Lost Southern Voice Brenda Scott Wilkinson, a Georgia Writers Hall of Fame Nominee, Has Been Found…

Hello World,

Editor’s Note: What follows is not a typical blog post. It is a part feature story and part column that I wrote about one of my favorite childhood authors Brenda Scott Wilkinson. I hope you enjoy it!

     In one of my favorite hymns “Amazing Grace,” it is said, “I once was lost, but now am found.” Earlier this year, Brenda Scott Wilkinson, a Georgia native who wrote a series of children’s books: Ludell (1975), Ludell and Willie (1976), and Ludell’s New York Time (1980), was listed among the “Lost Southern Voices” honored in Revival: Lost Southern Voices.

     Originated by Georgia State University and Perimeter College professors, writers and scholars are invited to “discuss favorite authors whose works no longer receive the attention and reading they deserve” through this two-day Georgia literary festival celebrating lost and underappreciated Southern writers,  according to the festival website. Despite being very celebrated and widely read at one point, having been the recipient of the New York Times Book Review Outstanding Children’s Book of the Year, an American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults and a School Library Journal Best Children’s Book designations for works in her trilogy, Wilkinson was likely presumed to be lost by festival organizers as she does not have a website nor is her contact information easily accessible through other means.

     But through God’s amazing grace and the journalistic skills instilled in me by the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, another of Georgia’s wonderful institutions of higher education, I was able to track down one of my favorite childhood authors and interview her about her writing career. Although Brenda, which she asked me to call her, was born in Moultrie, Georgia in 1946, her Ludell series is based in Waycross, Georgia. “We moved from Moultrie to Waycross when I was in the fourth grade when I was about eight years old. I lived in Waycross until I graduated from high school in 1963,” says Brenda. According to her first book’s description, “Ludell Wilson is a wisecracking bookworm and burgeoning writer who adores her best friend Ruthie Mae, her loving–but strict–grandmother, and everything about growing up. (Including her first pair of blue jeans, and her first boyfriend.)  But in the still-segregated South, Ludell’s warm community exists side-by-side with poverty and injustice.”

     Brenda admits that Ludell’s childhood, in part, mirrors her own. “I wasn’t raised by my grandparents, but I grew up in a generation whose parents were a part of the Great Migration,” Brenda says. “Parents who couldn’t find decent work and they would often leave children with grandparents or other relatives. The same thing that the Caribbean people and Africans do now. So I grew up with a lot of children who grew up in those kinds of households. And I did attend a segregated elementary school that went from first to seventh grade and in high school from seventh grade to senior year.”

     Unlike Ludell, however, Brenda didn’t want to be a writer as a child. “I knew I was an avid reader, but I wanted to be a secretary. There was this show that came on, The Ann Sothern Show, where this woman was a secretary and I thought that was the most glamorous thing in the world, to be able to sit at a desk with a typewriter even though when I took typing in high school, I did poorly,” says Brenda with laughter. “I just thought it was very glamorous when you could have an office and sit and type.”

     In retrospect, Brenda recalls developing a love for words while not realizing what was happening. “In the fifth grade, we had this teacher who would read aloud and I tell you, there was nothing like sitting in that classroom and having her read those stories aloud,” she says.  “It was just a wonderful memory I had. That kind of impacted my thinking around writing. And I think the school devotions we had back then did too. Every day, we would sing a little spiritual song out of the hymnals. Depending on the class, sometimes we would go around a say a Bible verse. I think I incorporated that in my stories, you know when one of the boys said, ‘Jesus wept’ during his time. We had a couple of twin girls who memorized these long verses to show out. But that was a part of our discipline.”

     However, others took notice of Brenda’s love for words and writing ability at an early age. “In high school, I did a book report, and the teacher thought I had copied from some place. Years later, when I came back, they had a big book party for me in Waycross at the library and that teacher was there. She said she knew there was something special about my writing. But you didn’t have those kinds of dreams growing up under segregation. When I got nominated for the National Book Award, I didn’t even know what the National Book Award was.”

     Like Ludell’s mother, Dessa, after graduating from high school, Brenda took part in the Great Migration and moved to New York where she lived with her older sister who had moved there ahead of her. “When I graduated from high school, I very much wanted to go to college, but we didn’t have any money for that. I remember writing home to my mother asking could she borrow money, and she said, ‘Baby, you’re going to have to get a job. Mother can’t help you.’ So I got a job at Citibank and signed up for some classes. I worked at the 399 Park Avenue branch and took some night classes at Hunter College because it was just up the street.”

     During that time period, Brenda met a man through friends at the church she attended. The two married shortly afterward and moved to Alaska where the military had stationed him. And their first daughter was born there as well. However, the small family eventually did move back to New York. The change in location wasn’t the only change on the horizon for the family. “By this point, I was married, but my marriage was falling apart,” says Brenda. “The only thing I could do was go to the library and take my kids to the library because it was free. I couldn’t go out and hang out or get dressed up or do anything so the library was the place where I found solace. And this was during the ‘60s when the Black Arts Movement was taking place so I started attending a writing workshop at the Countee Cullen Library and the poet Sonia Sanchez was leading the group.”

     Although Brenda had begun writing poetry about “everyday events with [her] children,” she still hadn’t considered writing as a career choice until she read her poetry in front of an audience. “Sonia had poems in this book The Poetry of Black America: Anthology of the 20th Century written by Arnold Adoff. He put together this anthology with black writers, and Sonia Sanchez was one of the poets featured in the book. So rather than go up and read her poetry at her time, she asked that her slot be given to members of her workshop.” Unbeknownst to Brenda, editors from Harper & Row Publishers Inc., now HarperCollins, were in the audience. “The next time I got back to the workshop, there was a letter from the editors from Harper & Row waiting for me. And everyone thought was such a big deal. They asked me to come down and talk to them.”

     That meeting officially launched Brenda’s career as a writer. “They asked me, had I ever thought about writing. And I said, ‘Not really.’ They asked me, what were my favorite books? And I said, ‘The Little House’ books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I think the thing that made me relate so much to those books because although it was about pioneer times, it wasn’t so far removed from what we experienced growing up in the South with a fireplace, you know struggling and everything. They were just intrigued about what I said about growing up under segregation, and they wanted to know more about it.” Following that meeting, the book publishing company offered a contract to Brenda with an advance. “After I wrote the first book and it did well, they offered me a second contract. Bantum Books did the paperback version. The books did very well and Harper & Row had the book jacket for my book all in the bookstore windows.” Also, Christian Science MonitorKirkus ReviewsNation, and The New York Times Book Review reviewed the Ludell series.

     As Brenda grew up in the segregated South, she felt ill-prepared for the experiences she began having as a celebrated children’s author. “They would take me out to meet all of these people and I was so uncomfortable. I remember being in the Russian Tea Room and Jackie Onassis and Peter Duchin were at the next table. I said, ‘There is Jackie Onassis.’ I met all kinds of people. The woman who wrote Freaky Friday, I think her name was Mary Rodgers, she wanted to meet me.”

     Brenda recalls visiting California as an author. “I remember they sent me out to California for a conference. It was the first time I had been to California, but I just stayed in my hotel room the whole time until it was time to go down for dinner or something. I didn’t have the sophistication to be meeting up with these people. It was just a whole new world.”

     Additionally, not having a literary agent or others to advise her, she felt she made some mistakes along the way. “I was 29 years old. If I had had better advisers around me, I may have done better. I didn’t have an agent. I didn’t get the best advice. I got mad with Harper & Row at one point because I thought they weren’t moving fast enough on a project so I left them and went to another company. I just got poor advice, but nevertheless, I have no regrets.”

     After she completed her third novel, she became a staff writer for the United Methodist Church’s Board of Global Ministries in New York. “They wanted me write children’s materials about Africa so they sent me to Africa. And that was such a blessing because I would have never had the money to do that. I went to Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Senegal, all those countries.” Her book was entitled Under the Baobab Tree: Children of Africa. She also wrote Concerning Prayer through her work with the United Methodist Church.

     A Georgia Writers Hall of Fame nominee, Brenda continued to write outside of her staff writing job. She wrote another novel Not Separate, Not Equal about six black teenagers who were abducted when they attempted to integrate a Georgia high school. Her repertoire also includes non-fiction: African American Women Writers (Wiley & Sons), The Civil Rights Movement (Random House) and Jesse Jackson: Still Fighting for the Dream (Simon & Schuster). By then, she had met and circulated with other notable black writers including Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Paule Marshall and James Baldwin. Also, fellow Georgia native and author John Oliver Killens became a mentor.

     In 2003, she retired from her position with the United Methodist Church and moved back to Georgia, this time in Atlanta, shortly afterward.  “I was 57 years old when I retired. But I came back to Georgia when I was 60 years old. I couldn’t afford to stay in New York. I had a nice pension, but it was costing me too much to live there. I enjoyed the years I was in New York, but I was also ready for something different. I like waking up and hearing the birds and seeing greenery.”

     Brenda was also looking forward to being alone to write. She aspires to write more stories about black Americans living through segregation. “I think people have this idea that we were so miserable, but we had a lot of good times. During the 1950s, they built recreation centers for black children all across the South because they realized that integration was coming and they wanted us to have our own swimming pools. We had a nice place where we would go dance and play ping pong. We had our bath houses. It was where we met our boyfriends.”

     And she would like her stories to go beyond the pages of a book. “It’s funny because I just picked up Ludell and Willie the other night and started reading it again. I wish someone had done a television series, like Happy Days where they had the white teenagers. I feel like no one has ever taken a close look at what our lives were like growing up under segregation during the teenage years and everything. I think it would make such a wonderful series.”

     But her writing plans have been put on hold for now. As the reverse Great Migration for black Americans continues, her youngest daughter and her children moved from New York and in with her. As a result, Brenda hasn’t had much solitude to  devote to her writing. And wanting to contribute to the household bills, her daughter put the home phone in her name – which makes it hard for people to find Brenda. “My house phone is in one daughter’s name and my cell phone my other daughter in California bought me so that phone is in her name. So how did you find me?” she asks.

     After scouring the Internet over a three-day period, I discovered the name of her church in metro Atlanta and called the church. I left my contact information with the church secretary and asked her to pass it along to Brenda.  “I told the church secretary that my children think it doesn’t matter that nobody can find me at age 73 years old.  They think nobody is looking for me,” Brenda says with laughter. Well, that’s not true, Brenda.  She once was lost, but now she has been found…

Any thoughts?



Gospel Singer Israel Houghton Tells Follower to Stay Out of a Woman’s Uterus After He Criticizes Wife Adrienne Bailon For Not Getting Pregnant…

Hello World,

On Saturday, my husband and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary! I love him more now than I did when I married him on August 10, 2013. On our anniversary, we also attended the wedding of dear friends. And then on Sunday, we officially celebrated our anniversary since we had no other commitments other than church. It was a weekend bookended by love. My husband and I and our friends weren’t the only ones who celebrated our marriages this weekend. Gospel singer Israel Houghton and his wife Adrienne Bailon, who is a co-host on “The Real” also celebrated their third “askiversary” on Aug. 11.

Israel posted a beautiful Instagram message to commemorate this special date. See below…

That is sooo sweet that Israel and his wife Adrienne, in addition to their wedding anniversary, also honor the day that they proposed to one another! But one of Israel’s followers, instead of posting a congratulatory message or saying nothing at all, chose to question the fact that they have yet to have children together. See the rude post AND Israel’s response below…

I agree Israel…Don’t ask a woman about her age, her weight and the status of her uterus unless you know her like that. You don’t know if they have issues that prevent them from having a child or even if they have decided to not have children altogether. Either way, it’s their business to tell or not tell.  Lastly, I’m glad he found classy words to defend his wife as even he tells Tyson to find his own “good thing/wife.”

What say you?

Any thoughts?

Author Magdalina Sylvain Reveals ‘How I Lied My Way To The Altar.. And Now I’m Happily Married!’ In Her New Book!

Hello World,

One of the earliest lessons we learned in childhood is not to lie. Remember the phrase “liar, liar, pants on fire” or or how about “honesty is the best policy”? But Magdalina Sylvain, author of “How I Lied My Way To The Altar.. And Now I’m Happily Married!” believes telling lies can actually help your dreams come true! Oh, so you think I’m lying right now? LOL…Read on, y’all, read on…Below is Magdalina’s bio followed by my interview with her.

Magdalina Sylvain has practiced the art of finding her ideal husband for over 15 years. By developing a step-by-step guideline, she was able to lie her way to the altar despite all the people who told her she would never get married. She went beyond the norm and took gallops of faith which lead her in the arms of her husband. Magdalina is currently married to Dudley Sylvain and has two beautiful girls.

She shares her story in hopes to help women who are yearning to be married but just cannot seem to find Mr. Right. She too spent sleepless nights and was able to finally stop the cycle of “single me” and wants the same for you!

1. Although your story is about the process (which took more than ten years) that God took you through to meet your husband, you share many intimate details along the way about your journey including the fact that you were molested by a family friend, date raped by two men, had three abortions, dated a man who went to jail, attempted suicide and more. Why share all of that for everyone to see?

That’s a great question, and to tell you the truth, it was not easy sharing intimate details of my life. I was actually like Jonah and tried to run from it.  The decision to write the book was really about putting my faith and God to the test. Let me further explain that. One day as I was crying and praying to God asking why can’t I find my husband, God answered and told me what I was doing that was causing all the turmoil in my relationships.

He spoke to my heart and said, “If you would just trust me and do what I’ve been telling you, you would meet your husband and get married.” So, I began writing the book as a way to confirm God’s promise to me.

I never thought God wanted me to get so raw and share all my secrets.  Every time I exposed the heart-wrenching truths of my life, I would attempt to delete it, then God would convict me and say, “Now what good would that do? How will you help if you are not being transparent? Wouldn’t you have liked it if you would have come across a book that shared so much and encouraged you?”  And those words convicted me to share my life.  God told me, “It’s not about you, it’s about your sisters who can’t see beyond their turmoil and are crying for help just like you were”. So, I wrote, I shared and in the process, I was healed and delivered and grateful that I stayed true to God and myself.

It feels so good when I’m told that my book touched someone’s heart and helped heal them. That makes the sacrifice all the better.

2. You also share that your parents divorced. How did your parents’ divorce fuel your desire to have a happy marriage?

Yes, my parents divorced when I was five years old.  Both of my parents remarried and had kids with their new spouse leaving the original children feeling alienated as an outsider trying to fit into a new family.  You never really feel at home. I always felt like I was visiting. Both parents were preoccupied with their new family and naturally, we got neglected.  Obviously, this was not done on purpose, but the effects on me and my siblings were tremendous. Because of that, I always prayed that I would do everything to try and keep my family together and as happy as possible when I got married and had children.  I knew in my heart I would never want to put my children through that.

3. Despite the fact that you were saved as at 21 years old and wanted to be right with God in all of your actions, you often compromised your values when it came to premarital sex. How do you view that part of your past now that you have been married for several years? How has God redeemed these prior mistakes in your life? 

Once I decided to listen to God and do it His way, I realized that the reason I was having premarital sex was because of fear.  I was afraid the guy would not want to stick around. I was afraid that doing it God’s way would never work in this day and age.  The fear was due to my insecurities. I doubted my intellect, my beauty, my personality, and my character.  I doubted me! All the heartbreaks and constant rejection caused me to lose who I was created to be which was the complete opposite of who I believed I was. (That actually was the real sin.)

Now that I have been married for seven years, together for 10, I can look back and be thankful for the journey only because I choose to look at my past as a learning experience that happened “for” me and not “to” me.

As far as redemption, my mistakes were just that, mistakes, and God is a forgiving God.  He knew my heart. The closer I got to Him, the more I learned that it’s really about loving and forgiving myself. My sins were already forgiven, so the ball was in my court to grow from them. My growth from these experiences is how I am redeemed. As a parent, I’m most proud when I see my children realize then grow from their mistakes and overcome challenges. Any disappointment quickly vanishes from witnessing their growth. I yearn to give them more, so does my Heavenly Father. To grow is to become better. Being better attracts better. He gave me what I asked Him for, so it’s evident that I was absolved of my past sins. It was on me to acknowledge that I was already forgiven, so I just needed to forgive myself and move onward and upward.

4. In your book, you share that you confessed Scriptures often as a way to change your mind-set, but you also reveal that you went to therapy. How did therapy and Scripture work together in your life to prepare you for meeting your husband?

Thankfully, my father had always talked about therapy as a good way to get a mental checkup. Knowing that gave me the confidence to seek therapy and not be ashamed.  After I attempted suicide, I began therapy to get a non-biased insight in regard to my past, current and future life.  Therapy helped me discover some destructive patterns that reading the Bible alone was not showing me. It gave me real-life feedback that I needed.

I then used the Scriptures to change my mind-set and encourage me to become who I was supposed to become. Jesus talks a lot about your conscious mind and keeping your thoughts focused and clear.  I believe Jesus Himself was the ultimate therapist.  I believe that combining the two allowed me to reach my best life.

5. I was intrigued by the fact that you bought your wedding dress a year before you met your husband! In praying to God about meeting your mate, you also fasted for over 10 years (not eating before 5 p.m.) before you met your husband! Do you recommend that other women do the same or do similar things and why?

Okay, we are getting down to the serious stuff now.  Yes, I bought my wedding dress as if I had already met my husband and was engaged.  I went to David’s Bridal with my mother, and she helped me choose my dress.  I was not cheap. I went all in according to what I could afford at the time.  I had the dress altered and picked up, SMILING the whole way FEELING as if I really was getting married.  I had friends laugh at me and call me crazy and those same friends, sadly, today are still single.

Buying the dress alone does nothing if you do not believe or if you’re just doing it thinking it’s the act that will land you your husband. For example, I knew a woman who bought a cheap 100 dollar dress even though she could afford more and to date, she is still single. Why? I know it’s because her heart was not in it. She really didn’t buy “HER” wedding dress, the one that gives her chills, the one that moves her, she just purchased “A” wedding dress. She did it because she heard that if you buy your wedding dress, that will get you your husband, not because she knew in her heart with absolute certainty that she was getting married.  No, it’s the measure of my faith that got me my husband.  Jesus says you will get according to the measure of your faith.  I had a lot of faith!

As far as suggesting women to do the same thing, my question to them is, How much do you believe your husband is out there?  Buying the dress was the action. What you have to focus on was the measure of my faith when I purchased my dress. The feelings that it conjured in me when I went through that process. I put myself in the state of belief that it was really happening. That is the key to this action step.  To me, if you asked God for something and you believe you’ve received it, why wouldn’t you purchase your dress and prepare yourself NOW.  In other words, how much faith do you have in regard to what you’re asking for? When I purchased my dress, my faith, my energy and thoughts were all aligned believing without a doubt, I am getting married one day.  I know for sure that action was the catalyst to meeting my husband.

Let’s get one thing clear about fasting. I believe fasting builds your faith for what you are believing God for.  Fasting itself does not make things happen.  It brings you closer to God, humbles you and keeps your heart and mind pure to what it is you are praying for. It’s the sacrifice that tells God that I believe in this and in you so much, I’m willing to put something on the line and I have full faith you will deliver. It helps to align your belief level with your desired outcome. In my case, never did I imagine 10 years would go by.  It happened by accident.  One day, my spirit told me to fast and not to eat before 5 p.m. for my future husband. I thought it was for that one day, but whenever I tried to break the fast my spirit would not let me.

Until one day the feeling went away and I ate.  By that time, I had met my husband and had been dating a few months.  I guess it’s like when Jesus told the Pharisees that there is no need to fast when the bridegroom is present.  As I am answering this question, God just revealed and reminded me of that passage. (God is so cool!) Fasting is a great way to stay strong in your faith and focused until you become united with whatever you are believing God for.  If your health permits and God leads you, I do recommend women to fast.

6. The crux of your title has to do with the fact that you practiced “speaking and acting upon things that are not as if they were” or in layman’s terms, lying. Why was that act of faith key in journey?

As I mentioned earlier, buying my wedding dress was the catalyst for meeting my husband. The act of buying my dress emphasized the amount of faith that I had. I was getting married! Period. We have to Be it to Become it. Being it, is the ultimate act of faith. All of my actions were in-line with the future I believed and envisioned was already set. Act as if. I sent the energy out that I am here and ready to be married. God speaks about our thoughts and to hold them captive to the obedience of Christ.  He continues to enlighten us, saying that our words are energy and have the power to produce life or death!  My thoughts produce my words which have the power to produce life or death – how powerful is that?

So, I held those thoughts captive and replaced my limited thinking, my L.I.E.S. (Limited Ideas Entrapped In their Subconscious/Spirit )with empowering beliefs. I focused on and spoke those beliefs instead and gave them life. What you focus on expands. However, words alone are not enough as my actions alone are not enough.  They must become aligned as one. Jesus explains that FAITH without WORKS is dead; and that when you pray believe that you have ALREADY RECEIVED what you are praying for. I did just that and more!

Even though I did not see a result right away I continued to act out on faith and I am here to say IT WORKED! It was the key to transforming my mind and energy that led me into the arms of my husband and straight to the altar.

I have to believe that all this was so that I can encourage and show others how real and powerful God is.

7. Now, that you’re happily married with two children, is marriage everything you dreamed about, prayed for, worked hard for and stepped out on faith for? Is your husband your “bad boy Christian” that you always wanted? And please define a “bad boy Christian” for my readers?

Oh my Gosh, picture me on top of a mountain screaming “YES, YES, YES!” I couldn’t have dreamed of a better “Bad Boy Christian.”  Let me explain. I had prayed for a bad boy Christian which for me was a guy who had found God, lived life, did his dirt when it came to dating so that by the time he met me and married me, he would never wonder what he left behind.  He would know without a doubt that I am the best thing that could walk into his life. He would be confident and not affected by my heavy past and still love me!

I must say he is exactly what I prayed for, and as a side note, “be careful what you pray for. You will get it.” Despite my loved ones telling me, there is no such thing as a “bad boy Christian,” I gotta tell you that the mere fact that I thought of him meant that he existed! That is how powerful our minds and words are.  God said once you ask for something believe that you already received it! Girl, I truly believed.

I am so grateful that I went against the grain according to what society deems normal because I don’t believe I’d be happily married with two amazing girls today if I didn’t. I am here to help women get over their Limited Ideas Entrapped In their Subconscious/Spirit (L.I.E.S) so that they, too, can position themselves for their God destined husband and “lie their way to their altar.”

I offer one-on-one coaching to guide and support you through the steps that I took to redesign and transform myself to get there.  If interested, please visit my website at iammagdalina.com  to schedule a free 30-minute discovery session and to find out more. You can also grab a sneak peek to the first two chapters of my book “How I Lied My Way To The Altar.. And Now I’m Happily Married!” while you’re there.

So y’all, did I prove my case? Did I prove that you can lie your way to your dreams? LOL. As a gift to you, Magdalina has given me an e-book copy of her book to give to you. The reader who tells me the best lie you’ve ever told in the comments will receive this copy! So look out for my comment on your comment, and I will let you know if you’re the winner 🙂 !

Any thoughts?