From Doomed to Doctor – NEW BOOK ALERT!!!

Hello World,

I am a born storyteller. If you ask me a simple question, I am likely to give the answer plus many more extraneous details that you probably didn’t ask to hear. But I will tell you anyway because just about anything can be made into a story when that is your gift from God. And while that is true, there are stories. And there are stories that must be told because in their telling they have the capacity to bring joy, inspire change and unshackle chains. The best stories have these qualities.

Years ago, through some mutual friends, I met Dr. Bonita J. Gay-Senior, and as we became friends, as friends do, we shared various details from our lives. As she would share a snippet here or there, I began to realize that this woman had been through some situations that would have caused many people to collapse into themselves, sentencing their souls to be among the walking dead. Have you ever met a person who was so beaten up by life, they seem to operate on autopilot? I have, and it is startling. Others would have retreated to a maze of deadening behaviors to distract themselves from the pain. And some would have taken what was never theirs to take: their very lives. She shared about being mercilessly teased by not only by her classmates but by her brothers as well.  The teasing was so toxic, she was later diagnosed as having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Her first boyfriend punched her face so hard that he broke part of one of her front teeth. On one occasion, he pointed a loaded gun at her face and threatened to shoot her. Despite the abuse, she dropped a warrant she had against him and had to go to jail for perjury (although she was telling the truth initially.)! When she was in her freshman year in college, she was raped by two men. Sometime later, while still in college, she got pregnant by another man. She watched a brother commit suicide by cop. Her only sister disappeared and has not been found to date.

And yet, the woman I met was a decorated teacher on the way to earning her doctorate in education at Clark Atlanta University. Laughter punctuated nearly all of her sentences. Her optimism rekindled that wonder that all children experience before the duties of adulthood and appropriateness take over. She had a trove of wisdom that she freely shared. ‘How did this woman come to be,’ I asked myself before I eventually found the courage to say the words aloud to her. She was surprised that I was surprised. She thought that many had suffered through similar challenges. I agreed that all of us suffer through challenges but not many people start from so low to ascend to so high. I know a good story when I hear one.

I kept telling her this until she decided to tell the whole story in a book From DOOMED to DOCTOR 280 Chestnut Street: Born in the Crack but Didn’t FALL Through.”  (In fact, she shouted me out in the acknowledgements!) On the very street, Chestnut Street (which has since been changed to to James P. Brawley Drive), where she experienced most of her childhood abuse is the very street where she received her doctorate degree years later at 48 years old (I was there cheering her on 🙂 )! It’s amazing how God can use the details of our lives to demonstrate that He has brought us from a mighty long way. And she says God is who redeemed her tests into a testimony. She is using her story to mentor other women who have experienced similar challenges.

If you would like to meet her and get a copy of her book, join her at the One Love Spiritual Center, 180 Lakepoint Lane, Fayetteville, Georgia 30215 (Lakemont Subdivision) TODAY at 3 p.m.  She is the featured Women’s History Month Speaker!

But if you don’t live here in the A but want to read her story, her book From DOOMED to DOCTOR 280 Chestnut Street: Born in the Crack but Didn’t FALL Through” is available on Amazon! And if you like to know more about Dr. Bonita, go to her website fromdoomedtodoctor.com.

Any thoughts?

David & Tamela Mann, Kim Fields, Towanda Braxton & More Star in TV One’s Christmas movie ‘Merry Wish-mas!’

Hello World,

Happy FriYAY! I know it’s a looong way from Christmas (and I’m ready to be done with cold weather), but I’ve found it’s always great when we can look forward to something in the future. So keep reading for something we can look forward to at Christmas time…

TV One has announced that production is underway in Atlanta for the new original holiday movie, MERRY WISH-MAS. This Christmas movie stars Tamela Mann (The Manns) as Keneisha ‘Kenni’ Wright, a single and successful Atlanta businesswoman who hasn’t returned home for the holidays in years, she plays opposite her creative and life partner, husband David Mann(The Manns) as Jessie Jenkins, an old high school friend. The two reunite at Jessie’s fledgling wellness facility, the Beverly Living Center, where Kenni is reminded of the transformational power of love, hope and faith, amplified by the spirit of the holidays. The Manns also serve as executive producers on the project, which will premiere this winter on TV One.

Directed by award-winning actress, director and producer Terri J. Vaughn, this feel-good romantic comedy revolves around Kenni, who has avoided the annual holiday trip to her hometown of Columbia, South Carolina for years. While she is hoping for the best, as with any family, there are unresolved issues lingering that could make the holiday not so bright. The movie also stars veteran actress Kim Fields(Living Single) as Celine, a regular at the center who loves seeing the new smile Kenni puts on Jessie’s face, but is protective about his feelings. Towanda Braxton (Braxton Family Values) plays the role of Natalie, the persistent local woman who has a crush on Jessie. Elizabeth Omilami (Madea’s Family Reunion) appears as Kenni’s matchmaker mom Regina, while Chrystale Wilson (The Player’s Club) steps into the role of Kenni’s sister and food truck entrepreneur Dionne, adding a high dose of sibling rivalry. Rap artist Yung Joc, best known for popular singles “It’s Goin’ Down” and “I Know You See It,” makes a cameo appearance.

I love a small church. This church had beautiful stained glass windows, but unfortunately, I didn’t quite capture them in this photo…But you can get a feel for the sanctuary though…

I got a chance to visit one of the set locations, a lovely, small stone church where the finale is being filmed, and interview Roger Bobb, whose company Bobbcat Films is executive producing the movie; Terri Vaughn and her Nina Holiday Entertainment partner Cas Sigers-Beedles, who wrote the film. In addition, I was also able to speak to Elizabeth Omilami  (the daughter of Hosea Williams from Hosea Feed the Hungry) and Chrystale Wilson.

Below are a few notable quotes:

On David & Tamela Mann:

Roger Bobb: I’ve known David and Tamela for ages. I love them as entertainers and as a family. The world will never have enough of David and Tamela.

Terri J. Vaughn: Everyone is used to Tamela being an anointed pillar of strength, but in this movie, the character that she is playing is a bit snooty. She thinks that she created a life that is better than what she experienced in her hometown. So you will see her in not the best light. David usually plays the comedic role, but he’s the straight man in this movie. He’s a strong, spiritual pillar.

On Favorite Scenes:

Terri Vaughn: One of my favorite scenes is a heated discussion between Tamela, her sister and her mom played by Elizabeth Omilami. Another one juicy scene happens between David and Tamela in a junkyard. They have a romantic moment in the middle of junk.

Roger Bobb: I can’t give it away but the finale of this film is amazing!

On Messages in ‘Merry Wish-Mas’:

Elizabeth Omilami: Forgiveness. Life is too short to not forgive. Even if you were right, go back and apologize.

Chrystale Wilson: We don’t respect the elderly like other cultures do.  The movie also touches on sibling rivalry and jealousy.

On Nina Holiday Entertainment:

Terri J. Vaughn: This is a divine working relationship and friendship. We’ve been through divorce, remarrying and kids. Cas is super talented, super creative and super smart. She is literally the person I talk to every day.

Cas Sigers-Beedles: (With laughter) We’re work wives! This is the first Christmas film I’ve written. I wanted to tell a story about a woman who is somewhat like me. She is career-driven but afraid of love but she wants to love.

Elizabeth Omilami: When you laugh out loud, you know you have yourself a good writer. My husband was like, ‘What are you reading?’ When you have a great script and the lines are poppin’, you want to do the work.

I filmed a brief video of Terri Vaughn and Cas Sigers-Beedles as they discussed their partnership. (Obviously, I have more to learn in this medium.) After The Altar Call was one of several media outlets invited to the set….

“Heartwarming stories like Merry Wish-Mas that bring families together and make us laugh are as much a part of the season as Christmas trees and Santa himself,” said Vaughn, who makes her TV One original film directorial debut. “And this movie, touching upon family conflicts, singlehood and love, money woes, and wishing for Christmas miracles, is set to become a highlight of the coming holidays.”

So are you looking forward to this new Christmas movie starring David and Tamela Mann?

Any thoughts?

Author Stacy Hawkins Adams Contributes to ‘Our Daily Bread’s Black Church Devotional ‘This Far By Faith!’

In Time for Black History Month...

Hello World,

When I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ about 20 years ago after being baptized as a teenager, I was on the hunt for Christian materials that would help me to learn about God. The daily devotionals by Our Daily Bread Ministries were probably the first devotional materials that I read. I appreciated the entries because they were short but encompassed the breadth of the Bible in everyday situations. I eventually included different devotionals in my reading to expand my repertoire, but I still consider Our Daily Bread devotionals to be the bedrock in daily devotionals. In fact, I’m not the only who thinks so. Millions of people throughout the world read Our Daily Bread devotionals, and they are provided for FREE!

That’s why I was excited to learn that Our Daily Bread published a Black Church devotional edition, “This Far By Faith: Legacies of the Black Church, for first time ever and in time for Black History Month! “This special edition of Our Daily Bread is a celebration of the rich legacy of God’s faithfulness seen in the heritage of the Black Church. It is by the goodness and power of the Lord that believers everywhere have been able to overcome challenges in life and share God’s love with others. This collection of devotional readings will inspire you to engage in ongoing praise and thanksgiving for what God has done, what He is doing, and what He will do for those who rely on Him and trust in His Word.”

Isn’t the cover of  heartwarming? That is how I felt as a little girl at church – filled with joy and free…

One of my writer colleagues Stacy Hawkins Adams was blessed to contribute to “This Far By Faith” and I interviewed her about her contributions and career below.

1. How did you get to be involved in the ‘This Far By Faith: Legacies of the Black Church?’ 

When I speak and teach at various writer’s conferences around the country, I meet and network with other writers. A writer friend that I met at a conference in California several years ago is a regular writer for ‘Our Daily Bread.’ When this special edition was announced, she and the publication’s other freelancers were asked to share the opportunity with their professional peers. My friend reached out to me and I submitted sample entries, which I’m grateful were accepted. I wrote three entries for the publication and two were accepted – one for Day 7 and one for Day 17. 

2. I love how you drew from your experience being in the ‘watch care’ program at a church in Mississippi while you were in college to relate to how God uses people to provide support and encouragement in various situations in the Day 7 entry ‘God’s Care is Rock Solid.’ I had a similar experience at a black church in Athens, Georgia hours away from where I grew up in College Park, Georgia. Tell me about writing that devotional entry and how it relates to Hebrews 13:1-8, the main verses referenced in the devotional. 

I’m glad my entry on my watch care experience resonated with you. This devotional relates to Hebrews 13:1-8 because through the watch care experience, that’s what the pastor and the congregation were exemplifying – extending love to “strangers” (or in this case, college students) who were not going to become permanent members, but who needed encouragement, support and wisdom to continue growing as individuals and in faith. This Scripture reflects how Christians should be doing this at every turn, in whatever circumstances we encounter people experiencing. It also shows that God’s love is enduring, wherever we may find ourselves. 

3. I also enjoyed your Day 17 entry ‘Answering His Call’ in which you related Queen Esther and Rahab the prostitute from the Bible to former slave Sojourner Truth. As you highlighted, God encourages us to be courageous as noted in Esther. What inspired this entry?

Writers for the ‘This Far By Faith’ special edition were given various topics to explore, and one of mine was courage. I immediately thought of Queen Esther and Rahab as biblical ‘sheroes’ to reference. Yet for Black History Month, I also wanted to reference a figure who was both relevant to the freedom movement and a person of faith. As a traveling minister who devoted her life to seeking freedom and justice for her people, Sojourner Truth fit this bill. I hope that briefly sharing her story is a reminder that wherever we are and whoever we are, we have something to contribute; sometimes we just have to muster the courage to do so.

4. What do you hope readers will understand and or learn by reading your entries?

I hope readers will be reminded that God is faithful in all seasons of our lives and is ready to guide us to our purpose in all kinds of ways and through all kinds of people. We should never question another person’s ability to be used by God and certainly not our own. I hope that both of my devotions show that God is willing to support us in our spiritual growth and call us into service in both simple and significant ways.

 5. ‘Our Daily Bread’ devotionals are read by people throughout the world. What does it mean to be involved with this ministry, particularly as it relates to ‘This Far By Faith?’

Like many people, I grew up reading ‘Our Daily Bread,’ and I was always inspired by the entries to live my faith in a relevant way. Being offered the opportunity to write for the publication was an honor in and of itself. Writing for this special Black History edition, focused on the black church, was especially meaningful, as I grew up in church and can attest to the numerous ways that the ministry leaders, youth leaders and congregation members nurtured me and helped me grow. 

6. You have written 10 books including nine novels as well as a non-fiction book, not to mention the fact that you worked as a newspaper reporter for 14 years before becoming a book author. What exciting writing project or projects are you working on currently? 

As you can tell, I love all kinds of writing! Whether I’m writing for a secular publication or a faith-based one, I view the stories and the information I share as an opportunity to help readers feel encouraged, inspired or better equipped to make informed decisions, with less judgment, about others.

I am currently writing for an inspirational blog that I started almost a year ago, www.LifeUntapped.com, through which I encourage and empower women readers to aim for and pursue their best lives, and I allow other women to share their stories of growth and transformation.

I also am doing more essay writing and freelance writing on occasion for various national publications, including the Huffington Post.

I plan to write another novel in a couple of years, but in the meantime, I’m fine-tuning a couple of short stories and reading a lot of fiction and nonfiction, to stretch grow as a writer.

I also am mentoring aspiring writers through an online membership group I launched several years ago called Focused Writers (www.authorinyou.com/FocusedWriters).  I love connecting with new writers in this way and cheering them on to publication, whether it through a blog they’re launching or a book they’re trying to birth. The group also includes some newly published authors who are seeking guidance on marketing.

 7. You have assisted many authors in your ‘Author in You’ mentorship program. What is your biggest tip to become a successful author?

It has been wonderful to watch writers I’ve mentored go on to publication – either traditional or self-published. At least five​writers I’ve mentored over the past few years have had their books published, and a few others are nearing that goal. Several bloggers who have sought my assistance are thriving as well. 

Regarding how to become a successful author, I guess I’d have to say this depends on how you define success. For some, it’s simply being published once; for others it’s having a certain number of books published; for many it’s winning certain awards; and for others it’s making a certain amount of money from book sales. So success will vary author to author.

I believe that anyone who has published a book and presented it in the best form possible to the world – well written, well edited and well packaged – is a success, especially if achieving this milestone is a long-term goal.

I’m just thankful to be published and widely read (though I’d love the readership to grow), and it’s a joy to write words that resonate with others. I often feel a sense of reward when I hear from readers that something I’ve written has helped them heal a relationship, love themselves more, see another person’s perspective or consider God’s grace as available to them. It’s humbling and exciting to know that the words flowing through me can have that kind of impact. I’m grateful to be one of God’s vessels. 

To order “This Far By Faith: Legacies of the Black Church” which is an awesome resource for a church during Black History Month, go to ourdailybread.org. To learn more about Stacy Hawkins Adams, go to stacyhawkinsadams.com.

 Any thoughts?