The Story of Brendan Hooker: How Internship Inspired a Recent College Grad to Make Life-Changing Decisions

By Rhonda Jessup, Director of Public Relations at the University of Mount Olive

Brendan Hooker of Garner had a rocky start in life.  A child of divorce, he struggled with his identity, family connections, and friend choices.  

“I considered myself to have been a rather difficult person to get along with until I found religion near the end of high school,” he admits.  “Mental health issues and a general feeling of being unwanted made me act out in ways I’m not proud of.”  

Once Hooker found Jesus Christ, he said, “I began to improve myself on moral grounds, as well as tackle the internal struggles that were negatively influencing my well-being.”

Hooker became a kinder and more outgoing person.  Rather than avoiding him, people began to gravitate toward Hooker.  “I was finally able to accept myself, and I became comfortable associating with others,” he said.  “I began to form positive relationships that opened up fantastic opportunities to me.”

One of those opportunities came about during his studies at the University of Mount Olive (UMO), where Hooker was a student from the fall of 2018 until the spring of 2022.  Majoring in English and minoring in psychology, Hooker accepted an internship during the spring of his senior year with the History Department at Wayne County Public Library.  “One of my English professors, Dr. Alexis Poe-Davis, actually recommended the position to me,” he said.    

During the six-week internship, Hooker’s responsibilities included attending lectures, helping teach classes on genealogy resources, and assisting other librarians.  His favorite part of the job was writing for the library’s monthly newsletter, “The Big Ditch.”  “I was really able to put my writing skills to work,” he said.  

Hooker enjoyed the experience so much that, at the close of the internship, he applied for and accepted a position as a Digital Navigator.  Since then, he has been promoted to Library Assistant/Public Relations Coordinator, effective August 1.  In this new role, he will soon relocate to the Mount Olive branch of the Wayne County library system.

“My internship helped me to realize that libraries have so many great resources to offer in addition to books,” Hooker said.  “My ultimate take-away is that you should take an opportunity when it is presented to you.”  

Hooker plans to seek his librarian certification as he continues his passion of public service within Wayne County Government. He currently resides in Warsaw, NC.  

“I am so grateful for the life-long bonds I formed while at UMO,” he said.  “The quality of education that I received from my professors will help me achieve anything I set my mind to accomplishing.” 

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists.  For more information, visit www.umo.edu.              

Travel to Southern Italy: A Region Featured In The Novel, Until Next Sunday 

by Audry Fryer, author of Until Next Sunday

Researching the Campania Region of Southern Italy had to be one of the best parts of writing my latest novel, Until Next Sunday. If only I could have conducted my research in person!

In Until Next Sunday, the main character, Rosina, makes the brave choice to leave her hometown of Torchiara, Italy, in late December 1919. She has a specific reason for her departure (which you’ll discover in the story). Still, leaving everyone and everything she knew for a new life in America is heart-wrenching. 

While someday I hope to visit the setting in Italy at the beginning of my novel, the family with whom I collaborated to write the true story based on their grandparents’ love letters was able to take a trip to this region several years ago. While there, they visited the home where Rosina lived before leaving for America, and they had a visit with the family of Filomena, Rosina’s cousin and closest childhood friend.

Rosina’s hometown of Torchiara, and Naples, where she disembarked for America, are in the Campania Region of Italy. Located in the Southern portion of the boot-shaped peninsula, Campania encompasses the coastal Mediterranean areas of the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, the Cilento National Park, and the islands of Capri and Ischia. 
Campania has a variety of cities, picturesque coastlines, and historical places to visit. Naples is the bustling capital city. The Amalfi Coast hosts dramatic coastlines with mountains that rise steeply from the Mediterranean Sea. And, the ancient city of Pompeii is located in Campania. 
One of the tastiest regions in Italy, Campania offers a variety of well-known Italian dishes and drinks. It’s the birthplace of pizza, especially pizza Margherita. Campania is also known for spaghetti, mozzarella, limoncello, and cannelloni. And it excels in providing some of the best espresso and cappuccino in the country.
Centrally located in the Cilento National Park, Torchiara overlooks the blue Mediterranean Sea with groves of ancient olive trees lining the hillsides. This picturesque village enjoys mountain breezes, lower humidity, and views of Salerno Bay. On a clear day, you can spot the island of Capri in the distance. Torchiara boasts over a thousand years of history along its cobbled stone streets, ancient palaces, and quaint churches. 
Although born in Battipaglia in the Campania Region of Salerno, Rosina spent most of her youth in Torchiara. Her childhood home sat along one of the cobbled stone streets in this hilltop village. Before leaving for America, Rosina worked in the olive groves on the mountainside. 
According to Linda, one of Rosina’s granddaughters, “When I would comment on my Grandmother’s soft hands and beautiful skin, her reply was, ‘I worked in the olive groves of Torchiara, where some of the finest Virgin Olive Oil comes. And the oil from picking olives was the best lotion for keeping my skin so soft. So throw away your expensive creams and use a little olive oil each day! So what if you smell like a salad? It’s worth it!”

These three pictures were taken by the sisters that visited their grandparents’ home over ten years ago.

As the capital city of the Campania region, Naples is a dynamic location. And not just because it sits beneath the shadow of Mount Vesuvius! It’s also the third-largest city in Italy.
Naples has a diverse and complicated history with some triumphs and many setbacks. In my book, Until Next Sunday, Rosina disembarked from the port in Naples for America in 1919.
Although Southern Italy and Naples are considered much poorer regions than Rome and northern Italy, this region still offers many tourism opportunities. You can visit ancient sites and various castles, stroll through art museums, and indulge in a pizza or a shot of espresso.
If you travel West and slightly to the North of the Campania Region, you will come to the Eastern, mountainous coast of Italy known as the Abruzzo Region. Gianni, Rosina’s love interest in Until Next Sunday, originally called Teramo in the Abruzzo Region home. Teramo sits between the high peaks of the Apennines and the Adriatic Coast.
One of the region’s well-known dishes is homemade gnocchi. Rosina would prepare homemade gnocchi for her family at their Sunday dinners. You can find Rosina’s recipe for gnocchi in the opening pages of Until Next Sunday and within the free book club kit download from my website.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this mini-tour of Italy. This region was fascinating to research. I love how a book can take you on a mental vacation to faraway places like the mountain village of Torchiara or the bustling city of Naples. Someday, I hope that I get to go there in real life! How about you? Is Italy on your travel “wish list”?

About the Book

About the Author

Audry Fryer is an author and professional freelance writer from Pennsylvania. Formerly a teacher, Audry wrote her first novel while her toddler son and twin babies napped. As her children have grown into teenagers, she has expanded her writing career. Audry lives with her family and two pugs in a quiet corner of Southeastern PA. To learn more about Audry, please visit her website at www.audryfryer.com

Mindset Medicine: Overcoming Obstacles Through Journaling

Recently internationally best-selling author, Mari L. McCarthy, sent me a copy of her new book, Mindset Medicine: A Journaling Power Self-Love Book. In the book, the author shares 14 writing prompts and ways to heal from mental, emotional, and physical trauma through journaling. I accepted the book to write a book review, but I picked it up to read it at a time when I desperately needed it.

Mari’s book came to me at a time when the absolute last thing I thought I needed to learn about was disciplined writing. When I opened it to the introduction, it read like Mari was talking directly to me.

If you’ve slowly developed a feeling that big tech, mass media, and our cultural and government institutions are doing everything they can to brainwash you, you should pay attention to this feeling. You should pay attention to it and trust it, because it’s your intuition feeding you the truth. Make no doubt about it, your heart and soul are under siege by societal forces that don’t have your best interests in mind….These forces want to separate you from YOU….view this book as an invitation to journey inward and deprogram what you’ve been conditioned to believe you should be.

Mari L. McCarthy

The Mission

The book is about helping you reclaim your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Pulling from her personal experience overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (MS) through journaling, Mari leads readers to overcome their own greatest challenges through focused introspection. She doesn’t just lean on her own experiences either. Ms. McCarthy cites examples of other published medical studies that saw real change as a result of writing. Fourteen short chapters teach readers to apply the technique of writing to self-heal.

The Challenge

The first chapter really got me thinking about something. In my circles, I have seen a lot of harm come from social media. Friends pose pictures of themselves in their best lives, outfits, and moments. All the perfection makes you feel like you are missing out on the way life is supposed to be.

Then random strangers message you “hey beautiful” trying to get at your heart. If you are curious and lonely, you say “hi” back and open a door. If you are smart, you ignore them.

The question I find myself asking is why social media even wastes our time if it hurts our hearts so much. This idea is part of what I wrote about in response to the first prompt from the book below:

If you could really change the world, what would you want to change about it? Consider getting your own copy of Mari L. McCarthy’s Mindset Medicine and join the revolution of changing the world through writing.

Mindset Medicine book cover

About the Author

Author holding some of her books

Mari L. McCarthy, Founder and CEO – Chief Empowerment Officer  of CreateWriteNow.com, teaches curious health-conscious action-takers how to use Journaling For The Health Of It®️ to heal the emotional, creative, physical, and spiritual issues in their tissues. She also shows them how to use this powerful personal transformation tool to know, grow and share their True Self. Mari is the multi award-winning author of Journaling Power: How To Create The Happy, Healthy Life You Want To Live, Heal Your Self With Journaling Power and Mindset Medicine: A Journaling Power Self-Love Book. She’s also created 20+ Journaling For The Health Of It® Self-Management 101 Workbooks including Who Am I?, Take Control Of Your Health! and Start Journaling For The Health Of It® Write Now.

Find out more about Mari by visiting her website CreateWriteNow.com, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube.

Something Extra

For more from Mari including a look at her venture into music, join us Monday for a visit to the Bohemian Princess Podcast.

Using Our Gifts: Sermon by Pastor Bill Adams

December 19, 2021, I had the privilege of hearing this sermon in person at the beautiful 175 year old Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church in Wilmington, NC.

This sermon is shared here with permission by the author: Pastor Bill Adams


Consider This…


Dr. Oswald Golter was a missionary to China more than 60 years ago.  After World War II he was asked to leave that country.  So his missionary society wired him a ticket and Dr. Golter made his way to India to catch a ship home to America.  While he was there he noticed that there were many Jews living in the area–in attics and sheds and barns.  They were there because India was one of the few countries in the world that welcomed the Jews following the War.  And Dr. Golter was excited to see them and went around and greeted them.

It was Christmastime and he said to them “Merry Christmas to you!”  And they said “We’re Jews.”  “Well, I know,” said Dr. Golter, “but Merry Christmas anyway.”  “I tell you,” they responded, “we’re Jews.  We don’t celebrate Christmas.”  “I know” he said, “but if you did, what would you want for Christmas?”  “Well if we did,” they replied, “then we probably would want some fine German pastries.”  So Dr. Golter cashed in his ticket home and found a shop that sold fine German pastries.  Then he bought up boxes and boxes of pastry.  He took it back to the barns and attics and sheds and handed it out to the Jews saying, “Merry Christmas to you.  Merry Christmas.”

Years later that story was told when Dr. Golter was being introduced to speak at a seminary gathering.  As he got up to the microphone a young seminarian stood up and said to Dr. Golter, “I can’t believe you did that.  Those people aren’t Christians.  They don’t even believe in Jesus Christ!”  Dr. Golter nodded his head and said, “I know.”  Then he added, “But I do.” (modified from a note by Rev. King Duncan) 

There’s a lesson in this for us as we go about our daily lives in an unbelieving world.  We are not to live as the rest of the world does – we’re to live as we are led by Christ, even when it seems like something that most people wouldn’t do

We’re different!  We’re children of God and we’re supposed to be different!

Consider This…

Nicholas was born of wealthy parents in 280 AD in a small town called Patara in Asia Minor.  He lost his parents early by an epidemic but not before they had instilled in him the gift of faith.  Then little Nicholas went to Myra and lived there a life full of sacrifice and love and the spirit of Jesus.
Nicholas became so Christlike that when the town needed a bishop he was elected.  He was imprisoned for his faith by Emperor Diocletian and released later by Emperor Constantine.

There have been many stories of his generosity and compassion: how he begged for food for the poor, and how he would give girls money so that they would have a dowry to get a husband.  The story most often repeated was about how he would put on a disguise and go out and give gifts to poor children.  He gave away everything he had.  And in the year 314, he died.  His body was later moved to Italy where his remains are to this day.
But the story of Nicholas has spread around the world.  There are more churches in the world named after St. Nicholas than any other person in all the history of the church.

People have done strange things to his memory.  The poet, Clement Moore, gave him a red nose and eight tiny reindeer.  Thomas Nast, the illustrator, made him big and fat and gave him a red suit trimmed by fur.  Others have given him names like Belsnickle, Kris Kringle, and Santa Claus.  But what’s important about him is that he had the mind of Christ. Because of his gentle selfless love, he touched the whole world.  And this same mind of Christ can be in us. (modified from a note by Rev. James S. Hewett)

As I pondered St. Nicholas’ life, it occurred to me that we really don’t follow in his footsteps.  By the world’s standards, we are wealthy.  And the people we give gifts to are wealthy.  This was not the ministry of Nicholas –he ministered to those who were poor and needy.  We each need to consider what we can do to make our gift giving more like that of St. Nicholas.           

Sermon: Using Our Gifts                                          

If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:32-35

We’ve all been thinking a lot about gifts lately, especially what gifts we’d like to get for the people we love.  Some of us may have been thinking about the gifts we’ll be getting.
We love gifts.  Some of us dream about getting a great gift in life – that’s why so many people play the lottery.  They want to invest little and get a lot.  They think, wouldn’t it be great if I won a million dollars?  What a gift that would be!  Well, maybe it would be great, but maybe not.  Not everyone has the same idea of great.  One person’s wish may be another’s person’s nightmare. 
Take, for example, the story of three men who were sailing together in the Pacific Ocean.  Their vessel was wrecked and they found themselves on an island.  They had plenty of food, but their existence was in every way different from what their lives had been in the past.The men were walking by the seashore one day after they had been there for some months and they found an old lantern.  One man picked it up, and as he rubbed it to clean it off, a genie popped out.  The genie said, “Well, since you have been good enough to release me, I will give each of you one wish.” 
The first man said, “Oh, that’s perfectly marvelous.  I’m a cattleman from Wyoming and I wish I were back on my ranch.”  Poof!  He was back on his ranch.
The second man said, “Well, I’m a stockbroker from New York, and I wish that I were back in Manhattan.”  Poof!  He was back in Manhattan with his papers, his telephones, his clients and his computers. 
The third fellow was somewhat more relaxed about life and actually enjoyed life there on the island.  He said, “Well, I am quite happy here.  I just wish my two friends were back.”  Poof!  Poof!  And so they were.  Everybody’s idea of a good thing isn’t the same! But wouldn’t we all like to have a little more money?  Don’t many Americans sit around thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great …if I won the lottery…if I had my dream house…if I was famous….?”  We know its true.  That’s why lotteries make so much money for the state.
But as Christians…as the people of God…what if instead of wishing for money or fame or success or more “things,” we would just wish with all our hearts and souls and minds and strength that we could love the Lord and our neighbor as ourselves?  A wish like that could change the world.

This morning I’m going to talk about the gift of love – it’s a gift that God gives to us and the gift we offer back to Him. 

Jesus was a gift of love to mankind.  God didn’t have to send Jesus.  He could have just let us go on killing and mistreating each other.  He could have just let mankind remain ignorant of his love for people.

But, because of God’s love, Jesus came to earth and he literally loved us until his death.  On the last night he was on earth, he washed the disciple’s feet, shared a meal with them and then taught them.
And one of his last teachings that night was about God’s love.  It is our scripture for this morning from John 13:32-35.

You know, out of his love for us, God gives each one of us talents and gifts.  The other day amid all of the Christmas music on the radio I heard Handel’s “Messiah.”  What a gift that music is for all time.
Handel was a gifted man.  He learned to play the harpsichord by age 7 and was composing music by age nine. His father opposed his gift of music – he wanted young George to become a lawyer. But when the dad went off to work, George’s mother made him practice.
George was obedient to his father, and he entered law school. But after his father died, he abandoned law. He kept true to his gift and became an organist at the Protestant Cathedral.  There his talent quickly began to blossom.
God definitely gave Handel a gift and thank heavens he chose to use it! Today, we still recognize Handel’s gifts and are blessed by his efforts.We also need to remember and recognize that God’s gift of talent to Handel was a gift of love to us. Just imaging how much poorer we’d be if he’d stuck with law.

Each person here this morning also has God-given gifts. They may not be a great as Handel’s but you have them. God makes each one of us unique.
But so often we fail to recognize our giftsWe have to discover them.  And once we do, we have to use them.  

History shows us that people who have achieved greatness using their gifts had to persevere.  Your gifts may not even be recognized until you’re gone. How many starving artists never achieved fame in their life times but are now considered to be great?

Robert Frost, one of the greatest poets, wrote poetry for twenty years without fame or success. He was 39 years old before he sold a single volume of poetry. Today his poems have been published in over twenty languages and he won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry four times.

When Enrico Caruso, the great Italian tenor, took his first voice lesson, the instructor thought he was hopeless.  He said his voice sounded like wind whistling through a window.  Today, he is recognized as perhaps the greatest tenor who ever lived.

So, if the world has failed to recognize your talents, you’re in good company.  When God gives us a gift, He doesn’t want us to just sit and admire it, he wants us to use it.

One of the ways we can be happy in life is to keep using the gifts God has given us.  If you have been gifted in music or math, you’ll probably never be happy driving a cab. If you have great hand-to-eye coordination and athletic skills, you probably won’t be satisfied with a desk job. In so many ways, our happiness depends on us using our gifts.

But what if we don’t use our gifts? Not only will we risk our happiness, the Kingdom of God will lose out on what we could have done. It will miss out on all the love and beauty we could have shared.

As Christians, it’s our job to love and to help other people. God loves us not because we are lovable, but because He is love. Nowhere in scripture does Jesus give us a pass on loving other people – any kind of people.  

Even though Judas was going to betray Jesus, Jesus loved him. Jesus even washed his feet.  He told us we’re to love our enemies. God wants all of us to use his gifts and love to change our world. God needs our gifts and love to help make his kingdom the reality we live in each day.  Because life in the Kingdom of God is not created by just a few people. God’s Kingdom is made up of all of His people.
Because God loves us God has given us gifts and it’s up to us to use them. We are each unique and we each have value. God didn’t craft you carefully for you to live casually. You’ve been wondrously made to do wondrous things!

And so use the gifts God has given you.  Don’t worry about the particulars.  If you’ve built a wall around yourself, tear it down and become available to God.
Remember, God has given all of us the greatest gift – the gift of Himself through Jesus. He made Himself available to us because we cannot save ourselves.
Because He made Himself available, and because He made Himself an offering on our behalf, we have salvation.  Our sinful thoughts and acts are forgiven.
In thanks, we need to take our everyday, ordinary lives and place them before God as an offering.  We should serve God because we want to.  And when we do, we’re operating out of our strongest gift – our love.

Remember the story of the boy who offered his loaves and fishes.  They were offered as a gift to God and God multiplied them.  Five loaves and two fishes were multiplied to feed over 5,000 with leftovers to boot.
But that’s what God does with gifts that are being used; He multiplies them and does even greater things! 

God offered the gift of salvation to Charlie Soong in this very place.  Charlie Soong then carried that gift to China and used it to change the world for millions of people.  God multiplied his efforts!
No matter where we are in life, or what situation we’re in, we can contribute to God’s Kingdom.  God needs every gift in this room to be used to advance His Kingdom.
God needs you and me.  If we don’t open the gifts God gave to us out of love, things will not be changed.  Don’t leave His gift unopened.  It’s one of the most special gifts you’ve ever received.
So, this Christmas go ahead and open His gift, give thanks, and offer your own loaves and fishes up to heaven!  Give the gift of yourself to God.
Open the gifts He has given you and use them and just watch what God will do.  I think you will be amazed.

In the name of Jesus – who was, and lives, and is to come.  Amen.


For more inspiration, visit 5th Avenue United Methodist Church in person on Sundays at 10:30AM at 409 South Fifth Avenue, Wilmington, NC.

Pamela Taylor’s “Pestilence: Second Son Chronicles, Volume 3”

Blog Tour for Pamela Taylor’s book, Pestilence: Second Son Chronicles Volume 3

Welcome Back!

If you are just joining us, this blog is part of a book tour promoting a new historical fiction novel by Pamela Taylor, Prestilence: Second Son Chronicles Volume 3.

Note: The author sent me an autographed copy of the book in exchange for this review.

Pamela Taylor’s book series, Second Son Chronicles, is a historical fiction series using familiar historical settings to tell the story of a family that is fictional. It is not a reimagining of actual people or events–like some historical fiction–and readers may have to remind themselves of that as they read.

The book opens with the sudden death of a beloved king and his rapid replacement by an impetuous son. It doesn’t take long to see that this new king is going to lead the realm in a downward spiral. The story is all told to us by a second son and brother of the new king who has some mysterious destiny of his own yet to be fulfilled.

This book begins mid-action with characters and plots that have been brewing for two books prior to this one. Though the writer does provide a family tree and a sketch of the kingdom at the start of the book, it is hard to understand what is happening if you haven’t read books one and two first. If you read excerpts of the books on the author’s website, linked here, you get a sense of the story without the full depth of it. This is about a family of royals where the second sons–unlikely to become kings–have value and voice. This is also a story that rarely sits still; some scheme or battle is always in the middle of happening or being plotted.

Though there are uncanny resemblances to Henry VIII in some of what happens in Pestilence, the author makes it clear that this is a work of fiction inspired by events of the past but not about any person(s) in particular. The author responds to this idea in the book:

Readers will note similarities with northern Europe, but my decision to fictionalize the setting was a matter of practicality for my characters. European history from this period and its major actors are too well known for it to be plausible that a different set of kings and nobility might actually have existed.

Taylor, Pamela. Pestilence: Second Son Chronicles Volume 3, “Author’s Notes”, Black Rose Writing: Texas, 2020. pg 218.

Pamela Taylor’s work is particularly well designed to showcase language. At one point, the narrator creates a historical record of the new king’s reign that looked and sounded like an actual document that I could research and find. The characters, too, feel real because of the depth of research behind authenticating them within their era. Taylor transitions seamlessly from formal to casual speech; she is surprisingly eloquent as a noble as well as an accented servant. I can only imagine this book series would come to life in full cast audio production.

Taylor’s work would have every right to be laden with words we cannot understand outside of the context, but she makes it a particular point not to do that. Language is intentionally modernized slightly to save readers from referencing dictionaries to understand her work. It is a subtle nod to the audience that does not affect the story but greatly assists the reader.

I greatly respect the work Taylor has put into creating this entertaining series, and I plan to order books one and two to get the full story. If you are looking for an adventurous, mysterious, historical novel full of scandal and glory, check out the Second Son Chronicles. It will not disappoint.

Allegory and Underline Themes in “Pestilence” and the Second Son Chronicles Series by Pamela Taylor

The following is a guest post written by the author, Pamela Taylor, for the WOW blog tour promotion of her newest book.

From Dickens to Tolkien, from Molière to Gene Rodenberry writers through the ages have used their pen to comment on political and social issues of their era. Dickens chose stark realism while Molière opted for broad comedic satire. Tolkien embedded his message in a fantasy world; Rodenberry’s
métier was science fiction. I don’t even pretend to place myself among that pantheon of authors, but I chose them to make the point that exploring challenging issues often succeeds best within the context of entertainment.

My primary goal in writing the Second Son Chronicles is to entertain readers. I hope they enjoy the journey of Alfred (the series protagonist) as much as I’m enjoying bringing it to life. But for those
readers who like to look below the surface, there are some themes to be discovered. And for me, the past was a good, non-threatening setting in which to do so. I specifically chose the beginning of the Renaissance because it was a time when new ideas were spreading rapidly – and yet skepticism
still abounded and those in positions of power were often quite happy to quash anything that didn’t fit their narrative of what the world should be.

The full series examines a wide range of social and political issues of the last fifty or sixty years.
Modeling Alfred’s wife on some of the strong women of medieval and early Renaissance times allows me to explore women’s roles and rights. Having a less enlightened society bordering Alfred’s
kingdom provides the opportunity to discuss cultural differences and questions of nation-building.
The rise of the merchant class at this time in history is an excellent context in which to explore the growing influence today of big business. And the overall state of medicine at the time lends itself easily to the topic of health care.

Pestilence takes place at a time of serious upheaval for Alfred’s kingdom. The disruptions engendered by the new king’s authoritarianism highlight class divides and pave the way for the
emergence of demagoguery, xenophobia, militarism, and neglect of basic functions of governing.
What happens illuminates the very real human cost of a lack of social supports. And the situation forces those who still believe their duty is to the common good to find unexpected paths to achieve those ends.

My goal for the allegory underlying Alfred’s story has never been to be prescriptive or pedantic. I hope only to encourage readers to think.

As the dedication reads: “This series is dedicated to the hope that thoughtfulness, compassion, respect, and rational dialogue can triumph over bigotry, greed, mistrust, and self-righteousness to create a world that is truly a better place for all of
humankind.”

Thank you, Ms. Taylor, for stopping by our blog today. Check out the blog tour for more posts and reader reviews. You can find our review here on July 1st.

Justin Williams Pope: A Follow Up To The “From Dream To Reality” Event

We are back with Justin Williams Pope, journalist and writer of the Henry and Matilda’s Adventures children’s book series.

Justin visited us earlier in a live interview in October. We decided to follow up with him here to learn a bit more about his experiences.

Let’s jump back in!

On Education And Success

You have to dare yourself and challenge yourself to grow. If you don’t ask to do it, how will you know if you might get the opportunity? Most people miss out on these things because they are afraid to ask how they can pursue it!

Justin Williams Pope

You spent five years at Wayne Community College, in part, because you didn’t put your best foot forward in your work. What motivated you to take your education seriously? 

My dreams and desires to be successful. I knew that Education was the only route for me to attain success in the area I wanted to be in and I needed to buckle down and get my education.

You struggled with a lot of different career path ideas before you ever left Wayne County. How did you focus enough to pursue a degree in Communications at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington?  

I certainly did struggle. Honestly, I fell into communication studies due to my love for writing as well as my disdain for Math. I knew to be a Communications (Com) major, I could just take statistics and I could still pursue Public Relations or Journalism.

Looking back on the successes you have had so far, how important has college education been to your success as an artist in multiple genres? 

A college education is invaluable because, if anything, classes teach you the best skill of all: time management. It may help teach you something specific to your major, yes. However, the biggest takeaway, in my opinion, of obtaining an undergraduate degree is the ability to manage and balance your time successfully. It is so important. Yes, you may have the skills, but if you don’t know how to manage the time you have, you can never obtain any degree of success.

What advice would you give to students like you that struggle here in their studies today? 

Keep on keeping on. Take advantage of the tools and resources that are on campus: Writing Center, Math Lab, tutors, advisors, etc. to get advice from along the way.  All of those are to your advantage in your educational journey. USE THEM.

You have an amazing gift for pursuing dreams and passions without fear of failure because you believe in yourself and know you can’t fail or succeed without first trying. You have not always felt this way. What helped you take such a positive approach to living your life?  

You have to find that within yourself.  I may not be the smartest person ever, but I have just enough about me to ask the question. For example, I think about how I ended up in the internship at One Tree Hill. I was folding washcloths at Belk one afternoon when I realized I was going to walk into my intern advisor’s office the next day and ask for that internship. Those more daring things have only served to assist in building my confidence. I also credit my yearning to know about things and to dare myself to do it. i.e – dangling nine stories up from the WFD fire tower or wading out into the intracoastal waterway without a lifejacket just to try to help find an endangered species.  You have to dare yourself and challenge yourself to grow and if you don’t ask to do it, how will you know if you might get the opportunity? Most people miss out on these things because they are afraid to ask how they can pursue it!

On Journalism And Acting

There are many different types of writing, but you really fell in love with journalism from the beginning as a student writer and editor for Wayne Community College’s Campus Voice. What made you realize this career was one you really wanted to pursue?  

I have two favorite mediums of writing – the first is that journalism/quasi-editorial of telling a story in a very interpersonal way. I had loved writing since 2nd grade and even when I look back at that now, I was writing very interpersonally then. I thank God for that talent and aim to use it to the best of my ability.  If you can convey a story to a reader, you can change a life! The second type of writing is Public Relations writing. I love writing Press Releases. I excelled at this in college as it was a professional, clear-cut form of writing but if you can make it sound good and clean, it will wow your readers.  It’s also nice to be on both sides: press release writer and then as a journalist, take that press release and create a story out of it. 

Journalists used to take pride in telling well researched, honest stories that were meticulously fact checked and edited for typos. Today, simple typos appear in every article and journalists intentionally report false news as much as real news. What do you think is the cause of this change? 

Sensationalism, unfortunately.  I think Social Media has added to this as many people fancy themselves as journalists when they are not.  Sadly, our world has changed with the advent of social media. We live in a 24 hour a day news, news, news and the need to fill space is there. Unfortunately, journalists are going so fast and there are so few of them for multiple platforms – on cam, on web, print, blog, etc. The medium is no longer just tv or the afternoon newspaper.  
As far as bias in journalism, all stories can be slanted to appeal to a certain audience or persuade a certain group. Or to make someone look bad. If you look back at a broadcast of the news from the 1970’s, Walter Cronkite reported just the facts of what happened.  Today, journalists often insert their own opinion or feelings when they should just report the facts but they want to have their story clicked on so the word sensationalism comes to mind because ultimately, journalism is a business. 

I remember pitching a story to freelance write for a local paper, and the editor took my idea and gave it to his own staff writers to complete. How competitive is journalism today and how can someone new get into it?  

I feel like that was hi-jacking your idea and that’s not nice on that editor’s part to take your idea and give it to a staffer. I have never had that happen to me, yet.  I feel like it is becoming harder and harder to break in as a freelancer in print media at least. There used to be 11 of us and we are now down to 3 in the Wilmington Market. Sadly, the newspapers are shrinking and the need for stringers are not needed like it was in previous years and there is just not the funding for them as advertising dollars are down. 

You have said the landscape of journalism is changing as less and less readers buy print media and the publishers are converting to online subscriptions. How has this changed how writers are managed today?

In my market, I write about happy/community things so it has not affected what I do. I write about church anniversaries, school events, etc.  As we have grown smaller in numbers, my area has increased. Years ago, I was only allowed to write for Pender County but now I cover all three counties. It has been a pro for me because I can cover all three areas but the problem is that if you are looking for immediate news, your phone is the go to. By the time the newspaper comes out, Trump has tweeted something new. The online version is the way to go for instant find out!  I have not been asked to not cover something because I write about things that people will go to the box and pick up a paper.

How has the transition to online readers changed the types of stories you tell? Do you feel you have more or less readers now than you would have had twenty years ago?

No real changes on my story types. But size is much smaller than years ago. I used to write 850 words per story. Today – I cannot go over 350-375 or it will be cut. This is because reader’s attention span is much shorter and they will not take the time to read a longer story.  I feel like 20 years ago – the print subscriptions were much stronger, but online has only increased and the print editions have decreased. 

You were introduced to acting through local theatre here at Wayne Community College and, in the community, through Stage Struck Productions. One of the first things you developed to pursue a career in acting was a professional portfolio of pictures and acting experience. How important was this step towards opening the door in the acting world for you? 

Eh. I never saw myself as an actor. I only developed my portfolio because I needed to as part of my senior seminar at UNCW. It was indeed helpful but it wasn’t the direction I was going in. Whatever you do, however, it is good to have a professional portfolio. 

You had an internship with One Tree Hill in Wilmington. What you expected to be an open door into the world of performance art ended up being a dead end. How did you handle that seeming failure and reshape it into a positive experience?  

I just kind of felt it wasn’t meant to be. There are times in life when you know that it just wasn’t meant to be and that another avenue will open up if you keep pursuing.  I wasn’t going to act. I wanted to write but it didn’t seem to happen and now looking back I wouldn’t want it any other way.  

You have a gap between your two front teeth that is a rather endearing identifying mark, but it hasn’t always been treated that way. What negative comments have you received about your appearance and how have you handled them without letting them derail you?

I find my gap inspiring and I never wanted to change it. I did have it closed in as it was once even larger. It was hurtful when I was told that I would never be on television because it was so large. But there are people with that opinion. I like to think of it as a unique thing because not everyone has it. I’m special!! And again, you just keep going no matter what!!!

You joined a Writers’ Guild to improve your opportunities in the field of writing. There are professional guilds for many artistic careers including acting and writing. What is a guild and how can it be beneficial for an artist to join one?  

I never joined an actors guild, but I joined the Writers Guild. (It is good because) there are tons of resources that benefit a fledgling writer including agent opportunities and writer’s groups. It also gives you a professional standardization that resonates with those in the writing world. 

You transitioned from acting to creating and hosting a show you are pitching to The Discovery Channel now. You proudly claim the show, Sacred Places, will be a lasting legacy of something good you will give back to the world. How difficult has it been for you to take on this role, and what has been your best help in fulfilling it? 

I have had the good fortune to be able to utilize lots of resources to get this off the ground.  My University of North Carolina at Wilmington resources as well as my Wilmington Star News background.  The churches themselves are really the star of the show. They tell the story of our history and our time. I am just like the viewer, along for the ride but I am fortunate to be able to help share these stories with the audience and if picked up, hopefully the world. It has not been a hard task as it is something I love and I am thankful for the opportunity. 

On Creative Writing

You may have the skills, but if you don’t know how to manage the time you have, you can never obtain any degree of success.

Justin Williams Pope

You have explored different types of writing including short stories, screenplays, and children’s literature. How do you determine what genre a story should be in? 

It usually just starts with an idea in my head. It definitely varies as I have lots of ideas. I then use the clustering system to develop the idea and story. For my journalism stories, I use a set formula that makes it easier to write but still compels a reader in.  

You were inspired to tell a travel story as a children’s book that is now a published, ongoing series about a country dog and chicken exploring historic locations in America. How do you determine locations for the series to explore while still making them believable journeys for your characters?  

We have so many great places in America that I want them to travel too.  The first book was a no-brainer. New York is not your average market – it is a global market so I wanted it to be a “larger market” book that would sale lots of books. As we search for new locations, I try to look at what may educate our readers as well as take them to a place of new exploration, somewhere that is fun yet still with great learning opportunity.  Our 4th book that will publish in late 2020 will be in the mid-west and will be the first time we have adventured to that area. 

Some of the best advice given to young writers is to write from what you know. You have done that with the Henry and Matilda’s Adventures series because you grew up on a farm (around farm animals) and used real people to inspire your work. How similar are your literary characters to the real inspiration for Henry and Matilda? 

Henry and Matilda are best friends much like the real Henry (Me) and the real Matilda (my good friend Drucilla) are as we set out on an adventure to New York City. As far as what they are doing, the characters do take on a life of their own.  I like to think of Henry as being very loyal and Matilda as being very sassy but they both certainly love their adventure. 

As simplistic as a children’s story may be to an adult reader, it is actually far more daunting to write. What are the key factors that have to be considered when writing a children’s book?  

A large part is being in harmony with your illustrator. You have to ask ‘can she draw this?’  Henry and Matilda’s illustrations are fantastic painted by a professional artist who met with me in depth over periods at the farm to capture what I wanted. The story is formulated as Henry and Matilda will always go on an adventure together, the artist is the one who brings my story and vision to life. 

The market for children’s literature today is both saturated and competitive. How do you find and create a niche in that genre?  

You follow through and don’t give up.  You keep pushing and develop not only the story but if you want to last, you create a brand. 

In the past, writers wanting to get published would submit work to publishers directly and wait to hear back. Over time, less and less publishers have accepted unsolicited work, and many of them have closed up their doors. You used an agent to help market and get your book published. How did you find an agent, and how has that helped you?   

Any quality presentation would seek out assistance from the Writer’s Guild (yes, it costs money to do so) and their assistance is invaluable.  The Writer’s Guild brings a prestige and professionalism to your work. 

Many writers today are turning away from traditional publishing houses in favor of self-publishing and self-promotion. Presses like Amazon make it possible for writers to do their own layout and print only on demand as copies are sold. How has this made the world of writing better or worse as a whole?  

I don’t think it has made it worse. I think it has actually provided an outlet for people who may just want to see their story come to life. They may have no interest in being a professional writer or a lifetime story teller. I think online has encouraged creativity and has allowed people to see themselves as an author. They may never make tons of money from it but they got their dream of having their book published. 

Some writers feel they are not writers till they can write full-time and live off their writing income, but that is a pressure that often strangles creativity and is unrealistic for most writers. Do you feel writers shame themselves and each other into unrealistic goals?  

The reality is that most writers have another 9-5 job until they can become professional writers in some medium. I don’t know about “shaming themselves”. I can only speak for me, and I look at it as a business just as much as it is a creative passion. Some writers can never discern the two. 

Many writers benefit from the stability of a regular job and write around it. You currently write while working a 40-hour week in Public Relations in the healthcare industry. How has that job enabled you to be a better writer?  

Both are so different – I’m looking at things from two opposite spectrums so I feel l can write from both arenas and it strengthens my writing. 

Many of our readers are aspiring writers too (of all ages). What is your best advice to young, yet unpublished, authors?  

Keep writing. Remember, that there is no plot that has not been done. What can you do to make it unique but sellable? Who is your target audience and follow the correct business steps to get published. 

This concludes our two-part interview with Justin Williams Pope. You can find his Henry and Matilda’s Adventures series available wherever books are sold including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

We hope you were enlightened and encouraged by what was shared. Please leave a comment below and share how we have encouraged you and any questions you may have to continue the discussion.

From Dream To Reality, A Night With Justin Williams Pope

I am here with Justin Williams Pope, Wayne County native and graduate of Charles B. Aycock High School and Wayne Community College. Justin and I went to college together, here at Wayne Community College, and followed each other to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Justin has a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and has made a successful life for himself pursuing his passion for writing and communication. He has come back to Wayne Community College (and this blog) to share a little of his story and knowledge of the writing industry and motivate us to pursue our dreams.  

Justin, tell us a little bit about yourself and who you are.

Source: Wayne Community College

Thank you for joining us!

We hope you found this event to be an encouragement towards your own life goals.

For more about Justin and his writing, don’t miss the follow up blog interview here.


Nydia Negron-Lopez, English Language Learner and High School Equivalency Coordinator at Sampson Community College

When I first met Nydia Negron-Lopez, I was inspired by her bravery and enthusiasm. Dressed in red, white, and blue decorations, she acted out the part of a human firework for a group cover of Katy Perry’s “Firework”. She was not afraid to look silly for a good cause and bring on the laughs. It made me want to know more about her, so I contacted her for an interview for this blog.

Nydia was born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico. She loves summertime and the beach and spending as much time as she can with her family. Nydia has a passion for reaching the needs of the Latino community. She started teaching adults in 1999. She worked for the Employment Security Commission (now NC Works) and taught part-time at Wayne Community College and Sampson Community College. She continued working like this for seven years before a position opened up for her to become the ESL and HSED Coordinator in the College and Career Readiness Department at Sampson Community College. 

Interview Q & A

What made you choose to become an adult educator?

I chose to become an adult educator because of my interest in helping adult students become better educated, especially the English language learners who are in need to learn English and integrate into the community.

The adult student is different depending on local demographics and what academic level you are teaching. Describe the average student in your classroom today and some of the ways you encourage their engagement in the classroom.

My class is very diverse, but most are Latinos.  To encourage students, I ask them to do their best.  I assure them that it is ok to make mistakes because that’s how we learn.  I also allow and encourage students to help each other while understanding that respecting everyone is imperative

As an educator of English Language Learners (ELL), I’m sure you have heard a lot of stories from your students about why they are pursuing their education. What are some of the biggest motivating factors they have shared with you?

There are many factors why students are enrolled in English as a Second Language program.  Some students had shared that their willingness to learn English is to be able to incorporate in the society or to get a promotion at work that might get them a higher salary.  However, the reason that stands for why they are in class is to be able to help their kids with school work and able to understand school officials and teachers.

ELL students create a community environment with their classmates and instructors that encourages growth and retention. Why do you think this is a characteristic trait of ELL students?

One characteristic of the Latino population is that they like to accomplish what they have in mind and their commitment to learning the English language.  That’s what attributes a positive learning environment where everyone helps each other and learns. These students incorporate students from other counties and make them feel welcome immediately.  There is a sense of camaraderie. They value their instructor and the effort they make to help them learn the language and their new culture

What are some of the ways you encourage the community environment in your classes?

Explaining we all are diverse, and we can learn from each other is a method to create a positive learning community.  We have events where students can showcase their culture, their food, and their folk. Another way to create a positive classroom environment is by having students understand that the differences make us unique; therefore, we have to respect each other at all times.

You have a natural charisma that makes you work well with others, how does that help you in the classroom?

I think what helps me is that my parents raised me explaining that we all are human beings despite our skin color, who you are, where you come from,  the social status, or everything else society tried to dictate us. My parents preached to us that being humble, and help others without judging is what we need to do to make this world better.  Therefore, I place myself in my student’s shoes. I put myself if I am in a foreign country unable to speak the language, unable to understand, speak or not even knowing the culture. Nonetheless, I try to understand their needs, assist them with school and to provide community information.  One important rule is we can do all by respecting everyone.

What life experiences do you believe best shaped who you are as an educator today?

Many life experiences shaped who I am today; anyhow, the education I received from my parents was the most significant one.  Another person who influenced how I am today as an educator is my aunt. She was a professor, entrepreneur, and now retired from one of the most prestigious Universities in PR.  She had a Ph.D. in Math and wrote children’s books. She taught us that educators could improve people’s life; by teaching valuable lessons, where students not only learn academics but life skills.

What are some helpful ways that you have been able to reshape negative situations into positive opportunities in your life?

As with our daily lives, we learn from our negative outcomes.  This is how we also used the classroom negatives outcomes and turned them into a positive one.  For example, when a student makes a mistake, and the outcome turns wrong, it is imperative to explain to the students that it is normal, healthy and that is how we learn.  Always explaining them we fall many times before we learned to walk, we mispronounced many items before we learned to talk; therefore, with practice and time, we will master our objective.

How has the ability to shape negatives into positives helped you with your students? Explain.

It help me demonstrating students that mistakes are the way we reach perfection.

What are some things happening in your program at Sampson Community College that make it unique from other colleges?

What makes SCC ESL classes unique is the way faculty and staff approach students.  Making them feel welcome, comprehending them while providing an excellent classroom atmosphere, and going above and beyond to make sure students are receiving the best in academic and their necessary daily skills.

As educators, we are always encouraged to teach towards jobs and job markets that haven’t been created yet, so we stay ahead of the curve and teach what is needed for the demand of the marketplace.

We also see a changing demographic in our student populations over time. Based on your experience, what do you predict the future student to be like in your program and what do you think the job market will be for you to fill?

I foresee the Community College system providing more trade and certification classes. This way students are more prepared to enter the workplace with knowledge and some training and experience.  

What advice would you give to a new instructor coming into the field of ELL education?

My advice to a new instructor is to make sure to understand and nourish the students. Understanding that every culture is different and by not establishing bias or judging because we never know what the reasons are for why they migrate to the USA.

True North: The Importance of a Father

Guest Post By Shelton D. Whitman

I still remember what it was like playing baseball when I was a kid. I’d walk out onto the diamond, step into the batter’s box, tap my number four Louisville slugger bat on the home plate, and look out toward the pitcher and the fields behind him. At that moment, I knew where I was and what I needed to do. There was no question. I was there to swing the bat and hit that ball and run through the bases. There wasn’t any time to question why I was there or what I was going to do. In a couple of seconds, a hard baseball was going to come my way traveling upwards of 90 mph.  

About five year ago, I had a stroke that ended up setting me back in a huge way in my health. My mobility was shot. My talking was severely challenged. I was a pastor and an accomplished singer, but all that was lost. Diabetes ravaged my body and continues to today despite my best efforts to control it. It produces sores on my legs that have sent me to the hospital many times. It has taken my sight and almost my life.

I’m wearing the highest level of reading glasses as I write this, and I still can’t really see what I am writing. I have cried out to God repeatedly, and I am sure he has heard my cry. Nevertheless, I don’t understand how I spent so many years doing all these great works for Jesus, and sometimes feel so disoriented that I can’t find my True North anymore.     

Life moves on quickly. Sometimes you are at the diamond knowing exactly what to do; other times you are in the hospital bed crying out to God for understanding. Changes happen every day. The things that are familiar and comfortable become the fond memories that get us through the tough times. Hold on to those memories. Hold on to all you know is true. THAT is your True North when the rest of the world is confusing. This life we live is an incredibly short trip; it is up to us to make the most of our journey and chart our course towards Heaven.


Shelton Whitman served as an ordained minister for over thirty years in Colorado and North Carolina. He was well known and loved for his smooth, Elvis-like singing voice and his fiery sermons. He retired early due to health issues, and now lives with his wife, Wanda, in rural North Carolina on the farm his father and grandfather started.

 

How Memories Help Overcome Loss

A Guest Post By Shelton D. Whitman
Desperation began with a strong urge to cry uncontrollably. It moved to a choking feeling, and I was suddenly overwhelmed. Emptiness echoed inside; I was lost in a tunnel crying out, “anybody here?” and hearing nothing back. Sometimes the sound of silence is the loudest sound of all.
As the seven strong young Army men of the honor guard from Fort Bragg went through their program to honor my dad, I struggled to keep my composure. They escorted his casket to the grave, played Taps on the trumpet perfectly, folded the American flag that had draped his coffin, and presented it to the family. They fired a 21 gun salute and picked up every shell. They carried my dad to the mausoleum he would rest in and sealed it closed.
At no time did I feel in control of myself. In fact, I was sure that I wasn’t even there. My mind just shut down. I guess it was trying to protect me. When the dam broke, a flood of emotions overtook me, and there was nothing I could do but yield. The tears flowed uncontrollably, and I made no effort to stop them.
My thoughts soon drifted to better days. I remembered happier times I had with my dad and two brothers out fishing in a cool, Colorado river or trolling down an eleven mile reservoir for Kokanee Salmon. I could hear the sizzle of the fresh catch as they fried on the pan over the open camp fire. The taste of their warm, salty meat hit my tongue as though I was there experiencing it all again.
I remembered walking for miles into the Meeker and Creede,Colorado to big game hunt elk and deer. We would start walking early in the morning when the air was so cold we prayed for sunrise to come ribbon across the mountain and thaw us. We would start the day with boiled potatoes in our pockets to keep our hands warm. Later, we would eat them for breakfast. I remembered the deep bellowing bugle of a bull elk and the way I stood in awe at his majestic silhouette. Our hunting trips were not always successful, but we had a tremendous time just being together and enjoying the adventure of the outdoors.
All of a sudden, I was back again–crash landed into the reality of what was happening now. This amazing man who had conquered wild game and worked hard to provide a good life for his family, this man who served multiple active duty tours in the US Army and was shot at and nearly died but survived, this man who seemed larger than life, this unending giant was being laid to rest. Ernest Shelton Whitman–my father–who had begun his life on this patch of soil in Duplin country, was being laid to rest in the same patch of ground he got started in.
Duplin county in North Carolina is largely a rural county. Chicken, turkey, and hog farms abound. The land is quilted in large patches of corn, cotton, tobacco, and watermelon. Trees form natural borders with neighbors and cluster around creeks and streams that snake jagged lines through the county. Modern day GPS devices often get lost finding the private roads and lanes that lead to peoples’ houses.
On September 27, 1938, a native son was born to Robert Steele and Ethel Whitman. Ernest Shelton was the third child born to them, and he was the second child to die following them. The death of Ernest Shelton Whitman reflected the life of Ernest Shelton Whitman. His wife, three sons, three daughters-in-law, six grand kids, and six great-grand kids looked on in shock and disbelief as wonderful words of honor, respect, and comfort were spoken to them. Pastors Jeff Dale and Doug Bartlett spoke very well. I am thankful for all those who stood strong with our family and helped us through such a difficult time.
I am the eldest son, and my recollections may be slightly different than the rest of the family. This day proved to be one of the worst days I would ever have to navigate. Much of the day just went by me; I just tried to remember to keep breathing. Over the next days, weeks, months, and years, the reality of all this would somehow be absorbed into the fabrics of our lives. We would learn to stand a little taller, hold on to each other a little longer, and fight a little harder to move on. I’m not sure how three years have already passed, but the calendar says it is true.
It still just doesn’t seem possible that he is gone. I still break down into an emotional mess at the mere remembrance of my father, a man larger than life itself to me. I don’t know why he is not there when I call his house fully expecting him to say, “hello, son.” I still vividly remember the last time I saw him alive. We were looking through his impressive collection of watches. He handed me watches, one at a time, his face beaming with pride and satisfaction as he told me about each one. Then he surprised me by presenting me with his much coveted Omega wrist watch. I was thankful and stumbling over my words; he was smiling and glad to have such a reaction. We parted each other’s company with familiar words: “love you, dad. See ya next time”. But there wouldn’t be a next time. I wouldn’t see him again until he lay dying in his hospital bed.
I don’t know how one goes on from something like this. I guess we have to just keep putting one step in front of the other, and try to remember to breathe. I can’t see the numbers on the watch dad gave me when I wear it, but I wear it anyway to remember him. My memories growing up with my dad have become more precious to me. Memories have great power to heal us. When I need to talk to my dad, I look back into those memories and think about the man he was and would be today if he could be here.


Shelton Whitman served as an ordained minister for over thirty years in Colorado and North Carolina. He was well known and loved for his smooth, Elvis-like singing voice and his fiery sermons. He retired early due to health issues, and now lives with his wife, Wanda, in rural North Carolina on the farm his father and grandfather started. He shares his thoughts on his blog at: https://sheltondwhitman.wordpress.com/

Creating a Children’s Book Series

This post is written by Fiona Ingram as part of the blog tour for her latest book, The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper. For more about Fiona or to join her blog tour, check out the information here.


Developing a children’s series is both rewarding and taxing for the author, and possibly gratefully welcomed by parents whose children suddenly discover a hero they can relate to and whose actions keep them riveted. Isn’t it wonderful when a child begs, nay, commands its parents to go out and buy the next in a favorite series because they ‘absolutely must know’ what is going to happen next? There are many children’s series currently on the market and perhaps many adults are reading them as well as their children.

Developing a children’s series is not an exact science and not a guaranteed road to writing success.

Sometimes an author will start out with an idea, and try to stretch the story over several books, but to no avail. They discover that when a story is done… it’s done! On the other hand, an author may find that the story takes off and grows into something that spills over the last two words (“The End”) and shapes itself into another and then another and then another book, before winding down to a great final climax. Yet another scenario is when the author creates a set of characters that have several adventures, each one clearly contained with a storyline. The characters have a particular history or set of circumstances to retain the familiarity for readers who keep coming back for more action.

Can a writer tell if the story has the potential for a series?

The plot will evolve naturally if the characters are appealing, and if their personal growth and development hold readers’ attention. Again, appealing characters are not worth anything if the action and conflict are not compelling. There must be a perfect marriage between plot and characters to sustain the strength of a series.

So why do children love an exciting series?

A gifted author will be able to create characters that readers can relate to, and either love or hate. The readers get to know the characters well as the action evolves and, as each book comes out, can explore something new about their heroes. Characters become friends to the avid young reader, who shares in the hopes, dreams and choices the characters make. Readers are amazingly loyal to their favorite characters, even though they may often disagree with the characters’ choices. A good writer can explore these further, enabling readers to begin to make their own choices, especially in a moral dilemma or emotional conflict.

Parents who make the time to read with their children, or who are interested in their children’s book choices, will be able to discuss these issues further. It’s a great way of dealing with ‘sticky’ issues because the discussion is less focused on the child and more on a fictional character. It may be easier for a child to express an opinion if discussing a topic via a character’s choices.

Sensible advice to writers

There are many good reasons why a first-time author should NOT start out with a series. But wait a moment, I hear you ask, aren’t you marketing your own books in a series. Yes, although I hadn’t planned on that initially. I thought I’d create lots of exciting, unrelated adventures for my heroes. But just after the halfway mark in Book One, things changed and the mythology behind the story grew and grew into almost a story on its own.

It was then that I surrendered and said to the characters, “Okay, you win, it’s a series.” Whereupon they all burst into mad cheering, especially the ones who made it into Book Two.

Perhaps writers shouldn’t set out to ‘create’ a series but rather let an original good story develop, allowing the characters and plot potential to determine the result.

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About the Author

Fiona Ingram is a children’s author, but up until a few years ago, she was a journalist and editor. Something rather unexpected sparked her new career as an author—a family trip to Egypt with her mother and two young nephews. They had a great time and she thought she’d write them a short story as a different kind of souvenir…. Well, one book and a planned book series later, she had changed careers. She has now published Book 3 (The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper) in her middle-grade adventure series Chronicles of the Stone, with many awards for the first book,

The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, and a few for Book 2, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, and one already for Book 3! She also teaches online novel writing for aspiring authors and she finds that very satisfying. Relaxation time finds her enjoying something creative or artistic, music, books, theatre or ballet. She loves doing research for her book series. Fiona loves animals and has written two animal rescue stories. She has two adorable (naughty) little dogs called Chloe and Pumpkin, and a beautiful black cat called Bertie.

You can find Fiona at –

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/secretofthesacredscarab/

Website: www.chroniclesofthestone.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/FionaRobyn

Author Site: http://www.FionaIngram.com

Blog: http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2868182.Fiona_Ingram

Charles Pulley: Non-Traditional Student Graduate

In 1964, in the rural country of Micro, NC, a young man named Charles Pulley was forced to fill some very big shoes when his father’s health deteriorated to the point of no longer being able to maintain the family farm. At seventeen, he left school and went to work on the farm. He met a girl at a dance, fell in love, and married her. If he had any hope of returning to school, that hope ended when he got married. Within a year, he was a father. Over the next eleven years, they would have two more children.

Charles did not regret his choices. He loves and lives for his family; he is a family man. Still, he regrets that his sacrifice was not enough to save the farm. By 1965, he was forced to sell it. The farm had been in his family for generations.

Charles divorced and remarried in the 1970s. He lights up when he talks about his second wife, Kathy, and the 42 happy years they have had together. Charles is happiest with his family; he has lived a full life with them. He worked in construction for over 50 years building bridges. Though he was a superintendent most of those years, he got involved with all aspects of the job. “You always got to jump in and help,” he says, “you can’t just sit around.” He was good with his hands and good with math; he was proud of the work he could do.

As his family grew, Charles grew more ashamed of his education. He had six grandchildren, and he didn’t want to tell them that he didn’t finish school.

“I want my grandkids to finish school and be the best that they can be,” he said, “and I don’t want to be the only one in my family without a high school education.”

Working and taking care of his family, Charles never really had the chance to come back and finish his high school education. When he started summer classes at Wayne Community College in 2018, he realized that it was harder than it used to be. Though he had designed and built bridges and managed job sites for half a century, he was dumbfounded by the math needed to complete the High School Equivalency test.

“I thought of dropping out,” he said, “but I told myself that I am not a quitter. I have never been a quitter, and I’m not gonna start being one now.”

Instead of quitting, Charles jumped in and committed himself to learning as quickly as he could. He attended night classes faithfully and absorbed material like a sponge. When he wasn’t picking up the math as quickly as it was being taught, he took it to his granddaughter and had her help him. Within a month–faster than most students half his age–Charles completed his High School Equivalency degree. On a test that requires a minimum scaled score of 45 to complete it, he scored 63. He didn’t just finish his degree, he finished with excellence.

Charles Pulley

Charles Pulley

Charles advises his peers to try harder and keep pushing towards completing their educational goals.

“Education is one of the main things in life,” he says, “Ignorance is an uneducated person.”

Charles is looking forward to the graduation ceremony in May 2019. He is on the church board at his church and has a lot of friends who want to be here to see him walk. “I like that,” he smiles, “I think that will be fun.”

Charles looks forward to sharing his story with his grandkids and encouraging them to pursue their dreams.

The Rainbow Child and her Paper Mom

This story was written by Mabel Ingram, daughter of Fiona Ingram, and is part of the Blog Tour promoting her mother’s book. Mabel is writing in her youth; she is under 18 as she writes this post.

My name is Mabel Ingram. I was raised by my Paper Mom, Fiona Ingram, who is a children’s author, and my birth parents. I call Fiona my Paper Mom because first she fostered me and then later adopted me, becoming my mom on paper, but she made sure I never lost sight of my roots and my biological family. Fiona calls me the Rainbow Child because I was born just before the end of apartheid in 1994, the change that heralded what Nelson Mandela called the Rainbow Nation in South Africa. My mother was a domestic worker who had not finished school. With very little education and five children to look after, my mother was always a lady with a plan in mind and her biggest dream was for all her children to finish school and be independent.

As the last born, with an over 5-year age group between me and the last of my siblings, I was a bit out of touch with everyone. When I started school, it was quite difficult not only for me, but for my mother as well. With my mom having little to no education and teaching herself how to speak and read English, homework was a battle for us both. That’s when my Paper Mom, Fiona, came into the picture.

My mother, who was working for Fiona at the time, asked for her help. At this point I was about to repeat Grade 4. This was my second time repeating a year at school as I had repeated Grade 2 already. Repeating really brought down my self-esteem, making me more self-conscious about myself because my peers were two years younger. That’s when I start to think, ‘What is wrong with me? Why can’t I be like other children and enjoy all aspects of school and not just lunch time with friends?’

English was my biggest hurdle. Struggling with writing and reading meant I could not understand the lessons taught. This affected all my subjects in school and my self-confidence. I was slowly losing hope and determination. Fiona saw the potential within me, and so she fostered me. I came to live with her. We read all kinds of books together, and she introduced me to reading in a fun way. I now had a proper homework schedule and Fiona made sure I attended extra lessons after school. These English and Maths lessons helped me to improve and understand what was being taught in class.

Mabel pic collage

Children are sponges, they pick up on things you say and how you say them. I started learning from Fiona. English is second nature to my Paper Mom. She was also working as an editor and was the right person to help me through school because she has so much love and passion for the English language. Life was giving me a second chance and so I was introduced to goals. It was hard sticking to the goal of getting an education because when you’re a child all you want to do is go outside and play. But I had to work twice as hard to catch up with my peers and achieve my goals.

I finally made it to high school, the biggest push. At this stage my spoken English and understanding of language was far better than my written English. There were also more essays one had to write in just about every subject. High school was just as challenging as junior school. My first year of high school was at a private school. This all went to my head as I rebelled against continuing with my extra lessons. But both my biological mother and my Paper Mom were there to guide me firmly down the right path. The following year I went to a government school where I did not feel the need to show off. And so, I focused on myself more, I focused on achieving small goals, passing the weekly tests, passing the term papers and, most important, passing the grade! Learning was fun now, reading was amazing, and who knew so many wonderful places and people could be created by words on paper?

At this point I saw I’d also had a mental block, but if you enjoy something it does not feel like you’re working. Maths was still a problem, but I could understand what was being asked of me. English, history and geography were the lessons I loved and excelled in. I enjoyed school so much that the one year I was in the top 10 in my grade. There were about 30 of us in one class and about 4 classes of that grade, so it was a great achievement for me. Not only did I pass Matric (grade 12), which was my high school goal, I passed Matric well enough to get accepted into a tertiary institution.

With a clear understanding of where the problem is, learning can improve. A good support system makes learning easier. Looking back, it was not easy for me, but I made it through with good guidance and support. I would encourage all young people to find a mentor or person who will support you in your goals and help you in fixing your weak spots in learning and reading. Fiona, my Paper Mom, changed my life in so many ways. She literally gave me a new life.

Fiona Ingram’s Blog Tour for The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper

Good morning readers! If you have been following me long, you know that I have been involved in a blog tour before that promoted another writer’s work. A blog tour is like a traveling book tour, but all the traveling happens across blogs. The writer writes specific posts and shares them across the participating blogs, bloggers read and post reviews of his/her book, and promoters get the word out about the tour for a lot of people to come and see it. I was a bit skeptical to get started, to be honest, because I am very protective of you and the voice of the message(s) I share with you. Nevertheless, the tours afford me the opportunity to introduce myself to people who would not have found me otherwise. I have taken a chance on them with writers I felt were worth the effort, and I have not been disappointed.

Fiona Ingram’s blog tour starts this week and I can’t be more excited about this author! I’m so excited, that I am writing this extra post outside of the ones I agreed upon just to tell you about her. 

I have a lot of respect for writers–especially children’s book authors. I have a lot of respect for Fiona because she also adopted a child. Her adopted child will be stopping by to share her story on my blog about her “paper mom”. You don’t want to miss it. Check out the blog tour listed below and stay tuned to the posts forthcoming on my blogs from this author.


 

WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR OF The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper

Tour Begins August 13th

Book Summary

A plane crash! Lost in the jungle! Hunted by their old enemy, will Adam, Justin, and Kim survive long enough to find the Third Stone of Power? With only a young boy, Tukum, as their guide, the kids make their way through the dense and dangerous jungle to find the lost city of stone gods, where the Stone of Power might be located. River rafting on a crocodile-infested river and evading predators are just part of this hazardous task. Of course, their old adversary Dr. Khalid is close behind as the kids press on. But he is not the worst of their problems. This time Adam will clash with a terrible enemy who adopts the persona of an evil Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, and is keen to revive the ancient tradition of human sacrifice. Adam, Justin, and Tukum must play a dreadful ball game of life and death and maybe survive. Will they emerge alive from the jungle? Will Dr. Khalid find the third Stone of Power before they do?

 

Print Length: 318 Pages

Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction, Adventure

Publisher: Bublish, Incorporated (November 2017)

ISBN: 978-1946229465

 

The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper is available to purchase on Amazon.com. 

FionaIngram.jpg (1)

About the Author

Fiona Ingram is a children’s author, but up until a few years ago, she was a journalist and editor. Something rather unexpected sparked her new career as an author—a family trip to Egypt with her mother and two young nephews. They had a great time and she thought she’d write them a short story as a different kind of souvenir…. Well, one book and a planned book series later, she had changed careers. She has now published Book 3 (The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper) in her middle-grade adventure series Chronicles of the Stone, with many awards for the first book,

The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, and a few for Book 2, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, and one already for Book 3! She also teaches online novel writing for aspiring authors and she finds that very satisfying. Relaxation time finds her enjoying something creative or artistic, music, books, theatre or ballet. She loves doing research for her book series. Fiona loves animals and has written two animal rescue stories. She has two adorable (naughty) little dogs called Chloe and Pumpkin, and a beautiful black cat called Bertie.

 

You can find Fiona at –

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/secretofthesacredscarab/

Website: www.chroniclesofthestone.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/FionaRobyn

Author Site: http://www.FionaIngram.com

Blog: http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2868182.Fiona_Ingram

 

— Blog Tour Dates


Today @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning with coffee than a muffin? Grab your cup of morning brew and join us today when we celebrate the launch of Fiona Ingram’s book, The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.  You can read our interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

 

August 14th @ Write Like Crazy

Make sure you stop by Mary Jo’s blog Write Like Crazy where Fiona Ingram talks about why your child doesn’t like reading and how to fix this.

http://www.writelikecrazy.com

 

August 15th @ Girl Zombie Authors

Come by Christine’s blog where Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts on writing about different places for kids.

https://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com/

 

August 16th @ Jessica Samuel’s Blog

Come by Jessica’s blog today where Fiona Ingram talks about how to transform your non-reader into a reader.

https://jessicasamuelsauthor.com/

 

August 19th @ Madeline Sharples’ Blog

Stop by Madeline’s blog today where author Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts with young writers on writing and creating characters.

http://madelinesharples.com/

 

August 20th @ Mari’s #JournalingPower Blog

Stop by Mari’s blog where author Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts on developing characters that children will relate to.

https://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog

 

August 20th @ Bairn’s Bard

Stop by Rebecca’s blog Bairn’s Bard today where you can read a post by Fiona Ingram’s daughter and also you can read about Rebecca’s thoughts on the book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

https://bairnsbard.wordpress.com/

 

August 21st @ Cover2Cover Blog

Stop by Steph’s Cover2Cover where you can read Fiona Ingram’s blog post about choosing books for your kids.

http://cover2coverblog.blogspot.com/

 

August 22nd @ Look to the Western Sky

Come by Margo Dill’s blog Look to the Western Sky where Fiona Ingram writes about her experiences fostering (and later adopting) an illiterate African child who is now a lovely young woman who loves reading.

http://margoldill.com/

 

August 22nd @ A New Look on Books

Come by Rae’s blog where Fiona Ingram writes about the joy of writing for children.

https://anewlookonbooks.com/

 

August 26th @ Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi

Come by Karen’s blog where Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts on how to encourage your kids to start writing.

http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/

 

August 27th @ Mommy Daze: Say What??

Stop by Ashley’s blog where Fiona Ingram talks about helping kids read better with homeschooling. A must read as school is about to start!

https://adayinthelifeofmom.com/

 

August 27th @ Rebecca Whitman’s Blog

Come by Rebecca’s blog where you can read Fiona Ingram’s post about using computers to improve reading skills.

https://rebeccawhitman.wordpress.com

 

August 28th @ Jennifer’s Deals

Stop by Jennifer’s blog where she shares what she her thoughts about Fiona Ingram’s incredible middle grade adventure book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

https://www.jennifers-deals2.com/

 

August 29th @ Jill Sheets Blog

Stop by Jill’s blog where she reviews The Temple of the  Crystal Timekeeper and shares what she thinks about the book.

https://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

 

August 30th @ Story Teller Alley

Visit Veronica’s blog and check out her thoughts on the book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

http://storytelleralley.com/blog

 

August 31st @ Mommy Daze: Say What??

Make sure you stop by Ashley’s blog again where she shares her thoughts on Fiona Ingram’s book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

https://adayinthelifeofmom.com/

 

August 31st @ Rebecca Whitman’s Blog

Stop by Rebecca’s blog again where you can read Fiona Ingram’s post about writing a children series.

https://rebeccawhitman.wordpress.com/

 

September 1st @ Cathy C. Hall’s Blog

Visit Cathy’s blog today where Fiona Ingram shares the top ten things you never knew about Mexico!

https://c-c-hall.com/

 

September 2nd @ Break Even Books

Come by Erik’s blog Break Even Books where Fiona Ingram talks about how to make your books both enjoyable and educational.

https://breakevenbooks.com/

 

September 3rd @ Beverly A. Baird’s Blog

Join us over at Beverly A. Barid’s blog where author Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts on developing a children’s series.

http://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com

 

September 4th @ Cathy C. Hall’s Blog

Make sure to come by Cathy’s blog again where she shares her thoughts on Fiona Ingram’s book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

https://c-c-hall.com/

 

September 5th @ Jill Sheet’s Blog

Come by Jill’s blog today where Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts on writing for children.

https://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

 

September 5th @ Ali’s Bookshelf

Stop by Ali’s blog where Fiona Ingram talks about whether books can help children cope with life.

http://alisbookshelfreviews.blogspot.com

 

September 7th @ Beverly A. Baird’s Blog

Join us at Beverly’s blog again for her thoughts on Fiona Ingram’s adventurous book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

http://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com

 

September 7th @ Anthony Avina’s Blog

Stop by Anthony’s Blog where you can read Fiona Ingram’s post about why a book series is so good for non-readers.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

 

September 9th @ Anthony Avina’s Blog

Make sure to check out Anthony’s blog again where you can read his thoughts on Fiona Ingram’s book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

 

September 10th @ Misadventures with Andi

Come by Andi’s blog where you can read Fiona Ingram’s post about why children love reading about other countries and cultures.

https://misadventureswithandi.com/

 

September 10th @ Whitman’s Academics

Stop by Rebecca’s blog where Fiona Ingram’s talks about turning a non-reader into a reader.

https://whitmansacademics.wordpress.com/

 

September 12th@ Coffee with Lacey

Stop by Lacey’s blog where she reviews Fiona Ingram’s book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

coffeewithlacey.wordpress.com

 

September 13th @ Coffee With Lacey

Be sure to stop by again when Lacey interviews author Fiona Ingram and chats about her newest book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

coffeewithlacey.wordpress.com

 

September 14th @ World of My Imagination

Come by Nicole’s blog where she shares her opinion about Fiona Ingram’s middle-grade fiction book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

http://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com

 

September 15th @ Story Teller Alley

Stop by Veronica’s blog Story Teller Alley to read Fiona Ingram’s post on how she came about to write the series The Chronicles of the Stone. 

http://storytelleralley.com/blog

 

The Freelance Life: Editing Services with Andrea Barilla

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the mid-1980s, a young Andrea Barilla with brown wavy hair and wide eyes sits at a kitchen table nibbling on cookies and drinking Coke. In a nearby room, she watches her daddy talk to his clients about their life insurance. He’s one of the top salesmen in the company, and it’s not because he has charisma, it’s because he knows his clients’ kids. He knows their birthdays. He values them as individuals. The young girl smiles from the other room; she doesn’t even know yet that this moment is teaching her the secret that would later make her business.

Today, Andrea Barilla starts her coffee, grabs her planner, and steps outside in a pair of her favorite LuLaRoe leggings. “The best investment I made,” she says, “was my outside table because we so often have trouble getting outside in this line of work, and you need things to force you to get outside.”

Andrea Barilla is an established freelance editor and writer. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from UNC Wilmington and a BA in English from Westminster College in Pennsylvania. She is a member of several editing groups including the American Copy Editors Society, Editorial Freelancers Association, and Publishers Marketplace.

She has edited 300 health articles for Healthline.com, over 100 courses for Savanah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and served on the staff of three literary magazines, including Ecotone (now a national publication) and the trilingual El Protagonista in Puerto Rico. But if you ask her what she loves the most…it is the books.

Helping someone bring their book to life is like bringing a child into the world. It takes time and gentle nurturing care; it’s not something you want to rush through. It takes attention to detail like the ability to see how a punctuation mark can be misinterpreted in print.

I love working on books. I love critiquing projects, or discussing the big-picture issues of plot, characters, setting, etc. I love fixing things with copy edits—which can be very meditative and fulfilling too.

Andrea has edited book manuscripts (of various genres and types, including textbooks) for Stackpole Books; Paradigm Publishing (a division of EMC Publishing, LLC); Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc.; and individuals. One of the books she worked on, A Girl Named Nina, went on to win Best Young Adult Fiction Book in English at the 2014 International Latino Book Awards. Andrea attended the 2016 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writing Conference and was a guest panelist at the 2017 Professional Networking Symposium at Westminster College. Andrea also loves to help clients create query letters and book proposals to pitch to agents. She keeps her finger on the pulse of the publishing world and helps her clients take their writing to the next level.

On Life As A Freelancer

Andrea starts her day the night before with coffee grounds ready to brew in the pot and her planner set up with her next day’s schedule.

“The beauty of freelancing,” she says, “is that you have your own routine and the freedom to do what works for you. Nothing is wrong as long as it makes you productive.”

For Andrea, that is a task-oriented schedule and whatever clothing makes her as comfy as possible. Outside with her coffee and planner, she centers her day around the tasks she needs to complete that day.

“Over time, I’ve learned how many pages I can edit in an hour and how long different types of editing take me. That’s a really great thing to learn because it helps you know how many projects you can take on and how to break them down to make them manageable.” When Andrea looks at her schedule, she sees the manageable chunks of the projects she is working on. She can decide which work needs her time the most and structure her day around the goals she has to complete.

“I try to balance my schedule with critiques and copy edits. They use different parts of the brain and require different levels of energy.”

Business Coaches

One of the things that really helped Andrea early on was working with business coaches, particularly those with SCORE, a nationwide free and low-cost nonprofit supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). She worked with these coaches to create processes and systems to streamline the things she does over and over again in the business.

“I used to panic when I got an email,” she says, “now I don’t have to panic because having these systems, these templates, makes it easier and keeps my responses professional and pretty much the same for everyone, save a tweak or two. I’ve had people thank me for being so professional because of them.”

With potential clients, Andrea starts with a paid sample edit. She likes to show the clients what they will be getting with her services and the quality of the care and work she will give their project. She treats the clients and their work as gingerly as if it were her own; that is a lesson she learned from her father, and it is the lesson that keeps clients coming back to her for repeat business.

Determining Worth

It took time for Andrea to learn how to determine her worth. “I can’t believe I am an editor,” Andrea says. “In grad school, I was surrounded by amazing authors and didn’t always give them my critiques in workshops because I didn’t feel I was worthy of giving them my opinion. It’s crazy to see where I am now versus then.”

When Andrea started her freelancing career, she thought she wanted to be a freelance writer. She would send out queries and pitches and wait anxiously for responses. Sometimes editors would take her ideas and give them to their own staff writers. It was very stressful. She had to try a lot of things to figure out what she was good at. One day she got a chance to take on a large editing job for Healthline.com. She wasn’t sure she could handle it, so she called me. I encouraged her to try because I knew she was capable of doing the work.

“I really thought I would fail,” Andrea says looking back, “but then I realized I could really do it and I enjoyed it. My whole career shifted to editing and it all hinged on one job I thought I couldn’t do until I tried it.”

On Bridge Jobs

“You’re going to have some failures,” Andrea advises, “that’s just a part of being an entrepreneur.” Nevertheless, she wishes that she would have kept a part-time job in the beginning when she was still trying to build up clientele. “There is nothing wrong with working another job while you are freelancing,” she says, “and many freelancers maintain part-time jobs for the consistent steady paychecks.”

On Rates

Andrea has an hourly rate, but she didn’t charge much and even did a few jobs for free when she first started editing. “I wanted to put feelers out there and build up my confidence and portfolio,” she says. Confidence and time can help you learn how much to charge, but there are also reference guides to know where your prices should fall. The Editorial Freelancers Association website and the Writer’s Market yearly guidebook both have respected information about industry standard rates. Andrea used both of these to help create a list of rates and services that she offers. They also give her professional leverage when she is negotiating her worth with potential clients.

Making the Budget

Being your own boss can be exciting when you control your own freedom, but there is also a huge responsibility to acquire new clients to be able to keep the bills paid. Andrea keeps a spreadsheet to see exactly how much money she has coming in and how much she needs to make to stay ahead. She knows how much each current and potential project is worth, and the spreadsheet can help her determine what kinds of projects she should pursue. “It is not good to depend all on one project,” she advises, “you need to have a couple of projects going at all times.”

A key component of Andrea’s business is repeat business with clients she refers to as her “bread and butter” clients.

Andrea says, “you want consistent work from a few bread and butter clients coming in every month. That gives you a consistent revenue to work with and room to be a little more choosy about the projects you take on with the rest of your time.”

Building Clientele

Though the field of editing can be competitive, Andrea’s organic approach is dependent on the fact that the quality of her work will create repeat business. “Try to build relationships with people who could become bread and butter clients. Try to build repeat business and, in that way, it isn’t about competition at all but about creating a product people want to come back for.”

Trust God

Andrea does not worry about where the next source of income will come from; her faith directs her business. Andrea has been amazed by the way clients always show up when she needs them, and she credits this timing to her faith.

“I have a faith in Jesus Christ. I tithe and try to put Him first in my life. I don’t stress,” she says. “I know God will provide; He always does. Still, it’s up to me to do my part, and that means sowing seeds.”

Andrea advises that you should “constantly be sowing seeds” when it comes to your business. She is constantly making connections and networking with people who can become future clients. She also keeps a list of potential clients whom she can reach out to—for example, people who are working on books, people she has worked with before, and people she has met at functions. She always tries to get testimonials from happy clients that she can put on her website and point potential clients to.

Job Boards

In the world of freelancing, a lot of jobs are posted on job boards in organizations where freelancers maintain memberships. Jobs vary widely and are filled quickly from the boards. Many scammers also fill the boards with fake or low paying ads. Nevertheless, when you are just starting out, you try anything, and you take any job you can get.

There are safe ways to navigate through job boards now. Some of the advocates for their use recommend verifying the posters are verified accounts. Others avoid foreign posters entirely.

Specialization

Andrea advocates trying as many things as you can, but she also advocates specializing in particular fields and learning what you do not want to work with. Specialization doesn’t mean you work in one area of interest only–sometimes you have to work outside your specialty. It does, however, bring you unsolicited business.

“Creating a reputation in an area is huge in this business,” Andrea says. “You become the go-to person for that area based on your reputation. Clients know to come to you.

Determining Projects

Experience has taught Andrea a lot in this business. She has learned what kinds of projects she will enjoy and what kinds of clients will be difficult to work with. She avoids the problem clients and the projects too-far outside her comfort zone, such as poetry. She navigates to books that she feels will make a difference in the world–especially memoirs, business and education titles, Christian living and inspiration, and literary fiction. She is able to sift through potential clients by the level of their commitment. “The people who are serious,” she says, “will be willing to pay the price and sign the agreements.”

Contracts

Andrea has learned the hard way the value of having clients sign contracts. Without them, she experienced some clients disappearing mid-project and “ghosting” her on payment. “It is important to have contracts to avoid getting caught with people who will ghost you,” Andrea says.

Making Room To Write

Because Andrea is also a writer, one of the things she had to learn the hard way was not to take on work that is too similar to her own. In one particular project, she realized that it was “pulling energy away” from her own work.

Editing is usually relaxing for Andrea; it helps her maintain some mental space and energy for her own work. “I want to conserve energy for my own writing projects,” Andrea says, “and editing helps me do that.” If a project is too close to her own work, Andrea will now tell a client up front that she is not the best editor for their project. In the first few years of the job, Andrea didn’t have any time or energy to write her own stuff. Now, over eight years into her business, Andrea tries to keep one day in the week free to pursue her own creative work. She had a very popular relationship blog, and now she is working on a new Nonfiction project.

Social Life

“It is really easy to let freelancing take over your life,” Andrea says. “It helps if you have some involvements that force you to get out and have a life away from work.”

Andrea maintains active involvements with social groups in her church and community. She also has a lot of friends who pull her away from her work when she needs it. She claims that the breaks help her avoid burnout, isolation, and loneliness that are often side effects of her job.

The Benefits of Freelancing

In 2013, Andrea’s aunt states away was diagnosed with terminal cancer. However, Andrea was able to go home and spend the last month of her aunt’s life with her. She was able to be with her family and go through the grieving process with them while she worked. She was never so thankful for her job than in that moment.

Andrea also loves the fact that she is learning something new in her job every day. “I get to work on fascinating things and I’m constantly learning and meeting really cool people from diverse walks of life,” she says. “I love that I’m always learning and that people are trusting me with their stories.”

Connect

If you would like to know more about Andrea Barilla and her editing business, you can check out her services at: http://www.andreabarilla.com/

Sonja Redmon, Director of Transitional Programs to College and Career at Wayne Community College

Hello readers! Today we are talking with Sonja Redmon, former Director of Transitional Programs at Wayne Community College. Ms. Redmon has 30 years of experience in education including 22 years in the director position. During her tenure, she saw the program through many changes and helped it grow to one of the Top Ten in Enrollment in the State of North Carolina and Top Three in State Performance Measures.

The end of June 2018 marks the end of Ms. Redmon’s educational career. As she looks forward to retirement and the new adventures there, she has taken a moment to reflect back on her career and her legacy and share some wisdom with us.

How long have you worked in education? At which colleges? In what roles?

I’ve worked in education since 1988 when I was hired as a part-time Adult High School English instructor.  I worked as an instructor for a few years and was then hired as the lab coordinator. In 1996 I was hired for the director’s position. All of these roles were in the Basic Skills department at Wayne Community College.

What made you choose a career in education?

As the saying goes, I fell into education sideways. In other words, I did not choose education as a career, it chose me. My mother worked at the college in 1988 and heard about a need in the Basic Skills department for an English instructor. I was ready to get into the job market at that time since both of my children were in school and I had an English degree so the rest is history. No pun intended since I also have a history degree!

You have worked in both instructor and administrative roles in your career. How did these different roles help you become a better educator and communicator with others?

Working as an instructor helped me tremendously once I became an administrator. I could still identify with the needs of the instructors and that is something that stayed with me throughout the years. Sometimes, budget or higher ups would get in the way, but I always tried to do what was best for instructors and students.

What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from teaching?

Ha ha. I quickly learned in the beginning that I didn’t know everything and that if I only listened, the students had a lot to teach me as well.  Another lesson learned was that I couldn’t save them all no matter how hard I tried. It took me a few years to learn that bitter lesson.

Besides advancing your career and salary, what made you change roles from teaching to administration?

That change was primarily about career advancement and salary. Back in my day as a teacher, the maximum pay for part-time was $9.00 per hour and that was even with a masters degree.

What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from leading other educators?

I’ve learned that like the students, other educators had much to teach me. Even after all these years, I was still learning from other educators including my teachers as well as teachers and administrators from other colleges. I never attended a meeting or workshop that I didn’t learn something. That’s why I have always been a strong proponent of professional development.

You have worked in fields outside of adult education. What made you choose to work in Adult Education?

I liked helping people. It was just that simple. I liked making a difference in a student’s life, and I liked making a difference in my instructors’ lives. I cannot even count the number of times an instructor has said thank you to me for hiring them. That has been special.

You chose to not only work in adult education but get your degree in it. How did that help your career?

Being in education administration, I knew I needed to go back to school myself and earn a masters. Adult Education seemed the only way to go since I enjoyed what I was doing. I also knew an Adult Ed degree allowed for multiple career opportunities. When I applied for the director’s position, a Master’s in Adult Ed or a similar degree was a requirement, so I can safely say that my degree helped me to get hired as director.

I’ve always been glad I made that choice.

You have been an avid supporter of professional development for your team. In your opinion, why is professional development important?

Lifelong learning is important in all aspects of life and especially in this career field. Change in adult education is constant whether it’s a better way to teach math or new requirements from WIOA and OCTAE. Learning from an expert and learning from peers at other colleges is vital to stay on top of the game. Teachers and staff have been fortunate to have access to the strong adult education staff at Appalachian State University. Like I said in a previous question, I’ve never been to a workshop or even one of our weekly meetings that I didn’t learn something. For those of you reading this, if you think about it, neither have you.

We all know that education is a challenging place to work in because it is often thankless, politicized, and changing. In the past few years alone, we saw a lot of changes in adult education that affected our budget. What advice can you give to current and future administrators navigating their way through shrinking budgets?

All you can do is keep a positive attitude and plan, plan, plan. By planning ahead, you may be able to save a job or two when in a low budget year. You do this by trimming out the non-producing areas. That is hard for me to say because I’ve always thought that a class with only one student was a class that was a gift to that one student. He or she needed the one-on-one at that point in life.

Communication is also critical. Instructors and staff must realize that they hold the power to make or break a program. Enrollment and retention are 90% instructors and staff. The best recruiter is a satisfied student and the best retention is when a student learns and doesn’t feel the class is a waste of time.

When negative changes happen, it is hard to stay motivated. What advice can you give for motivating your team when circumstances are demoralizing?

I believe communication is the key. Just keep everyone updated on what is happening. Often not knowing leads to imagining even worse circumstances. Communication also allows for input from everyone on how to deal with the situation. We all like to feel useful and when we do, it’s a natural motivator.

In your experience, what has been the biggest thing that helped you adjust to changes when they happened as well as help you lead others through those difficulties?

Patience. Patience with the changes. Patience with teachers and staff protesting the changes.

A lot of the changes in adult education have influenced educators to leave adult education or retire before their positions were cut. With so much fear over job cuts, why should anyone stay in adult education?

Adult education is a worthy cause and a good career. Job cuts can and do happen in all areas of education as well as in the private sector. There were positions cut this year in curriculum. It’s just a fact of life, especially in this day and time.

Think positive and make yourself valuable to the team is my best advice to anyone whether in adult ed, curriculum, or K-12.

You have been the Director of Transitional Programs to College and Career for many years and many of the current employees you leave behind have only known you as their leader. What do you hope will be your legacy as you leave this role?

I hope that I’ll be remembered as someone who cared for both students and employees. I also hope to be remembered as the director who grew the program into one of the top ten in the state enrollment-wise and one of the top three in the state performance-wise.

As you retire and look back on your career, what advice would you give to younger educators working in adult education now?

Accept change.

Persevere through the bad times. You’ll have more good times.

Hire the best team possible. The instinct for that will be gradually learned.

Stress professional development. Knowledge makes everyone’s jobs easier.

Thank you, Ms. Redmon, for sharing your time with us today. We appreciate your insights and all you have done for your program at Wayne Community College. We wish you much joy and success in your retirement. 

Azucena Rodriguez: DACA Student Graduate

In 2012, a young mother with small children tried to come back to school and finish her high school education. She took the entrance exams and received the sad news that she had “zero knowledge” and “needed to go back to middle school”. She felt disappointed and ignorant.

Azucena left the school, and a friend referred her to Literacy Connections of Wayne County. That’s where she met Brandy Ross. Brandy was a member of the Air Force who volunteered her spare time to tutor at the center. “Brandy was tough,” Azucena said, “she gave lots of homework and took no excuses. One time I couldn’t finish my homework because my daughter was sick. She said, ‘Look, I need you to be serious with this. I want you to do your homework and next time, don’t even come if it’s not done.’ Then she walked out and left me to do the work.”

Brandy was demanding, but she wasn’t always so tough. Learning English as a second language, Azucena struggled with grammar and vocabulary. When she didn’t understand what a word meant, Brandy would look up different ways to explain the words to her. She bought her gifts to encourage her too like boxes of pencils and erasers and Dr. Seuss books.

Brandy Ross showed me a different way to see life, and she gave me hope. –Azucena Rodriguez

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Azucena (left) with Brandy Ross on the last day of her tutoring

Another person that helped during this time was the then director of Literacy Connections, Ms. Pat. Whenever Azucena got discouraged, Ms. Pat was there to encourage her and push her to find hope when there was no hope.

Ms. Pat taught me that the only thing that can stop you is yourself. –Azucena Rodriguez

Because of Pat and Brandy’s investment, Azucena got the knowledge–in a year–that she needed to enter the High School Equivalency program at Wayne Community College. That’s where I met her.

When I first met Azucena (pronounced as-zoo-see-nuh), I stumbled over her name. “Call me Lily,” she said with a smile, “that’s what it means anyway.” It was 2013, and I was fairly new to teaching. I began to look forward to seeing Lily’s bright, enthusiastic spirit in my classroom. She inspired her peers, and she inspired me.

Nevertheless, the need to work won out for her. Lily got offered a job that took her more and more away from school until, finally, she quit school altogether. “I knew school was important,” Azucena said, “but I didn’t realize how important it was to the big picture of what I wanted to do.” As the responsibilities of her job increased, so did the gnawing guilt of knowing that she was giving up on her education. She wondered how she could ever expect her children to finish school if she didn’t do so herself. She was making good money and moving into management, but she was working 24-7. “I felt like I was married to my work; I didn’t even realize how much I was tearing down my own body and hurting myself. It was crazy to work that much without rest.”

Lily had the opportunity to meet some of the executives in the company that she worked for. It was at that point that she realized that she meant nothing more than the manual labor that got the job done for them. Education would make all the difference.

Lily had further confirmation of this idea when she discovered that her work permit would not be eligible for renewal unless she was enrolled in school. So, reluctantly or otherwise, Lily came back to us in November 2016.

Azucena was a focused and devoted student, but her resolve was different this time. This time she was staying till she finished her degree. She came to every class, led small groups, and worked over 80 hours online in supplemental work. She wasn’t the cheerful Lily from before either. She was pensive and angry at herself for ever letting go of her education in the first place. She was also annoyed by the apathy of her peers. She had seen the real world and how little it had to offer to someone without an education. Why didn’t they care more?

I thought that, in life, all you had to be was a hardworking person, but it’s not true. You need education to learn what you don’t know. Being a hard worker burns you (takes all your energy), knowledge doesn’t. Without school, you’re nobody. –Azucena Rodriguez

In May 2018, Azucena Rodriguez finally achieved her goal. She walked across the auditorium stage in her cap and gown and felt the pride of a dream being fulfilled. Her mother, husband, and three children were there to love and support her.

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Azucena has some fun with grad pictures with her children (left to right): Miranda, Cruz, and Fabian

For now, Azucena is enjoying time with her family. She hopes to get a part-time job and come back to school for a degree in Industrial Systems Technology.

Karen Burnette, Program Quality and Accountability Coordinator for Transitional Programs for College and Career at Wayne Community College

Hello readers! Today we are talking with Karen Burnette, Program Quality and Accountability Coordinator for Transitional Programs for College and Career at Wayne Community College. Ms. Burnette has 27 years of experience in education including four years of teaching in public elementary and high schools. Her experiences in the community college system include work with literacy skills and instructional team leading. Prior to entering education, Ms. Burnette worked for seven years in scientific and agricultural research.

The end of June 2018 marks the end of Ms. Burnette’s educational career. As she looks forward to retirement and the new adventures ahead for her there, she has taken a moment to share with us some insights from her long career and advice. Thank you, Ms. Burnette, for sharing your time with us today. We appreciate your insights and wisdom.    

What made you choose a career in education?

I had always wanted to be a veterinarian, but when I took Chemistry at NCSU, I decide to become a Biology Teacher!

You have worked in both instructor and administrative roles in your career. How did these different roles help you become a better educator and communicator with others? 

It helps to have worked on both sides of the desk!  I have implemented and developed curriculum as an instructor and then used this knowledge to assist others and develop ways to manage and streamline the process from an administrative view.

What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from teaching?

Never prejudge a student.  Listen and be patient. Always remove a student from a situation before reprimanding or discussing.  There are always two sides to a story and the truth is usually somewhere in between.

Besides advancing your career and salary, what made you change roles from teaching to administration? 

I have always enjoyed technology part of education combined with; learning and making decisions, improvements, or adjustments to programming based on data.

What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from leading other educators?

It’s OK to make a mistake, but learn from it and don’t keep making the same mistake! Don’t procrastinate on a deadline. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Give others the trust and allow them to be creative. Be empathetic. It’s OK to ask for advice. Make a decision, because sometimes, no decision is worse than a wrong decision.

You have worked in fields outside of adult education. What made you choose to work in Adult Education?

Actually, Adult Education found me.  I was looking for something at a community college when I lived in Virginia and was working at an elementary school in Roanoke Rapids. The Literacy Skills Specialist position at Halifax Community College was advertised and I thought my diverse background would be a good fit for that job.  I had experience as a student teacher in a Middle School, taught high school biology (Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced), and worked in an elementary school as a reading teacher for 3rd graders.

I got the job and loved it!

You worked in the private sector before coming into education. Tell us a little about your other career experience and how that job influenced your career in education.

The private sector was where I learned all about technology and computers.  I ran High Pressure and Gas Chromatography, used large databases to run reports for manufacturing facilities, used computers back during the “DOS” days to run our robot named “Tobor” (Robot spelled backward), and was sent to school to learn SAS programming at Research Triangle Park.  I was also trained with Lotus 123 and WordPerfect the popular programs at the time.

All this experience gave me the knowledge to use computers, software, and new technology in the education field.  

What advice would you give to those currently working in another career field but wanting to work in education?

The reason I left the private sector was the frequent turnover in the industry of buyouts, mergers, and name changes.  When your company is bought out you do not have the security of a job. The state does not merge with other states and so job security was better at the time.  The unfortunate part of working for the state is the pay. It took 17 years working at WCC before I matched the salary I made in the private sector. But the benefits are good for me, due to the fact I started with the state in time to get health benefits and a pension when I retire.  

We all know that education is a challenging place to work in because it is often thankless, politicized, and changing. In the past few years alone, we saw a lot of changes in adult education that affected our budget. What advice can you give to current and future administrators navigating their way through shrinking budgets?

Hard decisions have to be made, but always make sure we remain student-centered.

When negative changes happen, it is hard to stay motivated. What advice can you give for motivating your team when circumstances are demoralizing?

I believe in involving the team and giving them a chance to communicate ways to implement change.  I think the “Huddles” we started have been good to voice opinions and listen.

In your experience, what has been the biggest thing that helped you adjust to changes when they happened as well as help you lead others through those difficulties?

I have experienced several major changes over time from testing changes, WIA and WIOA, to personnel changes.   I think the first time you go through major changes is the hardest. Once you have experienced a successful change, you are better able to implement and support future changes.   You can understand the anxiety for those going through a change the first time but can talk about previous changes and how they were hard at first, but eventually work out just fine.  

A lot of the changes in adult education have influenced educators to leave adult education or retire before their positions were cut. With so much fear over job cuts, why should anyone stay in adult education?

Good question!  You have to love what you are doing to help others!

ALWAYS keep your resume up to date!

You have led a very diverse career in both business and education. Now you are retiring to start another career in real estate with your sister. What advice can you give to those looking forward to retirement someday?

Set up an NC 457 plan now.  DO NOT procrastinate. It is very easy to do!!!  Just let Melanie Bell know you would like to do so and it’s a piece of cake.

The NC 457 is a place you can stow away as little as say $25 a month, tax-deferred, and you will never miss it, but you will be glad you did when you are ready to retire. You can access this money as soon as you retire.  It’s not like a 401K where you have to wait till you are 59 years old.

As you retire and look back on your career, what advice would you give to younger educators working in adult education now?

Karen’s Top Ten Advice for Younger Educators (in no certain order):

  1. Keep a notebook of your accomplishments and certifications.
  2. Every week, give a compliment to someone you work with, work for, and works for you.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake or try something new.
  4. You can’t do it all in one day….it will be there tomorrow to finish.
  5. For the above, don’t wait until the last minute to get something done.  Work on it and have time to sleep on it before it has to be complete for a deadline.
  6. Leave your personal problems at the door!
  7. Be flexible and always have a backup plan.
  8. Spend money on good shoes, a good chair, and a good mattress.  
  9. Be a good listener.
  10. When making a big decision, go with your “gut” feeling, because it is almost always right!

What It Means To Be A Teacher: Wisdom from a Mentor, Dr. Gerald Parker

He comes in early in the morning to share a cup of coffee and meet new people. He is always smiling; the wrinkles behind his white whiskers leave a trail upwards. He is enthusiastic and kind; he loves to sit and just listen to people, but he usually has a word of advice to give them too. No one would know he ever struggled with education and reading; he went on to get a doctorate degree. He doesn’t claim to be of special importance, but he founded the first ABSPD Institute. Though he is retired, he comes out of retirement every summer to share with other younger instructors at Institute. He is a treasure of wisdom and experience. He is a man who had every excuse to be disgruntled in life but remains optimistic. He’s an inspiration. That’s who Dr. Gerald Parker is. Here’s what he said about teachers.

Who are WE? What are WE doing here? Where are we going?

In Soviet times, an old Rabbi was approached by a young man from the local militia. “Who are you? What are you doing here? Where are you going?”

The Rabbi responded, “How much do they pay you to ask those questions?”

“Two rubies a day,” was his proud reply.

“Each time you see me, I’ll pay you two rubies if you’ll keep asking me those questions.”

So–Who are WE? What are WE doing here? Where are we going?

We are gifts…

To the one who fears rejection — we show acceptance.

To the one who fears inadequacy — we guide step by step as their fears melt away.

To the one who feels disconnected — we build community.

To the one who feels lonely — we listen.

To the one who has experience failure — day by day, we celebrate success.

To the powerless — we give a pen and a voice.

To those who feel defective — we celebrate their uniqueness.

To those who feel worthless — they see reflected in our eyes — they are priceless.

To those who feel abandoned — we help reclaim as treasures.

Who are we? We are adult educators!

What are we doing here? We are making a difference that really matters!!

Who are we — roots on a tree, quiet and mostly unseen, giving life and nurture.

Who are we — air under the wings of a bird — lifting those who were caged to new heights.

Who are we — gifts — precious gifts of hope, fostering transformation of lives who will never be the same.

Who are we — bridges to expanding opportunities.

Who are we — high touch in a high-tech world.

Who are we — God’s instruments — giving “wings to caterpillars”

Who are we –blessed–far beyond what we deserve.

Where are we going? Intentionally pursuing what MATTERS!! Helping ourselves and others become more than we ever dreamed we could become!


More Wisdom from Dr. Parker

What if you could buy someone for what they think they are worth and resell them for what they are really worth? –Dr. Gerald Parker

Your fruit grows on other peoples’ trees. –Dr. Gerald Parker

The most effective professional development for me was becoming good friends with my students and finding out what worked for them, what didn’t, and how I could have done it better. –Dr. Gerald Parker

I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t teach me something. Ask people: “What are you really good at? How did you learn to do that?” –Dr. Gerald Parker

The best tutor I have ever had is the one that married me. –Dr. Gerald Parker

One person with passion can accomplish more than many with a mere interest in something. –Dr. Gerald Parker

Kate Keaveny, Neurodiversity Expert

According to the National Symposium on Neurodiversity, neurodiversity is a concept and social movement advocating for viewing many learning differences as something to be celebrated instead of something to be cured. Kate Keaveny of Leicester, England is an accomplished teacher and advocate of neurodiversity. Her experiences in the classroom have taught her many insights into working with students with dyslexia and other cognitive differences. Check out her presentation in the link below.

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Neurodiversity Slides (PDF)

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Memorial Day Gifts

A guest post by Rev. Shelton Whitman

On this legal holiday that so many have turned into the day to start their summer vacations, backyard barbecues, or simply another day off, I’ve wondered if the original reason for the day has been horribly obscured.

I was in a local store recently and noticed a few flags and wreaths meant to decorate grave sites. There were markedly fewer of these then I remember in the past years.

We have been celebrating Decoration Day since the days following the Civil War, but Congress made it an official holiday in 1971. This day was meant to be a day to commemorate those who gave their ultimate sacrifice— there lives—for our freedom.

Our veterans have contributed to our freedom about as much as our Charlotte’s Web friend, Wilbur, has contributed to our breakfast meal of bacon and eggs. Plainly, there would be no freedom to enjoy without the veterans’ contribution.

Memorial day is a time to remember those that sacrifice for our freedom. I include the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God, in this too because if it wasn’t for his willingness to lay down his life for us, we would not have the hope of Heaven.

Christ committed his life to us just like our troops commit their lives to us every time they step out in service. Take time to remember and be thankful.

Free Spirits and The Sense of Belonging in Wendy Brown-Baez’s Catch A Dream

This week’s post is a guest post from author, Wendy Brown-Baez, on her book tour for Catch A Dream.

What if home is not where we come from but where we feel we belong? What are we willing to give up to stay?

In Catch a Dream, Lily reflects on traveling: “Is it because I don’t believe in borders and want to cross them freely like the birds do, without nationality, without history, without strife and war, the barriers and borders of separation?”
After years of traveling as a free spirit, Lily has a deep inner longing to put down roots. She states that she wants to be free to travel like the birds do, without borders, and yet there is also the intrinsic human desire to belong, to be part of a community. Is it possible to have that connection with a place that is not where we happened to be born? At what point do we give up freedom to travel and explore in order to land?
Lily has this uncanny connection to the land of Israel although she is not Jewish. The combination of her fascination with Jewish history, the strength of family all around her, and immersion in the cycles of Jewish life inspire her to plant roots. But the reality is that she must either convert to Judaism or marry an Israeli citizen in order to stay permanently. The laws of immigration were decided by the religious parties when Israel first became a state: their objective is a Jewish nation. Neither option appeals to her.
She wrestles both practically and philosophically with how to stay where she feels she belongs.

This is so relevant to today’s discussion about immigration. People give up homes, leave behind families, communities, a career or profession, the security of living where you speak the language and know the culture, to start over somewhere else. Some immigrants never lose their longing to go back. Others sink down roots for generations in their adopted country. Sometimes immigrants are escaping war or oppression or extreme poverty and it can be very dangerous to make the crossing, even to the loss of life. And to go back is also dangerous and can mean arrest or death. Political asylum can rescue someone in this situation but it can also exile them. But sometimes we reach the limits of what we can give up. Sometimes the price is too high.

I wanted to stay in Israel but if I converted, my son would have to convert. He wanted to return to the USA where he spoke the language (although fluent in conversation, academics in Hebrew were hard) and he wanted to play football. I came back to the states planning to return but then I started thinking about the mandatory army service which he would be obligated to do. As a dedicated pacifist, it didn’t sit well with me. Could I go against my beliefs to fulfill my longing? In the end, I just couldn’t. That price was one I wasn’t willing to pay. Life moved on but I carry with me the beauty of the land, the heartbreak of the conflict, and love of the Jewish people and Jewish traditions, in my memories and in my story. I have also learned that when we plant roots, our friendships deepen and our circles of connection develop. “Grow where you are planted,” is a saying I have often contemplated since leaving Israel.

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About the Author

 Wendy Brown-Báez is the author of a poetry CD Longing for Home, the full-length poetry collection Ceremonies of the Spirit (Plain View Press, ’09), and chapbooks: Transparencies of Light (Finishing Line Press, ’11) and Elegy for Newtown (Red Bird Chapbooks, ’14).  She has published both poetry and prose in numerous literary journals and anthologies, both in print and online. She received McKnight, Mn State Arts Board and Saint Louis Park Arts & Culture grants to bring writing workshops into non-profits and community centers.

Wendy has facilitated writing workshops since 1994 including at Cornerstone’s support groups, the Women & Spirituality conference at MSU Mankato, Celebrate Yourself women’s retreats, All About the Journey healing center, The Aliveness Project, Unity Minneapolis,  El Colegio High School and Jacob’s Well women’s retreat. Wendy received 2008 and 2009 McKnight grants through COMPAS Community Art Program to teach writing workshops for youth in crisis. The project at SafeZone and Face to Face Academy developed into an art installation showcasing their recorded writings. When it was noted that students’ reading scores improved, she was hired as Face to Face’s writing instructor.

In 2012, she was awarded an MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant to teach writing workshops in twelve non-profit arts and human service organizations. She continues to teach at Pathways: a healing center, in Mn prisons, and in community spaces such as public libraries, yoga studios, churches, and cafes.

Wendy has taught memoir at MCTC continuing ed and through Minneapolis community ed.

In addition, Wendy has managed shelters for the homeless and visited incarcerated teens. She is trained as a hospice volunteer and as a facilitator of Monologue Life Stories. Wendy studied alternative healing, ceremony, and spiritual traditions with Earthwalks for Health and lived in Mexico and Israel. She has collected wisdom teachings from these diverse cultures, as well as written memoirs of her adventures.

You can find Wendy Brown-Baez at:

Website: www.wendybrownbaez.com

Blog: www.wendysmuse.blogspot.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/wendybrownbaez

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/wendybrownbaez

Facebook: www.facebook.com/wendybrownbaez.author

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/wendybrownbaez

Catch A Dream Book Summary

A woman’s healing journey begins in a country embroiled in relentless turmoil. In Israel, the first Intifada has just begun. Palestinian frustration for a homeland erupts in strikes, demonstrations and suicide bombings and Israel responds with tear gas, arrests, and house demolitions. Lily Ambrosia and Rainbow Dove arrive in Haifa with their children on a pilgrimage to sow seeds of peace. Lily’s fascination with Jewish culture inspires her to dream she can plant roots in the Holy Land. She falls in love with the land itself, with its people, and with Levi, a charming enigma, dangerous but irresistible. Eventually, she is fully immersed in Israeli life, earning her way as a nanny, hanging out in cafes with friends, and attending Yom Kippur in the synagogue. Her son rebels against the lifestyle she has chosen and war with Syria looms on the horizon. Will she be able to stay? What does she have to give up and what will she be able to keep?

Print Length: 196 pages

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: BookBaby (March 24, 2018)

ISBN-13: 9781543925579

Catch a Dream is available as an eBook at BookBaby and Amazon.

Catch A Dream Book Blog Tour Dates (in Chronological Order)

May 21st @ The Muffin

Grab a muffin and a cup of coffee and read Women on Writing’s interview with author Wendy Brown-Baez and enter to win a copy of the book Catch a Dream. 

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

May 22nd @ Memory Revolution

Jerry Waxler relates to the main character in To Catch a Dream as if she was a real person. His post reflects on lessons learned in this fertile ground between “memoir” and “fiction-based-on-fact.

memorywritersnetwork.com/blog

May 22nd @ Memory Revolution

In a second post, Jerry Waxler will share Wendy Baez’s own words about the choices she made to publish her true life story as a fictional novel.

memorywritersnetwork.com/blog

May 23rd @ World of My Imagination

Exercise your imagination over at Nicole’s blog The World of My Imagination where she reviews Wendy Brown-Baez’ book Catch a Dream.

http://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com

May 24th @ Jill Sheet’s Blog

Make sure to stop by Jill Sheet’s blog to read Wendy Brown-Baez fascinating guest post on conflict and peace. The author answers the question – is peace possible without forgiveness?

https://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

May 24th @ Rebecca Whitman’s Blog

You should also stop by Rebecca Whitman’s blog where Wendy Brown-Baez talks about free spirits and belonging. What if home is not where we come from but where we feel we belong? What are we willing to give up to stay?

https://rebeccawhitman.wordpress.com/

May 25th @ Margo Dill’s Blog

Come by Margo Dill’s blog to catch another guest post by author Wendy Brown-Baez. This moving post is about motherhood and how can we be a good parent and yet fulfilled as a woman?

www.lorisreadingcorner.com

May 26th @ Mommy Daze: Say What??

Come by Ashley Bass’ blog to check out Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on trauma and healing. How can we stand up for ourselves? How can we reclaim our voice when we have been silenced by trauma?

https://adayinthelifeofmom.com/

May 27 @ Beverly A. Baird’s Blog

Make sure to stop by Beverly’s blog to find out her thoughts about Wendy Brown-Baez book Catch a Dream.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com

May 29th @ Mari’s #JustJournal! Blog

Stop by Mari’s blog to read Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on journaling and self-reflecting writing. A must-read if you love freewriting or journaling!

http://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog

May 30th @ Story Teller Alley

Come by Veronica’s Story Teller Alley blog and find out how Wendy Brown-Baez book came to be in the Story Teller Alley feature “Where Do Stories Grow?”

http://storytelleralley.com/blog

June 1st @ Words from the Heart

Come by Rev. Linda Naes’ blog to read Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on the topic loving someone who is not good for us.

https://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/

June 2nd @ McNellis Writes

Come by Margaret’s blog when she shares Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on the subject of travelling in countries during times of unrest.

mcnelliswrites.com

June 3rd @ Margo Dill’s Blog

Stop by Margo’s blog where she reviews Wendy Brown-Baez book Catch a Dream.

http://www.margoldill.com/

June 4th @ Mommy Daze: Say What??

Come by Ashley Bass’ blog and find out her thoughts on the moving book Catch a Dream.

https://adayinthelifeofmom.com/

June 5th @ Madeline Sharples’ Blog

Take a look at Wendy Brown-Baez guest post over at Madeline Sharples’ blog where the author talks about writing to heal. A must read during these troubled times!

http://madelinesharples.com/

June 7th @ Memoir Writer’s Journey

Stop by Kathleen’s blog where she shares Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on writing authentically about difficult or painful topics.

https://krpooler.com/

June 8th @ Words from the Heart

Take a heartwarming journey over at Rev Linda Naes’ blog Words from the Heart to find out her thoughts on Wendy Brown-Baez book Catch a Dream.

https://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/

June 14th @ Become Zen Again

Come by Shell’s blog Become Zen Again where she shares her opinions on Wendy Brown-Baez moving book Catch a Dream.

http://www.becomezenagain.com/the-book-shelf

June 18th @ Strength 4 Spouses

Stop by Wendi Huskin’s blog Strength 4 Spouses where she shares Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on writing to heal.

www.strength4spouses.blog

June 22nd @ Strength 4 Spouses

Stop by Wendi Huskin’s blog where she shares her thoughts on the book Catch a Dream. A must read for your upcoming summer vacation!

www.strength4spouses.blog