Contributors

Kyria Abrahams is the author of I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales of a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing (Touchstone, 2009). She writes a weekly column for Street Carnage, most notably “The Myth of Hipster Racism,” which landed her an interview on NPR. She makes a lot of YouTube videos in characters that people think are real. Gawker once called her an “angry neocon.” She is neither angry nor conservative, but is often misunderstood. She lives in Queens with her artsy husband, Marcus, and a dog and cat who actually seem to like each other. She’s currently trying her hand at photography.

Huda Al-Marashi is an Iraqi American at work on a memoir about the impact on her marriage of her dual-identity. Excerpts from this memoir have appeared in the anthologies Love Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of Muslim American Women, Becoming: What Makes a Woman, and In Her Place. She is the recipient of a 2012 Creative Workforce Fellowship, a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, made possible by the generous support of Cuyahoga County citizens through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

Yolande Brener is a writer living in New York. She is author of the memoir Holy Candy. She has worked as an actress, a filmmaker, a singer in an all-girl band, and a disciple of an alleged Messiah. Her essays have been published in New York Press, Nerve, and Strange Angels, and her film scripts have been funded by the British Film Institute and the Arts Council of Great Britain. She won the 2010 NYC Department of Parks & Recreation Poems in the Park competition. Currently Yolande works as a teleprompter operator and plays at training in pole fitness. She believes that all religions contain wisdom and is grateful to the Unification Church for teaching her to see all things as holy.

Carolyn S. Briggs holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas. Her 2002 book, This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost (Bloomsbury USA), was reissued in 2011 as Higher Ground: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost (Rowman & Littlefield) to coincide with release of the film adaptation, Higher Ground (Sony Pictures Classics), for which she also wrote the screenplay. She currently writes for Religion Dispatches and has begun a new screenplay exploring one woman’s journey into Eastern mysticism. Carolyn is an associate professor of English at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa.

Caitlin Constantine is a journalist, blogger, and writer whose work has appeared in Bitch, Creative Loafing, and The Huffington Post. She is working on a memoir based on her much-loved zine, I Was a Teenage Mormon. When Caitlin isn’t writing, she’s training for marathons and duathlons. She lives in Clearwater, Florida, with her husband, greyhound, and two cats.

Elise Brianne Curtin is a writer and editor who hardly lets a day go by without putting pen to paper and fingertips to keyboard. After spending six years of her young adult life as a member of the International Church of Christ in Staten Island, New York, she walked away from her churchly obligations to rediscover the authentic voice within. She now finds her sanity in artistic expression, as a writer and as a bluesy soul-folk songstress. Though far from her original home in Western New York, she’s happily nesting these days with her best friend and loverman in Bellingham, Washington.

Stephanie Durden Edwards knew since she was in second grade that her mission in life was to become a writer. Today, she lives that dream as a small-town journalist, freelance writer, and aspiring novella author. She shares her home in West Central Missouri with her husband, three growing children, a stubborn horse, and a loud beagle. Stephanie spent the majority of her adulthood as a devout and active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints until her faith was shaken in late 2006. Within months, her beliefs came full circle, beginning a paradigm shift that changed her life forever. Taking the journey a day at a time, Stephanie continues to rebuild and redefine her life. She finds peace in long walks along country roads near her home. She is convinced that happiness can be found at the bottom of a steaming cup of good coffee sitting alongside her husband and best friend of twenty years.

Elise Glassman lives and works in Seattle. She studied fiction writing with Laura Kalpakian and others at the University of Washington Extension, and with Marilynne Robinson at the Iowa Summer Writers’ Workshop. Her work has appeared in Colorado Review, Neon Beam, The Summerset Review, Main Street Rag, The Portland Review, Tawdry Bawdry, and Switchback. Her story “The Shabiby Express” was a Top-10 Finalist in the Dylan Days Creative Writing Contest.

Lucia Greenhouse is author of fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science, published by Crown in August 2011. fathermothergod was recommended by such journals as O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire magazine, and The Atlantic. Lucia lives with her husband, four children, and dog in Westchester County, New York. She is a graduate of Emma Willard School and Brown University. She is a big fan of the Writing Center at Sarah Lawrence College.

Colleen Haggerty is a writer of personal essays, with stories published in The Spirit of a Woman: Stories to Empower and Inspire (Santa Monica Press), He Said What?: Women Write About Moments When Everything Changed (Seal Press), and Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small (Seal Press). She is currently working on a memoir about being a disabled mother. You can read about her journey as she walks through life as an amputee at www.mymilewalk.com.

Pamela Helberg is something of an expert at living two lives: Fundamentalist Christian/closeted lesbian; Catholic school employee/mostly-out lesbian; writer/computer geek; lesbian mom in the not-so-gay nineties. She received her MA in Creative Writing from Western Washington University where she studied under award-winning novelist Laura Kalpakian. Pam founded and operated Fremont Place Books in Seattle and taught English composition for many years at Whatcom Community College, before succumbing to her inner geek and launching a career in IT. Pam currently works in IT by day, writes whenever she can, and is at work on her memoir. She lives with her partner, Nancy, in Bellingham, Washington,  where she works at making her life more congruent. She blogs on a variety of topics at http://www.pmbgp.blogspot.com.

Melanie Hoffert grew up on a farm near Wyndmere, North Dakota, where she spent her childhood meandering gravel roads, listening to farmers at church potlucks, and daydreaming about impossible love. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University, where she was awarded the 2008 Outstanding Nonfiction Thesis Award. Her work has appeared in several literary journals. She received the 2005 Creative Nonfiction Award from Baltimore Review and the 2010 Creative Nonfiction Award from New Millennium Writings. Her memoir, Prairie Silence (Beacon Press), is forthcoming in 2013. Melanie lives in Minneapolis where—on a daily basis—she plots her escape from all actions that do not feed her soul.

Donna M. Johnson is the author of Holy Ghost Girl, a critically acclaimed memoir awarded a 2011 Books for Better Life Award and the Mayborn Creative Nonfiction Prize for a manuscript-in-progress. Donna has written about religion, family, and culture for Huffington Post, the Psychology Today blog, The Dallas Morning News, The Austin American-Statesman, Austin Monthly, and other publications. She lives in Austin with her husband, poet and author Kirk Wilson.

Mary Johnson is the author of An Unquenchable Thirst, named one of the best memoirs of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews. At age nineteen, Mary joined the Missionaries of Charity, also known as the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. During her twenty years as a sister, she spent fifteen of those in Rome, where she lived and worked with Mother Teresa. After leaving the sisters in 1997, she completed a BA in English at Lamar University and an MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College. Mary’s work has been widely featured in O, the Oprah MagazineSalon.com, The Washington PostPoets & WritersBloomberg ViewLos Angeles Times, National Public Radio, and The Rosie Show, among others. She currently serves as Creative Director of Retreats for A Room of Her Own Foundation.

Leila Khan (pen name) was born in Pakistan and lived in various countries in Asia and Europe before settling in the U.S. at the age of eleven. A lawyer by training and profession, her writing has largely been academic, in the form of book reviews, law review comments, and chapters in books. A few years ago, she joined a writing group and started writing about her life experience of searching for belonging as a Pakistani Muslim woman who spent most of her life in the West. Her story “Rerouting” was recently published in the anthology Love Insh’Allah: The Secret Love Lives of Muslim Women in America. She lives in northern California with her husband and daughter.

Leah Lax holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. She has published prose, poetry, award-winning fiction, memoir, essays, the libretto for a major opera, and produced a world-traveling exhibit. She is currently working on a memoir of her thirty years among the Hassidim as a covered woman and a closeted lesbian, an excerpt of which appears in this book. Another excerpt was included in the 2010 anthology Keep Your Wives Away From Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Lives. Her book Not From Here: New Houstonians and Their Journeys will be published by Bright Sky Press in 2013. Leah lives in Texas with her partner and their Airedale, Maggie

Grace Peterson is a writer and blogger. She has published in several anthologies and blogs about the writing craft and recovery topics. She is working on a memoir that goes into much more detail about her experience with Brock, including the events that led up to it and her recovery process out of it. She is also an avid gardener. When the weather is unsuitable for weed pulling, she can be found in front of her laptop, working on her garden column, her garden blog, or her forthcoming garden book.

Joshunda Victoria Sanders is a writer, journalist, and poet. Her writing has appeared in San Francisco Chronicle, Publishers Weekly, The Texas Observer, The Dallas Morning News, Bitch magazine, and many other publications. Her work has been widely anthologized in Seal Press anthologies like Secrets and Confidences: The Complicated Truth About Women’s Friendships, Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists, and Madonna and Me. She lives with her adorable dog, Cleo, in Austin, Texas, and is working on her first book. She blogs at http://www.thesingleladies.wordpress.com and www.jvictoriasanders.com.

Erin Seaward-Hiatt is a writer, editor, and designer who left small-town Illinois at seventeen for an elite Latter-Day Saint education in the reddest of red states. After earning an English degree, she began her career as an enthusiastic but underpaid editor for a Christian press and fell in love with liberalism after a lefty novel slipped through the cracks and ended up on her desk. Erin edited a stack of books and wrote a handful of articles before landing face-first in graphic design, which consumes most of her life. Her artwork has gained prominence at national conventions and delights mixed-media artists and paper crafters worldwide. Erin spent ten years as a devout woman of faith before taking the leap into agnosticism. In her rare free time, she wrestles with a decorating scheme based on floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and periodically cruises the Western landscape with her filmmaker husband.

Julia Scheeres is the The New York Times best-selling author of Jesus Land, a memoir, and A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown. She lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband and children.

Nikki Smith has always been an initiator—from starting the first health-education program on the island of Guam to developing recruitment, retention and student affairs departments for universities to being an Assistant Professor in public health. She has written for academic publications, has held office, and has lectured for both local and national educational organizations. Her positions within the Seventh-Day Adventist Church included Sabbath School teacher, elementary church school instructor, Loma Linda University professor, and missionary in both South Korea and Guam. She now resides in southern California with her husband and is working on a memoir.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. Valerie is the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org, an interactive library of quotes, poetry, stories, and essays that “elevate and celebrate humanity’s shared moral core.” As a writer she tackles the intersection between religious belief, psychology, and politics. Her books include Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings: Ten Spiritual Folktales for Children. Her articles, which have appeared at Truthout, AlterNet, Jezebel, Slate, and The Huffington Post, can be found at http://www.awaypoint.wordpress.com.

Elizabeth Taylor-Mead was born in New York during the baby boom generation. Moving to London at age twenty, she formed Metropolis Pictures, a documentary film company. Her Jehovah’s Witness background provided great training for a producer: making cold calls without fear and conducting evangelical pitch meetings. Metropolis built a reputation for provocative award-winning films and was part of the emerging independent film movement in the U.K. Returning to the U.S. after eighteen years, she raised movie-worshipping daughters while working on PBS documentaries, followed by ten happy years as a director of a fine art house cinema. While she is currently planning her next adventure, she is pretty certain it will not include warning people to prepare for the Apocalypse.

Naomi Williams’s short fiction has won a Pushcart Prize and appeared in numerous literary journals, including One Story, A Public Space, The Southern Review, Ninth Letter, and The Gettysburg Review. Naomi has an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis and lives with her family in northern California.

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