I hope February is treating you well so far and that 2021 has started to wash away some of the darkness of 2020.

For your reading, watching, and listening pleasure here’s what’s coming up!

I’m happy to be featured on Thrive Global by Nicole Farkas this month to talk about my memoir When She Comes Back (out in May and in pre-order now), my podcast And Then Everything Changed, and the importance of telling stories. You can read the piece here.

This Monday, 2/8 I’m launching my Writing Vitamins series on Instagram Live at 2 PM PST/5 PM EST with my guest, author Anita Gill. We’ll be talking about the writing process, advice for new writers, and answering any questions you throw our way. Tune in on my Instagram @ronitplank.

Anita is a writer, editor, and recent Fulbright fellow in Spain. Her essays, memoir, book reviews, and satire have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Rumpus, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Los Angeles Review of Books, Prairie Schooner, The Offing, The Baltimore Sun, and elsewhere. Her writing has been listed as Notable in Best American Essays and has won The Iowa Review Award in Nonfiction. She holds a BA from New York University, an MA in Literature from American University, and an MFA in Writing from Pacific University. She currently serves as the Nonfiction Editor for Hypertext Magazine and teaches creative writing classes through Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Follow her on Twitter at @anitamgill or visit her website at https://www.anitagill.ink. 

In celebration of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, Annamarie Saarinen joins me to share the story of how her newborn daughter Eve was almost not diagnosed with a congenital heart defect in time. When Eve was born Annamarie didn’t know that 1 in 100 babies are born with similar conditions and 40% of those are serious and require intervention in early stages of life. Weeks and then months unfolded with Eve in the NICU until she was old enough to have the heart surgery that would save her life.

What’s more Eve, like so many babies, almost missed getting diagnosed in time because there was no regular congenital heart defect screening for newborns on the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel for newborns. Annamarie’s experience set her on a life-changing course to transform the way the medical community approaches heart defects in babies. She co-founded The Newborn Foundation to develop policies, programs and technologies to improve early diagnosis, health outcomes and access to care for mothers and babies and has drafted more than 40 pieces of health legislation, authored more than 200 policy briefings and co-authored numerous published manuscripts on the importance of technology in advancing early detection and treatment of neonatal and pediatric health conditions. In this episode, Annamarie shares Eve’s story, the work she’s doing through the pandemic to help get care to babies in resource-poor settings, and her belief that those of us that have the means and the ability have to do all we can to make sure that the dreams and wishes other families have aren’t out of reach.

Episode 63 of And Then Everything Changed airs Tuesday, 2/9.

The first time Natajia Miller, who grew up in the Bahamas, was stopped by police for Driving While Black she was en route to graduate school in Georgia, her mother in the passenger seat right beside her. After being pulled over, confronted by and racist and threatening language and police dogs, she and her mother were taken to the police station. There she was told that without paying a hefty bail she would not be released. The next time she was pulled over the arresting officer did so for a minor incident the arresting officer brought her into the station, put her in shackles, and she spent a night in jail.

Not only did she feel ashamed, her life irrevocably changed that day. She knew that she would never be viewed or treated as equal in America because of the color of her skin. In this episode Natajia, who is now a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Consultant, shares her story, offers actionable steps on how to be an authentic-ally rather than a performative-ally, and weighs in on how much work there is to do. Episode 64 airs 2/16.

Take good care of yourself and please reach out to me with questions, comments, ideas, or feedback, it’s always great to hear your thoughts. I’ll be back in two weeks with more episodes and book updates.