Author Archives: Michelle Hiskey

About Michelle Hiskey

Michelle Hiskey is a freelance writer and writing coach based in Decatur, and her day job is senior editor on Emory University's development communications team. Michelle worked at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 22 years as a sports reporter, columnist and Sunday feature writer, and her stories of recovery and redemption bridge unexpected places and people across Atlanta. She lives in Decatur with her husband Ben Smith, also a journalist, and their two awesome daughters. She can be reached at michelle.hiskey@gmail.com.

Color Runs: The Peachtree Road Race’s millennial offspring

The Peachtree Road Race on July 4 is rooted in a time when running wasn’t popular. Out on the multicolored, millennial fringes of outdoor recreation for young adults, the clenched-teeth grind is passé.

By turning up the party, color runs have become a popular mixing zone for socializing, sweating, and social media. If anything was tailor made for the selfie and the “unique shareable experiences” craved by the millennial generation, it’s a color run.
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Atlanta men, man up for girls. Period.

Without men, you can’t spell menstruation. And that’s as far as most men want to read about this subject. But local men like Nathan Hilkert are manning up to encourage other men to pitch in for Days for Girls, a volunteer effort that targets a big barrier to educating girls in developing countries. When they have their periods, they miss school. Days for Girls prepares and delivers reusable feminine hygiene kits.

Men and boys play an incredibly important role in tackling the taboos around menstruation that isolate and weaken girls and help lead to sexual exploitation and violence.
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With love to Garcia Marquez, one word at a time

On a day that seemed so damp that fish could have come in through the door and floated out the windows, lovers of the writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014) gathered at Kavarna coffeehouse in Decatur to pay their respects by reading from his timeless stories of families, war, death, and above all, the magic of love.

They came to 100 Readers of Solitude, named in homage to the author’s greatest novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien Anos de Soledad).” One by one they read vigorously, declaratively, and with humor, like Garcia Marquez wrote.
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Still Nonessential after 18 years playing Atlanta’s blues

When the federal government closed down in 1995, three furloughed workers at the Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta and their politically-appointed boss figured out how to stay busy. Instead of helping green the Southeast, the four started playing the blues.

The Nonessentials have stuck with one constant through nearly two decades: the three simple chords that make up the blues. On a part-time basis, they’ve played festivals, restaurants and other events. They’ve played as their founder retired from public service, one left government work and the two remaining EPA employees became nonessential once again in last week’s federal shutdown.

The stoppage brought back the story of how the band formed, the power of music to connect and sustain, and the possibility of bad news leading to new opportunities.
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For warped lives, re:loom and Spanx weave new hope

When Fred Brown’s ex-girlfriend went to prison in 2011 and left their son in his care, he knew he had to change the pattern of his life. Brown was homeless and didn’t want Damari, then only 9 months old, to grow up like he did—seeing his first dead body on the street at six years old and getting so used to the sight that it “was no big deal” by the time he was an adult.

Last week, Brown told his story from the headquarters of re:loom, where he turns recycled clothing and textiles into rugs and other items. Re:loom is nonprofit that helped him find his way back by teaching him the ancient art of weaving, and it got a big boost when another grassroots Atlanta business—Spanx—began globally promoting re:loom.
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Searching for the poet James Dickey, finding beauty in the grotesque

Searching for a column topic while on vacation in the small beach community of Pawleys Island, S.C., I learned that the poet and novelist James Dickey (1923-1997) was buried here.

Dickey, a one-time United States Poet Laureate and author of “Deliverance” was a native Atlantan, a graduate of North Fulton High School. Even better, a complete anthology of his poetry had been released a few months earlier. The new book made him topical.

After multiple efforts turned up nothing and the idea fell to the wayside, one of the names on Dickey's tombstone appeared a month later at the Decatur Book Festival. Bronwen Dickey's memories contrasted sharply with the popularized image of him as an outrageous alcohol-swamped fabulist depicted in unflattering biographies and exaggerated tales.
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No quit in football team of Atlanta immigrants

Down 41-0 at halftime Friday night, the Cross Keys Indians could have easily folded. They had every reason to be discouraged: They haven’t had a winning season since 1994. They haven’t won a game since Sept. 16, 2011.

But these sons of immigrants, first generation Americans and football players, never fold. Just as their parents haven’t given up on building a good life in a sometimes inhospitable land of opportunity, so too, it seems, these teenagers keep believing they can master a game that was alien to them as children.  

“Giving up is for punks,” said senior quarterback and free safety Oluwatomi “Tomi” Adedayo, whose team of 37 players includes 16 born in Asia, Africa, and Central America. “You start to give up and they’ll see it in your eyes. So you just keep your head up and you keep fighting.”
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DeKalb church helped anchor Antoinette Tuff through the pain

Nine miles due east of the school where she became a worldwide hero for talking down a gunman who had fired at police, Antoinette Tuff  showed up Sunday at the church where she has said her pastor’s voice urged her to be “anchored.” It felt strangely reassuring to be in her presence. I was there because I wanted to find out more about how she pulled off such courage in the face of impending evil.

I live six miles north of Tuff’s school, and was horrified momentarily last week at the possibility that another Newtown shooting might be unfolding. Pretty much all the news out of our schools and government in DeKalb County, Georgia, has been terrible lately.

I could see from Sunday’s service how this community teaches members to expect the unexpected. I could see how Antoinette Tuff might get used to behavior that would unsettle the rest of us. It was also clear that this is a community that values deep preparation to counter life’s surprises. Continue reading

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Looking in plain sight for Atlanta’s random signs of optimism

A random shoe track on a downtown Atlanta sidewalk turned into a  “spontaneous smiley”—a feat akin to finding the face of Elvis in a piece of toast, but a whole lot easier.

People all over the world (like me) discover, photograph and post spontaneous smileys to social media as a creative challenge to others. It is tailor made for creative thinkers and distracted people in our crowded and gridlocked city. This fun scavenger hunt can be done anywhere, and a handy time-killer when you’re stuck waiting.

Looking for the most basic sign of happiness in ordinary circumstances will shift your mood and mindset. Looking for a smiling face can release positive brain chemicals like dopamine. The scientific term for this pursuit is pareidolia, when a vague and random stimulus is perceived as significant (after all, it was just a footprint…). It is an example of how mindfulness identifies the extraordinary in ordinary life.
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Atlanta’s Makers and the Next Industrial Revolution

In metro Atlanta and across the country, a revolution appears to be underway in libraries, recreation centers and workspaces. Amid the mass marketng from big box stores and online retailers and other forces that tell us what we need and how to order it, some people with skills are assembling for change.

They are techno-geeks, artists and craftspeople. They wield computers, 3D printers, laser cutters, transistors, glue guns, canvasses, acrylic paints, embroidery hoops and a wide range of other tools. They can be hobbyists, inventors or entrepreneurs.

The revolution is called the “Makers Movement,” a growing grass roots do-it-ourselves culture seeking to reinvent their pockets of consumer society, and the third annual Atlanta Mini Maker Faire featuring workshops and exhibits on robotics, electric vehicles, computing, 3D printing, green technology, among other topics, is scheduled Oct. 26 at Georgia Tech.
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