Her Story: Pain and Purpose

By Guest Blogger Alexis Goring

My mother recently told me that when I got sick at age 16, she asked God why at such a young age I had a nervous breakdown of epic proportions and had to be hospitalized.

The doctors diagnosed me with a chronic illness and prescribed a medicine that would help me be restored, but would  wreak havoc on my weight.

I gained 100 hundred pounds within five months of starting this medication; however, the medicine also helped me get better. And I eventually realized that a main reason I may have gotten sick at such a tender age might be so that God could birth my writing ministry.

You see, a few months after starting to get better, I found an online Christian community that spurred me to write. Other members’ comments moved me, and I felt nudged by God to start writing devotionals for the people who posted messages. Soon after, I began sending inspirational emails to friends and family, and that blossomed into a blog I titled “God is Love.”

About five years ago, I launched a Facebook community page called “Hope in My Heart,” which I borrowed from the title of my first book, Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, that I self-published in September 2013.

Most recently, God answered a prayer of my heart when He allowed my second book to catch the attention of a traditional publisher, and in January 2017, I became an author with Forget Me Not Romances.

Did I mention that for five years, I also served as the “Growing Up” columnist for a faith-based publication called Collegiate Quarterly? Or that God enabled me to get my bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing?

None of this would have been possible without God leading and guiding me. Looking back, I see how He was there all along. Even at my lowest point, He was still there, and He used my pain to birth my purpose.

Some days, I think about what I lost by missing traditional school for almost two years when I was sick. But most days I realize that with God, I gained so much more, and that is a beautiful thing.

God restored me and made living worthwhile. He’s a miracle worker. I’m living proof.

Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in print journalism and an MFA in creative writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ. Visit her at website, www.screenwriteralexis.com, on Facebook or on Twitter. 

My Writer’s Journey Dissected – Part One

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Stacy Hawkins Adams

I’ve had the privilege of being featured recently on two podcasts to share details about my path to becoming an author.

Thought I’d share one of them here today – my interview on The Writer’s Voice podcast with Robin Farmer – for any aspiring authors who need inspiration, and for readers who want to know more about the writer life. I’ll share my podcast interview on Writers and Authors on Fire with John Vonhoff later this month.

The Writer’s Voice Podcast

The Writer’s Voice is a series in which authors talk about their work and read from their favorite writings. It is a service offered by Virginia Voice – a statewide nonprofit run by volunteers who read and record a variety of materials to enhance life for individuals who are unable to independently read print.

Meet The Writer’s Voice host, freelance writer Robin Farmer, then listen to her podcast interview with me.

Robin Farmer

Robin Farmer: I decided during a wonderful (writer) residency at Djerassi that once I returned home I would volunteer more in the community. Months later, I read that Virginia Voice functions only because dozens of volunteers pitch in.  On the spot, I decided to go and audition so that I could be a reader, ideally of young adult books. However, during a conversation while there, I was asked to consider interviewing authors with ties to Virginia about their novels and nonfiction books. I was elated, as many local authors are friends. I also wanted to work with Virginia Voice as I have serious eye issues that fortunately, can be corrected. If I was unable to read, I would want this type of programming.  I am honored to interview authors about their work and their writing journey for an audience who loves books and the people who write them as much as I do!

Click on the image below to listen to Stacy’s podcast interview or click here.

 

To hear additional author interviews on The Writer’s Voice, click here.

 

More about The Writer’s Voice host, Robin Farmer:
Robin is an award-winning journalist whose accolades include the Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on business, health and education and has appeared in the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, the College of William & Mary, AARP Bulletin and Virginia Business.  In 2016, she was selected from among 900 applicants for the Djerassi Resident Artists Program to work on her debut YA novel. Her short story, The History Lesson, was included in the anthology River City Secrets: Stories from Richmond, which was published in 2016. Robin also writes screenplays. Visit her at robinfarmerwrites.com.

 

 

9 Ways to Find Fulfillment

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
You get to choose who you’ll be and how you’ll move through this world. Why not do so in a way that you’ll treasure with gratitude and great memories? Here are 9 tips to fuel your process:

1) Don’t let your motivation to do well or do the right thing be driven by what others do or don’t do; be excellent and operate with integrity regardless of how it’s received.

2) What others think of you truly is their business; respect yourself while respecting their choice to choose.

3) Lead with love, because this is still what we all need most.

4) Remember that what you see isn’t always what it is. A fleeting perception or assumption about someone or a particular circumstance could be completely wrong. Base your opinions instead on that person’s actions and attitude over the course of time; because who they truly are will spill out over time. Accept that truth when it’s revealed, and be okay either way.

5) Choose joy. Life is too short to let grudges, gossip, guilt, greed or the like derail you. Joy is the secret sauce that keeps you going and gives you hope.

6) Speak your vision for your life and live it. Instead of wishing it were better or different or easier, embrace what it is and get busy creating a better, different, easier life for you and your loved ones.

7)  Have fun and go for gold; but don’t “get yours” and leave others to fend for themselves. When you open your heart enough to care about and make sacrifices for the benefit of all humanity, you’ll enrich your own world more than you could imagine.

8) Decide to get uncomfortable enough to try something new. You never know what opportunities, blessings and growth are just waiting for you to show up.

9) Take time to be kind or to simply be available. You are the gift someone needs today.

Her Story: Freedom from Personalizing and People-Pleasing

By Guest Blogger Gloria Thomas

Gazing up at my business idol, I tremble. If I can’t mutter my question to her, I’ll quit my new sales job, defeated by my inability to withstand rejection, complaints and conflict.

Three reasons led me – a painfully shy, personalizing people-pleaser – to a job in sales: Flexible hours meant more time with my toddler; I hoped the challenges would build my communication confidence, and I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my gregarious grandfather.

DaDa was a lifelong salesman. Even as a boy he sold “Alspaugh’s King of Pain” for his father’s business, based in Burkeville, Virginia. The alcohol base of this snake oil (patent medicine) made it popular during prohibition.

DaDa encouraged me to speak up, connect with people, laugh and take risks. Yet, as the oldest of four siblings, I was a serious, sensitive bookworm. I believed that if I was smart, good and kind I could make everything okay, keep everyone happy and avoid conflict. Then no one would yell or bruise my tender feelings.

It didn’t work that way. Dealing with people baffled me, and sales encounters at my new job weren’t providing easy answers. One day, my call to a prospect who yelled at me before slamming down the phone, left me undone. After sobbing in agony, I went to my manager. “I just can’t do this.”

My manager knew I admired our executive vice president, though I’d never met her. She was coming to Richmond to speak to our regional sales team. I reluctantly promised to hang on for a couple more weeks, until I could ask our trailblazing leader how to prevent angry prospects and hurt feelings. She could help me!

I don’t recall a word of her speech – probably because I was totally focused on asking my question. She sat at my round table in the hotel banquet hall. Yet, shy and intimidated, I didn’t utter a word during lunch.

When she stood to leave, I scurried to the group surrounding her near the door and was the last to approach. “May I ask you a question?” “Sure!”

With a shaky voice I manage to tell the story of what happened with the prospect and asked her, “What did I do wrong?”

She looked puzzled for a moment. Having grown up in Queens, New York she’d NEVER been a personalizing people-pleaser. “You didn’t do ANYTHING wrong. She was just RUDE.”

With that declaration, something shifted in me. My relief brought courage, and a few days later, I called the prospect again. I learned that she couldn’t talk with anyone when I first called because her husband had just walked out on their family.

That experience resulted in a life-changing lesson: When I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing and someone behaves badly, it’s NOT about me. It’s about whatever they’re dealing with. I can empathize through understanding that intellectually – without attaching emotionally.

My communication confidence continued to blossom, and two years later at our annual conference, I gave a speech after my business hero presented me with the award for “Sales Manager of the Year.”

Who knew communication challenges could provoke personal growth?

© 2017 Gloria Thomas, all rights reserved

Gloria Thomas is known as The Communication Wizard. She is the founder and chief communication strategist of Wizard Workforce Development (www.wizardinc.com), a communication consulting, coaching and training company. Her most popular training programs include Communication Lab: Increase Your Interpersonal Effectiveness, Speak on Your Feet Presentation Skills and Diversity & Workplace Communication.

Why Women Matter

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
Today is International Women’s Day, and I salute the women who have helped raise, nurture, mentor and encourage me and others.
From our mothers and grandmothers to
our biological sisters (in my case, three of them, and their friends) to
our teachers and youth program leaders to
women mentors in the workplace to
sister-friends with whom we’ve mutually shared triumphs or tears, and who’ve climbed beside us or pushed us higher –
Thank you all.
It is in honor of you that I write women characters in my novels who stand together through highs and lows, tell each other the truth, love even when it’s hard, and grow together in purpose and grace.
Women who, like you, change the world for better.
Even in the darkest of hours, places or seasons, and even when you don’t realize it, your presence brings life-sustaining hope. Thanks for being the light.

Her Story: The Risks and Rewards of a First Step

By Guest Blogger Belinda Todd

I am an actor. This avocation is not about the paycheck, nor is it about recognition. It is an innate something that makes me want to see the world through characters often different from myself.  It is fulfilling a dream.

However, fear almost made me cancel my first audition. The afternoon appointment was set and I arrived at the theater early. Before I could turn off the engine, the mind chatter began: “Are you crazy! Who do you think you are? You will be laughed at!”

Too nice to be a no-show, the integrity of my word compelled me to open the car door and channel an inner diva. I strolled into the theater like I belonged there.

When the audition was over, I was ecstatic, invigorated! I was finally feeding my interests. The director had said she would get back to me in a few days. Three weeks later I had given up hope of being in this performance. Then the e-mail came, offering me the part of Reba in Before It Hits Home, a play by Cheryl L. West.

The play was well received and my performance was good – not stellar, just good. But I was hooked. I was in a new tribe—a community of talented artists.

Today, my credits include television, stage, commercials, and most recently, film. I am so glad that on that fateful day, I took the first step.

The first step begins the journey to nurturing your goals and developing your talents. The first step takes you outside your comfort zone and into your dreams. The first step is a signal to the universe to prepare the way. If you don’t take the first step, you’ll never know what could be.

You see, I am a black woman over 50. The odds of venturing into new territory were not in my favor. I have watched too many people give up on their dreams at certain mile markers in life, letting age dictate their fate. But I am daily choosing to see life as a glorious adventure.

I don’t know what it takes to liberate your soul, but I do know that until you do, your light will not fully shine. The first step is embracing the vulnerability that exposes who you are on the inside: your beauty, your talent, your capabilities as well as you weaknesses.

Here is the truth: first steps are scary. It is scary to leave comfortable surroundings, routine living and even old friends. I didn’t know if I could memorize scripts or if I would appear too old with a younger generation of actors. But I had to take a risk. I had to risk looking foolish and out-of-place. Even though I risked ridicule, I didn’t risk my faith in a kind and loving God who sees me and always has my back. I have learned that it can be good, oh so good, to risk the first step.

Belinda Todd is a risk-taker. After retiring from a career with the airlines, img_4841Belinda received a master’s degree in theology, became a certified yoga instructor, and is now studying acting. She is also an Adjunct Instructor in the Languages and Literature Department at Virginia State University. She believes her mission is to inspire and empower women to use their gifts and talents to make the earth more loving, more peaceful and more joy-filled.

Literary Love: Writing Changes

By Guest Blogger Sadeqa Johnson

Here’s the honest truth: My biggest challenge as a writer is to keep my butt in the chair, and my computer screen locked on my novel.

I am a chronic email checker. There, I said it. I go to my Gmail inbox often, looking for an excuse to take me away from writing. It’s not right. I know better, but I do it anyway. I use everything as a reason to get out of my chair. The bathroom, a drink of water, a bowl of cereal, a walk out back to check on the weather conditions.

And don’t get me started on social media. My goodness, who’s idea was this electronic second life anyway? I sit with my fingers on the computer keys trying to lose myself in the story, and the next thing I know I’m clicking through Facebook. Lurking through inspirational quotes, participating in questions of the day, and liking those cute first day of school pictures.

I am blessed with three busy children and they are another distraction, even from school. It’s not totally their fault – I’m the Type A mother who starts planning summer camp in January. There is research to be done and it must be done right before I write that character sketch, flashback scene and mother/daughter confrontation.

Oh, and vacation? How I love to be distracted by vacation surfing. Many of which I will never go on, but enjoy looking at the pictures and imagining myself on the lounge chair, in sunglasses sipping a Margarita.

So how do I get anything done? I start by writing all of my ideas in longhand. Even though my once beautiful Catholic school handwriting has turned into chicken scratch, writing in a five-subject notebook keeps me from being distracted by the mighty internet. When I write longhand, there is no stroke of the key that can transport me into the world of the social conversation. It’s just me, my pen and the paper.

Another tactic is what I like to call time and treat. I tell myself, you must sit and write for an hour and then receive a treat of five or ten minutes of surfing freedom.

I’m still a work in progress, but with my third novel coming out in April (And Then There Was Me) and my fourth emerging from my notebook, I’m working hard every day to be disciplined and get it done.

Sadeqa Johnson, a former public relations manager, spent several years working with well-known authors such as JK Rowling, Bebe Moore Campbell, Amy Tan and Bishop TD Jakes before becoming an award-winning author herself. sadeqa-from-family-shootHer novels include Love in a Carry-on BagSecond House From the Corner and the soon-to-be-released And Then There Was Me (April 2017). Sadeqa lives in Virginia with her husband and three children. Learn more about Sadeqa and her work at sadeqajohnson.net.