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

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