Posted in Guest Posts

Redwood Summer [Guest Post]

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Robert Kirkendall. It’s the first chapter of his novel, Redwood Summer. Thanks, Robert!

aerial photograph Santa Clara, San Clara county, California

SAN JOSE, CA 1990

Was it all just too good to be true?  Jason was in the passenger seat of a work truck as he reflected on the life changing events of the previous few months.  He looked out across the austere expanse of unadorned one and two story concrete tilt-ups of Silicon Valley as the truck passed one building after another.  I had a good job with room to grow, Jason recalled, I had all my friends, Christine and I didn’t have a care in the world.  How did all change so quick? Jason lamented, then wondered if all the good times were gone.  The morning sun was above the eastern Mount Hamilton range and shone across the late autumn sky.  The faceless buildings cast shadows on half filled parking lots and dry landscaping.

“So what do you think about all this?” Hal asked from the driver’s seat.

“Huh?”  Jason was knocked off his train of thought.

“You know, what’s going on in the Persian Gulf.  They’ve been talking about it on the radio all morning.”

“Oh, I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”  Jason once again noticed the news talk over the radio.  He was a little annoyed at the interruption, then wondered how long his mind was somewhere else.

“Don’t you follow the news?  This is going to be major.”

“Of course.  I was just thinking about some other stuff.”

“We may soon be going to war,” Hal emphasized.  “What’s more important than that?”

“Look, I hear ya,” Jason agreed, “but I got other things on my mind right now.”

“More important than what’s going on?”

“Maybe not, but it’s important to me.”  Jason sensed Hal’s waiting for an answer.  “You know, personal stuff.”  He tried to hold onto the series of memories he was thinking of as he waited for the intrusion to end.

“Okay, I won’t pry.  But you might want to start paying attention to what’s going on.  I’m too old to be drafted, but you aren’t.”

“No one’s been drafted in years,” Jason replied.  “I’m not worried about that.”

“Well if things gets worse, you’ll hear about it,” Hal warned.

“No doubt,” Jason said reflexively.  They drove along further through the maze of nondescript structures.

“Well, maybe it’ll be good for the economy.  Wars usually are,” Hal pointed out.

“Yeah, as long as you don’t get killed.”

“Serious, look around at all these tech businesses.  This whole valley was built because of the Defense Department, and with the Cold War over we need something new to keep the wheels turning.”

Hal continued to talk as Jason looked out the window in thought.  He tried to focus on the day and the job ahead, but the past kept drawing him in.  When did it all start to change? he wondered.  The year started out really good, every weekend was a party, I was working toward my A.A.  Jason then remembered how credit card bills suddenly piled up at around the same time the rent on the house he was sharing went up.  When was that, he wondered, April?  May?  He remembered how his parents let him move back home so he could pay off his debt quicker.  He remembered how he told himself at the time that it was only to be temporary situation, but he also couldn’t help but be bothered by the idea that it was a step backward.

Jason leaned back in his seat and rested his arm on the window frame.  Did my life already hit its peak? he worried.  When did things began to go downhill?  His memory searched from the beginning of the year onward.  He thought back to a company meeting at his last job, not long after he moved back home, but when things were still good.  That was some day, he thought.  They said everything was looking up, and the future was only going to get better.  We were true believers.

Jason focused on that day.

About Robert

Robert KirkendallRobert Kirkendall grew up in San Jose, CA, lives in Santa Cruz, CA, and is the writer/producer/director of Pacific Television Theater, a live drama anthology broadcast from Community TV of Santa Cruz.

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Posted in Guest Posts

How Reading Aloud Made Me The Teacher And Person I Am Today [Guest Post]

Today’s post is brought to you by Jennie Fitzkee. Thanks, Jennie!

Guest post by Jennie Fitzkee: How Reading Aloud Made Me The Teacher and Person I Am Today

My very first day of teaching preschool in Massachusetts, thirty-two years ago, was both career and life altering. Lindy, my co-teacher, asked me to read the picture books to children each day after our Morning Meeting. Sure (gulp)! I was new, scared and unfamiliar with many children’s books. I had not been read to as a child, except for The Five Chinese Brothers from my grandmother. I still remember the page that opens sideways, with the brother who could stretch his legs. One book, and to this day I remember it vividly.

The book I read to the children on that first day of school was Swimmy, by Leo Lionni. It was magical for me, and for the children. The storyline, the art, the engineering, the words… it was a taste of something I knew I had to have. And, I couldn’t get enough.

The next few decades I consumed children’s books. I realized that the more I read aloud, the more the children wanted to hear stories and be read to. I displayed books in my classroom front-facing, so children were drawn to picking up and ‘reading’ the books. In this way, the children wanted to handle, hold, and turn the pages of books. This was a big deal! It was true hands-on learning, with exploding questions and interest. I was the yeast in the dough, or perhaps the books were the yeast. Oh, our Morning Meetings grew. We had to include a children’s dictionary on the bookshelf so we could look up words that were new. That was fun!

By this time I had become picky about good books. Whenever I read a good book, it sparked so many questions and conversations, that sometimes it took ‘forever’ to get through the book. The first time I read Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, it took forty minutes to finish reading the book. I started with the inside cover, a picture of the courtyard, and simply asked questions; “Where is this?” “Does this look like Massachusetts?” “What is different?”

Reading picture books triggered big discussions. I often stopped to ask questions. Sometimes I would simply say, “Oh, dear…” in mid-sentence and let the children grab onto that rope. Yes, I was throwing out a lifeline, a learning line, and it worked. It was exciting, always engaging.

Before long, I started reading chapter books before rest time. This was unconventional for preschoolers, yet it felt right because children were on their nap mats and needed to hear stories without seeing pictures. I started with Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and have never looked back. The first thing children learned was ‘you make the pictures in your head’. This is thrilling because we now have non-stop reading and multiple discussions, without pictures. Thirty minutes of pretty intense reading-aloud. My chapter books include the best of the best.

My teaching had become language based and child centered. Often there were ‘moments’, things that happened because we were reading all the time. Reading had spilled over into my curriculum. The day we had set up a restaurant in housekeeping, children were ‘reading’ menus and ‘writing’ orders on clipboards. I was spelling out the words to one child and listening to questions about the menu from another child. I doubt these moments would have happened had I not read so often in the classroom.

I wanted to tell families what happened, about moments of learning, and of course about reading aloud. So, I started to write more information in my newsletters, and include details. I wrote, and I wrote, sharing small moments and relating those moments to the big picture in education.

I attended a teacher seminar, and Jim Trelease, the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, was the keynote speaker. As he spoke I wanted to jump up and rush over to the hundreds of teachers in the room, screaming, “Are you listening to this man?” “Do you realize how important his message is?” Instead, I wrote him a letter and included one of my newsletters to families that spoke about the importance of reading aloud. That sparked his interest in my chapter reading, and he visited my classroom to watch. I’m included in the latest version of his million-copy bestselling book.

My public library asked me to direct a library reading group for second and third graders. This was another new adventure in reading. I read The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes, among many wonderful books. Again, these were new books to me, and I loved it. This past summer I embraced YA books, thanks to reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I read every Kate DiCamillo book I could lay my hands on. Everyone.

My reading and reading aloud continue to grow. Thank you Read-Aloud West Virginia for getting the message of how important reading is to the public. We are making a difference.

About Jennie:

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that is most important and exciting. That’s what I write about. I am highlighted in the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

Posted in Guest Posts

Why I Write [Guest Post]

Guests appear on my blog three times a month. If you would like to know more about this, please visit my Guest Bloggers Wanted page.

Today’s post is brought to you by Jasmine Farrell. Thanks, Jasmine!

Why I Write [Guest Post by Jasmine Farrell]

Writing poetry is the preeminent route to express myself.  Poetry is my biography. Story telling has always nudged my shoulder since I can remember. To encourage, enlighten and cause a few chuckles within people, writing is the way to go for me. My grandparents, on my mother’s side, were unintentional story tellers and hearing them merely planted a seed within me for creating stories.

When I was a little girl, I used to write stories in the language of toddler. I was so fluent, I’d sneak downstairs to my late Grandmother’s bedroom and write my eloquent scribble scrabble in her memo pads, she scolded me to stay away from.  I’d read my stories aloud to my mother and she’d nod in admiration of my words as though Langston Hughes had reached our home on 638 44th street in Bay ridge, Brooklyn. I’ve always been fond of poetry. However, when I was in the second grade, poetry pinched my heart like clothes pins to sheets on clothes lines in backyards.

I never noticed my loved for poetry until I was thirteen years old. I was over flowing with repressed emotions, lack of freedom, “Mom never understands” and crazy for a boy who didn’t care to know what my favorite SlipKnot song was. You know, the usual thirteen-year-old angst on love and coming of age. I needed an outlet to release, an outlet to share whatever was going on with me ( I still have my stack of composition notebooks filled with poems and songs). However, I didn’t choose to be a writer then. I desired to be a fashion designer. I knew how to sew, sketched countless designs and I even had a brand name in mind.

I attended Fashion Industries High School wide eyed and ready to become the next Ann Lowe with fishnet cut off gloves. However, during my fashion classes, I would find myself writing poems and stories. I would rush through my fashion assignments so I can finish a poem. I’d shove numerous poems to, the editor of My Quintessence, Andrea Lauren to read and rate. By my Junior year, I joined my high school’s literary magazine called, The Hanger. The Hanger editors took us students on a field trip to a poetry event that featured Major Jackson and that event is what hooked me in. That event grabbed my love for poetry by the collar to take writing seriously. There was something about observing the various voices, poetic devices and forms utilized on one platform that made me realize I could share my story too- via poetry.  I remember a teen reciting a poem, who obviously practiced internal rhyming faithfully, that detailed the story of gold diggers. Another student did an acrostic poem on women being called bossy for simply having leadership skills and I was floored at her use of alliteration. After that event, I knew I wanted to be a creative writer, especially a poet.  I researched various poets, poetic devices and forms. I decided to major in English once I arrived to college. I began writing short stories and Christian spoken word pieces. I joined my college’s newspaper for a few semesters and submitted a few of my poems into poetry contests.

After publishing two poetry collections, de-converting from Christianity, beginning the journey of self-discovery and performing at various venues, I realized why poetry is important to me.

I write poetry because that’s where my memoir, voice, soul and heart resides. My “When I was little” wounds reside in the crevices of allegories. My heartbreaks and love stories leap off pages with internal rhyming. My views on social justice and humanitarian issues scream free lyric and grittiness. Poetry is my biography and my introduction.

Story telling is a great form to share the lessons that life has taught us. It connects us and reminds us that we are not as alone as we think we are. Whether an oral tale or a written one, stories can become our getaway, our teacher, our paper friend and inspiration.

About Jasmine

Jasmine FarrellJasmine Farrell is a freelance writer and blogger. From Brooklyn, NY, she has a Bachelor’s in Communications and she loves red velvet cake. Writing in her Grandmother’s memo pads is included into her repertoire of writings. Creative writing is her niche. She loves reading, randomly dancing and creating off-key ballads.

Jasmine’s Book

Phoenixes Groomed as Genesis DovesPhoenixes Groomed as Genesis Doves is a collection of poetry that draws the reader into the world of personal identity, inner growth and the complexity of human relationships. Ordinary and common images, especially ones found in nature, are used to craft poems that appeal to the uncommon, the suppressed and the others. Filled with incredible grace and accessible wisdom, the poems explore a wide range of complex emotional themes. With unexpected metaphors and sparkling similes, the pieces vary in rhythm and theme making each one like a foil-wrapped candy: something to savor, enjoying each new bright color on the tongue.

Amazon | Goodreads

Posted in Guest Posts

What Makes For A Good Psychological Thriller? [Guest Post]

Guests appear on my blog three times a month. If you would like to know more about this, please visit my Guest Bloggers Wanted page.

Today’s post is brought to you by Heena Rathore P. Thanks, Heena!

What Makes For A Good Psychological Thriller? [Guest Post by author Heena Rathore P.]
Image Credit: TC (talkingcomicbooks.com)

When I hear the term ‘psychological thrillers’, I feel a shiver of anticipation run down my spine. Is it just me? I don’t think so; I’m sure that almost everyone who’s read at least two good psychological thriller books (or even movies) feels the same way, especially those who love the genre.

The term itself makes me feel a rush that I just can’t describe; it means anticipation and intrigue, a lot of thrilling action, psychological twists, unimaginable turn of events, gritty situations, incomprehensible acts of self-preservation and a nice ending that’ll definitely blow the mind. At least for me, this is how I feel when I hear this term.

Being a reader and a writer of this stunning genre, I’ve spent a good many years submerged in it. And needless to say, I have read and watched my fair share of good as well as “bad” books and movies in this genre – psychological thrillers. For me, there’s no bad as such, but I guess there are a lot of books or movies that makes you feel like there was so much room for more and that they fell short somehow.

I’ve been observing all the psychological thriller stories (movies and books combined) like a hawk because that’s what writers do. And for me there are a few things that really make a good psychological thriller:

  • Killer suspense.
  • Scary as hell and super creepy antagonist.
  • At least one vulnerable character for whom I can root for.
  • Growth of that vulnerable character into someone who can fight all odds .
  • Spooky and chilly settings.
  • Crazy situations that I would hate to be in, but would be extremely curious about.
  • Mind-numbing anticipation.
  • Building frustration that keeps me on the edge.
  • One hell of a climax that’ll keep the wheels in my mind running even after I’m done with the story.

These are, of course, only a few things that make for a good psychological thriller, but if the author manages to get at least these elements right, the reader is in for a smashing story.

A few handy things that I feel help a lot in making a book a really good psychological thriller:

  • Glimpse into the mind of the killer through a distant or limited POV of the antagonist – just enough to creep out the reader, yet only a glimpse so as not to make the reader feel sympathetic towards him/her.
    You can’t feel scared of someone if you feel sorry for them. Hence, a distant POV works best.
  • Epistolary elements like letters, or diary entries, or random newspaper articles or bits of transcripts or something like that. These things instantly create a wonderful atmosphere full of suspense and intrigue.
  • Creepy and blood-chilling settings. They’ll add a lot of character and weight to the story and create an eerily horrific atmosphere that’ll accentuate the entire story.
  • Strong characters. Always. They’ll make the reader emotionally involved with the story and make everything feel personal. That is one thing a writer can’t afford to go wrong with.
  • Multiple POVs. It’s always better to know the story from different angles and POVs. It adds spark to the story and provides a deeper understanding to the reader helping them to get inside the story.
  • Suspense build-up. Suspense is what takes the story to another level and makes it extremely entertaining. If the author manages to get the balance of suspense and thrills right, then nothing can stop the story from hitting the bullseye.

These elements need a great amount of work, but if done well, they add a lot of weight to the overall build-up of the story.

At the end, the main thing is the story itself, so no matter what you do or how you do it, try to make your story shine and you’ll have a winner at hand.

About Heena Rathore

Author Heena Rathore PHeena Rathore Pardeshi is a novelist, novel critic, as well as a book reviewer. She is also the Editor In Chief at a publishing house and an acclaimed YouTube Podcaster. An award-winning writer, she has won several NaNoWriMos and JuNoWriMos since 2014. .

A fan of crime-thrillers, apocalyptic fiction and slasher movies and series, she draws inspiration from the works of legendary writers such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Sidney Sheldon. She’s also a fan of Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan.

An introvert and freethinker, Heena prefers neatness to chaos – in her fictional themes as well as in her real life. She has a special place for German Shepherds and books in her heart.

Heena is twenty-six years old and lives in Pune, India with her beloved husband, Vishal – a successful entrepreneur, in a house full of books, music, and love. Heena passionately creates vivid fictional worlds; some to read and cherish, and some to live in.

Connect with Heena:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Book:

Deceived by Heena Rathore P.How well do you know your loved ones?

A girl struggling to cope with the murders of her mother and five-year-old brother.

A journalist chasing the ghost of a potential serial killer.

A thirteen-year-old girl who slaughtered her parents.

And a revenge-driven psychopath who is about to destroy everyone’s life.

After 9 years, a young writer is still coping with the brutal murders of her mother and five-year-old brother, as she moves into a house of horrors, unwittingly to start a new life with her lover. Will friends and family be able to redeem Ally out of the impending doom in time? Will her infallible love become the key to the destruction of her already fragile world? Will madness prevail over love; true love over revenge?

Deceived is a gripping psychological thriller that mazes through the deepest, darkest emotions of human mind through the story of a vulnerable girl who treads in the mist of deception bred from a long unforgiven betrayal.

Posted in Guest Posts

Something Needed Bleeding [Guest Post]

Guests appear on my blog three times a month. If you would like to know more about this, please visit my Guest Bloggers Wanted page.

Today’s post is brought to you by Chris Long. Thanks, Chris!

Something Needed Bleeding: A Guest Post by Chris Long

So, this is how I started writing a novel.  Sort of.  There was an article in the paper about the town saving money.  I didn’t really pay it any attention, but a lot of people around me got quite annoyed about it.“They’re turning the lights off after midnight every night to save us money?!” was pretty much what I kept hearing, over and over again.

“They’re turning the lights off after midnight every night to save us money?!” was pretty much what I kept hearing, over and over again.

Personally, I’d always been a fan of the potential for more money, but that didn’t seem to be the point.  To be honest, I didn’t really think about it until I went to walk home from the pub one night and someone mentioned something about the lights being off.  I said I’d be fine and set off on the fifty or so minute walk, hoping to clear my head before I had to struggle with the front door key.

The darkness I found waiting for me outside was cold and heavy.  It was too quiet.  It changed the whole town around me.  The town centre became a hidden maze, defined by raised voices and the occasional thunder of distant bass.  The suburban streets turned into tangled knots of faceless houses and dead ends.  Parks or fields felt endless without light.  The whole night became a bottomless pit and, by the time I got home, I felt like I’d been walking for miles.

That whole experience stayed with me.  At first, it got me trying to write a short story about it.  I wanted to try and talk about towns using the idea of saving money as a cover for removing the unwanted, the struggling and the downright broken.  You know the sort of thing.  People going missing in the middle of the night.  Suspicious town council meetings.  Cheap food suddenly becoming readily available for people on a brand new housing scheme.  It all got a little Soylent Green, if we’re being honest.  Still, though, I knew there was something interesting there.

When my publisher asked me if I was ready to write my first novel, I went back to that idea.  It felt like there as potential there.  I wrote a really sharp opening to the story, but couldn’t quite get anything else together for it.  In fact, my stupid brain kept getting distracted by other ideas.  Ideas that didn’t fit together.  There was one about a group of kids who may find something demonic locked under a barn in the moors.  Another about a young man who gets himself lost in a hotel that turns into a shapeshifting maze at night.  Or there was the one about that man driven mad by the sound of dripping water after an encounter with something ancient and lonely in a mine turned tourist attraction.  Or that other one about the character who is told the day they are going to die, but not the date.  Which means they’re forever afraid of one day in seven, every single week for the rest of their life.

The problem was that none of these stories were the one I was meant to be writing.  I was meant to be trying to write my ‘Evil Town from Hell’ story.  That one which spoke about society.  About how easily we could slip into treating each other inhumanly if we simply did as we were told and believed it was for a greater good.  Okay, okay, it had elements of Hot Fuzz about it as well as Soylent Green.

It’s probably thanks to that sort of thinking that, one morning, I turned away from the latest draft of the story and went back to my notes for it.  What do you want to write, I wrote to myself on the page.  What are you trying to do?

It was a good question.  I knew I was a horror writer, but I didn’t feel comfortable with this horror.  In a way, I didn’t feel good about what this horror could say about me.  I’d had a couple of ideas like that.  It was as if the thought behind them was too dark, too grim for me to face ever coming from me.

Thinking like that, I turned my attention to those other little ideas I’d been toying with.  Each of them was tackling a stage in someone’s like.  The children playing on the moors.  The young man travelling alone.  The middle aged man tormented by guilt.  The older man who was trying to live with his demons as best he could.  The four ages of men, I remember scrawling in my notes.  I underlined it.  Ringed it in question marks.  That was more interesting than what I’d been trying to write for months.

Those four stories could be linked.  Maybe not by characters, but by the ideas behind them.  After all, it was the ideas behind the horror stories that were distracting me.  The idea that telling a horror story was about expressing something horrific either within yourself, or something that had happened to you.  That was when Thomas Singer was born.  An older author than myself.  A recluse.  A man with some mild success and a cult following.  His fans believed Thomas was holding back a few stories to only be released after his death.  Five stories that possibly spoke of a secret he would take to his grave.  So, I killed him off and the book became his final release.  His confession, through the act of telling stories.

All those separate little stories I’d been trying not to write slotted together so nicely.  I wrote an introduction for the book as myself and then an intro to each story.  Finally, I wrote an afterword from Mr Singer himself.

I remember sending off the novel when it was finished and feeling strangely shell shocked by the experience.  I’d heard so many stories about what it was like to write your first novel.  None of them were right.  Mine had started just by walking out into the dark and thinking I’d be okay.

About Chris

At thirty-six years of age, Christopher Long is a relatively young writer. But when you read his writing, you realise he is older than beyond his years. He has the horror and torment of a million tortured souls in his work.

Dark, supernatural stories are his life blood. His first shocking novella, The Compressionist, is a scary tale about a man that feeds on the very life force of people and has done since the dawn of time. It was published early Spring of 2014.

He writes like a man possessed. Maybe he is? He sure seems older than his years suggest. No one dare go up in his attic to see if there is a picture of his good self that might be changing.

His second novella, The Final Restoration of Wendell Pruce, a tragic tale of a recently retired thespian who finds something very strange in the grounds of his seaside retreat. Was published in the summer of 2014.

His third novella, The Narrow Doors, a tale that proves sometimes you should leave the past buried, was also published.

Then all three of these were released as part of a novel length collection, Christopher Long’s Unusual Things.

These books and three further novellas – The Beast of Belfield, The Count of Three, and The Wooden Walls, Christopher Long’s Unusual Things volume 2 and the Righteous Judges were all published in 2015 as part of Kensington Gore’s Hammered Horror book series.

This series showcases new, exciting, horror writing talent. And they don’t come much more talented than Christopher Long. He has a back catalogue of work that Stephen King or Kensington Gore himself would be proud of.

His debut novel Something Needs Bleeding, was a ground-breaking novel where he edited the last stories of mysterious horror writer Thomas Singer is a horror tour de force.

A further two novels are in the pipeline, or sewer pipe in Christopher Long’s case. The next is early 2017 and we at KGHH Publishing can’t wait.

Christopher has been writing stories since he was first able to hold a pen. Reportedly his first book collection, Tales from the Crib, would scare any nursery school or kindergarten.

It all began for Chris when someone gave him their copy of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, and he hasn’t looked back since. If only in fear that someone’s going to hit him with the library late returns fee.

For Chris, stories are a means of escape. Not always to a place your average person or writer would go, but a dark, scary place that Chris feels most at home. The dark places that are in all our minds.

He is happily married to the lovely Samantha, or “Her Highness” as she likes to be called. They live in the midlands of England, which is a bit like Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but with just a few less Orcs! And where Sam refuses to let Chris read her his bedtime stories, as he told her one once and she didn’t sleep for a month.

Connect with Chris

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads

Posted in Guest Posts

Rhythm

Guests appear on my blog three times a month. If you would like to know more about this, please visit my Guest Bloggers Wanted page.

Today’s post is brought to you by Thompson Crowley. Thanks, Thompson!

guest-thompson-crowley

There’s a certain rhythm in everything. Life, reality, whatever you want to call it, it’s all just a collection of vibrations. For us experiencing it, each and every type of scenario we can encounter trots along at its own unique pace, enveloping us, immersing us, tuning us in. There are some that flow with more ease than others and some that are a little awkward and stuttered; but all move in the direction to which they are heading.

I can’t help but notice the different rhythms in my life, they play such an integral part. For example, in my writing, what I’m doing right now. I take such pleasure in floating along the strings of sentences which effortlessly flow out of me, luring out sweet phrases and thoughts that I didn’t even realise my awareness contained. I feel so free and boundless, restricted only by my knowledge of the English language, which fortunately, for me, is full of a vast diversity of ideas and meanings that I can piece together to get my point across.

Music is the big one though. We all agree on this. When the first note of your preferred style hits you, instantly you are swept away onto a rainbow of flavoursome sensations; a rhythm which glides through you, under you, and above. Like flying in your dreams. And when I’m writing music I get to tap into this flow; I get to muddle through the intricacies, merging my own tempo with that of the sweet, sweet sounds. And when I get to throw words, poetry into the mix, that’s when it becomes even more fun.

I read a short article once by Robert Pinksy, about how all poetry is a physical thing; how it stems from your body, like dancing. And I have to agree with this. When you are writing the words, the sounds, the meanings, the shapes, you can feel them in your chest; throughout your whole being. There’s a reason why certain sounds, certain muscle shapes and thrusts of air, developed into certain meanings; it is embedded deep within us. And when you’re writing that’s what you are tapping into, that ancient, timeless, deep, ingrained, metaphysical, yet physical manifestation from your soul. And that’s why anything well written, anything you read that truly speaks to you, that truly leaves its mark, flows; it has rhythm.

So, whatever your passions: music, literature, sports, conversation, building, drawing, painting, gardening, dancing, computing, whatever; just find the rhythm you feel most comfortable with and indulge yourself deservedly; take endless pleasure in riding it as it is your own. Because that’s the only thing we’re here for…

About Thompson

After many years wandering around Britain in campervans, tents; on bikes; with prams, bags, buggies, I now find myself in Spain, preparing to flee to Australia. I’ve spent my life writing songs and performing with bands, as well as writing journals about my wayward adventures. I now look forward to doing the same down under.

Connect with Thompson

Facebook | Facebook | Twitter

Posted in Guest Posts, Writing

Literacy’s Role in African American Education

Guests appear on my blog three times a month. If you would like to know more about this, please visit my Guest Bloggers Wanted page.

Today’s post is brought to you by Yecheilyah. Thanks, Yecheilyah!

I’ve always enjoyed reading. If I could, I can spend an entire day reading, 24 hours easy. In school, I’ve also been far better at English and Literature than I was at math or science. In fact, the better I did in Literature, it seemed the worse I was in math. It got so bad that when I was in High School and my teacher assigned a poetry project, I wrote a poem about how much I hated math. I still hate math.

I am not the only one. Many African American young adults struggled through math and science while excelling in English. Why is that? I thought to explore the answer to this question.

It could have a lot to do with our roots, having arrived at the America’s in ships, sold as male and female slaves, and then sown in the south, slaves were not allowed to read and to write. Adamantly opposed to the education of their slaves, southern slaveholders feared uprisings. Of all the evil they’ve no doubt done to the enslaved, the southern slave-master’s greatest fear was what the enslaved would do to them. For this reason, the law prohibited the reading and writing of slaves with consequences for breaking these laws. One such law, passed in North Carolina in 1830, stated that “any free person, who shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any slave within this State to read or write, the use of figures excepted or shall give or sell to such slave or slaves any books or pamphlets, shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in this State.”

As you can see, not only was it punishment for the enslaved, but also to the person who taught him. This fear of literacy was brought on not only due to fear of uprisings but also of the enslaved recognizing his slave status and thus rebelling against the concept of being someone’s property. Like anyone denied human rights, the enslaved learned to read and write in secret, many times with the help of other slaves who were literate as well as whites who taught them privately. Using the bible as a textbook, blacks learned letters and sounds, carving them into the dirt and spelling out names.

Upon freedom, Blacks continued their fight for literacy and reading was highly promoted in the African American community, especially in the south. Segregation prohibited blacks from attending the same schools as whites so that the instruction many blacks received was limited. It was limited because the teachers, only having gone so far themselves, were limited. Many former slaves still had to pick cotton, sharecropping on the same plantations that held them as slaves. This meant that children could only attend school half the time as many were called back to help their parents in the fields. Many young people were then forced to drop out of school. In short, the teachers of the southern black schools could only go so far and many of them were knowledgeable more so in English and reading than they were in any other subject. Since many were not allowed to read during chattel slavery, I suppose it made reading itself more sought after and more cherished.

Since Blacks were limited in the schools they could attend, there were a greater appreciation and passion for learning than it is today. Blacks were integral in establishing their own schools in their own communities and for pushing the importance of education. The position of Teacher was of great importance and treated as such. In “Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom”, Heather Andrea Williams discovered that “freedpeople identified teaching as a critical job for building self-sufficient communities and called both men and women into service.” Young men and women were encouraged to become teachers in hopes that their students would go on, not only to become teachers themselves, but to also go home and to teach their families –their mother’s, father’s, and grandparents—who were denied the privilege as slaves.

Black youth were encouraged to read in their spare time (benefits of a pre-TV and video game era). They repaired books using cardboard, cloth, and cooked glue (cooked flour and water) and were wealthy in the knowledge of Black Literature, not just the books but the artists. According to Williams, placing Black teachers and administrators in Black schools was part of the freed slaves’ larger campaign for self-determination.

According to a video interview by Maya Angelou, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like Howard, Fisk, Tuskegee, Morgan State and Spelman, were “heavenly abodes.” In her words, “I kind of thought that if a child was good and died the child would go to heaven and become an angel. And if the angel was a good angel and died he would probably go to Howard.” She laughed after this statement and my fingers smile as I write this but the idea, for her I am sure, was to illustrate the importance of education in the minds of blacks at that time, particularly literacy.

I cannot say for certain why many blacks struggle with math and science as opposed to Literature. I do know that our foundation in the importance of reading is a strong one that I am sure won’t be going away anytime soon. The importance of literacy in the black community and the unquenching thirst for education is something history won’t let us forget.

About Yecheilyah

Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the Young Adult, Historical Fiction author of Black American Literature and Poetry. Author of eight books (most notably, The Stella Trilogy), Yecheilyah is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story”. Book One is due for release July 15-16, 2017 at The Tampa Indie Author Book Convention in Tampa Florida. Yecheilyah is also a Blogger, and Book Reviewer. Originally from Chicago, IL, she now resides in Shreveport, LA with her husband where she writes full time.

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