Saturday, October 25, 2014

Writers4Higher features Glenda Bailey-Mershon

Welcome to Writers4Higher


The purpose of the Writers4Higher blog: to feature authors in a new light, a fresh look at the way writers use their talents and life energies to uplift humankind. Writers4Higher doesn’t promote religious or political views. Authors are asked to answer three simple questions: simple, yet complex.


This issue, Writers4Higher features

Glenda Bailey-Mershon



Hi, Glenda. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

1.      Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

Some days I feel like a snake, most of me behind, and that part is my ancestors. One day, I will shed my skin and be clothed anew, and that new skin will be my descendants. This is how I was taught to think of myself, as the culmination of my ancestors' existence, as my children and their children will be the culmination of mine. Everything I do is out of respect for one and for the benefit of the other. It is a life in which I am never quite alone. Completely myself, but also a product of our past and a worker for the future.
It took me a long time to understand that many people see themselves as only themselves, not as some creature dragging centuries of predecessors behind. It took me a longer time to understand that I was fortunate in this way. Any other life would seem lonely to me. I can't say how it would be for others.
I grew up in the Deep South in a family that had roots from many parts of the world. As a child, I found this quite confusing. My elders talked about people born generations ago as if they had just left the room. And those people belonged to some mysterious groupings that were hard to grasp. Indian, but not that kind of Indian, was the way some past family members were described. And I was constantly told I looked like this one or that, held my fork like that great aunt, loved pepper like my great-grandfather, had a rebellious streak like a great-great-great-great grandmother so many times removed that she was born around the same time as the United States. When I asked questions, not much was explained.
So mostly I made up things in my head. I loved Peter Pan because he never had to enter any adult conversations, unless he was eavesdropping while planning a mischievous raid. Jo in Little Women was my best friend because we shared a determination to learn everything we weren't supposed to know. Emily Dickinson stopped me cold with her books like frigates and lines that set the world into rhythm. That was the world I lived in. Every Saturday, my father took me to the library and I set in with a vengeance to read everything those brick walls held.
School was a problem. I loved it because I could ask all the questions I wanted and generally got an answer. My parents were distrustful of it, didn’t want to set foot inside, because neither of them had much schooling and both felt uncomfortable talking to teachers and principals. So school was mine and mine alone. But if I needed help there, I was on my own.
What an irony that all these many years later, I look at my work and see how much of it is an extended conversation with people far in my past. How my great-grandmothers whispered to me about the life of Evangeline, the Romani woman whose mystery is at the heart of Eve's Garden, my first novel. How my own attempts to explain to my son that one can be oneself and still the culmination of people from continents and centuries away informs the long poem, "Answering Spring at Red Clay," in my chapbook, sa-co-ni-ge/blue smoke: Poems from the Southern Appalachians. And a conversation with my father, attired as usual in grease-stained overalls, about a Gold Coast art opening intrigued me enough to form the basis for another chapbook of poems, Bird Talk.
It all comes together in a way that I know is uniquely me, but which is inspired so frequently by them. O longo drom, the long road we have traveled together, winds from the Silk Road to here, where I sit in Charlotte in my mint-walled study, looking at a poster about Caroline Herschel, the astronomer, by Judy Chicago while I try to make sense of the musical words winding through my head.

2.      Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

Everything is always going in several directions with me. I'm working on a poetry collection and two novels while also finishing up some short stories that I hope will make a collection. At least, if the question were, "What are you working on?", that would be the answer. Instead, let me try answering what you asked, which I think requires more introspection on a late Sunday night when everyone else, including the dog, is asleep.
My writing is a dialogue not only with ancestors and great-great-great grandchildren, but with writers whose work I admire. I'm reading young writers like Paul Yoon and Rebecca Lee and thinking about how tradition and change are constants that keep us seesawing, but maybe that's a good thing, a way to keep the pendulum swinging hard enough to discover new territory.
I'm constantly re-reading masters like Jane Austen and Edith Wharton and Ursula LeGuin who ask us all, what really matters in life? What will last when we're all stardust in some future star field?
In the meantime, I'm trying to just master the language, one paragraph at a time.
So I'm writing a very contemporary novel on the subject of greed, about a young woman with a closet full of expensive trinkets she doesn’t even like, whose inheritance is a labyrinth of past intrigues. What does she really deserve, that's what she wants to know.
A much more light-hearted work is set in a bookstore and florist on Chicago's Northwest Side, a sort of oddball romance between damaged people.
I like writing about partnerships, how unlikely pairings rescue each other, because that has certainly been true in my life. Help comes so often from unexpected quarters.

3.      How do you use your talents/time to help others?

When my family made no sense to me, I turned to the civil rights movement to understand what Americans mean by race. That movement taught me that you either step over the line for people who aren't like you, or you turn your head and stick with what you know. There really isn’t much room for in-between when the chips are down. The ground is covered with chips right now, it seems to me.
Feminists helped me grow up, and that is another debt I will always try to pay. Writers give me new worlds every day, and I owe them some attention, too.
I'm uncomfortable talking about what I do. My parents taught me to be of service and I hope I am. Mostly, when all works well, we get the community and the world we work for.
One community that I do enjoy is Jane's Stories Press Foundation, for whom I've edited four volumes of work by women writers, the last, Jane's Stories IV: Bridges and Borders, by women in conflict around the world. And I'm working with a new nonprofit, the Foundation for Romani Education and Equality, which will provide tutoring and educational opportunities for Romani youth and also serve as a cultural foundation.



Would you like to find Glenda?

Check out the links to this talented author:

Amazon Author's Page: http://tinyurl.com/mb7ej7a








Be sure to visit the Writers4Higher Market! We have gear for the writer in you.

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist





Saturday, October 11, 2014

Writers4Higher features Ken Johnson

Welcome to Writers4Higher


The purpose of the Writers4Higher blog: to feature authors in a new light, a fresh look at the way writers use their talents and life energies to uplift humankind. Writers4Higher doesn’t promote religious or political views. Authors are asked to answer three simple questions: simple, yet complex.


This issue, Writers4Higher features

Kenneth Johnson



Hi, Ken. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

Writers4Higher Blog

1.      Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

My name is Ken Johnson. Aside from being an author, culturalist, and specialist in the field of conflict dynamics—I am also a husband, brother, uncle, Principal Chief of the Florida Tribe of Cherokee Indians, a commander in the Royal Rangers boys’ youth ministry, a Kentucky Colonel and a native of Florida.  In fact, my ancestor was a key founder of Santa Rosa County, Florida—of which I still reside in.

In middle school, I asked my parents for a computer. Being poor, my parents somehow managed to scrape together enough money to buy me a Brothers AX-25 electric typewriter—which I still have to this day. With it, I wrote numerous award winning stories for various contests. Later, in high school, I became involved in student leadership. At age 16, I started seeing the schools diminish beyond repair. So, I decided to drop out with a GPA well over 3.5. The counselor told me, “There’s the door” and I left out only to have another eavesdropping counselor call me in. “Mama Ellen,” as she later became known, gave me some papers for my parents to sign and the next day I was taking college classes at night while going to high school by day. Feeling that I needed to do more, I later started Students Against Violence in Education (SAVE)—a peer counseling service. Through SAVE, I was able to assist some troubled peers, helped out the school through a profound period of bereavement at the death of a teacher and mentor, and I even saved a few from suicide.

After high school, I could no longer count on one hand the number of people I knew that had committed suicide. Many of my peers had convictions that barred them from going to school, getting a job, etc. Grateful for not being in that number, I turned my attention to helping others through student government. I was elected college District Ambassador where I was enrolled in a number of leadership classes so that I later could be utilized as a sort of student lobbyist for upcoming laws. There, I worked with a number of senators, representatives, college presidents, etc. Part of these efforts were focused on helping people, who were once convicted as juveniles, to be able to attend college and get certain certifications.

After this, I became a substitute teacher. I found the schools in a worse state of affairs than when I had left them. The teachers were now instructing to the standardized tests. Youths were routinely hauled away from schools in handcuffs for seemingly trivial offenses.

Discouraged with the way things were going, I decided to take a job in the criminal justice system. I thought I could become numb from the conflict. To the contrary, after seeing hoards of my former students in shackles and chains, I became more keenly aware of the social structure going on. I took up writing again—this time an opinion column called the “X-Factor” with me being called “Mr. X.” There, I told about life and conflict, culture and society, economics and policy, and how it all was headed in the wrong path. Later, a friend helped me get certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a County Court Mediator.  A trainer, Dr. Bobo, told me about Restorative Justice and how it helps communities to take back control. So, I began classes at the University of West Florida where I trained under Dr. Cheryl Swanson in the field of Restorative Justice.

During my time at UWF, I began playing with rubber bands. I later associated different bands with different skill sets that I possessed both in the field of mediation as well as Restorative Justice. These ideas developed into a 58 page prototype proposal that I called “Unbroken Circles.”

It took over six more years of fighting the system, fighting my peers on both sides of the aisle, and having to continuously hone my arguments before the program started taking hold. Now, professionals are heralding it as the best of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). I now teach other ADR professionals core components of my program.

Unbroken Circles SM for Schools is my first published book.  The Unbroken Circles SM service not only deals with schools but there are variations for businesses, churches, non-profits/civic organizations, and government agencies. However, the youth have always held my heart and I wanted my first book to be about how to fix the schools. Unlike other books of this type, I pretty much give away all of the knowledge, materials, resources, etc. necessary for any school, regardless of their income or demographics, to tailor-make a Collaborative Justice program that will help to lower tardiness and absenteeism while also improving grades, civic behavior, and a sense of community.

2.      Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

It is my hope that Unbroken Circles SM for Schools takes off to become a source reference and companion text for schools and colleges nationwide. I wrote this book to help others and I don’t want anything less than for it to benefit multiple schools and communities. I anticipate to continue teaching professionals, giving lectures, and growing the need for practices that help students rather than just incarcerating them. In Florida alone, we arrest 58 thousand juveniles a year with many tried on felony and misdemeanor charges for relatively frivolous offenses. I would love for my book to turn up the volume on this issue so those numbers will have significantly diminished three to five years from now.

Aside from that, writing is who I am. I anticipate sharing my Unbroken Circles SM service in its many facets. I also plan to write some more culturally-based works which pick up on key issues I only briefly touched upon in Unbroken Circles SM for Schools.

I get numerous requests every year to guest write for magazines, newspapers, blogs, and other sources of media on issues of culture and conflict. This year alone, I have been nominated for three different social justice awards because of articles I have written. I cannot expect to depart from this so long as my written words give groups a voice. By writing, I can help people I’ve never met.

3.      How do you use your talents/time to help others?

When you have lived your life as a public servant, it is kind of hard to think how you use your time and talents to help someone. I have served on so many non-profit and governmental boards it is almost comical in a way. People that don’t know me see this young guy and they look in disbelief as I talk about the numerous programs and projects I have been involved in, the governors I have counseled as a part of an elected job, the various non-profits I have played a role in, etc. From a practical standpoint, my job as a conflict specialist is to help people in need to find solutions and agreement.  When I am not doing that, I am helping small businesses to thrive in a downturned economy, helping young boys to be better men, helping my fellow tribesmen, and the list goes on. I even have a special box that I carry with me fishing. In the box is hooks, corks, weights, etc. because I’m almost always approached by a child, while I am fishing, who desires to learn how to fish.  So, while I am trying to catch something for supper, I am also teaching the next generation as well.

I think that is what I am most proud of—teaching. If your words can find rest in the hearts and minds of others, something sort of special takes place where a part of you will never die as it is multiplied with the passing down to others. I think that is why I love writing about culture and conflict. When I write, I am teaching others. My words have power and people seem to inherently know they originate from my heart. And, I think this is why so many people grasp onto them and try to share them. Good, bad, or indifferent—I am nothing if not genuine. Just being yourself is sometimes the best help to people. People want something true and genuine in this plastic society of ours.

  
Would you like to find Ken?

Check out the links to this talented author:

Twitter:  @KenJohnsonUSA
Crokes:  @KenJohnson
Facebook:Ken on Facebook
LinkedIn:  Ken on LinkedIn
Personal Website:  Ken's Website






Be sure to visit the Writers4Higher Market! We have gear for the writer in you.

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist





Writers4Higher features author and blog master Darrell Laurant

  Hi Darrell. Welcome to Writers4Higher. Tell us about yourself. I am something of a hybrid creature, geographically speaking...