Category Archives: Choice

His Choice

Last year I entered a short story in the NARAL Pro-Choice America Choice Out Loud contest. While I didn’t win, I thought I would share this short piece with you today:

His Choice

By A.J. Walkley

Nobody ever asks me.

“Did you want it? Did you want what she wanted?”

Nobody ever asks. No. They fawn over her, though. Plenty.

“Are you okay? Are you feeling better? Do you need anything?”

They ask and they ask while inside they’re either thinking, I could never do what she did.

Or, There was no other decision to make.

Meanwhile, she seems not to notice I’m there. Standing in the background. By her side – yet not too close. Too close is a reminder. I remind her.

She reminds me, too, but I’m still there.

Why wouldn’t I have a say in the matter? Why is that? Why shouldn’t I? The two of us were involved in making it happen.

The two of us should have made that choice.

Would I have chosen differently? Maybe.

Probably not.

No.

But she didn’t ask.

She didn’t have to ask – but I wish she had.

Even just to see if I wanted to come with her. To hold her hand. To reassure her. To drive her home. To sit with her while her body healed.

To make sure she knew, her choice was my choice – and that choice couldn’t be wrong.

Instead, she is surrounded by women who say they know, they understand, they get it.

Some say they’ve been where she is now.

They say this while they look sideways at me, their meaning implied –

He could never understand.

But, I do.

I would have been a teenage parent, too.

When I found out, after the fact, two thoughts went through my head.

  1. Why didn’t she tell me?
  2. Her body, her choice.

And then, fleetingly, just for a second, I thought: We dodged a bullet.

Instead, here I stand, willing her to look my way, past her friends, her mother, her aunt. When she does, I say all I can with my eyes.

I love you. I’m here for you. Whatever you need from me, you’ve got it.

There is no anger in me, just guilt. And a sadness I cannot put into words.

I should have shared this burden. She didn’t have to go through this alone.

She glances quickly away, her lip trembling, before she tells everyone to leave the room.

Except me.

We are alone for the first time since before…

I stay still until she reaches her hand out and I feel pulled towards her, accepting this lifeline. I sit down and she rests her head on my shoulder. Our hands entwine and I pull her even closer.

I love you. I’m here for you. Whatever you need from me, you’ve got it.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, her voice raw.

“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” I assure her.

She cries and I follow suit.

And I stay.

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Filed under Abortion, Choice, Social Justice, Writing

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again when writers the world over decide whether or not they want to take the November challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

Known as National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo – I took the challenge for the first time in 2008 when I wrote the first draft of what would become my novel Choice. I found the experience to be exhilarating and the set word count to be a great motivator.

The 50,000-word goal breaks down to about 1,666 words to write each day, which I found doable in the morning, over my lunch break and in the evenings. I had such a great time during that first challenge that I have taken it three more times since in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

My 2011 draft become Vuto, the novel published this past July that was inspired by my time in Malawi, Africa, as a health volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps.

While I completed the challenge for the drafts I wrote in 2009 and 2012, I was not happy with the way my novels turned out those years. In 2012, the premise of The Pileup came to me after I was nearly hit by a driver who was texting on their cellphone. But when all was said and done, I didn’t like the histories I gave to most of the characters in my novel and I have put it on the proverbial shelf — perhaps I’ll circle back to it one day.

As for 2009, I am planning on taking the basis for that novel and reworking it in NaNoWriMo 2013 to create a more fleshed out, robust novel that will approach the 100,000-word mark instead of the 50k. I think this will challenge me more as a writer with several books already on the market and, since the NaNoWriMo challenge is whatever you want it to be, this is the way I want to go into it this year.

Feel free to friend me through the NaNoWriMo website – my user name is WriterGrl313.

Here’s to another great month of writing!

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Filed under Choice, NaNoWriMo, Vuto, Writing

Barnes and Noble Rising Star: Choice

My 2009 novel, Choice, is now being listed in the Barnes & Noble Rising Star Collection!

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Filed under Choice, Writing

My Books A La Wordle.net

Have you heard of Wordle.net? In the site’s own words:

Wordle is a yot for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.”

Using this site is highly distracting, but so much fun! Here are my two self-published books and current NaNoWriMo novel-in-progress as seen through Wordle:

QUEER GREER (2009)

Wordle: QUEER GREER by AJWalkley

CHOICE (2009)

Wordle: CHOICE AJWalkley

VUTO (NaNoWriMo 2011)

Wordle: VUTO AJWalkley

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Filed under Advice, Choice, NaNoWriMo, Queer Greer, Vuto, Writing

Interview with Change the World with Words

My interview with Change the World with Words was published today! Check it out here or below:

Interview With Author and NaNoWriMo Participant Alison “A.J.” Walkley

by Karen Banes
November is  National Novel Writing Month and we’re celebrating with a series of interviews with NaNoWriMo participants here at Change The World With Words. This week’s interview is with Alison “A.J.” Walkley.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.  How long have you been writing, and what sort of writing do you do?

My name is Alison “A.J.” Walkley and I have been writing since elementary school when I put together Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Detective Zines for my family and friends. My passions in life include social justice, writing, sexual rights, LGBT rights, books and film. I used to write for a newspaper back in Connecticut before becoming a United Nations correspondent in New York City. I love writing for the young adult audience, though I’ve recently gotten into nonfiction. On top of NaNoWriMo 2011, I am also working on a script based on the life and wrongful conviction of Elizabeth Burke, a Texas inmate I’ve been corresponding with for nearly 3 years.

Is this your first attempt at NaNoWriMo? If not, what happened to the novels you worked on during previous Nano events? Have they found publishers/agents/been self-published? Or were they “just” a learning process?

This is my 3rd NaNoWriMo attempt. I finished my first two and aim to do the same this year. My first attempt became Choice, which I self-published with iUniverse. It won the Barnes and Noble Rising Star Award and was placed in B&N stores across the east coast.

How much planning did you do before you sat down to write that novel-in-a-month?

My first attempt I began with a mere idea in mind about writing a book with two endings. There was no planning at all, essentially. I went for the 1,667 words-a-day count and made it past 50,000 words by November 30th. My second attempt I made it to the end, but I didn’t have a complete novel, just the first half. I’ve yet to finish that second novel, but it will happen some day!

What’s your strategy? Are you writing every single day? Aiming for a set daily word count? How long each day do you/will you spend writing?

This year I’ve gotten some co-workers in on the challenge. I’ll be writing at least 1,667 words a day, plus holding workshops for myself and my co-workers three times a week before/after work. I expect to work on NaNoWriMo for at least 2 hours a day.

Do you/will you connect with other participants (apart from your co-workers), either online or in person?

I’ve never connected with other participants in the past but, now that I live in the LA-area, I hope to attend at least one writing session or kick-off party this year.

What advice do you have for other Nano writers, or what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given so far?

Stick to it, write every day and, if you don’t win the challenge, keep writing! November is just the beginning!

Alison “A.J.” Walkley is a 26-year-old producer, writer and casting director for Mahalo.com with a background in journalism, film studies and creative writing. Originally from Connecticut, Walkley currently resides in Santa Monica, CA. She is the author of two self-published young adult novels: Queer Greer (2009) and Choice (2009). Choice was written during NaNoWriMo 2008. Walkley served in the U.S. Peace Corps as a health volunteer in Malawi, Africa after graduating from Dickinson College in 2007.

 Find out more at  AJWalkley.com  or on YouTube at  

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo 2011 and would like to be featured in this series, see this post to find out how.  Struggling with your NaNo attempt? I’m still reading Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days, (And Live To Tell About It) by Rochelle Melander and finding it really helpful.

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Filed under Choice, Guest Blogs, Interviews, NaNoWriMo, Queer Greer, Social Media, Vuto, Writing

NaNoWriMo 2011: Day 10

Hey friends and fellow Wrimos! I greet you from the 10th day of 2011’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have 16,000 words under my belt and aim to surpass the 17k mark by the end of the day.

I am writing this novel, currently with two working titles (Vuto and Ending at the Start), much the same way I did during NaNoWriMo 2008 with my now-published book, Choice. Each chapter is told from the first-person perspective of a different character. I find that writing this way makes increasing my word count easier as, if I get stuck on one character I can move right on to a different one.

I have just been asked to appear tomorrow, November 11, on This Week in Social Media. I will be speaking about my first two self-published books, Queer Greer and Choice, as well as, I hope, this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Be sure to tune in Friday, November 11 at 2:30PM Pacific to hear me, along with Rex Pickett and Otis Chandler of GoodReads, talk about the impact of social media on publishing here:

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Filed under Advice, Choice, Interviews, NaNoWriMo, Queer Greer, Social Media, Vuto, Writing

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

Hey faithful readers! I am 10 days away from tackling the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge for the third time. My first year, 2008, I wrote my second self-published novel, Choice. The result was wonderful – it won the Barnes and Noble Rising Star Award and made its way into B&N bookstores across the east coast.

The second year, 2009, I started writing a book based on the life of Texas inmate Elizabeth Burke, incarcerated for the murder of her seven-week-old son. While I met the 50,000-word goal at the end of November’s 30 days, I never actually finished the novel. I will one of these days!

I took 2010 off due to work responsibilities, but now, in 2011, I’m ready to take up my pen for the third time and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ve started to plan my novel in the very basic sense – I have a potential title and heroine.

The title: Ending at the Start

The heroine: Malawian teenager Vuto (which means “trouble” in the Chichewan language.)

The plot will be loosely based on an experience I had when I was a health volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa, in 2007. I witnessed a girl giving birth, alone (as is tradition) – it was her second or third child and she was only 17 years old.

That’s all I’m giving you at this point…stay tuned as November 1st rounds the corner and I begin a 30-day writing frenzy!

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Filed under Africa, Choice, Elizabeth Burke, NaNoWriMo, Vuto, Writing

Ask A.J. Walkley Anything!

Here are my answers to the top 30 questions about my books Queer Greer, Choice and the forthcoming Burke:

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Filed under Books, Burke, Choice, Elizabeth Burke, Queer Greer, Writing

A.J. Walkley: Mahalo Author Series

Hey everyone! I’ve just been featured on Mahalo’s Author Series myself. The videos are slowly being uploaded now. To give you a little taste, here are a few of my videos where I answer reader questions.

Question 1: What are your self-published books about?

Question 2: What is your Elizabeth Burke project about?

Question 3: What research have you been doing for the Elizabeth Burke project?

Question 4: How do you stay objective while writing about controversial topics?

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Filed under Books, Burke, Choice, Elizabeth Burke, Queer Greer, Writing

Taking Your Book to the Next Level

So this week marks my first ever book promotion since I self-published two novels in 2009. I have gone through hell and high water to promote my books over the last two years and, without a publishing company backing me, I must say it has been a very challenging thing to attempt.

For my first novel, Queer Greer, for instance, I set up my own press release and sent it to as many newspapers and magazines as I could on my own. I got a couple of reviews out of this method, as well as an invitation to speak at the largest LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) conference in the United States. Not too shabby, but I also have yet to make all of my money back from self-publishing costs.

My second novel, Choice, I went a different route. First off, I wrote it over the course of 30 days during November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Then, I decided to invest a bit more money and self-publish with a more quality self-publishing company. The result was a much more professional-looking hardcopy and a chance to be featured in Barnes and Noble stores.

While I do not regret the investment, despite being even further away from breaking even on costs than I am with Queer Greer, I do have a problem with the publicity package I purchased from that second company. Nothing came of it whatsoever, despite a press release on the book allegedly being sent to over 1,000 media outlets across the United States. I might as well have burned that money with a match.

Despite still being in the red in terms of cost output versus profit two years later, I am a great proponent of the self-publishing path. I’ve gained clout as a writer that I wouldn’t have otherwise and I intend to utilize these examples when I pitch my next book to actual publishing companies and literary agents.

If you have a first manuscript or a book idea and are not sure where to go with it, take some advice from me and Mahalo.com:

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Filed under Books, Choice, NaNoWriMo, Queer Greer, Writing