Available through West Virginia University Press

The nine stories in THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES  feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church’s double standards and their own needs and passions.

With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.


“Not Daniel” CHEAT RIVER REVIEW | Spring/Summer 2018

I parked in the shadows behind the hospice center, and waited. I held a box of condoms on my lap, Magnum XLs. It was like being sixteen again, except this time I bought the condoms instead of relying on the boy. This time, the boy was a man I had mistaken for someone I’d gone to junior high with when our paths first crossed two weeks before at the main entrance to the hospice center. I was coming, he was going. I thought he was Daniel McMurray so I stared longer than I should have, and he stared back. Later that evening, I’d run into him again coming out of the room across from my mother’s. His mother had breast cancer, mine ovarian.

“How to make love to a physicist” BARRELHOUSE

How do you make love to a physicist? You do it on Pi Day—pi is a constant, also irrational—but the groundwork is laid months in advance. First, you must meet him in passing at a S.T.E.A.M. conference. As a middle school art teacher, you are there to ensure the A(rts) are truly represented and not lost amid the giants of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. But as a Black woman, you are there playing Count the Negroes, as you do at every conference. He is #12, at a conference of hundreds. On the first day of the conference, you notice him coming down the convention center escalator as you are riding up. You try to guess which letter of the acronym he is there to represent. His face and baby dreads are giving you equal parts “poet” and “high school math teacher.”

“Eula” APOGEE | Summer 2017

Over time, Eula had other Reeses, other almosts. But she would end up dismissing them as too old or too young. Too broke or too stupid. Or they would dismiss her once they realized they couldn’t woo or pressure her into sleeping with them. Now-days, there are fewer and fewer Reeses, and they are less and less like Boaz with each passing year.

Sometimes I wonder if Eula finds fault with all these men because secretly she doesn’t want any of them, and is just doing what’s expected of her. But these are the kinds of things Eula and I don’t talk about.

.:  events  :.

JUL 16-18 | Virtual Event


The 1455 Summer Literary Festival is a celebration of writers, readers, creativity, and community, held VIRTUALLY over three days in July 2020.


SEP 17 @ 7pm Eastern | ZOOM

Join us on zoom for a conversation between Adam Smyer, author of You Can Keep That to Yourself: A Comprehensive List of What Not to Say to Black People, for Well-Intentioned People of Pallor and Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.


.:  connect  :.

I’m excited to hear from you. I’m available for readings, speaking engagements, freelance writing, and workshops on writing, race, gender and sex, and co-parenting and divorce. I live in Pittsburgh in the United States, but travel is a possibility. I love working with new people and tackling tough topics, and I’m happy to engage directly to gear our creative output in a direction that is accessible and works well for our audience. Please choose from the topics below, or feel free to propose a topic.


For reading and speaking engagements or workshops, you can book Deesha through her CCMNT Speakers listing.

Wanting to get in touch directly? Email deesha@deeshaphilyaw.com.



.:  Speaking / Reading Topics  :.

  • First, Do No Harm: Writing About Journeys Not Your Own
  • Good Girls Don’t. Black Girls Will: Black Women, Sex and the Black Church
  • Ain’t I a Mommy?: Narratives of Motherhood and Race
  • The Mythical Sisterhood of Black and White Women … and 10 Ways to Move Forward
  • The Patchwork Quilt Writing Career: How Not to be a Starving Artist
  • Choosing You, Telling the Truth: Encouragement for Women in Transition
  • Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive After Divorce
  • Co-Parenting a Child Who is Adopted
  • Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Birth Mom?
  • Supporting Your Child’s Interest in Her Origins

    Book Deesha through her CCMNT Speakers listing.

.:  Interactive Workshop Topics Include  :.

  • Choosing You, Telling the Truth: A Writing Workshop for Women in Transition
  • Let’s Write About Sex, Baby
  • Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive After Divorce
  • Co-Parenting a Child Who is Adopted
  • Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Birth Mom?: Supporting Your Child’s Interest in Her Origins
  • Write Your D*mned Book Proposal Already!
  • From Idea to Publication: Starting & Sustaining Your Book Project
  • How to Pitch for Publication
  • How to Land an Agent

.:  One-on-One Consultations Include  :.

  • Write Your D*mned Book Proposal Already!
  • From Idea to Publication: Starting & Sustaining Your Book Project
  • How to Pitch for Publication
  • How to Land an Agent

.:  about  :.

Deesha Philyaw is the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband. Her work has been listed as Notable in the Best American Essays series, and her writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Brevity, dead housekeeping, Apogee Journal, Catapult, Cheat River Review, ESPN’s The Undefeated, The Baltimore Review, TueNightEbony and Bitch magazines, and various anthologies. Deesha is a Fellow at the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction and a past Pushcart Prize nominee for essay writing in Full Grown People. Deesha’s collection of short stories about Black women, sex, and the Black church is forthcoming from West Virginia University Press September 1st 2020.

.:  featured work  :.

Deesha writes on race, gender, pop culture, parenting, divorce, and more.
Available for freelance projects. See more of her work through Contently.

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You’ll also be privy to any upcoming workshops, speaking engagements, and publications.

Talk to you soon!