Officer to My Son: “Let’s Both Get Home Safe.”

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I took my teen son to an empty school parking lot on Sunday afternoon to practice driving and a police officer pulled him over.

I was in the passenger seat, and the officer asked my permission to chat with Mini-Me #2.

Sgt. Hugate (who gave me permission to use his name) had watched my son practice signaling and turning and parking for about half an hour before motioning for him to stop, with a smile and a welcoming gesture.

With my consent, he spent about 10 minutes sharing his perspective as a member of law enforcement about how Mini-Me #2, as a teen driver, could stay safe if/when pulled over.

Before he launched into the advice, he led with his heart, telling Mini-Me #2:

– He spent the day before driving around a similar school parking lot teaching his own son how to drive, so he knew how meaningful and memorable the task at hand was.

– Everyday when he goes to work, he wants to be sure to make it home to his family; so the advice he was prepared to share was designed to keep both my son and him safe.

Then he walked through how an officer typically approaches a vehicle and explained that an alert officer is always on guard because he never knows who or what he may encounter when making a routine traffic stop – regardless of race, gender, age, etc.

Next, he told Mini-me #2 a few things that most parents of color often share already with their adolescent sons and daughters, during what we call “The Talk:”

– Keep your hands visible at all times. (He demonstrated where to position them on the steering wheel and suggested that placing them on driver’s side windowsill would be another option.)

– Over-communicate about every single move you make, from shifting to reach for your license to reaching to open your door.

– Stay calm and respectful and respond to all questions when asked. (Most people actually talk themselves INTO getting tickets, he said, because they can’t manage to stay calm.)

– If the situation permits, before placing your hands on the steering wheel or outside the window, call a parent and put him/her on speakerphone, so that there is a “third party witness to keep both of us safe.”

My son appreciated the feedback, which reinforced messages he has already heard from me and his dad and others in our “village.”

Sgt. Hugate, who is Caucasian, looked Mini-Me squarely in the eyes while informing him that yes – there are indeed some cops who shouldn’t be wearing badges or in the law enforcement field, because they don’t do what is right or good; but he is not one of them.

We didn’t discuss Charlottesville, Trayvon Martin, or any of the senseless violence that has occurred in many instances in between. In those few minutes in that high school parking lot, the olive branch he extended was an aha moment that even some officers are willing to be real and honest about the realities of what it takes to stay safe in this day and time.

Everyone wants to make it home alive.

Note: This post first appeared on Stacy’s Facebook page, on August 13, 2017. Due to the tremendous response it has received, she is posting it here and also on her Huffington Post blog.

Why Talk Is Cheap and How to Get Moving

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Ever heard the phrase Don’t just talk about it, be about it?

It offers a nudge to stop explaining what we would do if there weren’t obstacles and to start doing something – anything – that moves us in the direction of our dreams.

A guest minister at the Virginia church I attend delivered an electrifying message yesterday that reiterated the importance of growing past one’s comfort zone. Her tone wasn’t fiery, but the truths she delivered were, and I thought they were worth sharing.  Here’s a paraphrased summary of the wisdom she imparted to encourage each listener to get up and get moving:

– If you really want something different, act like it.

– Don’t talk about wanting a change while settling comfortably into your longtime (uncomfortable) status quo, and don’t expect anyone else to do your heavy lifting.

– When you get serious about growing as a person and enlarging your territory, your desires can direct you to your destiny.

– Exceptional desire yields exceptional results.

– Every inch you take toward a new destiny moves you closer to actually achieving it, no matter how small your movement and no matter how long it takes. Your effort, multiplied by God’s grace, will get you there in His perfect timing.

– Do what you must in order to thrive, not just survive.

As the guest minister advised in her closing, we each must find the courage to stop living where we are not challenged, because in challenge comes change, and in change comes growth and opportunities to live out our unique purpose.

Are you up to the task? Are you ready to shift – to actually receive what you’ve long claimed you want? If so, now is the time. Today is your day. Go seize your victory – one prayer, coupled with one step, at a time.

(Note: The guest minister’s sermon was based on John 5:2-9.)

Writing from and for the Journey

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I haven’t turned on my creative fiction juices in a while, because although I absolutely love manufacturing interesting characters and breathing life into them, I also have a deep love for nonfiction writing. Over the past year or so, I’ve focused my attention there.

I recently entered my 10th year of penning a parenting column for a daily newspaper in Richmond, Virginia; I launched this inspirational blog a few moths ago, and I occasionally write commentary for the Huffington Post.

Beyond those outlets, my “day job” of serving as Director of Communications for a private school in my community affords me an opportunity to do all kinds of writing – from marketing and advertising copy to social media posts to letters and other messaging that share the “how” and “why” of this school and its mission to produce service-minded leaders who make a difference locally and around the globe. All of this excites me.

And yet….the ideas for a new novel still rise to the surface every now and then, teasing me to consider what my 11th book could and should be. I’m not sure yet when that one will be birthed, but I already have a list of character names, a few potential plot ideas and even a tentative title.

I’m not ready to start writing the first draft because the ideas are still “baking.” I’ll know when the plot is just firm enough to put pen to paper, and then move those handwritten notes to my computer.

In the meantime, I’m doing my writer’s “homework”: Leaning into the gifts and opportunities that come with daily life, enjoying special moments with family and friends, overhearing compelling conversations or intriguing names that might make their way into my story, and taking in the scenery, sights and sounds around me, so that when I need these things most, they are a finger tap away in the notes section of my iPhone, or stored in my mental image bank.

I recently had the pleasure of joining an award-winning children’s author for dinner, and during our conversation, Newberry Medal winner Rita Williams-Garcia announced that she no longer writes under deadline. When the manuscript is ready – however long that may take – she intuitively knows, and she only writes The End at that point.

While many of us scribes may not have that luxury – or be disciplined enough to know the difference between being stuck and accepting that the project is substantive enough to move forward – learning about her method left me thinking that more of us should find the courage (or be extended opportunities) to give our words, ideas and stories the space to grow and mushroom into something fantastically wonderful.

If and when you can, I encourage my fellow writers to let your story marinate; let the words come on their own; let the characters show you who they are in their own time.

Because I’m not on deadline or under contract with a publisher at the moment, this is exactly what I’m doing. I’m also reading some great fiction, and books about the art of writing, along the way.

It’s an unsettling experience in some ways – especially when my readers say they’re ready for another book-  and I hate to keep readers waiting. Yet, in another way, it’s freeing, because I’m allowing the writer journey to unfold before me.

I’m confident that when my new characters are ready to meet the world, they’ll let me know. When they start nudging, I won’t be able to get them out of my head unless I tell their stories! Lol

Until then, I hope you’ll continue reading my current novels, the few fictional short stories I’ll be penning soon, and also my body of nonfiction writing. The mission of all of my work is to enlighten, uplift and inspire. I hope my fictional characters and my intriguing true-to-life subjects do just that for you.

Note: This essay was originally published on the Black Christian Reads blog, in July 2017.

Chat with the Author: Transporting Readers to New Worlds Is Her Goal

Meet beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani – a writer who has regaled millions of readers with her engaging stories of strong (and often hilarious) women – who I consider a friend and mentor.

Adriana’s 17th book will be released later this month, on June 20. Enjoy her Q&A with LifeUntapped, in which she details her author journey and shares about her books and characters.

In what genre do you write?  I write fiction – big, noisy, lush novels about love, work and family. I’ve also written a non-fiction memoir, young adult novels, screenplays, teleplays and plays for the theater.  I consider myself a dramatist, first and foremost, as the characters and the worlds they inhabit are alive to me, and hopefully to you the reader.

What is the title of your most recent book? Kiss Carlo [Scheduled for release on June 20, this novel has been described as “a delightfully sprawling comedy full of extended families, in all their cocooning warmth and suffocating expectations” by Kirkus Reviews.]

What is your primary goal as an author – What do you want your readers to gain from of your books?  I hope my reader is transported to another place and time, where she takes her mind off her work, challenges and troubles and has a few laughs, connects to characters she can relate to, and finds some beauty and truth in the language.

What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about your current book or another recent title?  Some of my readers thought All the Stars in the Heavens, about the golden age of Hollywood, was a biography. It was not. It was historical fiction.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey?  I am always surprised at how energized I become in the company of my readers. They are my focus and the ultimate joy of writing anything. It’s their connection to the work that connects me to the work, too. That has been wonderful, and I didn’t anticipate it!

How do you continue growing as a writer?

 The only way to grow is to put in the time.  It’s hours in the chair- after hours of ruminating, gestating and thinking. It’s a funny job.  It doesn’t look like a writer is doing anything, when in fact, she is building a world.

Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors?  Ruth Goetz trained me as a dramatist when I moved to New York City. Prior to that, my mother, a librarian was and is my first and best teacher. She taught me to revere books, knowledge and the sacred act of reading.  My teachers were fundamental in my development as a writer; Sister Theresa Kelly, Thelma Carter, Grace White, Elizabeth Callahan, Langley Flannary, Grace Skeens, Basil Walker, Dorothy Carter, Arline Sharpe, Iva Braly, Gary Willams, Greg Cantrell, Sigrid Holloman, Frances Lewis, Bernis Zander, Theresa Bledsoe, well, I could keep going, and forgive me, the long list would overwhelm your site!  And, of course, my librarians, James Varner on the county bookmobile; Ernestine Roller at Big Stone Gap Elementary and the great Billie Jean Scott at Powell Valley High School.  All were essential and beloved.

What else are you passionate about, i.e. if you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing?  I’d be an interior designer.

What do you like to do for fun?  Get ready for this one…. R E A D!

More About Adriana Trigiani: Adriana Trigiani is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books in fiction and nonfiction. She is published in 35 countries around the world. Adriana is also a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker, and received accolades for the documentary film, Queens of the Big Time. She wrote and directed the major motion picture Big Stone Gap, filmed entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. The movie spent 11 weeks in theaters in the fall of 2015 and was the #2 top-grossing romantic comedy of the year. Adriana co-founded The Origin Project with Nancy Bolmeier Fisher, an in-school writing program which serves over a thousand students in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia. She lives in New York City with her family and their rescue pets. Adriana speaks to book clubs and classrooms regularly. To invite her and schedule a Skype, please reach out to her at adrianaasst@aol.com, join her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or visit her at her website: adrianatrigiani.com. Adriana’s new novel, Kiss Carlo, is available for pre-sale online and wherever books are sold.

Write Your Way Whole

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

How is your week, your month, your year going so far?

Note to Readers: I penned this post earlier this week for members of the private writers community I curate, Focused Writers Membership Group. I rarely (if ever) share publicly the messages and encouragement I reserve for group members; but today I felt compelled to cast a wider net, and ask you to take a step back or two steps forward, and look at your life from a “big picture” perspective.  This post focuses on writing because I mentor writers; but you can change my references to writing to whatever best fits your goal or dream, and do the same self-examination.

Take the first step and honestly answer these questions. Then take the next step and make adjustments that will yield the responses you long to manifest.

Regardless of whether you see yourself as a writer, the process of writing your vision – in a notebook or journal, on your computer screen or in the notes section of your smartphone – will help make it real. Perhaps writing down your plans and the path you’re taking to pursue those plans, will make them more official, for  you and others. So here we go….

Take some time to reflect on where you started on Monday of this week, in early May or even at the dawn of 2017, and measure your progress. Are you satisfied that you’re still on track to where you want to be by this time next year?

Now, imagine yourself 20 years from today, looking back over your life. What would you like to have accomplished?

Writing-wise, in particular:
– How many books written? Or
– How many followers for your blog? Or
– How many audiences impacted by your speeches? Or
– How many readers touched by your essays and articles?

What does writing success look like to you, and what are you doing today to bring that vision to life, so that in the year 2037, you’ll be holding those finished products in your hands, and in multiple ways sharing them with a younger generation? (Remember, quantifying the number of books, followers, audiences and readers you reach is simply quantifying the number of lives you’re touching.)

Let’s get busy, my friend. Why not take the few days left in the month of May to write the vision, so that you can begin executing it, in June and beyond? You are your own master storyteller. Decide today in which direction your next chapters will go.

 

Want to join Focused Writers Membership Community? Learn more here.

Don’t Give Up On You

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently about what mid-life holds. Is it a point at which you look back and reflect on opportunities missed, hopes dashed, dreams deferred and resign yourself to whatever may come?
Or, do you see yourself at 40-, 50- or 60-something (and beyond) on the verge of new opportunities, just waiting to be seized? Your perspective, and the actions you take as a result, make all the difference.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her first novel in the Little House on the Prairie book series when she was 65.
One of my mentors sought and obtained her master’s degree in her early 70s.
I read an article recently about Etta Baker, a mother of nine who appeared on her first album recording as a blues guitarist in her 40s and went on to record a solo album at age 78 and perform with musical greats well into her late 80s.
More examples abound.
So what chapters are you continuing to craft for the story of your life?
It’s not over until you decide to stop reaching, seeking, growing and pursuing. If you dream it and put some strategic thought, muscle and focus behind it, you can do it.
Don’t give up on you.

Her Story: Thriving at Center Stage

By Guest Blogger Olivia Shaw

Lights…Camera…Tiara!  Now on to photo shoots, couture gown fittings and public appearances. Ah, such is the life of a teenage pageant queen. Right?

Well, yes and no. Most people, when they hear the word pageant just assume that all I need to do to be successful in this type of event is to be able to dress up and look pretty. With further inspection, however, many people would be surprised to discover that the majority of pageants (at least the ones I choose to participate in) are dedicated to promoting leadership skills, developing and cultivating public speaking skills and promoting volunteer service among young girls and women.

Over the past five years, through my participation in the National American Miss pageant system, I have been able to overcome my fear of standing in front of an audience and sharing my thoughts. In addition to refining my public speaking skills, I have gained life skills that will help me be successful when applying to college, as well as when seeking employment.

When I began participating in National American Miss at age 12,  standing on stage introducing myself to a room full of strangers was the last place I wanted to be. Although I sincerely wanted to give the pageant world a try, I was terrified of speaking in front of people. I also was not looking forward to being  interviewed by a panel of judges – another group of strangers that I had to actually sit down with and carry on a conversation with. Five minutes never seemed so long!

Fast forward five years, and I am now confident and excited to be able to formally and professionally introduce myself onstage to a diverse group of strangers.

You see, about two years into this pageant process, my family and I realized that I needed to have a plan if I truly wanted to be successful. I could not just show up onstage or in the interview room and hope that everything would work out positively for me. I decided how I wanted to represent myself and mapped out a strategy to achieve those goals. That, in and of itself, became another benefit of pageant participation.

I worked on my interview skills and I worked to get more comfortable being onstage, introducing myself and speaking in public.  Also, I began to think about the purpose of having an interview, and I realized that it is a time for the judges to get to know you as an individual – a  time to discover what is important to you and to see if you have the characteristics they are looking for as a queen. I started to view competing for a queen title like applying for a job or college admission. Preparing my resume was also a part of the competition that helped me to become more comfortable with presenting myself in a public forum.

Within two years of changing my strategy, my hard work paid off. In 2016 I was named National American Miss Virginia Junior Teen – a title I currently hold.

Being a queen with National American Miss has also helped me to promote my volunteer service platform, Miracles in Motion Dance Group, on a wider scale. Miracles in Motion is a dance company for special needs children and young adults, and working with them gives me joy.

Due to the experience I gained with public speaking and public presentation with National American Miss, I was able to speak at the Miracles in Motion Annual Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser in 2016 to a crowd of close to 600 people! I also received an opportunity to share my community service platform at the national pageant competition last November, and I placed 2nd Runner Up for Volunteer Service in the Junior Teen age division for the nation. Talk about an opportunity to overcome my fear of public speaking!

I am so grateful for all I have gained through my participation in National American Miss. These are skills that will last me a lifetime. I now can truly “go confidently in the direction of my dreams” and live the life I have imagined.

Olivia Shaw, a 17-year-old resident of metro Richmond, Virginia, is the reigning National American Miss Virginia Jr Teen. She will pass her crown on to her successor in July 2017. She loves volunteering with Miracles in Motion Dance Group and looks forward to many years of sharing her love of dance and music with her fellow dancers. You can stay connected with Olivia’s journey  through the following social media sites:                                        Facebook:@NamVAJrTeen2016                                                                                    Snapchat: @livve_kitty22                                                                                    Instagram:@livve_s23