’ve learned to have a sense of adventure because of him.

But to answer my sister’s question: “Have you seen any black people yet?” I did see black people! While we were in Helsinki, I saw lots of Somalians in the suburbs and a few other Africans in the city center. They were all living a Finnish life, walking or cycling to their jobs or shops. Not a big deal.


I could have stay hung up on how many black people I saw while traveling to the whitest parts of the world, or I could have enjoyed myself. I chose the latter. Because coming back to America was truly slap in the face. When my husband and I returned to the states, we were once again confronted by the idea that the United States is not a safe or comforting place for black people to live, work, and play. Since we’ve been back, two more black men have been killed by policemen. Blacks have taken to the streets in anger and frustration and whites have made excuses for hundreds of years of oppression. This is where I come from. This is what my blue passport shows the world.

I hope the next time either I, or my sister, leave the country, we each skip the question of “have you seen any black people yet?” While we might get funny looks in foreign lands, we’re probably going to be safe. We’ll most likely learn something wonderful about another country, before returning to a home that treats us like second-class citizens.

I’ll leave you with a quick anecdote before signing off.

Finnish Customs in the Helsinki Airport: I lug my bag to the desk to see a large blonde viking man, named Lars or Gunter or whatever. He’s dressed in black and I assume he’s got a gun strapped to his thigh. He asks for my passport, he wants to know if this is a trip for business or pleasure. I give him the dates of my stay and he smiles before saying “Wonderful, have a nice stay.” Sure, there’s something eerily Bond-villain-like about him, but he’s polite and I keep it moving. My husband’s experience is nearly the same, as his customs agent has told him: “Two weeks? You should stay longer!”

American Customs in Chicago’s O’Hare: We’re quickly trying to catch our connecting St. Louis flight, but we have been corralled along with other harried travelers. I see that my husband has made it past customs ahead of me and when I lug my bags up to “Derek,” I’m sweaty and I have to pee. Derek looks at my passport and travel itinerary before asking where I’ve been. “Helsinki.” How long? “Two weeks.” Business or pleasure? “I was on vacation” He studies my face, while I’m about to pass out from the heat. Derek asks if I met friends while I was there? I told him I didn’t. He asks me why I went to Helsinki if I didn’t have friends there. I was at a lost for words. I don’t know, to experience Finland? He wanted to know where else I’d been. “Estonia.” The smirk on his face as he watched sweat roll down my temple, made me want to scream at him. He said in a snide voice that he assumed I didn’t have any friends there either. That’s when he asked me for another form of identification. I looked over to where my husband stood, he was frowning and mouthing “what’s wrong?” While I dug through my unorganized travel bag to find another ID that was better than a US passport, I watched Derek show my passport to the agent next to him and whisper something in his ear. I angrily slapped all of my ID on the counter. “Here, I’m from Ohio, I’m a university professor, and I have a Capital One credit card. Does that help?” He gives me a slight nod and tells I can go. No explanation for the extra scrutiny and certainly no, “Welcome back home!”

All of this is to say, Black folks: Don’t let fear keep you from exploring the world. You will be pleasantly surprised by who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn. Other countries have an idea about us that will quickly be refuted once you open your mouth and speak to them. I can’t say the same about America. I’ve been talking, bargaining, and trying to appease white people since I was a child and at age thirty-one, I still haven’t gotten anywhere new.

Traveling in the U.S.

August 4, 2017
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*This piece was published for my other website The Motley News, August 4th, 2017

I think I was about thirteen when I learned that black people can’t go just anywhere in the United States. It was a very quick, subtle lesson that could have easily been missed but I did spot the concern on my mother’s face when she said, “We’re not stopping in Rogers for anything.” She said this in response to my stepfather’s unfurled map of Northwest Arkansas. As they sat in the front of our family van, charting a route to Fayetteville, I paid close attention to the unspoken tension from the backseat.

My stepfather noted that there was no way of avoiding the town. We’d have to drive through it to reach our destination. But no, we would not stop. From our vacation home in Bella Vista, where money made more of a difference than color, I was more out of touch than I understood. I didn’t notice the lack of black folks in the tiny community, which was devoted to the Walmart corporation. There was literally a golf course behind our rental. Elderly white men, in their golf carts, regularly made stops yards from where I sat on the patio to read.

It was when we made plans to see the university town of Fayetteville, I was reminded that I was black and that I was definitely The Other. No amount of money would change the fact that when we hit the open rode someone would have to pee. There was a good chance that we’d have to pull over in one of those dinky Arkansas towns. Even if we drove through without gassing up, peeing, or stretching our legs— there was a good chance that state patrol could pull my stepfather over.

The journey only took an hour. It was mostly quiet aside from my parents speaking in hushed tones about this forbidden town of Rogers. “You just don’t stay around this area after dark. Everyone knows that,” said my mother. The tension didn’t let up until we got to the city limits of Fayetteville. Only then, did my sister and I felt comfortable enough to start jostling around in the backseat. My parents began talking louder; their laughter was nervous with relief.

I didn’t fully understand the term “sundown town” until I was in college and I had read there were many of them in Illinois (where I went to school). If white people didn’t want blacks in their town after the sunset, they let us know it. In the Jim Crow South, The Negro Motorist Green-Book was a valuable lifeline for those who wanted to travel safely. This annual publication informed black travelers which hotels, restaurants, and service stations were relatively safe. Most importantly, the Green Book told us which towns to avoid entirely. This booklet, first published by Victor Hugo Green, probably saved lives in the 1960’s. In a time where the middle-class was booming for all Americans, families wanted to take road trips on the interstate highways. Black families wanted to go on vacation as well. It was just more. . . challenging for us.

I was thirteen-year-old in 1997 when my mother, a child of the 60’s, grew concerned about traveling through her native Arkansas. Twenty years later, in 2017, the NAACP has just issued a travel advisory for the entire state of Missouri. They ask that black people “use extreme caution” while traveling to or through the state. They cite incidents like the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, university students who received death threats in Columbia, and recently passed legislation that makes it difficult to sue employers who are guilty of discrimination. An entire state is on notice.

I have written and spoken about this before. I have described what it’s like to travel to Thailand, Finland, Estonia, and Ireland, as a black woman. I may have experienced awkward moments but I don’t remember a situation that made me grit my teeth and stay silent like my mother did in 1997. She knew better than I the dangers that lie in wait in our own backyard; that simple road trips could go horribly wrong if she didn’t keep her wits about her. What I didn’t realize was that things hadn’t really changed and that, in some cases, we were backsliding. I have a U.S. government-issued passport that will take me everywhere in the world. The sundown towns of my own nation. . . the jury is still out on that.

Fayetteville was nice. We had a chain-restaurant meal and did a little shopping but we didn’t stay too long. I’m now certain that while we had fun, my parents thought about the drive back to Belle Vista and the potential issues that could arise. We took off long before dusk. Our drive was quiet.

COVER REVEAL: The Write Escape

Okay gang, this is happening! I’ve got a cover to show you! The Write Escape is now visible and something people can identify as: IRELAND! INTERRACIAL ROMANCE! THATCH-ROOF COTTAGES!

You’re getting a first look at my two lovelies: Antonia Harper and Aiden Byrnes! AREN’T ADORABLE??

While the cover is not yet visible on other websites, you do have an opportunity to pre-order The Write Escape on Amazon Kindle.

Now, without further ado… I give you The Write Escape