Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular point in your life?
I publish a short blog (www.seeking-grace.com) where I share my observations on societal issues. In April, I wrote a piece titled, “Atticus Finch Is Dead” which discussed a rapidly accelerating malady affecting all three major demographics: white, African-American and Hispanic families. It’s the malady of fatherless homes. In the piece, I cited a Department of Justice study which showed 69% of youth suicides and 75% of rapists came from fatherless homes. But it was the next paragraph that was the genesis of the book. I wrote about those of us whose fathers came home every night, but we wished they didn’t. In the paragraph, I described my cruel, unreasonable, physically and emotionally abusive father and what our home life was like. I felt hopeless in my youth, full of hate, anger, rage and resentment.
After publishing “Atticus” I received hundreds of responses from readers who told me they grew up the same way, they felt alone, isolated; they felt like they were the only ones in families like this. I realized I had hit a nerve; there are millions of people out there who are still carrying the trauma from their youth. I decided to share my story in a book format (blogs must remain short), believing my story could provide hope and healing for those who are hurting. The book is about gratitude and forgiveness, how you go from where you are to being able to forgive, truly forgive the people who have damaged you. You hear people say, “just let it go.” Sounds nice, but how do you do it? I go a step farther and show you how to let it go.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your life as an author?
I believe the most interesting, and gratifying, part of my life as an author has been getting feedback from readers. I publish my email address in the book because I want to hear from readers-good and bad. So far, the responses have been 100% positive. One man, for example, wrote and told me he had suffered from PTSD for over 60 years! My book was the catalyst which inspired him to seek therapy and get cured. He has found the strength in himself to face his demons. I am so grateful my writings reached this man, and he is getting the help he needs so he can live fully.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I made a LOT of mistakes when I began writing. My biggest mistake was my eagerness to get a piece published, so I would write something and put it out there. No editing, and in one case no spell-check! Fortunately, you can correct misspelled words on WordPress after publication. It wasn’t so much funny as it was embarrassing. I take pride in doing a good job, but my earlier work was sloppy. All of us learn as we practice our craft, and that was the case with me. My writing now does not remotely resemble what I published two and a half years ago. Thank goodness! It is gratifying to see the improvement.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I keep active with a variety of cool projects. I’m writing a second book. I don’t want to tell you the title because it’s a great title. I don’t want someone else to grab it as their own! The book is about how to solve the divisiveness our country/world is experiencing and really connecting people. I know how to do it, so I’m going to share the solution. In addition to writing, I proudly serve on the Board of Directors for Rachel’s Challenge, the largest program in the world which focuses on kindness and compassion. It’s wonderful to be a small part of an organization which positively impacts children all over the world. (www.rachelschallenge.org). Named for Rachel Joy Scott, the first child killed at Columbine High School in 1999, Rachel’s message of “starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion” lives on 19 years after her death. Over 29 million people have experienced Rachel’s story. There are a few more things keeping me busy, but those are the big projects.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Ronald Reagan is one of my role models. Reagan was optimistic, full of resolve, driven to succeed, he could inspire others in a way I connect with. Winston Churchill is another. Churchill is a man destined not to succeed, but he did in spite of his flaws. Churchill’s drive, determination and tenacity were forces to be reckoned with. Albert Einstein is a third inspiring figure in my life. Einstein thought differently, stayed with problems longer than most people ever would, and he was funny! You don’t think of one of the greatest scientists to ever grace the planet should be funny, but he was. Einstein was thought to have below-average intelligence by his teachers, but he didn’t let it stop him.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
My first true role model was Atticus Finch, the fictional character from the book and movie “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I gravitate to biographies, too. I love to read about the lives of people like Bill Clinton, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and I have already mentioned Reagan. None of these men’s lives were easy. Their tenacity to keep going is inspiring to me.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
My writing makes people think. That sounds pretty audacious, but it is true. And it’s important for you to know I say it with humility. I challenge the readers to see things from others perspectives, really consider an opinion different from your own. Get outside your comfort zone, if you will. It’s not a threat to consider an opinion you may not agree with, but by taking it into consideration you may develop a bigger worldview in the process.
“Killing My Father Then Finding Him” inspires others to face past traumas and deal with them. I don’t beat people over the head but gently suggest, cajole, them to action. Everyone has “stuff” to deal with. Some tragedies worse than we can imagine. Troubles from the past will not go away on their own. You must be brave. Do the hard work. Nobody wants to do the work because it isn’t fun! Only when you face your demons and jettison them from your life will you be able to live a full and purpose-driven life. It’s a process. It does not happen overnight, but it happens when you try.
Simply put, I know my writing impacts the world because I hear from readers. They tell me how my writings have made a difference. For that, I am grateful.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Don’t do it! Just kidding. Start by keeping a journal. You don’t have to write “War and Peace” in your journal. Simply write your thoughts. If a sentence comes to mind, write it down. Maybe it’s just a word. Write it down. I cannot tell you how many times I have pulled my car into a parking lot to write a thought down. I have gotten out of the shower to write something that came into my mind. Do it then. If you are like me, no matter how good the thought is, you won’t remember it later. Do it the moment you feel inspired. I keep my journal with me at all times.
Then start a short blog. A blog needs to be short, one point, and have a theme. The idea is to get used to writing. Your brain sort-of rewires itself to accommodate this new skill. Writing isn’t rocket science. You will get a great amount of satisfaction seeing your written words. You have created something. All of us are hard-wired in our DNA to create. Be fearless. Just…begin.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to impact young people. Our youth are constantly being told they need more rules, being told what they can’t do. I want to capture the hearts of young people. If you capture their heart, they will give you their minds and follow your lead. They have to know you care.
Twice per year I speak to incarcerated children-kids 10-17 who have made some really bad decisions, yet get the opportunity to reset and redirect their lives. I get more inner joy from these kids than anything else I do. To be able to make a child smile and understand they are cared for is an experience I wish everyone could have. I encourage the kids to keep a journal, write their inner thoughts, feelings, fears and dreams in their journal. Because of my ugly childhood, our outer differences (skin color, age) melt away and they see me as one of them. We can make a difference in kids lives if we are willing to try. Blaming kids for every bad thing in society is not new. It was going on when I was growing up. Children need to know they matter, they are valuable.
My movement would be to inspire young people to “live their why!” Don’t sacrifice your potential for the security of a paycheck. Follow your true calling, what is in your heart. All of us have callings, but so few actually realize their potential. Fear, doubt, and society hold people back. The movement would be predicated on one of my favorite quotes by Henry David Thoreau: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and die with their song still in them.” I want the world to hear the music in all of us.
By the way, this applies to adults, too. So many people are not really living fully. We can change this!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Go at a methodical pace. Writing is not a sprint. You are not racing anyone to get your idea out there and in print. Write more slowly and write thoughtfully.
Devote time every day to writing. Write something. Writing is a habit sort of like anything else. The difference is, writing is not a chore. Writing taps into the creative side of our brains. It’s great exercise for our minds.
Read what you have written like someone else is reading it. We get so accustomed to our own thinking, we can become lazy when we write. You cannot write like you speak because there is no voice inflection.
Read what you have written aloud. Then read it again. And again. Then read it aloud one more time. Read it backwards, not for meaning but for misspelled words. Reading your work backwards is the best way to find errors. You must read it more slowly. It will make no sense reading it backwards, while being a major pain in the backside, but you will catch things you didn’t see before.
Be kind to yourself when critiquing your work. As creatives, we can be sensitive about exposing this side of our lives to the world. You will know, you just know, when it’s time to publish. Later, you will find things you could have said differently, written better. Would it have changed the message? If no, let it go. The message is the message, no matter how well written.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Of course! There are several, actually. For brevity’s sake, I will limit it to three:
Condoleezza Rice-She is a fascinating person. The first African-American female Secretary of State, Provost of Stanford University, sports enthusiast, accomplished musician and someone who lived through ugly racial division. I believe she would be an interesting companion for a meal, and I believe she could be a valuable source of inspiration for my next book. I can learn from her.
Barack Obama-He was the first African-American President, a truly groundbreaking event. Regardless of your politics, I believe he would be a fascinating person to share a meal with. Former presidents have a much larger worldview than the rest of us. I’m a geopolitical junkie. A former President (and Secretary of State) would be exciting for me to know and learn from.
Curtis Martin-Former NFL running back, and Hall of Famer. I have wanted to meet Martin since I heard his inspiring HOF induction speech. I have shared his speech over 50 times with friends and acquaintances because of his strong message of faith and hope.
Obviously, I gravitate to individuals who have broken glass ceilings. They inspire me!
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Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!