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Archive: A Blueprint for Deception

From 2014 on a different Thoughts pattern:

This week, due to our new partnership with the L.A. Southwest College English department, the L.A. Black Book Expo joined with the school and its associates, Morningside Park Chronicle and Puente Program for their annual Say The Word celebration of poetry and spoken word. Our segment, not necessarily of that genre was a panel discussion with two lovely ladies, Ms. Robbie Butler (Ms. Single Mom: Yes You Can!) and Cheryl Dorsey (The Creation of a Manifesto: Black & Blue). Our topic was based on Richard Wright’€™s ‘€œThe Blueprint of Negro Writing’€. The title for our version; The Blueprint for Success.

As moderator, I enjoyed the information between Cheryl and Robbie as they talked about their books, experiences and advice to the young people who stayed to hear them both. One point mentioned by one of the ladies stood out in my mind during the conversation in addressing a blueprint for the next generation: be honest. This is something I have to agree with wholeheartedly. When it comes to this art of crafting stories or disseminating information to a reading public, the only requirement as a writer that your audience requires is that you share the facts from your heart what you know to be true, no matter what the subject. In keeping with the tone of the conversation, the true blueprint for success as a writer is to express truth in your writing. It may make a few in power uncomfortable and even as we hear in church, ‘€˜step on toes’€™, but for this twenty-first century literary crowd, the only way a writer can achieve success with his or her fans, is just be honest.

Many people know about James Frey, the author of A Million Little Pieces which put him in the spotlight especially after winning an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey that caused his sales to go up. After it was found out most of what Frey wrote in his memoir wasn’€™t true, the following clip shows you what happens when you cross the path of a person as influential as Ms. Winfrey herself:

Now this would be the ‘death knell’ of a writer, any writer to be placed in a platform such as Oprah’€™s Book Club where she’€™s promoting the work because she believes it and wants it to be successful. Once it’s been revealed it is less than what she or even her fans expected – the trust factor between reader and author are severed, never to be sown again. However, it does take a bit of ‘clearing the air’€™ as Ms. Winfrey and Mr. Frey have done in this clip.

So while reader and author can reconcile on some level, the trust factor, the one quality needed to gain and build a fan base in this competitive market, is hard to get back. To be fair to Mr. Frey, he has rebounded in a way, writing at least two books since that incident. Also to be fair, he’s not the only one as this link reveals and also the following author mentioned below.

Margaret B. Jones ( Margaret Seltzer, real name) is another author who built a trust factor with readers when her book, Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival came out in 2008. When it was released, her account growing up as a half white, half Native American child who became associated with one street gang based out of L.A. I recall when this book was touted on local media in Los Angeles, how this now proved to be unbelievable story captivated the literary world. Ms. Seltzer under her alias was invited to hold book signing in bookstores, interviews on the radio, etc.

In this deservedly scathing article by L.A. Times writer Sandy Banks (penned the same year), she blasts Seltzer’€™s work as truly as it was meant to be – fiction. Part of the blame goes as Ms. Banks mentions, to her publisher who didn’€™t take the time to fact check Margaret B. Jones’€™s background. Unlike James Frey, once she was exposed as €œfully white, grew up with her biological parents in the upscale San Fernando Valley community of Sherman Oaks and attended Campbell Hall, an affluent Episcopalian day school in the North Hollywood area of Los Angeles.€ Even Motoko Rich of the New York Times offered her own critical opinion of Ms. Seltzer’€™s work. This proves you don’€™t have to be Oprah to smell a fictitious book under the category of non-fiction to smell a fake, but once you do and you’€™re a part of media (although they have their own trust issues of their own. Look up Jayson Blair), authors who take the fraud route have no chance of redemption, ever. Trust factor blown, never to recover.

By the way, this is the only video of her on the internet where in her guise as Margaret B. Jones, she describes life in the hood. Six years later (she was even outed that year), we know none of this to be true. Unlike Frey, she has not recovered as an author and perhaps never will.

As I stood hearing Cheryl and Robbie yesterday at L.A. Southwest about honesty in your writing, I wondered in our increasingly growing literary community of writers and authors, how much of our written works is factual and how much is sensationalistic? It’€™s hard to tell and even for publishers, unless they have fact checkers on staff, they can get caught up in the fabrication as well. With this in mind, readers should remind themselves whenever they purchase a book it should come with the mindset of ‘buyer beware’€™. Either the author wrote a book with engaging subject matter they can believe in, or if it’s found the contents of the book are a hoax, their time and money may be lost. It’s all a matter of trust.

Charles L. Chatmon
Chatmon’s Books

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Posted by on February 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Nice Guy, Your Time is Up

Low-key portrait - half face - sad and angry looking man

Harvey Weinstein
Les Moonves
Bill Cosby
And just last week, R Kelly.

Nice Guy, with all of the #MeToo and #TimesUP accusations flying against powerful men these days, you think you finally have a chance to meet the princess of your dreams, the woman you’ve always longed for but eventually never will have. With scandal after scandal of an entertainer, executive, producer, even dog catcher popping up weekly, you would think women will suddenly notice you, appreciate your gentlemanly ways, turn their desires towards you. Nice guy, I hate to be the one to break this to you, there is no chance….ever…your dream woman will enter your life. Ever.

You have a better chance of surviving a snap from Thanos than to meet your imagined queen, your virtuous woman, your could-be-but-never-meant-to-be sweetheart. While this may be a shock to you nice guy, let me remind you as I have in the past many, many times, the truth is women don’t want you, don’t like you and in 2019 don’t need you. This is a cold, hard reality that you must understand. Their role models may be seen with a ‘nice’ guy but if they haven’t married them or have a relationship, what makes you think you had a shot? Nice Guy, don’t turn into a ‘snowflake’, take this L like a man. Know you did your best by treating women with respect, opened doors for them, paid for dinners, offered your seat or your jacket when the opportunity arose. All of this was in vain as women decided to exercise their new superpowers to turn you down time after time after time. Nice Guy you lost, admit it.

Once upon a time your main competitions were the thugs, teardrop felons, the bad boys who had your intended’s attention and affection. That was before stories about sexual harassment and abuse emerged more and more in mainstream media. By the time the #MeToo and #TimesUP movement is through, you Nice Guys may be the last ones standing but you will never be victorious. Isn’t that a harsh reality to you? You are faced with diminishing alternatives, you know women are starting to grow suspicious even if you offer a compliment so under this climate of distrust, what can you do? At this point Nice Guy, you’d wish you had disappeared when Thanos snapped his fingers. Now that women worldwide no longer want to have to do anything with you, all you can do is live your life and either tragically remain nice or realize it’s hopeless at this point.

Sorry Nice Guy, your best wasn’t good enough.It didn’t matter.

Charles L. Chatmon
Chatmon’s Books

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

The Conscious Objective

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By nature, I’€™m what you consider to be a conscious€™ writer. Of course, that word has been overused over the years by prominent artists, I can see why folks are confused by speakers who utter a lot of words, but nothing connects on an intellectual level. Don’€™t get me wrong; in no way do I compare myself with ‘˜the greats’€™ and if somehow I reach that level with the poems and articles I’ve written so far then the reading public will be the judge as it should be.

What I do finally puzzling is a lack of these artists to use their talents to elevate the masses,using them in order to push forward a political agenda which a true conscious artist should never do.

Aesop created his fables persuading us to reflect on the human condition through the use of animals as the main characters, Shakespeare wrote plays dealing with complex characters faced with choices that either creates success or ruin, Bradbury and those who followed him scripted tales causing us to consider the pleasures we enjoy now could mean our downfall later. (A Fahrenheit 451 reference for you). English was my major so I spent my youth devouring every morsel of thought from a variety of writers who encouraged me to follow their footsteps. Their written words persuaded a young Black man from South (Central) Los Angeles to be a ‘conscious’ writer. The payoff I will say has paid off very well.

So what is this ‘€˜conscious’€™ writing you speak of Chatmon? You reader may ask. At the age of 17, I had my first whiff of the influence of conscious writing at a YMCA campfire in the San Bernardino mountains pouring out through verse my thoughts of romance, the world around us including my neighborhood. One counselor told me she enjoyed my poems because it made her think.

Made her think.

In a poetry reading on a college campus nine years later, a young woman approached me urging me to read my poetry to a group because in her words, ‘€œyou have something to say.’€ Five years after that, a group of Black women on an internet site praised ‘€œA Message to Black Women’€ because of its uplifting, positive message. You see, a conscious writer doesn’€™t always have to ring the warning bell in the cases of social injustice; he or she can use their talent to inspire the best within us, all of us. They make us think.

Today’€™s conscious literary and musical artists are fixated on how many likes they will get, how many followers they can obtain by expressing the most outlandish, baffling stance or comment. They know you will click on that website just to hear what they have to say. Do they ever make sense? It depends on whether the listener or reader agrees. I would wager most of us don’t take the time to research the issue they speak of or even challenge them on their point. They choose to hear or read it from a second hand source.

A conscious writer shouldn’t be swayed by public opinion. They should always resist the allure of the multitude who tells them to ‘€˜change that storyline’€™, ‘€˜delete that poem’€™, ‘€˜don’€™t use that gender pronoun’,€™ etc. How can one be conscious if he or she allows the people dictate to them what, how and when to write? A conscious writer is always, always, always going to offend someone. Their objective is not to make them happy for the sake of social convenience but to present a clear and honest picture for all to see.

Ever since my high school days, I consider myself a conscious writer. My words are meant to inspire, encourage, uplift. I cannot nor will not write to promote a political cause for this generation only. The goal is to encourage each and every generation after mine to read my words and think. If you don’t have those goals in mind and consider yourself a conscious writer, that is for the readers to judge, not I.

To all the conscious writers who clearly have their task at hand in this generation and the next, much success to you. Never give up, never give in. Always make people think even if they feel offended.

 

Charles L. Chatmon
Author, Poet
Chatmon’s Books

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

From This One Hobby

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When I began to write way back when, I had no idea where this hobby would take me. I wrote as a way to keep me busy when no one wanted to talk with me or even participate in a game with me. Then again, I was a teenager growing up in the late 1970’s years away from social media and the advanced technology we have now. There were a few legends in literature who made appearances on talk shows discussing their latest novel or biography. The authors I watched on the small screen appeared down to earth, easygoing gentlemen and ladies in love with their craft.

Jump forward some thirty-forty years and the thrill of producing a story or play is gone. As everyone has discovered, even comic book legends who produce legendary tales taken from literature is mocked, blamed for present day social ills we as a populace were warned about not only from Stan Lee, but Rod Serling and even Ray Bradbury. Our present day generation can mock these individuals all they want, but they only prove the point of these authors who warn us of our errors in this society; we either rise or fall by using our intellect and critical thinking of the issues surrounding this planet.

Writers of the past wrote tales that served as inspiration or escape for their readers. There was no fantasy shaming by anyone in media because the populace understood what role books played in our society. Before the internet, they were a window to a world hidden from us – a world where we wished we participate in. In this 21st Century, there’s too much reality, too much political messaging in a work that simply doesn’t allow a story to be told that could help us think about what’s going on in the world around us, and in places we rarely visit. This author’s intention of writing a poetry book centered in a community mentioned by the media in a negative light was to show different perspectives of what life is like in this area not dictated by the news media and even now, social media hawks who continue to stereotype the community merely because they choose not to learn or read or speak with residents who endure the struggles daily.

Readers today find it digestible to read about wizards rather than a family in South Los Angeles struggling to make ends meet in the midst of gentrification. Readers anxiously pour through an unfinished series of thrones rather than explore the games politicians play in real life in an urban community. The word ‘diversity’ in literature is a lie. For what does this so-called diversity benefit? The annual Book Expo America has a chosen few Black authors, but their tales minutely touch on the challenges of inner city life here in America. Perhaps the movies of the 1990’s traumatized the readership, present and future with no clear cut happy endings. Maybe ‘Boyz N The Hood’ and ‘Menace 2 Society’ were too grim for the suburban crowd to accept. Could it be that the raw Urban Lit novels and books which were abundant in the early to mid 2000’s were too much for folks to handle? Is that the reason why today’s ‘urban’ tales focus squarely on the dominant society’s focus on Black and Brown America? Police brutality, gender issues, yet devoid of stories of the struggles living in a community frowned upon such as South Los Angeles? Maybe the readership and dominant society grew tired of our message.

My focus has been and always will be on South (Central) Los Angeles and the people who live here. There are many tales that have to be written, many poems created to ‘set the record’ straight. Yet, with each passing day there is a fight against the ‘Trojan Horses’ in our community in the form of organizations who preach social justice but fail to address economic justice. They will rewind the tragedy of a Black Wall Street, but won’t fight against a politician’s agenda for Main Street which doesn’t include the financial advantage those in affluent areas enjoy, and prosper. As a writer, these are the intellectual battles that must be fought, and won. As a Black author, I’m merely heeding the call Hughes once made to someone like me to proudly proclaim my Blackness through my art, letting the world know what I write and stand for.

Charles Chatmon
Owner, Chatmon’s Books

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Video: Bay View Hunters Point – San Francisco’s Last Black Neighborhood? ?

A young man by the name of Dante Higgins (andantehiggins@yahoo.com) wrote, reported and produced this excellent piece back in 2015 on Bay View Hunter’s Point in San Francisco. This presentation covers the history, challenges and changes in the community. Something to look at moving forward here in California (spoiler alert: it’s happening now)

Submitted for your (dis)approval, enjoy……….

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

 
Video

Video: Point of Pride: The People’s View of Bayview/Hunter’s Point

Submitted for your (dis)approval:

Point of Pride: The People’s View of Bayview/Hunter’s Point. (Produced in 2014)

From their YouTube description:

Point of Pride: The People’s View of Bayview/Hunter’s Point, a documentary film about the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. Point of Pride combines archival footage from the 1950’s 60’s and 70’s with present-day viewpoints and reactions to these images from the past to create a compelling portrait of a community marked by struggle and fueled by hope. Point of Pride is the culmination of a year long grant, Remembering and Restoring the Multimedia History of Bayview Hunter’s Point. Community partners included the San Francisco Public Library, BAVC and San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive at San Francisco State University.

Executive Produced by Bay Area Video Coalition Produced by DWM Producing In association with San Francisco Public Library & San Francisco State University Funded by Institute of Museum and Library Services & California State Library.

And now,enjoy………………

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2018 in Commentary

 

A Conversation with Charles Chatmon Jr. by Dee Alston

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Note: this interview was posted December 10, 2017 on Poetry International Online.(poetryinternationalonline.com) The following has been taken down from their website, but we’re reposting it here on the blog. The interviewer is Dee Alston who was gracious enough to speak with Charles about his poetic & written works.

1.) In one word how would you describe your work?

Fulfillment. (I love what I do.)

  1. What persons and what books influenced you both as a writer and human?

As a writer = Shakespeare, Langston Hughes. I’ve read most of Shakespeare’s plays from taking courses on him in college and on Hughes from my Afro-African Literature class. As a human? I would say my father, Charles L. Chatmon Sr. There were times I wish I were him as I grew up extremely shy and quiet. He would always laugh and joke at family outings, being the life of the party. He also is fighting a disease that is the reason why I decided to come back home and be a caretaker for him. He has intelligence, strength and people always say a good word about him that I’ve learned so much from watching him over the years. I’m glad I share his name as his son.

  1. Could you tell me about the experience writing your first book?

Sixteen years yesterday Dee, I never felt so happy (at that time). I finally became a published author with my first book, ‘The Depths of My Soul: poems from the heart of a man’ and held a book signing at my publisher’s bookstore. The process was worth it. I’ve always read poetry to an audience until I decided in June 2000 that I would tell anyone that I’m looking for a publisher for my poetry. I was invited to go to a poetry reading held by a book club in Los Angeles and I announced my desire to be published in front of that audience. A gentleman named Lewis Sanders introduced me to Dr. Rosie Milligan who is a well known publisher of Black authors (Milligan Books). I went to her writers workshop inside her store later that month, handed my maniscript to her and the rest is history as they say. The entire process from checking with her editors, rewriting my work, sending it back to Dr. Milligan was a back and forth that I needed to learn since I’ve never written a book before. Her team formatted the book, worked on the front and back cover, etc. I felt good being involved in the decision making as far as what cover to use and to edit the information on the back cover. It was an eye opener for me as a first time author, but now that I know what it takes for a book to become published, I’m more patient about my work now.

Before that time, I would write my poems in a notepad, edit them from time to time and read them in front of audiences in coffeehouses, college poetry readings, Leimert Park and other places. I was bascially an unknown until the printing of my first book, The Depths. The experience I had of finally reaching that goal felt good! It meant I could show friends, family, etc. my copies of The Depths then The Voices of South Central, even showing them at work which felt awkward to me, lol. It still feels good to be known as a published author because it’s a status that’s not quite a celebrity, but people know you’ve done something right by writing a book.

  1. How is your third book different from your first two books?

Storm Over South Central is an anthology where The Depths of My Soul and The Voices of South Central were mainly poetry except on the last pages of The Voices, an article I wrote back in college in the late 1980’s called ‘Life Goes On in South Central’ is found. It’s basically my opinions of what the community used to be and could be again. In Storm, I have poems that express the way I feel about life based on what I’ve seen and heard in my life and the community around me. For example, ‘The Story of Shantell’ is a poem about the choices a young girl has made and now has to live with those choices. ‘Role Reversal’ is the voice of a young brother telling anyone who will listen if they don’t want to be stereotyped, why should he be? There’s more ‘conscious’ poetry that I’m afraid I can’t remember right now but as far as the short stories, I’d like to share those with you.

‘Father’s Day’ is from the point of view of a young man, maybe around five or six that is excited to see his daddy except it’s not what he never expected. ‘Don’t Judge a Bum By’. This is a funny, lighthearted tale that is about a young Black man who is so hurt by Black women that he has a plan to ‘get them back’, but when he meets an old man on the way home, his plan is in jeopardy. The title story of the book, ‘Storm Over South Central’ is about a strange rainfall that begins to impact the lives of so many in the community. (Spoiler alert (to you only) it’s an anthology) As the story unfolds, many are curious where the rain comes from and if it will ever stop. ‘The Albatross’ is a favorite of mine about a widower dealing with the loss of his lovely wife. Why does a certain painting hurt him so?

So that is what I’ve been working with most of this time. I had to update the short stories with subjects relevant to the community like gentrification, male-female relationships, the threat of gang violence and the absence of a father in the home. A lot has changed from when I wrote these short stories back in the mid to late 1980’s, but I hope the messages still resonate for the future readers of Storm.

  1. As a writer at work in a racist society, how would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as a writer who points out what’s wrong with our society (including racism) and tries to find solutions on how we can all improve. I think it’s the duty of a writer regardless of his or her ethnicity to express their joy, anger, frustration and disappointment with the direction our world is taking and to let people know how displeased you are. You can also as a writer describe the beauty of life itself, even the positive side of love which I use in my poetry. One of my best friends in high school (I was bused from South Los Angeles to a school in the San Fernando Valley) tell me as the sports reporter and editor of my high school paper, that administration tried to ‘handcuff’ me. He believed because as a young Black man who would talk about subjects such as strikes in professional sports, the way I speak, write, and the subjects I touch on, that they (the administration) felt it best to limit my availability to write or manage my sports page. Even today, I find that as a Black writer, I’m constantly on the lookout for other writers, ‘experts’, so forth to ‘handcuff’ me or to shoot down anything I write about because it doesn’t jive with a particular philosophical mindset or ideology. The way I see it, I’m a writer who focuses on the moral aspect of our lives than the political, which a lot of writers, artists have directed their energies toward these days instead of it being about the work, the more important things in life such as what’s happening in my community.

I write in a perpetual state of what DuBois mentioned as ‘double consciousness’ with the understanding I will be looked on either as Black or an American while feeling I have to prove myself as both in my written works and in life.

  1. What are some of the misconceptions in black communities, especially in S. Central that you want to get across to readers?

Dee, glad you asked this question. What my purpose in writing about South (Central) Los Angeles is to let everyone outside of this community understand not all of us are gang bangers, cold-hearted pimps, directioness peeps who don’t know any better. The Voices of South Central was written in response to national news such as ABC, NBC, and CBS with so-called ‘experts’ telling their audiences what goes on here in South L.A. I felt as a lifelong resident (except for five years in Northern California) of this area with this ability to write, I believed it is my right to describe what does go on here and perhaps why. I also write about South Central for your classmates who may have seen ‘Boyz N The Hood’, ‘Menace 2 Society’ and feel that’s all there is down here. It helps that I spent fifteen years as a teacher’s aide and teacher in the same areas where I write and have met, spoken with, and helped to guide young people who see this insanity constantly. I never try to sugarcoat what takes place here as ‘The Party’ in Storm Over South Central will show. As a writer, I try my best to balance out the good from the bad, to be objective in how I present the community but at the same time, extol the positive things in South Central L.A. rather than what people have been brainwashed to believe or have heard through negative hip-hop lyrics.

  1. I know what your favorite sport is football, how do you equate that into your writings?

LOL 🙂 I played football in high school so I use my experience in my written works. The Party in the upcoming Storm Over South Central is the tragic tale of a all-city high school football player, his girlfriend and three other people gunned down by a drive-by. I felt it is important to look into the mind of a young man who like me, wants to see his neighborhood improve and as he had hoped, the scholarship he received to play out of state would help him meet that goal, that is until his tragic end 🙁  The ‘experts’ always say “write what you know”. I take their advice and write from the eyes of a football player, a clerk, etc. As a writer, I envision myself into any role I desire so I want to write a tale of a teacher, I can do that because of my experience but what if I was a secret agent who happens to be a teacher? Imagination is fun to use when writing poems or short stories, but as I may have mentioned before, I do use a bit of reality in my projects no matter what the subject matter is.

  1. What advice do you have for new writers?

In my writers workshops, I tell them to have a notebook and pen with them at all times. You never know where the inspiration of that next masterpiece will come from. Most of the time at work, I carry one with me or a notebook so I can write what’s on my mind. Most of the poems in both The Depths and The Voices were written in a notebook. This would be the first piece of advice I would tell them. I will also tell them to not expect success too fast. When you publish a book, there is a thought that as a new writer, you’ll get invited to Oprah, Steve Harvey, any celebrity with a platform for you to share your work with. It’s important to build your audience first before any of this becomes true, if ever. My appearances prior to 2006 were mostly on small cable channels like Cablevision, internet websites, and podcasts. It wasn’t until my future wife started podcasts on her website that I began to interview authors and publishers. When I took over as executive director of the L.A. Black Book Expo, those appearances in media started to spread. It wasn’t because of my books, but the expo. Long story short, new authors should build their audience with mailing lists, online newsletters, and social media. All of these platforms are very important if you want to grow your audience. The last piece of advice I would like to share is for new authors to write what’s in their hearts, not because everyone’s doing it. For example, when Sistah Soldja wrote ‘The Coldest Winter’, writing Urban Literature was the trend. When Zane first broke out (on the AOL message boards before that) with her first novel, everyone wanted to write Erotic Lit. If you plan to be a writer in the long term, think of what hasn’t been written and work from there or write your version of something already out there but have a spin on it. There is a bookstore owner in Northern California who told me one day who features a lot of Urban Lit authors in his shop as ‘one hit wonders’. I was floored by that remark but he was right: just about every Black writer either focused on Urban or Erotic Lit and in turn, flooded the market. When you have too many books in those genres to choose from and you’re a new author, it’s best to write a new idea from your heart.

I must share this with you: at the age of seventeen, I was a CIT, a Counselor In Training for my local YMCA. We were up in the San Bernardino mountains for summer camp when I was writing poems on my break. One of the directors saw me writing and invited me to read a poem during campfire. When I read my first poem, the kids loved it, including the counseling staff. That led to more poems for the next week with the same response. They loved what I had to say about life, the world we live in, my own thoughts and more on the subjects I mentioned. That was my first taste of reading to an audience and seeing they liked my works, it made me feel good to know how much I was ‘accepted’. I even went as far as announcing before camp ended if anyone has a favorite poem, they should send me a note to let me know. Did you know I had more than enough notes before I left? There was no way I could send copies of the campers’ favorite poems so I took that as a learning experience knowing the power of poetry is very deep, but also the power of words. That year (1983) I knew a young man like myself could make it as a poet and writer if I just spent time practicing my art.

Note: Storm Over South Central is delayed indefinitely. Please continue to check back with us for updates on its release.

 

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2018 in Uncategorized

 
 
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