Through her fiction and nonfiction, author, journalist and writing coach Stacy Hawkins Adams inspires readers (and budding writers) to find meaning in their own stories, grow from life's lessons and thrive.
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When your college-age daughter comes home for spring break and convinces you to binge watch the hit TV show A Million Little Things, it’s a struggle to get anything else done. (Amazing show!)
But as a writer, at least I can count this as storytelling homework, and the takeaways from every episode are so rich that they leave you contemplating life, grief, ethics, truth, relationships, the power of love and more.
Just halfway through watching the season on demand, the lessons I’ve gleaned so far are ones that most of us already know, but often need reminders to practice. Among them are these gems:
You never know what someone else is going through, so be kind.
You never know what someone else has been through, so stop judging.
Things aren’t always what they seem, so quit longing for the greener grass across the fence.
Pause in your busyness to really see and hear the people closest to you. Give them the space to be vulnerable and imperfect, and love them anyway.
Love yourself enough to give life all you’ve got, no matter how many times you fall and have to get back up again. You and your purpose are worth it.
May these reminders guide our actions and interactions in the days, weeks and months to come, until we no longer need to recall them, because they’ve become our habits.
If you grew up watching television in the 1990s, you may already feel as if you’ve “met” my featured writer today. Literary advocate and actress Karyn Parsons played the role of Hilary Banks, cousin to Will Smith’s character on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, from 1990-1996.
For years, she has operated Sweet Blackberry, an award-winning animated film series that shares little known stories from African American history; and this week, Karyn’s lead role became author, when her debut young adult novel, How High The Moon, was released. (Congrats, Karyn!)
This historical fiction book tells the story of young girl in the Jim Crow south who is attempting to reconnect with her mother and learn the truth about her father. The novel is based on the experiences of Karyn’s mother, a librarian who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina.
For her part, Karyn (who I had the pleasure of meeting through a mutual friend) is simply delighted that her words are gracing the world in a way that adds meaning and rich perspective. Enjoy this Life Untapped Author Chat with her, and be sure to pick up a copy of her novel (or download the ebook version) just in time for your weekend reading.
In what genre do you write? My most recent book is historical fiction; however, I love short story fiction. I’ve started writing something else that is also historical fiction, but I am feeling the itch for writing a short story. I have a couple things that I’m anxious to get out.
What is your primary goal as an author, i.e., what do you want your readers to take away from reading your book? Mostly I want them to surrender to the world of the book and empathize and relate to the characters in the book. Hopefully, the story and characters will challenge some preconceived ideas and opinions. I know I learn a lot when I write and uncover truths that I didn’t always know were there when I started writing. And while it isn’t my primary goal, I do love the many lessons that historical fiction offers.
What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about How High The Moon? There as a direction that I went in the book – can’t talk about it specifically as it’s a spoiler – that I was pleased to find readers (at least the ones that spoke with me about it) liked. I had been concerned people might have a problem with it. So vague if you haven’t read it, right?! I was also just really excited that people were responsive to the story and its characters. It’s my first book, so it’s new for me to communicate with people this way. I’ve shared stories with small groups before; friends, writing groups, teachers and classes. That’s a different kind of share. A workshopping, really. To hand over something finished to strangers and have them be engaged and invested in the characters and the story, that’s been very cool.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey? Even though I’d always written here and there and had been a big reader throughout my life, I took to really focusing on writing AFTER I’d made a name for myself as an actress. And as serious as I was, I think I expected others to dismiss the idea of me as a writer. I’d been an actress for so long. It’s what everyone identified me as. So, when motherhood came along and threw me completely off course, there was a sadness that shrouded the writer me. I hadn’t given up, but I was becoming embarrassed by not being able to find time to write. And I was even more afraid to tell people I wanted to write because, well…I wasn’t writing! So, when I bumped into an old friend – a literary agent – who knew me for being as much a writer as an actress, and he encouraged me to write something, that encouragement went a long way. It meant so much to be seen. It was hard and clumsy, but I wrote my novel. And now, because of that accomplishment, even when things are tough, I don’t doubt that I’m a writer or concern myself much with what others might think.
How do you continue growing as a writer? Reading and writing. Reading all sorts of books, reading about writing, and then just writing. Giving myself permission to be silly and messy and bad, bad, bad. And then…more reading.
Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors? I truly admire Toni Morrison. At the same time I admire how clean Hemingway writes. I had already known some of Jacqueline Woodson’s work, but in taking on writing for a young audience, I read more of her work, re-read and paid more attention. Her writing really resonates with me and, at the same time, feels so natural and right. I also read interviews with her and saw her speak. She’s so smart and generous and she’s got this enchanting soul. A lovely person. In a way, she’s a mentor. I trust and feel truth in what she has to say.
Do you think you’ll continue to act in coming years? I still love acting. I think if I could do theater, that’s where I’d be. That’s the best place to be able to really act. To not be so encumbered by all of the technical and production distractions. I get nervous in front of an audience, though. Ugh. That’s always been a mountain for me, that part.
What else are you passionate about? If you weren’t an author and actress, what else would you be doing? We’re big movie people in my household. My husband is a filmmaker and I’m a real film geek. I also like to bake even though I’m really, really bad at it. No one eats my stuff. But, I don’t care, I still like it. And I’ll get better.
Karyn Parsons is best known for her role as Will Smith’s cousin Hilary Banks on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. After leaving acting behind, Karyn has gone on to found and produce Sweet Blackberry, an award-winning series of children’s animated films, to share stories about unsung black heroes in history, featuring narration from stars such as Alfre Woodard, Queen Latifah, Chris Rock, and Laurence Fishburne. The films have screened on HBO and Netflix, and are enjoyed by schools and libraries across the country. Karyn’s debut novel, How High The Moon, hits bookshelves this month – March 2019. To learn more about Karyn and her body of work, visit sweetblackberry.org or friend her on the following:
Like many people, I grew up hearing the famous quote that “Home is where the heart is.” And indeed, for 16 years my home was filled with peace, love and happiness. I came home daily from work seeing the smiles of my two sons, who made my life joyous. But one day I came home, parked my car and sat inside it for over an hour talking to my friends and family about the pain that I was experiencing in my marriage. How could I not see the manipulation, the lies, and the deceit before now?
As a single mother before I got married, I had decided tt was important for my sons to see a man treat their mother with love and respect. Instead they were viewing their mother’s heart being broken.
It took more conversations and lots of prayer, but I finally realized that I didn’t deserve this. When I decided to walk away and start over, that’s when the champion rose up in me.
A true champion will fight through anything. Every scar pushed me to my purpose. I was able to utilize the gifts that God birthed inside of me to encourage myself towards greatness. Negative words were not able to stick to me because God planted a seed of greatness inside of me at birth. How so? It just was lying dormant, but the pain pushed me to look at myself and start my own business. I decided that I wanted to be a life coach at first, but later realized that the power was in my mouth and the words that I speak.
God changed me and showed me my true purpose. Motivational speaking was birthed, and I started speaking to women about pushing past the pain of the past and having the confidence to walk boldly into woman that God created them to be. I’ve spoken at events, churches and conferences, encouraging women to see that champion spirit that resides within them. Now I’m walking towards the “champion destiny” that God designed just for me. And now I empower women to have the emotional stability to discover their champion purpose.
I started speaking to small groups such as my family and friends. In the beginning, I didn’t have a large following, and I didn’t know anything about being a speaker. I had to decide to invest in my vision and dreams. I hired business coaches and strategists to assist me, and with the knowledge I gained I was motivated to start a Facebook group called “The Champion Woman’s Society.” This group is for women who desire to discover their Champion Purpose, but lack motivation.
My marriage ended in 2012, but my struggles with self-confidence continued to hold me hostage. I spent 2012 to 2017 rediscovering myself, and that season allowed God to do some amazing things within me. I’m so proud of myself for allowing God to show up and show out in my life. The power that He has given me has allowed me to not look at my marriage as a mistake, but as a steppingstone to my greatness.
EricaLynn Harris, recognized as “TheMotivational Queen,” is a speaker, author and entrepreneur whose desire is to motivate and empower women to have the emotional stability to discover their greatness and win in every area of their lives. Erica is the owner of ELynnXpressions, LLC., where she offers an exclusive line of Champion Woman attire, and she is the author of a book titled The Winning Formula for Women. Erica also operates a Facebook group called “The Champion Women’s Society,” which provides a space for women to obtain daily motivation. She is a recipient of The Cornerstone Award, which was presented to her in 2019 at the Embracing Your Inner Woman Annual Conference. Follow her on Instagram @themotivationalqueen or on Facebook @ Facebook.com/EricaLynn.Harris.
This image, posted online by an unknown source, featuring this anonymous quote, inspired me:
From my perspective, these are timely words for this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. For years after Dr. King’s service and sacrifice, there is still the need to do what he lived and died to ensure: the snuffing out of hate; more people following the Golden Rule; everyone looking beyond race and ethnicity into one another’s eyes and hearts to see (and experience) mutual humanity.
So I challenge myself – and you – to care enough to do a little more, to be a little better, to…
Do what it takes to create a life and not just live.
Keep seeking the good in others;
growing into a stronger, kinder, wiser you,
and giving from the purest, most selfless place in your heart.
For when you persistently seek, grow, give and live with hope, resilience and integrity, your courage and optimism will inevitably overflow and touch the people and the world around you.
We often make resolutions at the dawn of a new year, believing that with a fresh date and fresh start, we can jumpstart what fell by the wayside weeks, months or even years earlier. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t – a reality that all of us can own.
In my case? I haven’t started exercising regularly yet in 2019, although my gym is awaiting me. And I’m still trying to convince myself to give up refined sugar.
I did purge my closet, and that felt oh so great. Yet I’m still in the process of mapping out a quarterly To Do list, to make sure that by the time I reach April, I can actually mark as completed most of the 90-day goals I set out to achieve. (That list will be finalized before this month is over!)
Tackling goals like these year after year is refreshing in a way, because they are reminders that we always start again; that we should never stop living, learning and growing.
Yet, the first step, in one sense, is the easiest: We’ve talked ourselves into doing what we know is right and good for us in both the short- and long term. On Jan. 1 of (whatever year) we’re psyched and excited.
However, then comes Day 2 and Week 3, and before you know it, Month 10. Taking step after step, day after day, in moment after moment is where we must keep talking and walking and envisioning that for which we long. For it is after taking step after step, day after day, in moment by moment the magic, the movement and the new reality await us.
Are you up to the challenge and the change required to actually shift into this new space? I think I am, even if I have to recalibrate and restart on Day 15 and then again on Day 30 and Day 225. For, when we really decide we’re ready and we choose to really dig in, we’ll be able to appreciate the small transformations along our journey that make it as worthwhile a process as achieving our ultimate goals. Even if the process takes longer than we want (which it often does), we can stay on course by remembering that delays aren’t denials and “not now” doesn’t mean not ever.
I’ve done it before, and I’m aiming it to experience those mountain moments again, for both my big and small dreams. Are you with me?
If so, remind yourself throughout the process – on the days when sticking to your goals isn’t fun or when it seems easier to say you’ll get to it “tomorrow” – that the change you long for – the change I long for – requires that we change our minds today.
Throughout your process, remind yourself…
When you’re open to consistently learning and growing;
to seeing life from another person’s point of view;
to stepping outside your comfort zone;
to helping someone else just because;
to opening your heart to new adventures at any age;
to living in peace and ensuring others that same opportunity,
the sky is not your limit and your joy can’t be contained.
It’s the true definition of changing for the better; of transforming into more of you.
For those of us who are Christians, nothing matters more than the original Christmas story, which is the reason we celebrate this annual holiday- the birth of Jesus.
However, I believe that another meaningful use for this season is a study and reflection of all that Christmas and Jesus’ birth represent: giving and receiving, unconditional love, grace, joy, and creating special memories. These are the intangibles that, as one grows older and wiser, tend to become more treasured than any presents wrapped in pretty paper and tucked beneath a gorgeous tree.
Yet, on our route to that discovery, it’s wonderful to have stories – both fiction and nonfiction – that entertain us while helping us recognize areas in which we can grow or help others thrive.
With this in mind, it has been my pleasure to “birth’ a short story this Christmas to share with both longtime readers of my fiction and those who are coming across it for the first time. This super-short piece can be read in one sitting, but I hope its themes will linger during the holidays and long afterward.
To learn more about The Sentence Between Us, view my live TV interview with the local CBS station in Richmond, Virginia here.
Also enjoy my Q&A for author/editor Chandra Sparks Splond’s blog here: