All posts by k rawson

author, nerd, mom.

Women of Courage: Malala

Malala Yousafzai, Human Rights Warrior

In some respects, 20-year-old Malala Yousafzai is just like any other college student. She blushes at talk of dating, finds the curriculum at Oxford University challenging, and can’t resist teasing her younger brothers at the dinner table. But don’t let this soft-spoken Pakistani girl fool you: she’s a lion-hearted, Nobel-prize-winning champion of girls’ education.


Malala was born in the picturesque Swat Valley of Pakistan in 1997. The child of a school owner and educational activist, her father wanted her to have every opportunity a boy would have. He vowed his daughter would attend school and be treated with equality.

“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.”When Mullah Fazhulla’s radio broadcasts first echoed down the concrete and steel canyons of Malala’s hometown of Mingora in 2004, the people  believed the changes were for the good. But, as the Taliban’s influence grew, their order affected every aspect of the citizen’s lives. The Taliban blacked the women’s faces from billboards. They burned televisions, computers, and CDs in the streets. They murdered policeman and bombed police stations. They staged public executions. And, in December 2008, they issued an edict banning girls from going to school.

By Southbank Centre [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

While other students stayed home–fearful of school bombings–11-year old Malala became an undercover BBC blogger. By age 14, the otherwise demure girl was publicly campaigning for girls’ education.

Her courage did not escape the Taliban’s notice. In 2012, they targeted the 15-year-old activist. Masked gunmen boarded her school bus, demanded her by name, and attempted to execute Malala with a gunshot to the forehead.

Her story could have ended there, but it was only the beginning of more influential work. Not only did she recover from traumatic brain injury, she went on to address the United Nations within the year. In 2014, she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel prize.

Humble and hardworking, today she balances college life while still leading the fight for girls’ education via the Malala Fund.

How She’s Courageous

“With guns, you can kill terrorists. With education, you can kill terrorism.”As if standing up to the Taliban were not enough, Malala remains an unflinching champion of good.

When sitting down with Barack Obama in 2013, she politely thanked the United States for all they’d done to support education for women and girls. She went on to inform him that his drone attacks were fueling terrorism, and that the US should instead focus efforts on education.

How Her Courage Affects Others

When girls are deprived of an education, the world is deprived of their gifts.Worldwide, more than 130 million girls do not attend school due to war, violence, and poverty.

Educating girls can end the cycle of poverty. Educated girls live longer and their own children live healthier lives. Education boosts overall economic growth and contributes to restoring peace and stability.

The Malala Fund is dedicated to every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, quality education. The non-profit foundation and has helped girls from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Syria.

How She’s Affected Me

Malala’s courage makes my own heart swell with possibility. If one brave girl can do this, what can any girl do? What can all girls do?

You can learn more about Malala below:

A really bad flash fiction piece inspired by this creepy abandoned building.

Sofia, Bulgaria © Google Maps

“Petey? Pete.” Laura touched a hand to her brow to block the sun. Her new running companion had slipped his collar and bolted down an unfamiliar trail.

She paused at the gate of an abandoned compound. Obviously they’d wandered off park property and onto the ruins of…something. She noticed a gap in the gate. Too small for her, but probably big enough for an undersized shelter mutt to slip through.

A man in coveralls stepped out from behind the wall, startling her.

She cleared her throat. “Have you seen a dog?”

He smiled, revealing a jagged row of teeth, as uneven as the picket fence. “Skinny little retriever?” he asked.

She swallowed. “Yeah.”

He opened the gate. “Come inside. You can take a look.”

Six hours later, in front of a roaring fire, the man tossed the dog another rib bone. “That’s enough for now. Tomorrow you go out again.”

150 words

Wow, I don’t know what is wrong with me this week, but every single story I started wound up with ghosts, aliens, vampires, werewolves or murderers. Every place I landed was stranger than the last, like check out this tree-circle in the woods. Anyway, this was not necessarily the story I wanted to write, but when I wound up with 150 words I decided to call it good. And maybe I need to steer clear of Bulgaria, especially this close to Halloween.

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.

Women of Courage: Brené Brown

Brené Brown, Ambassador of Vulnerability

Dr. Brené Brown wrote the book on courage. Literally.

Actually, she’s written five of them, including four New York Times #1 bestsellers. Her latest, Braving the Wilderness, was just released this September. In addition to bestselling author, she’s also a public speaker, scholar, leadership guru, and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.


“The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.”Brené Brown’s journey into courage began while working as a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She set out to understand the anatomy of connection. After conducting hundreds of interviews with subjects from all walks of life, she uncovered the concept of wholeheartedness. This wholeheartedness was an essential talent in accepting oneself, and had a positive correlation with life satisfaction and healthy relationships. Her gift for storytelling has brought her groundbreaking work to millions. Key concepts which she explores include empathy, shame, vulnerability, and creativity.

How She’s Courageous

Brené Brown

Ironically, Brené got into research as a means to avoid vulnerability—not that she would have admitted it at the time.

She set out to prove what she knew to be true. Instead, she found that wholeheartedness sprang from vulnerability, a trait she was fully opposed to expressing at the time. So, she did what any researcher does when they discover everything they believe is wrong:

She totally lost her shit.

With the help of a therapist and loving family and friends, she came back, armed with strategies for wholehearted living that the research backs up. To date she’s helped millions to live more fulfilling lives.

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.”

Anyone who has ever tried to create lasting change–whether it’s losing ten pounds or quitting a bad habit–knows it’s never as easy as flipping a switch. Lasting change demands a deep look at who we are and what we truly value.

Wholehearted living is no exception. The practice demands continual self-evaluation, honesty, and a support system of friends and/or family that accept you for who you are.

Brené walks the walk—living as she inspires others to live. Humble and hilarious, she’s the first to admit her teachings can be tough to follow, and freely admits to stumbling. Her efforts are continuous and evolving and she shares these struggles openly in her books and speeches.

How Her Courage Affects Others

Brené Brown has won fans including powerhouse Oprah Winfrey, author Elizabeth Gilbert, and even her own idol, the late Maya Angelou. Her TED Talk on Vulnerability has had over 30 million views.

When Brené Brown started her research on connection, she had no idea that she’d begun a journey that would change everything, including her own way of life. Nor did she have any idea how many lives she would change in the process. Her work on shame and vulnerability has had a positive impact on leaders, creatives, and anyone seeking a more fulfilling life.

How She’s Affected Me

I first came across Brené in the form a video: Brené Brown: Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count. If I remember right, it was my partner in Braving who brought her to my attention (thanks Michelle!). As a creative who tends toward pathological shyness, the video reached me on a deep level and I became an instant fan. Since then, her audiobooks have landed a permanent spot on my playlist and I’ve got her TED Talks on speed dial for low days.

You can learn more about Brené Brown below.

This has been the first of my articles on Women of Courage. Check back every Sunday at 3:00 pm CDT for new articles celebrating real and fictional heroines to inspire you.

Just Another Day in Paradise

Mauritius, © Google Maps

She’d said little since he’d picked her up at the airport. Instead, she stared out the back window of the cab, her eyes wide, her lips parted.

“Will you be staying with us long, Madam?”

She hadn’t answered. Instead, she’d pointed at a parking area, making noise could have been a grunt–or perhaps just some unrecognizable word. She pried open the door and lurched across the lot like a sleepwalker.

When she hadn’t returned in ten minutes, he’d walked up to the facilities and looked around. Which was when he noticed the sandals strewn on the sidewalk. And then, just in view down the forested trail, a blouse. He followed the narrow path, past a pair of trousers and a series of undergarments.

She was under the waterfall, eyes closed, wearing nothing but a smile.

He reached for his phone and called the desk. “We lost another one.”

149 words

This has been another edition of What Pegman Saw. Great location, Josh! This lovely place is a vacation for the eyes. I don’t know how they can get the tourists to leave. I don’t think I could!

To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.

Women of Courage

Embed from Getty Images


Go to any mainstream movie these days and you’ll likely sit through a half-dozen movie trailers featuring all sorts of male superheroes kicking ass and keeping the world safe for…well for whatever it is we have these days. However, it wasn’t until my daughter and I went to Wonder Woman earlier this year that it hit me how rare it is to see women in these roles. I mean I always knew it was that way. But it wasn’t until I witnessed it with my daughter beside me that I thought about how much that sucked. And how empowering it was to see these portrayals, and to read about real-life heroines.

And so, I’d like to honor all the real and fictional heroines who inspire me by sharing their stories with you. In the coming weeks, look for tributes to Women of Courage, like the groundbreaking Oprah Winfrey, the badass Sarah Connor, and the woman who quite literally wrote the book on courage, Brene Brown. These women inspire me daily. I hope they inspire you too.

Is there some badass, brave, and wonderful woman that you’d like to see recognized? Let me know in the comments.

October Writing Update

I wanted to post an update for my many friends and followers to let folks know what I’m up to… Or actually that would just be you… So hey, you. Thanks for checking in.

A couple of weeks ago I finished the third round of editing on my novel The Kwan Factor. This is a novel four years in the making. I got the original idea while attending the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, where the amazing Kelly Dwyer encouraged participants to plot a novel in this week-long workshop. My snarky ADHD narrator proved hard to tame, and it wasn’t until I took the brilliant Hugh Ferrer’s Clock and Camera workshop summer before last that I came up with an approach to manage her. So happy to say this book is done (for now). Many thanks to the friends and family that supported me during this journey.

I’m currently working on ideas for what to work for NaNoWriMo. For those not in the know, that’s National Novel Writing Month , the writing challenge where participants write 50,000 words for the month of November. I have a couple of partly finished novels I’ve considered revisiting for this challenge, but I’m also brainstorming for what would be a series. I’ve got a few weeks to make up my mind.

Stay tuned for further developments!