Not many people would have escaped unscathed from a violent religious cult in a place pulsating with misogyny, racism, and homophobia. A place where no one was on your side, not even your own parents. But, I survived and am ready to tell my story.
– Ellen Black
I was born in a tiny, hot, regressive East Texas town, population 313, the firstborn child to a couple who met after having joined a religious cult in Pasadena, California. This cult was called The Worldwide Church of God, and my parents were devoted to this organization and its leader. Upon his request, they moved to Big Sandy, Texas shortly after marrying, as this was the place where their leader had chosen to open up his second location.
Life would have been painful enough trying to survive a tiny, hot, regressive Texas town, but throw in a religious cult, and there’s a reason I began cursing at a young age. The Worldwide Church of God commanded its members to run––quickly––from heathen pleasures, such as cartoons, Bewitched, pork, shrimp, sugar, and makeup, not to mention Democrats, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and any other musical group not called Mantovani. Sexual abuse, rape, kidnapping, liquor, and a daily dose of beatings escaped this list.
I have written a 54,000-word memoir, Shake That Cream, which provides a poignant, dark, and, occasionally, funny story about what it was like to have been born and raised in the Worldwide Church of God. I had no idea that after escaping the cult and East Texas at age 18, my parents would follow me to New York City seven years later, after I’d become a mother. Why? To kidnap my baby girl for God.
I began writing Shake That Cream in 2009, and over the years workshopped the book, finally collaborating with Daniel Burgess (formerly an editor at Scribner) in 2014 to tighten the final manuscript, which has also been legally vetted by the Thomas C. Barron Law Offices in Dallas, Texas.
I am a published writer with accolades. My work “Heathen Color,” was published as a first-person narrative on Killing the Buddha, providing a glimpse into a day of a five-year-old little girl inside the religious cult. It describes how her longing for a forbidden item—lipstick—resulted in a tiny moment of crime. See http://killingthebuddha.com/mag/confession/heathen-color/
My poetry has been published in the Timberline Review, Triadæ Magazine, Crack the Spine, Crannóg magazine, South Ash Press, Illya’s Honey, The Smoking Poet, ¡Tex!, and Eclectic Flash.
In 2005, I won first prize in a poetry contest sponsored by a Dallas-area library, and in 2009, was one of the Pat Conroy “South of Broad” essay contest winners. In 2015, I won the Willamette Writers Paulann Petersen Prize for Poetry, and in 2016, won both First and Second Prize in the 2016 Women Inspirational Poetry contest. I was then asked to blog for the WIPC, which I did until recently.
Life has often interfered with my writing, but I am determined to get Shake that Cream published, along with my first book of poetry. Twice, I came close to getting both of these books published, but dreams don’t always come true when we want them to do so. Until then, I will be blogging from this website. Join me!