I like vocabulary, but I love words.
Hard bound books worming the shelves, aching for my hands, smelling like paper and ink, delivering rainbows, sirens, hugs and heartaches, creations from the vortices of women, some, souls sickened with the disease of life, others lifted by it. Books bubble my brain, brewing deeper, richer meaning, leading my thoughts beyond the impulsive reactions of initial definitions by Webster. I’ve come to love the second definition of the word, fierce… showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity.
Second definitions require the patience to nurture understanding, they are investments in time and effort to identify the value of redefinition, like the warmth of a hand-me-down sweater, like the blessings of relationships with extended family, or the harvesting of crops planted, revelations of diversities explored… benefits gained by resisting ego and fiercely plunging into someone else’s ideas. Special people see beyond the derogatory of first impressions. I am a felon, but the second definition of conviction is a firmly held belief. I hold firmly to the belief that my past has rendered a wiser person and the pain ensures that I do not forget.
Since my crime and punishment, I earned two Masters’ degrees, one in the arts of graphic design, the other in the science of Internet marketing. I’ve authored a memoir which reached #1 on Amazon. Also published in 2022 are my prison poems and a series of workbooks to help disadvantaged women, like me, to rebuild. Articles I’ve written and published appear in Newsweek, Today.com, and Authority Magazine. I’ve been a featured speaker at multiple publishing summits, Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona, personal development conferences for women, Boston College, and online book clubs. I’ve done live radio shows in Kansas City and interviews on NPR. Join me on my own podcast… Fierce Conversations with Toby.
My story has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Dateline, Inside Edition, Whitney Reynolds television show in Chicago, 20/20, Daily Mail, BBC, Anderson Cooper live, Oxygen, New York Daily News, South Florida Insider, UK’s Bella magazine, various local newspapers and news stations. In July of 2022, Lifetime released a feature film of my story and I am currently working on a full length documentary release date to be determined.
After moving to the Washington D.C. metro, I advocate for prison reform and reintegration programs. Today, I find myself pushing a dirty snow ball to the top of a reluctant hill of acceptance. To my doubters, I say…
Escape your prison!