Meet a Grubbie: Michele Cubelli Harris
GrubStreet runs on coffee, printer ink, and community. This series features just some of the Grubbies who make our community strong. In this edition, meet Michele Cubelli Harris, current student in the Memoir Incubator and a 2017 Pauline Scheer Fellow. Michele has worked as a counselor in higher education and mental health agencies for the past 20 years. She overcame many obstacles to earn her bachelor and master’s degrees as a single parent, as well as her advanced graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, from Lesley University. A cancer-survivor, Michele has turned that very personal and life-changing experience into a way to facilitate the healing of others through coaching and therapy, including self-love workshops. Michele maintains a regular meditation practice, enjoys live concerts, good food, reading and writing on the beach and spending time with friends and family. Michele’s memoir echoes many of the violent fault lines that continue to haunt America today--race, domestic violence, drug addiction, the AIDS crisis--while also offering a vision of hope and resilience in dark personal and political times.
What author, living or dead, would you most like to have dinner with and why?
Maya Angelou. The first of her acclaimed coming of age series, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” has been a leading force in my life. Her young story symbolizes a courageous transformation in the midst of a complex adolescent experience. Her voice was influential in how I came to understand myself as black girl. I’ve read it at least ten times since my maternal grandmother, Nana Sadie Mae, gave it to me as young teenager. I am deep into the audible version of it now, which is narrated by the author. Her gracious soothing voice, the fervor with which she reveals who she is, permeates right through my skin and into my being. I’ll never forget when Dr. Angelou was keynote speaker at the 2006 Massachusetts Conference for Women. While I did not have the opportunity to meet her personally, it was quite a powerful experience to be in the audience as she opened in song: “This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
My siblings, cousins, and I were fortunate to spend summers living with our Nana. She epitomized for me the strength and spirit of black womanhood. She was a fierce and loving godly woman with a strong conviction of self. The way she carried herself infused a knowing in me that our family legacy was one of resilience and hope. And, that grew into a love of self from which I make every effort to lead my life with confidence and purpose. She was my real life Maya Angelou.
Still I rise!
What are you working on right now?
My first memoir. I’m finally telling the story that has been revealing itself through my journaling over the course of my life. It’s about healing from the intricate combination of both love and suffering that began in my childhood, ultimately tapping into an innate resilience that has allowed me to surrender to the beauty, the love and the light. It has been such a liberating experience to unravel the intricacies of my life in this way.
I see it as not only an obligation to myself, my children, and family, but also to other individuals that are in search of finding closure with difficult aspects of their past and connecting to their own inherent wisdom.
When do you feel most like a writer?
When I have silenced the chaos of the world around me, usually through meditation (or the sweet sound of soulful Motown music), I am able to tap into the quiet of my soul; the part of me that has been afraid to shine, to be seen or heard. There, I have no judgments or fears—I can only be the person I was created to be.
I am loving on all the cool variations of the Moscow Mule! I’ve never been a vodka drinker, but I am crazy about the warm, soothing spicy tone of ginger beer. My favorite so far is the Shanghai Mule. And, let’s not forget the frosty copper mug that carries it with such rustic charm!
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
“Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” My sister Maxine and I have been known to do a pretty incredible rendition of the Meat Loaf classic. For me, the singing and shouting of such tangled lyrics provokes an important and visceral release of both the angst and the laughter in our relationship.
What was the most important thing you took away from The Memoir Incubator?
Our Memoir Incubator instructor, Garrard Conley is a special human being; he sees people and their potential with his heart; such a true gift. He holds our space with such love and respect. I also could not have asked for a better group of writers to work with. They are each incredibly talented and such kind, good-hearted folks. So far, and in terms of the writing process, the one most important thing that I’ve learned is that I just need to get it all out and on the paper. That the first series of drafts are about the release of the story without allowing it to get in the way. Then the parts can be woven together later. I’ve also been reminded of the importance of writing for myself; for my own hearts healing and growth. That is how the truth will be revealed.
2017 Pauline Scheer Fellow Michele Cubelli Harris
Want to find out more about all the other amazing people who make the GrubStreet community what it is? Check them all out here! And while you're at it, see what classes are on offer at Grub this fall.