Conversations Magazine's October/November Issue

Conversations Magazine's October/November Issue

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Dennis Perkins

Monday, May 11, 2020

[AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT] Calogero Bradley, author of VENGEANCE IS MINE

by Cyrus Webb

Talent comes in many forms and ages. Conversations is excited to introduce you to 16 year old Calogero Bradley, author of VENGEANCE IS MINE. I first interviewed him on Conversations LIVE the radio show in 2019 along with his mother Kneika Robbins, author of SPEECHLESS and THE POWER OF PAIN. Now we are glad to share a bit of Calogero's story in the pages of the magazine.

Calogero, first of all congrats on the book VENGEANCE IS MINE: The Reaping. How does it feel to be in high school and to have published your first book? 
It was a good feeling; I felt like it was a major accomplishment.

We’re able to take the journey of your main character Cody Morgan in the book. Where did the idea for the book come from?
Some of my ideas came from the Alex Rider series that I used to read. Then I added my own twist to it and changed some things around to create my own story-line.

What was it like for you to think of what it would be like to have a parent killed and what would you do?
It was pretty depressing to have the book begin that way. My feelings of the character are my actual feelings. I would have made the same choice Cody did.

Outside of dealing with his father’s death. Cody is also dealing with regular things that young people do. Why was it important for you to show the different sides of him?
I did it to help readers get to know the character and to maintain the reality of life.

I know your classmates and teachers must really be proud of you. What’s been the response from the book?
They have congratulated me on my accomplishment. One of my classmates purchased a copy and gave me a five star review on Amazon!

We can tell by the ending that there will definitely be more from Cody. Did you know when you created him that it was going to be a series? 
No, I was originally creating a single story-line. I never considered it was going to continue to grow, but it has.

Your mother, Kneika Robbins is also an author. What has it been like to have her support? 
It’s been very helpful and motivating. It is one of the many major keys to getting me to where I am today; along with the support from my father.

What advice would you give to young authors out there about sharing their own work and getting published?
I would tell them to pursue their talents and believe in themselves. It is very important to have motivation and support from their loved ones. If you don’t have that, though, still pursue your dreams.

Thanks again for the time, Calogero. How can our audience stay connected with you?
They can find me at www.calogerobradley77.wixsite.com/mysite






[To You, From Me] The Importance of Starting Where You Are

As Conversations Magazine celebrates 14 years in operation, I have to begin this letter by saying Thank You.

Thank you to Chris Ervin and Dominique Wilkins who have worked with us over the years to present amazing covers for our readers to enjoy. Thanks to bestselling author Brandon Massey who was the first cover feature for Conversations and all of those who came after him. Most importantly, thanks to YOU the reader for your support over the years as we evolved and grew.

When I began Conversations Magazine in April 2006 in my mother's living room, I never could have imagined we would grow to a point where we have some of the biggest names in the entertainment and literary worlds joining us on its pages and on our covers. I never would have thought we'd have over 17k print subscribers getting our publication all over the world, but that is where we are!

As I reflect on our growth and success it all goes back to something I talk about repeatedly: Starting where you are.

As I said,this is not where I thought we would be, but the fact that we are here is a direct result of what we did in the beginning: Setting up an account on Blogger to publish the articles. Using disposable cameras to take pictures, because I didn't have a digital camera or smartphone. Going to Office Depot to print the magazine, helping to staple them and then mailing them out.

It was hard work, but it was so satisfying. Now when I see where we are with a magazine that is published and distributed through Amazon it makes all the hard work and long days worthwhile.

The message for you? Start where you are. Some are waiting until they get the perfect website built, have an amazing line-up of guests and topics or even the best studio setup. At the end of the day none of that matters. What people care about is your message. You will evolve, but only once you start.

This issue celebrates those 14 years and those who have made it possible, as well as some amazing individuals that I'm glad to introduce and in some instances re-introduce to you. All of those you read about got where they are by starting. Today may you realize the importance of doing the same.

Happy reading!




Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine
www.conversationsmag.com

[CELEBRITY SPOTLIGHT] Actor Philip K. Boyd: Building His Success Step by Step

by Cyrus Webb

Over the years the humbling thing about what I have been able to do with Conversations would be the relationships I have formed. One that stands out is with actor/producer Philip K. Boyd. I had the pleasure of interviewing him on Conversations LIVE the radio show several times over the past 4 years and meeting him in person in Los Angeles for tapings of my series Cyrus Webb Presents,.

Each time he was gracious, engaging and someone that was aware that his hard work was definitely paying off. When I published my book POWER YOUR LIFE WITH THE POSITIVE I made sure that he was included, because his journey definitely highlights what I want my audience to realize they can do if they don't give up.

Since he was 5 years old Philip knew he wanted to entertain. Now as an actor,writer,producer and director he is able to do just that, and the world is able to come along for the ride. For over 20 years he has been working hard, honing his craft and seeing it all come together over time in the television shows and movies he's been able to be a part of. Recently, though, millions around the world were introduced to his character Oscar on the hit show written, directed and produced by Tyler Perry called THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS.

Though he stays constantly on the go, Boyd says about his career: "I look back on it and say I have been able to live my dream and do things I wanted to do in my life." What a great thing to reflect on! When it comes to acting he says "Being able to create anything in life is what it's all about. Being an actor and being able to be different characters is very fulfilling for me."

At a young age he knew he wanted to "be a lot of different things" in his life. He says that influenced him to "create different personalities and characters", and set the stage for where he is today.

The career as a working actor is not something that Boyd takes lightly. "It creates a level of responsibility that you have to own," he says. "When you're creating characters you want to give the fans what they want." That sense of responsibility is also part of the gratitude that he has. "Anytime I get a phone call that I've booked a job it makes you want to work harder and be better than you were before. I'm still climbing up the ladder. It's about constantly working, constantly creating and trying to be better and make it to the next level."

Being a part of the successful series The Haves and the Have Nots has definitely part of that next level. "Tyler Perry is a very special person," Boyd says. "He is a great storyteller. He has an energy about him that is infectious. The people that are surrounded by him make it their own personal journey to be better. I feel honored and blessed to be a part of this show and to be around the amount of talent that is on it."

For fans of the show part of the fun of Oscar's character was trying to figure out what was his motive towards Candace (played by Tika Sumpter) and the other cast members. Season after season we got to see the character evolve, then Oscar met his demise, adding to the drama of what is  a much-watch show on Tuesday nights. "I kinda had an idea of where the character was going throughout the show," Philip told me. The response to his character definitely made him feel good about his run on the popular series.

His fans have since seen him on television shows and movies such as MY LITTLE GIRL IS GONE, FEUD, SHATTERED MEMORIES, THE EX NEXT DOOR and even GENERAL HOSPITAL.

Outside of the entertainment industry, Boyd says he just wants to be able to use his life and path as an example for others. "If I can inspire one person in the world to chase their dream, then I feel as though my job is done.." He also adds that when it comes to the future: "One of the greatest things about being an actor is that you really don't know what's next. It might change from day to day. It's really exciting,"

At the end of the day he says he just wants to be the best Philip Boyd that he can be, wherever that might take him, and fans of his work are invited to stay along for the ride.

Lots more to come from this talented actor. Tweet along with Philip at @PhilipKBoyd. He can also be found on Instagram at www.instagram.com/philipkboyd.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

[MODEL SPOTLIGHT] Jah Saint Akano

by Cyrus Webb

One of the things that Conversations has been able to do over the years is not just spotlight those who are already household names but shine a spotlight on new talent. That is true in this Model Spotlight with model and recording artist Jah Saint Akano of Nigeria.

I had the pleasure of giving him his first radio interview on Conversations LIVE and now we are excited to give him his first international feature through Conversations Magazine.

At 27 he is able to not just pursue his passion but show others around the world what they can do if they are willing to do the work, regardless of where you live.

Jah Saint, glad to be able to share your story with the readers of Conversations. When did you realize you wanted to do music and model?
It was in 2009 that I started doing music. I enjoyed it, but wanted to do more. It was in 2018 that I switched and started to do modeling. That is what I have been spending my time on now.

Who have been some of your inspirations in music?
I like a lot of different type of music. I am fans of everyone from Kirk Franklin, Chris brown to 2Pac.

Who are some of your inspirations with modeling?
When it comes to model I would say guys like Justin Bieber and Denola Grey.

How has social media helped you to make connections?
It has really helped me a lot, especially Facebook. We live in a digital world. I have met with people who have helped my career most especially, you, Cyrus and people who are of good criticisms too. Without a doubt my highest fan base are on social media.

A lot is going on right now, Jah Saint. What are you looking forward to doing this year with your career?
I’m looking forward to work with some products/brands and maybe appear in a musical video.

What advice would you have for others pursuing their dreams and goals?
We all should keep pushing through. The sky is big enough for every bird to fly at the same time. Never give up on yourself or your dreams.

Thank you for your time, Jah Saint. How can our audience stay connected with you.
Thank you for the opportunity, Cyrus. you can reach me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jahsaint.akano and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/jahsaint1.

Actor/Producer Isaiah Washington Use Life’s Lessons to Keep Growing

by Cyrus Webb

Whether we recognize it or not each one of us is heading towards something. It can be the fulfillment of a dream or if we choose to be apathetic, it will be the result of failure. No matter what position we hold or what we assume about ourselves, there is a journey we are on that will take us wherever we want to go.The question becomes this: Will you be a better individual because of it?

I'm not a huge television person, and though I knew that actor Isaiah Washington had been on the hit tv series Grey's Anatomy and starred in several movies I wasn't that familiar with him and his body of work---that is until 2011. It was late that year that I saw a write-up about his book A Man from Another Land: How Finding My Roots Changed My Life.

Isaiah Washington showed me and I think will demonstrate it for you as well the power of our individual platforms. He knows what it's like to succeed and to face challenges, but he is not one to quit. As Conversations Magazine celebrates this milestone I thought this was a great chat to share with you this year.

We’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few conversations over the years, the first time was when he was preparing for the release of his project Blue Caprice at the Sundance Film Festival.
So how does Mr. Washington feel about the love his fans around the world continually have for him? "I'm still humbled by it and pleasantly surprised," he told me. "I'm still learning how fans are in the television world.  It's a powerful connection they develop with you. They don't let you go."

The gift that is his ability to bring characters to life and draw you in as a viewer in the process is something he realized through a mentor early in his career. "He said to me 'If you knew what you had you would mess it up.' I never really knew I had this gift until I started to have this dream about it." Whatever brought about the dream it proved to Isaiah that he could make this happen for himself---and that is exactly what he did.

Ever the professional but someone who knows what it's like to be in the spotlight and to have all eyes on him, I was curious as to how he kept the glare of celebrity from blinding him. His answer was real and more than I could have imagined he would share. "I made a huge mistake and forgot my place in the world and forgot that the world was looking at me and that I had this particular power and gift," he said, referencing the incident that occurred at the 2007 Golden Globes. "I was only thinking about myself in that moment. When you are in pain and in trauma you respond... In hindsight I realize that if I knew the power I had when I was on that hit show then things would have been amazingly different---but I wouldn't be able to have this conversation with you now."

That to me was a profound statement for him to make, but I think it is a great reminder for all of us. Bad things might be the doorway to the unbelievable blessings that are meant to be a part of your journey.

"Unfortunately for me in my ignorance," Washington continued, "I refused to accept my position as a role model. I know now that was a mistake. Anyone who is afforded to live the lifestyle I have lived has the responsibility to share that. You always have to be cognizant of how you show up. Now I am aligned with that."

This revelation that Isaiah Washington has had, however, is not an excuse for us to forget that he is still just a man. "I believe this is true for all of us," he says. "It is the understanding how to play your position at any given moment in time. It's important to know that I'm a human being just like you, but I never want to lose sight of that part of my humanity. As long as you remain humble and connected to the idea that each of us are what I call perfect imperfection I can continue to do the things I say I want to do and leave a legacy that my family and friends can be proud of."

The biggest lesson for us is that you don't have to be a celebrity to have this type of epiphany about yourself and who you are in the world. "I have been given an extraordinary privilege," Washington told me, "but we all have been given a gift. We have to understand that each and every one of us has a divine purpose."

ONE ON ONE w/ Patrice Tanaka, Founder of Joyful Planet

by Cyrus Webb

My friend Patrice Tanaka is an amazing individual who has been spreading joy and positivity for years. She is also one of Conversations' 25 Women Changing the World and for good reason. Through social media and her work as Founder of Joyful Planet she is reminding people of what is possible. 

In this conversation she talks about finding joy in the face of a pandemic, how she is continuing to spread her message and what's to come. 



Patrice, it is so good to catch back up with you again. The last time I spoke to you was in New York during my visit for the show Cyrus Webb Presents. So much has happened to us and the world since then. How have you been finding joy in the middle of everything?

Things have certainly changed dramatically in the U.S. and the world since I last saw you!  Covid-19 has become the unwanted focus of all our lives and, for many, it has been a high-stress and even crippling time.  Although I live in New York City, which has been hardest hit by Covid-19, I am grateful that I can work from home and self-isolate in the comfort of my apartment.  I am in a pretty good place because my focus before and, still, during Covid-19 is simply to live my purpose:  “To choose joy in my life every day, to be mindful of that joy, and to share that joy with others.”  My life purpose serves to focus me on joy and drives me to create more joy. 

Living my purpose has kept me sane and centered during Covid-19.  “Choosing joy” for me means focusing on gratitude, helping others discover and actively live their purpose, and creating opportunities to share my joy with others.  To that end, I’ve created a ZOOM Meetup series called, “Joy in a Time of Coronavirus,” to showcase artists and healers – the people who can provide us with comfort, community and joy during this challenging time. 

I’ve also been busy supporting nonprofits that are near and dear to my heart.  As you know, nonprofits have been hit especially hard because of Covid-19 and trustees like me must do even more to support these organizations, including strategizing innovative ways to help them survive and thrive during and beyond this pandemic.  The work I do with Dancing Classrooms and the Girls Scouts of Greater New York is bringing me immense fulfillment and joy at this time. 

You have achieved so much in your life, including being a published author and speaker. Where does the courage come from to follow your goals and dreams?

I’ve learned that I’m happiest when living my purpose and pursuing my goals and dreams so this is the mode I try to remain in always.  I think it takes less courage to pursue what you love because you’re being self-propelled by your own passion and energy rather than forcing yourself to do something you don’t love.  That’s a much harder slog.

My preference always is to go through life with as much grace as I can and to do so as easily and as effortlessly as possible.  Of course, everything I choose to do may not be easy and effortless, but if it’s what I dearly want to do, I’ll do it with a joyful heart.
The Joyful Planet is a big part of your work today. Tell our readers about it. 

Joyful Planet is both the name of my consultancy and my “vision” of 7.7 billion people living their life purpose and leveraging their talents, expertise and passion in service of others.  This is how, together, we can create a more joyful life for ourselves and a more joyful planet for all. 

My work, which is my joy, is to help individuals and organizations discover and actively live their purpose so they can contribute to creating a more joyful planet for all. 

Fear is something all of us have to confront and fight back. What helps you keep from giving in to it? With us almost halfway through 2020 there is still so many possibilities ahead. What should we be on the lookout for from you?

The wonderful thing about discovering and living our life purpose is that it can focus and drive us to accomplish what matters most.  I’m focused so strongly on living my purpose that it is very “centering” and “calming” for me.  If we’re focused on something that is life affirming and brings us joy, it crowds out the fear.  We don’t have the time or energy to focus much on fear. 

This is why I am trying to help as many people as I can now to discover and live their purpose because I know it is the best way to avoid tuning in to the Covid-19 news channel 24/7 and feeding our fears and anxiety.

What message do you have for our readers about the importance and power of joy?

It’s really about the “power of purpose” and how actively living our purpose can UNLEASH the joy that is within all of us.  We can experience “moments of joy” by taking a walk in nature or having soul-satisfying conversations with loved ones, but I think the best way to create “sustainable joy” for ourselves involves leveraging our talents, our expertise and our passion in service of others. 

Thanks for the time, Patrice. How can we stay connected with you?

Thank you Cyrus!  It’s always a pleasure connecting with you even virtually.  People can visit my website JoyfulPlanet.com or connect with me on social media:

Twitter:  @sambagal
Facebook:  Patrice Tanaka
Instagram:  patricetanaka
LinkedIn:  Patrice Tanaka

TAKE TEN with author Chental Song Bembry

by Cyrus Webb

I was first introduced to author and motivational speaker Chental Song Bembry some 8 years ago with her HONEY BUNCH KIDS series. Since then it's been great to watch her grow and shine as well as have her support for Conversations over the years. 

In 2020 she released her newest book DESIREE DAVENPORT: Welcome to Treeless Park. In it she tackles timely issues like bullying, dealing with separation in the family and embracing one's personal power. 

Chental, congratulations to you on the publishing of the new book DESIREE DAVENPORT: Welcome to Treeless Park. What has it been like for you to see the response to the characters and the story?
a. The response has been tremendous. I’ve already heard from readers of diverse age groups and career backgrounds about how much they love the story, especially the characters, because the characters feel so real to them. Those who have already started reading my book feel like they can identify with the characters. I’ve had an educator in New York tell me how much she loves the strong community bond and family dynamics, and although the characters face obstacles, everyone comes together to face their challenges and elevate from them.

In addition, this educator said that the characters are learning how to look at themselves and overcome their own insecurities and doubts. They are going through their own problems and personal dilemmas and eventually learn to deal and interact by building their social skills and self-esteem. Another one of my readers who is a lawyer told me that although she is 29 and my book is geared towards 8 to 14-year-olds, she is still very engaged with it and sees her younger self in my main character, Desiree. She also enjoys how I bring in the culture of today with social media, but I add older culture by highlighting Motown music.

You have been in the public for quite some time, writing books for a younger audience and now this new title. When did you realize that you wanted to tell stories in books?
I’ve been a storyteller since I was little. I used to play with dolls and figurines and make up stories for them. As an only child, I had to do something to keep myself busy. I also loved reading books and watching cartoons. This passion for storytelling and cartooning stayed with me as I grew older, and when I turned 13, I published a children’s book series called “The Honey Bunch Kids,” which followed a group of sixth graders who miss the bus, walk to school in the rain, and work to become friends.

 I spent three years writing “The Honey Bunch Kids” series and even developed a literacy campaign. As time passed, I finished high school and began my collegiate education at Hampton University, where I graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in Leadership Studies. During my time at Hampton, I began writing a more comprehensive middle grade novel, which is now Desiree Davenport: Welcome to Treeless Park. Desiree Davenport was published on March 2, 2020 and tackles bullying using youth football and cheerleading. I chose football, because I really wanted to engage both boys and girls in my story. Additionally, I wrote Desiree Davenport to provide readers with an alternative to mainstream books, which often push negative topics on African-American middle grade children. These topics include guns, drugs, police brutality, and self-hatred. I wanted to write a normal story that highlights the very best of people in a community who care about each other; a story that allows children to see a positive representation of themselves, their families and their friends in each of my characters.

It’s been great to see your support over the years. Who have been some of those who have inspired you along the way?
My biggest inspiration is definitely my mother. She has worked so hard to provide me with unconditional love, support and guidance to build my dreams into a reality. Through my mother, I am learning every day how to be a smart and responsible decision-maker who never gives up.

In the new book we meet Desiree, a young girl who is dealing with issues at home while trying to navigate the rest of her life. How did she come to you?
Desiree is me. Her character is based on many aspects of my life – specifically dealing with divorce at a young age. Although I never lived above a store, I did move from a large house into a smaller apartment for a while. This was definitely an adjustment I had to deal with.

In the book, readers will see that Desiree has a very close relationship with her mother, which is 100 percent true in real life. The du Bois family is based on a particular set of family friends, who have always supported me in real life. While writing Desiree Davenport, I drew on my own childhood memories and experiences. In addition, Desiree’s love for the du Bois family mirrors my current dreams. The du Bois family is the family I wish I had growing up, and the type of family I want to have in the near future.

Bullying is just one of the issues you deal with in the new book, but you come at it in a different way. How important was it for you to get to the reason WHY some become bullies?
When I started writing Desiree Davenport, I knew that I wanted to explore bullying in a unique way. My book tackles bullying by having my main character, Desiree, not only getting to know the bullies, but becoming friends with them and even growing attached to their family. This causes the main conflict in the story – how can Desiree stand up against bullying while maintaining the sense of family she’s gained since her parents’ divorce?

By allowing Desiree to become close to the bullies, I am able to make the readers fall in love with them as characters, too, and really dig into the WHY. What readers will find out is that even though the du Bois twins are bullies, they have good qualities about them and have insecurities, just like the person they bully. Desiree recognizes their good qualities early on, which is why she tries so hard to help them become better people. I believe that the answer to anti-bullying starts with the bully. If we take the time to understand the bully and why he or she behaves a certain way, we can determine the root of the problem and put a stop to it much quicker.

The book is written in first person. What was that like for you to become your characters and experience the world through their eyes?
Throughout this writing process becoming my characters was so much fun. My book is written from the point of views of three characters: Desiree Davenport, Rashad du Bois, and Phil du Bois. They each have their own thought processes and personalities, so it was a bit challenging, yet exciting, to jump between the three to create the most compelling story. As Desiree, I was able to experience a world in which I was welcomed into the family I’d always wanted and had the courage to stand up for what I believed in. As Rashad and Phil, I was able to experience a world in which I was actually part of the family I’d always wanted. I really enjoyed writing their scenes, and I believe that my love for the du Bois family will really come across to readers as they progress through the story.

You did a lot of promotion for this book through social media. Did you know that was going to be an important part of your marketing?
Yes. Prior to my launch, I’d been studying other authors to see the unique and creative ways they promoted their books. I knew that if I wanted to get the word out about Desiree Davenport, I’d have to be my book’s biggest cheerleader! So far, my hard work has definitely paid off. I’ve connected with several youth football organizations, coaches, and young athletes, who have all shown their love and support of Desiree Davenport. I am even more inspired to continue the work I’ve started on social media to promote Desiree Davenport!

What has it been like for you to be recognized as a role model and leader because of the work you have done as an author and speaker?
I am so grateful for all of the recognition I’ve received. To know that so many people and organizations support my platform and my passion for literacy means the world to me. I remain inspired to continue the work I’ve started and serve as an inspiration to children!

Any advice for others about the importance of pursuing their goals and dreams?
Absolutely. My biggest piece of advice is to never give up and to never let anyone silence your voice. Once you start something, don’t stop until you’ve seen it through to the very end. Find a mentor – a parent, relative, teacher, coach, or friend to encourage you and guide you through the hoops. Don’t blend in with the crowd; be different. Be a change-maker. When you recognize something is wrong, come up with a solution to fix it. When you determine this solution, always stand strong in what you believe in.

Thanks again, Chental, for the time. How can our audience stay connected with you and keep up with what’s to come?
Thank you, Cyrus, for this opportunity! Readers can learn more about my background by visiting my website at www.chentalsong.com. I am active on Instagram and Twitter @chentalsong, and I’m also active on Facebook and LinkedIn via Chental Song Bembry.

[AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT] Eliot Parker, author of SNAPSHOTS


by Cyrus Webb

It's been a lot of fun reading books by Eliot Parker over the years. He is able to bring you into his novels, getting to know the characters he has created. In 2020 he delivers something a little different for readers that might be just what we need considering the times we're living through right now. The new book, SNAPSHOTS, is a collection of short stories that really are "snapshots" of life for so many. 

In this Author Spotlight I talk with Eliot about his career, the new book and how he's adjust to life in the shadow of the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

Eliot, first of all congratulations on the new book SNAPSHOTS. Before we discuss it how does it feel in a broader sense to see the response to your literary work over the years?
The response to my work has been incredible. I have been writing since I was in eighth grade, and I never imagined that anyone anywhere would ever want to read something I’ve written. I hear from so many readers from all over the United States who have read and loved my work. It’s so humbling and wonderful. The comments from readers (even the criticisms) keep me motivated to keep writing.

Readers are something I try not to take for granted. Time and money are such precious commodities in our society today. The fact that anyone spends both of them to read my work is so gratifying and appreciated.

Have you always known that storytelling was something that you wanted to do?
I have loved both written and oral stories since I was a kid growing up in Charleston, West Virginia. Growing up in Appalachia, I am familiar with the strong storytelling component of our culture. In high school and college, I was interested in journalism, because that profession is mostly about telling a story about a particular issue to an audience. There is something so rapturous about being engaged with a story across any medium, but especially with books.

The thing I think is a signature of yours is the creation of strong characters in your novels. What has that been like to create characters that readers can relate to and root for?
The heart of any story is character. Without strong characters, a reader is not going to be engaged with the story, no matter how creative it might be. I think good characters must be relatable and they must be multi-faceted. Regular people are complicated and fascinating, and they all respond to stimuli in their lives and environments differently. I try to imbue all my characters with some of those elements, including the villains in my thriller novels. Nobody is completely bad or evil. In fact, many of those “evil” characters that readers love to hate in literature have motives for what they do to other people. If a reader can connect with my characters and see that they are just as imperfect as ordinary people, then I have done my job as a writer.

With the new book SNAPSHOTS you have given us just that, short stories that definitely draw us in. What was the inspiration for this type of book?
I believe I really learned how to write from reading and writing short stories. Skilled short story writing requires clear and concise descriptions and character development. As a writer, this can be challenging, because there is only so much room when writing in that genre to tell the story. Every word really matters in short stories. That is the fun and challenge of writing short stories. Snapshots is a collection I have been working on since 2011. Some of the stories in the collection have gone through extensive revisions and rewrites and some went through less revision.

My inspiration for this collection came from the idea of compiling a series of multi-genre stories that put the characters in situations where their past behaviors will be changed in a moment that is like a snapshot picture: freezing in time who they are in a moment but facing new challenges that will alter that snapshot and create a new reality.

Was part of the fun being able to try different writing styles in these stories?
Absolutely! I wanted to challenge myself as a writer and experiment with some different genres. For example, I am not a huge reader of science-fiction or speculative fiction. However, it was a lot of fun to write two stories that fit into those sub-genres. As a writer, its important for me to step outside of my comfort zone from time to time and try something new, and this collection is a representation of me experimenting with some new genres while including some stories that were comfortable for me.

I know you have probably been asked this a lot, but was there any of the stories that you felt like you wanted to explore more, maybe in a full-length novel?
The title story in the collection, Snapshots, is certainly one I would like to explore more. Blake and Olivia have great chemistry between them and the fact that their romance must be kept secret creates all types of complications. I would also like to spend more time with Rachel, my lead character in Old Lady. Rachel is such a passionate, but emotionally broken woman.  I would like to see if she’s ever able to recover from the death of her husband and find real love with Mason or someone else.

What advice have you been given aspiring writers about the importance of just going for it when it comes to writing?
As a writer, you have to write the story you want to tell. It does no good to write a story to fit a publishing trend or to satisfy a suggestion made by a friend or family member. The type of story idea that has been burning in your mind and subconscious for days or weeks is the one you should write. When you write it, tell the story to very best of your ability. Everything else involving publication, finding readers, etc. will take care of itself if you have written your story.

2020 has definitely been a different year than many expected. How have you been adjusting when it comes to how you are interacting with readers and spreading the word about SNAPSHOTS?
Like many people, the pandemic has left me at home and isolated. However, that has also allowed me to stay connected with readers in new ways. I have done two presentations on how to build an author platform using Zoom. I have also been featured on a few podcast programs as well where I’ve had a chance to talk about Snapshots and my career as writer. Of course, social media is also a great way to interact with readers. I do miss being out in public and meeting and talking with readers face-to-face. I hope we are able to get back to that soon.

Thanks for your time, Eliot. How can our audience stay connected with you and get your books?
Thanks for the opportunity, Cyrus! Readers can get copies of Snapshots or any of my other novels anywhere they like to buy books, which includes Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, etc. I encourage everyone to support their local independent bookstore as often as possible. I am on Facebook, my Twitter handle is @E4419 and my Instagram handle is eliot.parker. My website is www.eliotparker.com

Bestselling Author Sheri Fink: Creating Magical Worlds, Living the Dream


by Cyrus Webb

Bestselling author Sheri Fink is someone I had known for years thanks to social media. She has consistently created magical worlds through her books, sharing her love of words and creativity with all ages. 

In 2012 we had the pleasure of having her grace the cover of Conversations Magazine and in 2018 we FINALLY sat down for our first in-person interview during one of my visits to Los Angeles.Whether it's online, on the page or offline she is the epitome of what Conversations is all about: positive vibes, inspiration and a tireless example of what is possible. 

As we celebrate this milestone in 2020 I reached out to Sheri about a follow-up interview. She accepted, and here is our latest conversation. 


Sheri, it is great to have you back in the pages of Conversations Magazine. Hard to believe that it was 8 years ago that you graced the cover of our publication. So much has happened for us both in that time. What has it been like for you to reflect on your success and accomplishments?
It’s an honor to be featured in your industry-changing magazine again. I look back over the past 8 years since that first magazine cover with tears of joy and gratitude. So much has happened, it takes my breath away. Since I started writing professionally in 2011, I’ve published 11 best-selling books in three genres, met and married my soulmate (award-winning author Derek Taylor Kent), and combined our imaginations to create an entrepreneurial business together. Our company, Whimsical World, has the mission of inspiring, delighting, and educating children of all ages while planting seeds of self-esteem and high achievement. Getting to do what I love every day with the one I love is the biggest accomplishment and greatest dream come true of all.

Have you always known that storytelling was something you wanted to do?
Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to help people and to be a writer, a teacher, a mother, and a mermaid. As a children’s book writer, I am living my childhood dreams and getting to be all of those wonderful things every day. Even before I could write, I would make up stories and ask my mom to write them down for me. I’ve always loved the ability of words to stir emotions and inspire actions. I think it was my destiny to become a storyteller and to seek to empower people to live their dreams.

One of the things that happened for you is that you’ve built up an audience with young readers but you also released a book for adults, too. What was that like for you to expand your audience that way?
For me, the beauty of being a writer is getting to co-create an experience with the universe and to share it with the world in hopes that it’ll touch hearts and make a difference. I’m a free spirit when it comes to writing. I believe in writing from the heart. It would be easier to continue to choose the comfort of writing another heartwarming children’s book (which I love to do!). Instead, I chose the growth that comes with writing beyond genre lines and have written self-help, romance, personal development, and children’s books.  All of my books are about self-love and personal empowerment… regardless of the age of my intended audience.

We had a chance to meet in person almost 2 years ago. Social media, however, is something that has kept us connected. How has it helped you in building your brand and fan base?
I’ve had the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful people around the world through social media over the years. As a writer and a speaker, social media is a great channel for sharing my message and reaching a lot of people. I’m fortunate to get to connect with friends and Fans through Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I love reading inspirational posts and cheering people on along their journeys. Fans sometimes come up to me at events where we’re meeting in person for the first time and say, “I’ve been following you on social media, and I feel like I know you.” And, they really do know me, because I share my authentic heart, hopes, and happiness with them. 

The latest book THE LITTLE DRAGON addresses two things I want to discuss what you: fear and friendship. First with fear. How have you not allowed fear to stop you in trying new things?
I believe in amplifying faith over fear. There will always be fear when we’re trying something new. I am committed to feeling the fear and moving forward with faith regardless of the circumstances.

One of my strategies is to connect deeply with the reason that I want or need to do something that scares me. When I get up in the morning and go for my dreams despite feeling afraid, the result is children believing in themselves and feeling empowered to go for their dreams and ambitions. For example, when I published my first book, The Little Rose, I started being invited to do speaking engagements. The prospect of standing on stage and talking to a big crowd terrified me. But, I also recognized that it was a beautiful opportunity for me to stand in my power and to inspire people, so I pushed through and did it anyway.

Courage is like a muscle, it gets stronger with repetitive use. Nine years later, I’ve done hundreds of speeches for thousands of people of all ages. I still feel nervous before I go on stage. I just don’t let that stop me. The more talks I do, the more courageous I feel, and the easier it becomes. The positive impact I can have on the lives of others motivates me to move past the fear and do whatever it takes to serve humanity as best I can.

Your friendships or association seem to be key to your rise. Talk with us about the importance of those we choose to surround ourselves with.
Publishing is a relationship business. The people we keep closest to us and choose to do business with can help or hinder our connection to ourselves. I’ve learned to trust my intuition and to always seek to create win-wins. My goal is to surround myself with friends, fans, and fellow writers who align with my values and vision for my life; people who uplift, nurture, and inspire me.

I choose to spend the most time around people with definite purpose, high integrity, strong work ethic, and abundant joy for the contributions they choose to make in the world. My intention is to be passionate, loving, and inspiring and to bring out the best in others. I genuinely want to create something that I love and to help people through my art. When I infuse my writing with the energy of those authentic desires, my creativity soars and my books attract the right audience who can most benefit from the messages in the books.

I’ve discovered that by honoring your intuition about the people in your life, you build a powerfully positive relationship with yourself. The stronger your relationship with yourself, the more confident you will feel as a creator and the better relationships you’ll be able to build with your fans through your writing.

What should we expect next from you?
I’m writing a self-help / personal development / teaching memoir book that will be debuting in November 2020. It’s a book I feel I was born to write. It focuses on enhancing the 5 aspects of life that make the biggest difference: Passion, Peace, Power, Prosperity, and Panache. I share a lot of my personal stories and my missteps along the journey while making it light and fun. The goal is to help the reader move into alignment with authenticity and action in order to live a juicier and more fulfilling life. I can’t wait for you to read it!

In the meantime, I’m releasing Amazon Kindle editions of all of my books and audiobook editions of my children’s books. I’m continuing to lead webinars and speak at online conferences to help aspiring authors write, publish, and market their books while building a business they love.

Whimsical World has several big secret projects in the works to debut in the coming months that will help spread hope and joy to children worldwide. It’s an exciting year ahead.

Any advice you want to share with aspiring authors or those who are looking to start following their goals or dreams?
It’s never too early or too late to go for your dreams. I’m living proof that everything is possible when you step forward in faith and take inspired action daily. Trust that you were given the seed of your dream for a reason. Start now, take small steps at first, and be open to the path that magically unfolds in front of you. It won’t always be easy, but I promise that it will be worth it. You’ll look back years from now in disbelief at how far you’ve come and, more importantly, you’ll feel deep gratitude for the person you became and the people you inspired in the process. I’ll be cheering you on all the way.

Thanks for the time, Sheri. So happy for you. How can our audience stay connected with you online? 
I love connecting with Fans, fellow writers, and entrepreneurs! You can find me and my books online at www.SheriFink.com and www.WhimsicalWorldBooks.com and on social media at: Instagram @Sheri_Fink   Twitter @Sheri_Fink    Facebook @SheriFinkFan Just follow the rainbow hair and you’ll find me!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

[ENTERTAINMENT SPOTLIGHT] James Gordon, Poet/Author/Actor


by Cyrus Webb

As Conversations celebrates our anniversary it is our pleasure to present to you James Gordon, known to many as the Greatest Poet Alive (or G.P.A.). I've had the honor and pleasure of interview James on the radio show several times and reviewing his books. He is talented, confident and a real force to be recognized with on the page as well as the mic.

Most recently he has been seen showcasing his skills in another way: acting. In this conversation we discuss his success, his swagger and what it's been like to continue pushing the limits of his creativity. 

James, when you and I first connected you had made a name for yourself as a poet and author. What has it been like for you to expand your resume the way that you have?
It has been amazing. To be honest, I never thought this would be my life now. From performing to being an author and storyteller to now being an actor. WOW is all I can say. It's all a grind.

Part of your success has been your ability to express yourself through words. When did you discover that gift? 
After reading Cyrano De Bergerac. Once I read that, I was convinced to attempt to express my heart and mind on stage. But each endeavor adds to the growth and refinement of this talent.

You have not been afraid to speak your truth, even when it might not be popular. Talk with us about your confidence. Do you think that is part of what has gotten you where you are? Growing up with dark skin, I learned that you have to stand up, not only for myself but others. Defeating bullies along the way let me know that I had to be bold, outspoken, and sometimes that wouldn't be favored. I like to think of myself as aggressively ambitious.

Acting is the latest thing you have been able to do, both for television and film. What sparked that interest?
A gentleman saw me telling a story, and he approached me about being in his film. Right after, I was asked to be in another film. I didn't believe it would be what it is now, but once I get into something I want to exude excellence and be the best. And don't forget my passion for theater.

You now have fans that know you for a variety of things that you do. What has that been like for you to build up an audience with every achievement?
I don't have words, but when someone asks am I still doing poetry I always chuckle a bit. Seriously, I consider myself the MVP, so I have to do more than one thing and do it well. My Brother said it best: "I have never seen anyone go from one thing to another and excel at it."

Since you have done so much an obvious question would be are you satisfied with where you are?
I am grateful for everything, but you know me: I am nowhere near satisfied. I want all of it: movies, TV, commercials, plays, awards, notoriety, prestige..WOOO!

In many respects the world has slowed down a bit since the year began. What are you looking forward to next?
I look forward to Season Three of Amazon's "The G", where I play Detective Smiley. Looking forward to Season Two of Untitled and Season One of Clarity, both are web-series. There are two plays as well that I'll be a part of, "My Last Party" and Lil' Sistas Listen Up" respectively. There are also several movies that were pushed back that I star in as well.

Any advice you want to share with others about the importance of pursuing their goals and dreams? 
Just GEAUX (go)! It's the way we say go in Act Pack. Just get after it. Find what you want to do, put it in your mind, pray on it, then GEAUX!!

We know you will keep doing just that. Thanks for the time, James. How can our readers stay connected with you?
James Gordon on Facebook, Greatest Poet Alive on Instagram and Twitter. Thanks, Cyrus.

TAKE TEN with Iyla Krystal Smith, Children's Book Author

by Cyrus Webb

All of us have goals and dreams,and regardless of our age or where we are from we should not allow anything to keep us from them. Just ask  11 year old Iyla Krystal Smith. She is not just an author and speaker but someone who has been able to do great things in her community and shown by example what is possible.

In this interview she takes us into her success, example and latest book.

1. How does it feel, Iyla, to be a published author at your age?
It makes me feel that I can complete anything I put my mind to, and that my hard work does pay off in the end.  The way my (latest) book is being received by those that have read it makes me want to write more books.

2. Have you always known that you wanted to write?
No. When working on my first book I did not really understand what was happening.  I knew I had a thought, and I recall sharing it with my grandma. She wanted to surprise me with putting my thought into print.  Several years later as I've added to that first thought I have a published book.  It was a very exciting moment to see my story in print.

3. The first book I read from you was called Iyla’s Giving which was all about helping others. Why was a message of helping others something you wanted to share?  
My family is always helping others. My Granny Sharon told me stories about her Granny feeding children in the neighborhood in Jamaica.  My Grandma Sweetie and Grandpa Newton helps school children in Jamaica at several schools in their community.  My Granny Sharon is always volunteering and donating, and my mom is always helping.

I wanted to help, too, so I wanted my friends to help me with gifts to give to other children that was not as fortunate as my friends and me.  That is the background for my first book.  It is actually based on projects I did when I was younger.

4. I know your family is proud of you. What have your friends said about your being an author?  When I tell my friends that I am a writer and published a book they sometimes think I am kidding.  That is until I show them my books or my business card with my books.  When they see it they ask what the story is about, and they feel encouraged to write their own story.  I tell them that they can do it, and I do hope that they do.


5. Your new book is called GINGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD. Where did the idea come from?  In school we addressed bullying and how difficult it is when people are being bullied. It helps when there is a support system.   I was a team leader at school and helped my school mates when they were being bullied.  When I told my Granny about being a team leader at school with bullying she told me that she was bullied when she first came to America. She shared her story with me, and I began writing Ginger’s story.

6. In the book Ginger, the main character, is afraid at first of flying. Do you like flying?
I love flying.  I’ve been flying since I was a couple of months old.  I’ve had 3 passports.  I am looking forward to doing a lot more traveling as I get older, especially to countries overseas.  I also want to explore more American cities.  I’ve been to Jamaica, Florida, different cities in California and New York. I am hoping I can go to Bora Bora in the future.

7. In the book GINGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD one thing that Ginger realizes is that not everyone will accept her. What do you want people to know about embracing those who might be different than them?
I want everyone to know it is okay to be different.  What makes us different also makes us unique and strong.  It is a so wonderful to learn about other cultures, experience the different foods and the language.  I have friends from different countries, and I learn so much form them.  We live in such a big world, and we should embrace each other's differences as we can learn from each other.

8. Your grandmother, Sharon Jackson, is a friend of mine. You have been able to work with her on your books. What has that been like? 
My whole family is very supportive, and my Granny is always looking out for me and my future.  My Granny is fun, and we are very close.  She encourages me a lot.  When I have ideas she is happy to help me as long as it is not in the kitchen.  I like to cook and bake and she is not a fan of the kitchen. (laughs) She would rather eat raw veggies and salad than cook, but she loves to eat. We do spend a lot of time together.

9. What advice would you give to someone who has a dream of being an author or anything else? 
I would say do it!  It begins with a dream.  When you have an idea it is okay to explore your ideas. Ask your family for help or some adult in your life who can help.  Do your research. As kids we are always on the internet.

10. Thank you for your time, Iyla, and congratulations to you again. How can our readers stay connected with you? 
My readers can follow me on Facebook at IylaGiving and also on twitter @IylaGiving.  They can also visit my website www.IylaGiving.com and purchase my books on Amazon.  I want to thank you, Mr. Cyrus, for your continued support and for helping me put the word out about my book.  I also want to say thank you to everyone that have purchased and shared my books or have gifted my books to someone special in their life.  I am working with LEEDS PRESS and want to thank the team for all that they do.

SPOTLIGHT: Eddie Brown of Giving Words

by Cyrus Webb

In a time when so many are hurting and in need of help, Giving Words is an organization that is trying to do its part to make sure that no one is left behind.

In this conversation you will hear from Eddie Brown of Giving Words about their mission and what they are doing to make a difference.

Eddie, we are glad to help share the work that you are doing with Giving Words. I learned early on in my life the power that words have. How has your appreciation for words and making a difference shaped your life and your work? 
My wife Ginny’s love for words began at a young age when her mother “killed” the television and told her and her brothers to read a book from the suspiciously stocked bookshelf.  Her love for reading turned into a college major and a career in teaching English.  For me, words of encouragement have always been my love language.  Both of us have learned through marriage, divorce, remarriage, and child rearing that our words carry enormous power.  Although we want to meet some physical needs, we really want to remind our mothers that they have value. Single motherhood is often a thankless and even criticized position. We hope to reverse that trend.

How was the idea for Giving Words formed?
The name Giving Words actually arose in 2008 when Ginny and I were on a mission trip in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. There if you teach a child English, he will be able to rise to middle class.  Originally, we hoped to facilitate a bilingual school in Honduras, but our lives changed. As our dream began to fit our circumstances, we realized that our words of encouragement could do just as much here, just in a different fashion.

I know every day is a new adventure and opportunity when it comes to helping others. Let our audience know how Giving Words goes about offering assistance?
Giving Words started on December 2017 offering assistance to single mothers with whatever small needs they had.  Quickly, the primary need, car repair or car provision became apparent.  As we have networked in Central Virginia, we have honed our vision.  For example, in Louisa county, there are 12 organizations that help with rental assistance, but only we help with car repair.  The car is such crucial link in rural Virginia; no car means no transportation to work, the doctor or the grocery store. We also have established a clothing closet and baby supply swap in a local church basement.  Finally, we are currently organizing a mentoring program that will either connect moms to mentors and to classes that will improve their quality of life, all free of charge.

We live in a world that unfortunately finds it hard to think about others. What has it been like for you to by example show the truth of more blessings come from giving than in receiving?
Honestly, sometimes it’s hard.  We have sacrificed much of our free time.  When we are behind a computer screen or spending a Sunday afternoon towing a car, we wonder what we’ve gotten into.  The difficulties fade away so quickly though, when we see excitement in a mom’s face as she gets a car or the delight in the child who finally had a bed to sleep on.

There are so many generous people in our community.  We just needed to facilitate the connections between the needs and the resources.  Our lives are rich and fulfilling because we have found our purpose in our hardships.  Ginny and I were uniquely designed and then placed through trials that both help us to empathize with these moms and simultaneously offer practical help and wisdom.

Social media is how you and I connected through a mutual friend. How has it helped you in spreading the word about your work?
Social media has been a great support and a unique challenge.  We have made many connections via Facebook and even have raised some money, but I am sure we can do so much more.  Primarily, we have communicated with mothers and supporters through our Facebook page, Giving Words, and a private group within called Giving Moms and Mentors.  As we expand, we hope to create more groups, maximize our exposure and fundraising potential there.

Even people of faith can find it hard to stay motivated at times. What has kept you from throwing in the towel or giving up along the way?
First and foremost, we have a personal Father who sustains us through His Word, His church and His people. Additionally, we have supportive churches, friends, and family that have backed our vision with their time and resources.  We both believe that God designed us for His purposes and our skills and experiences have pointed us clearly to this ministry.  Without it, so much of our lives would be insular or even aimless.

Really appreciate this time with you, Eddie. How can our audience stay connected with the work you are doing and offer assistance?
You can like our Facebook Page and follow our website www.givingwordsva.org for upcoming updates.  Even more importantly, we ask for prayers as we continue to grow and develop.  Pray that we can continue to develop our partnerships and funding to increase our impact.  Through partnerships, community, volunteering, and funding, we can impact the lives of these mothers and children who are struggling to make ends meet.

SPOTLIGHT: Sherontelle Dirskell, Celebrity Publicist/Speaker/Author

by Cyrus Webb

“I choose to look for the good, the positive, the opportunities, the blessings, the lessons and the guidance in all situations. My perspective is more important than what’s happening. I choose to shift how I see things instead of allowing myself to be controlled by everything.” Sherontelle Dirskell

There are few women I have seen rise and thrive like Sherontelle Dirskell. She first came to my attention as a celebrity publicist, helping her clients achieve their goals and dreams. In 2019 she emerged as someone who also had goals and dreams to achieve, and she has been doing that as a motivational speaker, author and Influencer.

Sherontelle, it’s great to catch up with you again as Conversations Magazine celebrates its 14th year. You have been busy this year as well, even in spite of how things have been in the world. What has been keeping you inspired in spite of the challenges?
Congratulations & I’m so grateful to be a part of this anniversary issue. My biggest inspiration has been spending more time at home with family. I am so grateful for just waking up to see another day & also inspired by the mentors, life coaches, & motivational speakers who are giving positive motivation to others online during a time such as this.

What I love about the way you are using your platform is that you are showing men and women what they can achieve if they just persevere. What do you think has given you that determination to press forward?  
My mission in life is what keeps me moving forward. My mission is to inspire men, women, & children to live beyond their fears, pursue their dreams and step into their greatness. So with each & every day that passes I challenge myself in how I can not only make myself better but how I can assist on inspiring others to do the same.

Many people got to know you because of your work behind the scenes, working for your clients. Walk us through how you prepared yourself to step out front and share your story?
I  have an amazing mentor, Bernard Edwards, Jr, known as Focus. He is an amazing music producer who gave me some solid advice that I needed to step out and let people know who I am. I made a decision  to take his advice also also understanding this life journey I am on it’s not just about me,  it’s about my gift that I have to share with the people. I realize that if I didn’t come out I would be denying so many others who can benefit from my gift. Knowing these things has afforded me the opportunity to be on some major platforms and also to share my story speaking to audiences of all ages.  I have had to face my fears, stand behind what I do  and start connecting with people  all while staying humble and true to who I am. Hearing someone say to me I didn’t give up because I heard you tell your story, I knew I had did the right thing by stepping in front instead of hiding behind my clients.

Not only have you been sharing your own journey but you have partnered with some amazing people along the way. How important has your support system been for you during this new chapter?
My support system is very important because sometimes being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey. Having a great support system gives me positive reinforcement, and definitely helps bring balance to my life.

As I mentioned the world is going through a lot right now, including with uncertainty. What has helped you to stay grounded and focused?
My mission in life, my love for my family and for people in the world, knowing that this is a part of my journey that I can’t control. I know in my heart that this will be over soon, and it’s just a moment in time to make me stronger. I am spending this time during this crisis as a  perfect time for creativity. I am leaning more into my faith and believing that we as a nation will survive this. These are the things that have kept me grounded and focused, because circumstances don't make a person. It reveals who that person truly is.

Success is one of those things that fascinates me, because it is definitely different for everyone. How has your own idea of success changed over the years?
When I was a little girl I used to look at people with material success as being successful. As an adult and as the years go by I define success simply as fulfilling my purpose of why I am here on this earth.

We both use social media to connect with others and share our messages. How has it helped you in your business?
It has helped me expand my business and connect with people all over the world through my online content. I have also been able to gain clients through social media.

Can you give us an idea of what you are looking forward to next?
I am looking forward to living beyond this quarantine life that we are in right now. Also I can say that I am ready to start working internationally to help be an asset to this world being a better place to live in. Nothing last always. We are all here on this earth for the benefit of each other. I am ready for change.

Appreciate the time, Sherontelle. How can our audience stay connected with you?
Thank you so much. I have a website www.SherontelleDirskell.com, Facebook.com/SherontelleDirskell, Twitter.com/SherontelleD, &  Instagram.com/SherontelleD.

TAKE TEN with Jennifer Joyner Johnson, author of MY JOURNEY

by Cyrus Webb

For those who have been counted out, abused and felt alone author Jennifer Joyner Johnson has a message for you. In her powerful new book MY JOURNEY: From Bruised and Battered to a Woman Delivered by God! she shares what she has overcome and what is possible for you as well.

Enjoy our conversation. 

1. Jennifer, thanks for joining us on Take Ten. First, how does it feel to share your story with the world?
It feels amazing. I am ready. I am excited and grateful for this opportunity.

2. What has that been like for you to see the way people are relating to the things that you share?
It's overwhelming, because you don't realize how many people go through the same issues in life. When I was 16 years old I was rape twice by my father's friend. You hear about rape and abuse all the time, but it never hits home until someone opens up and shares their story. Then other people who are dealing with the same issues can feel encouraged and comfortable and can open up to that person that just shared their story. 

3. Have you gotten to the place where you can say that you are proud of yourself and what you have accomplished?
Yes, I am very proud of what I have accomplished. It has taken a long time to get to this point, and I am very proud of myself for not giving up.

4. Was that easy at this point to share with reader?
Yes it is, because I have dealt with all the pain from both rapes and all the abuse.

5. What helped you to get over the shame and fear?
My faith in God and  talking about it made it easier. I have cried a lot. I have asked God why a lot. The choices I made took me down a road where I met my abusive husband Ole Hateful (as I call him). We were married for 5 years and then we divorced.
I asked God what was wrong with me, why did I keep picking out all the wrong kind of men. I prayed a lot asking God over and over again for God to take away the hurt and pain, and he finally did. It did not happen overnight. God sent me the love of my life, Mr. Wonderful. It's as if God looked this world over and found me my amazing husband. His name is Willie, but I call him what he is, Mr. Wonderful.

6. Jennifer, What do you hope those who read your book take away from it when they finish it?
I want them to take Hope, knowing things will get better. Also Understanding, that your help may never come from people you think are on your side.

We all suffer and struggle with situations that life throws our way. We turn to our family and friends for the help we need or to just lighten the load a little. When they drop the ball it leaves us feeling like we do not matter to them, and then we go off and do something crazy like I did, trying to kill myself twice.

Later on we feel regret. I have had many moments like this, but somehow God always sent me someone to help me right on time. No matter how tough or how cruel life is treating you, please do not give up. Help is on the way. May God grant you the miracles that you need in your life. Love never fails.

7. One of the ways you have connected with others is through Facebook. Has that helped you to get out of your shell a bit when it comes to talking with others about the book?
Yes it has, because a lot of people did not know what I went through. It feels good to finally get everything out and deal with all the hurt and pain. It has been healing for me.

8. Faith is a big part of your story, Jennifer. How has your faith in God helped you to forgive others and yourself? 
That part has been hard, because I had to forgive the ones who hurt me so that they could not control my life any longer. It was even harder to forgive myself, because I am my worst enemy. I had to learn that I am beautiful. I had to learn that I am valuable. I had to learn that I am enough and just like you I am beautiful, valuable and enough.

9. How does it feel to be able to show others by example what they can over come?
It's empowering to me. I want to be a voice for women and young ladies all around the world who have experienced rape and abuse. Together we can have it all.

10. Thanks again, Jennifer, for the time---and the courage to share a bit of yourself with us. How can our readers stay connected with you?
Feel free to send me a friends request anytime on Facebook Jennifer Joyner Johnson or you can always email me at jenniferlane1974.jl@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you once you've read the book and how it has touched your life.