Saturday, July 20, 2013

Writers4Higher features Saundra Kelley

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

Saundra Kelley

Hi, Saundra. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

1.            Tell me about yourself, Your books, your life, your inspiration:

I am a writer, born and bred in Tallahassee, Florida. With five generations on my dad’s side—in the Woodville/St. Marks area, and seven on my mom’s—Cody and Monticello . . . white sand, red clay and blue/green water permeate my sense of being. I am also a professional storyteller—a traveler with a rate card for hire. I tell the legends and stories of Florida, of my family and the world. Always, Mother Earth is the star.

I was a shy child—the one you never saw on the playground after school. That’s because I went straight home to grab a book and slid into my favorite place under the old oak tree with my cat. Dreaming about trees, animals, and faraway places consumed me then and it still does. I was a ‘creative’ from the time I began to talk, so when I learned to read and write, it was a given words were going to be my thing. My mother, who named me after an author, gave me full access to her library and bought horse books for me to read that I still have. A discussion about how I diverted from that life would clutter this page. Let’s just say that I eventually found my way back to the path and it feels good. Now, let us examine the journey I took to rediscover that illusive trail.

After divorce, I returned to Florida State to finish my neglected studies, attending with both of my daughters and walking the aisle with one. When I graduated, it was to embrace a not-for-profit service career. I used my writing skills at work, and fiddled around with stories, but due to lack of self-confidence, refused to identify myself as a writer. It took repeatedly trying to fit into jobs that were not right for me, nearly losing my mind and practically everything I had including my health, before I allowed the creative part of me to achieve its rightful place. I found it again during the years I lived on Alligator Point on the Gulf of Mexico, and took great joy in writing about that wonderland of nature’s artistic pleasure.

Still, I was desperately afraid to step out into a sinkhole with no bottom in sight. By that time, my association with the Tallahassee Democrat had netted me the opportunity write a chapter in the environmental anthology, Between Two Rivers, Stories from the Red Hills to the Gulf, edited by Susan Cerulean, Janisse Ray and Laura Newton. That experience brought me into contact with other environmental writers. From that point forward I began to think of myself as a writer—a frame of mind that eventually set me free.

Still, I clung to the safety of home until two triggers conspired to shoot me out of my quasi-safety zone: someone clear-cut a stand of  virgin long-leaf pine in Wakulla County on public lands--one day it was there, the next, gone. Then, while I was living on the coast and playing with an egret named Snow, Hurricane Dennis showed me it was time to leave.

Concerned by the rapid loss of Florida’s native ecology, I decided storytelling in the oral tradition would be my sword. For a time, I saw myself as an environmental Joan of Arc, but no longer. Today I find my ardor tempered by a drop or two of wisdom. Interactive communication is the key to true change.

I moved to Jonesborough, TN and entered the East Tennessee State University masters in storytelling program. It was an intense experience filled with creativity, performance and the expectation of academic excellence. After graduation, I signed a contract with McFarland Publishers to do Southern Appalachian Storytellers: Interviews with Sixteen Keepers of the Oral Tradition for their Appalachian Studies division, index, and all. It was published in 2011.

Once on the track, I couldn’t stop, nor did I try. The result is Danger in Blackwater Swamp, formerly Swamp Woman, begun long ago in a different life. As the story evolved, my passion and love of place spoke through the characters. They became as real to me as my own family, and then evinced opinions not necessarily my own. When the characters decided they had expressed themselves fully and were ready to release me, I specifically looked for a North Florida publisher with a naturalist bent. Southern Yellow Pine Publishing found me; I liked what they were doing and signed on. Danger in Blackwater Swamp releases May 31, 2013.

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

I have discovered in myself a sweet blend of the spoken and written word that I find delicious, thus my future revolves around stories; it is my intention to enter the university lecture circuit as a writer, and a storyteller.

As for future projects, there are many. Three children’s books await a publisher. A time-travel historical fiction, working title Red-tail Hawk, will involve some of the characters featured in Danger in Blackwater Swamp. I’ve written enough short stories to generate a collection for publication and performance, and then there is performance poetry.

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

As the president of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild and a member of the National Storytelling Network, I promote the art of storytelling through mentoring and community service. In addition to our weekly concerts at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, the guild performs concerts at a facility for those with brain injuries, the Veterans Administration Hospital, and for local service groups. Recently, we purchased a cataloging computer for our local library after getting almost 4,000 storytelling resource books donated to their shelves! As such, my community work is reaching out to others so that they may find and explore their own stories and learn to tell them, and to provide pleasant/stimulating entertainment to those who want or need it.

Would you like to find Saundra?

Check out the links to this talented author:

Books by Saundra Kelley:

Danger in Blackwater Swamp, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing 2013 

Southern Appalachian Storytellers: Interviews with Sixteen Keepers of the Oral Tradition, McFarland Publishers, 2011.


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

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Writers4Higher features Norma J. Sundberg

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

Norma J. Sundberg

Hi Norma. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

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

I am Norma J. (for Jean) Sundberg. I was born in 1933 in Northeastern Ohio and lived there until 1991 when my youngest daughter and I left and came to Tallahassee Florida. Was a difficult time but a chance to break free and keep growing. Met someone in a bookstore who saw me buying a writer magazine, and connected me with TWA, Tallahassee Writers Association, right off.

I've been writing and publishing for close to 60 years. Poetry in newspaper poetry corners;winning prizes in poetry contests; writing letters to the editor about aggravating situations, likethe time change and how it affects kids and cows. It's not the kids and cows who have to change it's the parents and those who milk those cows! Had an article published about the tractor accident; I fell and was run over by a large farm tractor. And lived to tell about it(write about it).

Raising ten kids on a dairy farm kept us very busy. The kids belonged to 4-H and FFA and thrived on successes in those endeavors. My inspiration for the most part was those growing and changing kids. Plus, I needed something that was totally mine! Something for me to succeed in doing. This also kept me aware and in touch with other writers and poets. KEPT ME SANE!

I couldn't wait until I was 80 to START writing. My career was my family. In the 1970s we purchased the family farm. Husband told me I may have to go to work to help supplement the income! I panicked, had no specific skills except working at a grocery store or clerking somewhere. It was at the time of the women's movement that I joined a consciousness raising group. Those gals urged me to try for college.

I entered Kent State University, Ashtabula, Ohio Campus in 1977-78 when I was 45 and my youngest child was two years old. What a balancing act that was. I got involved in anything and everything related to writing. Won the Kaleidoscope award my first year for my work on and poetry in that magazine. Early on I found just the WRITE English professor whose focus was creative writing. It was in one of her classes that I first wrote An Odd Fable. It only took me 30 years to get it published. I've written a weekly column for a newspaper for ten years; edited and wrote a poem and editorial for a church newsletter for ten years. After graduation from KSU with an Associate degree I was asked to teach/instruct poetry classes at their Summer College for Kids. We put together booklets of the kids poems, sending each two copies making them published poets!

Meanwhile, here in Tallahassee the beat goes on. I've been involved in other writer groups, one of which a friend and I started. I belong to BBP, Big Bend Poets and am looking forward to my second book, a book of poems to be published. My Odd Fable was published in 2007 through CyPress Publications. Many of these poems were posted in the church newsletter I edited. The pieces I wrote led to the newspaper columns.

Presently I'm submitting to an on-line newsletter, Extra Innings published through the university of Wisconsin, edited by Marshall Cook, a retired professor from the U. of Wisconsin. Connection with a person I met at the Erma Bombeck Humor writers Conference in 2006 gave me confidence in the marketing aspect of writing. Marketing is a whole 'nuther animal altogether. I have two of her books on marketing that helped immensely with the Fable and plan to dig into them toward the poetry book. Each step leads to another on the ladder of success. I'm still climbing.

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

I don't look too far into the future. I'm taking it as I connect with each new step, meeting and networking with other writers, sharing experiences, markets and information through e-mails and on-line newsletters. I'm waiting for the May 2013 issue of Extra Innings for my contribution in print, due out momentarily.

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

I recently did a journals class, re-titling it Writing Your Own Personal History, incorporating writing in journals for women in my daughter's Ward at church. I used handouts toward their own writings. I forward on-line newsletters and writing information to writer friends toward their publishing endeavors or just their enjoyment. I've built a network of writer friends. I've kept touch with the professor mentioned who is now retired. She got her P.hD in writing while I was going to college. I'm active in my church.

The planning for the journals class came about because my daughters and friends were trying to find a way to keep me busy while they planned a Surprise 80th Birthday party for me. They all came up with, “Something to do with her writing!”

Because I was busy gathering materials and writing an outline toward the class, they were able to hoodwink me. My daughter even came by and copied articles and clippings, pictures, putting them on a tri-fold poster thing for the party. I never tumbled that it was for that purpose. She even took a four generation picture along with her. I figured it was part of the class items, family is part of genealogy and journals are an integral part.. Was able to teach “said class” a couple of Thursdays ago!

One of the biggest things that has kept me motivated through all this has been keeping a sense of humor. Sometimes it can get pretty warped! But it's better than crying uncontrollably.

Would you like to find Norma?

Check out the links to this talented author:


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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