Wednesday, December 6, 2017

#WriterWednesday with Author Wendy Jones

Today's #WriterWednesday interview is with Author Wendy Jones! Enjoy!!





AT: Where do you live? What’s your town’s claim to fame?
WJ: I live in Springfield, New Jersey. The Battle of Springfield, June 23, 1780, was the decisive battle during the American Revolutionary War that assured the eventual British defeat in 1783.

AT: Interesting! What genre do you write?
WJ: I write fiction and creative non-fiction, in book form and as essays. I am the only person I would inflict my poetry on.

AT: Lol, I see. Are you a published author or aspiring to be published? If published, how many books are out there with your name on them?
WJ: My first book, An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones, a biography, was published in May by Ida Bell Publishing, LLC.

AT: Awesome! What inspires you to write?
WJ: I have been fortunate to come in contact with many intriguing people in my life. If I don’t write about them who will?  Also, just as you did, Ms. Thompson, I quit a secure position to write. Writing is as fundamental to me as breathing. I came to the earth plane to write.  

AT: I can totally relate. Name one book you wish you’d written. 
WJ: The Blassingame Sisters, the novel I will finish in a few years, but wish I had already written. 

AT: You got this! What was the last book you read? Did you enjoy it?
WJ: The Third Reconstruction by Rev. William Barber. Rev. Barber, the initiator of Moral Mondays in North Carolina, tells a story of collaborative activism, powered by love, with fellow Americans of all beliefs, gender identities, and political persuasions. His writing spurs me to do the same. 

AT: Sounds like a compelling read! Who is your favorite author? Why?
WJ: I can’t choose one. Here’s the list: Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Poe, de Maupassant, Hawthorne, Twain, Fitzgerald, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Walter Mosley, Denise Lewis Patrick, Oscar Hijuelos, P.D. James, Márquez, Gretna Wilkinson, Maya Angelou, Amy Tan, Chinua Achebe, Zadie Smith, Lisa See, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
All of these authors write three-dimensional characters or present ideas in ways that move me to tears, make me laugh, and enrich my brain.  

AT: That's quite a list and we share some favorites. You definitely are a reader! Now for the fun questions! You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
WJ: Purple. It is associated with royalty, mourning, and the sacred. The highs, the lows, and the divine in one color.

AT: Purple's a beautiful color. What would your autobiography be called?
WJ: I can’t decide between Take a Risk! and Don’t Make My Mistakes: Be Creative, Make Your Own!

AT: I like both! Do you believe in love at first sight?
WJ: No. I believe in “deep liking at first sight,” a feeling of comfort, a sense that I know this person and have met her/him before. That’s how I felt when I met my life partner 32 years ago.

AT: Hmm, never heard it put that way before. If a genie granted you three wishes, what would they be? (can't ask for more wishes)
WJ: 1. The ability to see my shortcomings and overcome them. (That really is one wish.)
2. The gift of seeing the joy in every day.
3. That I live to be 120 years old sound in mind, body, and spirit, so I can finish the work I came here to do.  

AT: I absolutely love those wishes! Are you spring, summer, fall, or winter? Please share why.
WJ: Spring is the beginning of all things new and vibrant.

AT: Tea or coffee?
WJ: Tea. The varieties are endless: some calm, some energize, and some heal. 

AT: True! Tell us about your most recent/current project.
WJ: An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones is the story of a South Carolina sharecropper’s daughter, born in 1920, who comes to New York City in 1946 to work as a cook in private homes and becomes not only a Harlem activist, but the first Black woman in management at a Fortune 500 company, then Standard Brands, now Kraft Heinz. She also, as a single parent, raised her daughter and laid the foundation for her to be educated in private schools and to graduate from Yale University and Columbia University. I am that daughter.

Praise for An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones:

A native of the South, a descendant of slaves and the daughter of sharecroppers, Mrs. Jones ventured north, to New York and Harlem, to find her chance. The tale of her tenacious advance, transforming what to others might seem to be insurmountable obstacles and burdens, into opportunities to shine---the stuff of alchemy, might in less able hands, seem apocryphal. But Wendy Jones, like her role-model-mother, keeps things real. The saga she spins out is so inspirational, because in relating the highly specific history of a highly individual figure, she has made her mother’s quest: to enhance her community, to enlighten her people, to educate and arm--with truth and an appreciation of beauty--her only child, into a universal story.

- Michael Henry Adams – author of Harlem, Lost and Found: An Architectural and Social History, 1765-1915 and currently working on the forthcoming Homo Harlem: A Chronicle of Lesbian and Gay Life in the African American Cultural Capital, 1915-1995.

My mother’s words are the heart center of this book about her life. Brief chapter introductions give historical context. Notes include supplementary information about incidents she describes. Thumbnail sketches identify important relatives in the story. And finally, the Appendix describes how she nurtured my education.




The excerpt is my mother speaking.

An Excerpt from An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones:   
       The first thing I remember was when my father went away in 1922. I remember watching and waiting for him to come home. He had gone away to work up in Buffalo, New York. It was a year when he was having a hard time with the farm. The boll weevils were eating up all the cotton, so he went up north. He started working at the headquarters of the Lackawanna Railroad Company. Pa laid crossties for the railroad, which started in New Jersey and ran all the way up through Lackawanna until it got to Buffalo.
     The day he left, I went part of the way with him, as far as the mailbox. There he told me to go back. Pa had been gone a month or so before my family realized that I had stopped eating and playing. I just crawled into a shell.
      When Mama took me to the doctor, he looked at me and asked where my father was. My mother told him that he’d gone north. The doctor told her that that’s why I wasn’t eating; I was emotionally sick. He told her the family would have to do things with me to get my mind off him. If she didn’t, she would lose me. I was grieving myself to death.
      Mama showed me the fall colors of the leaves and a running brook, where I saw a fish. When she showed me these things, it helped me get over my grief. She also told me that my father had just gone to work and he would be back. I thought maybe he was dead. When I knew he would be back, I got over my grief.
     In the meantime, we started getting letters from him. My mother would always read the letters to us.
         It wasn’t Christmas yet, but I know it was cold because we had a fire when Pa came back. He brought a lot of balloons and had something different for each of us. He gave me what we used to call a glass doll, but I guess it was a china doll. It was beautiful. Naturally, it was white. We didn’t have black dolls then.
         My sisters—especially my older sisters—kept telling me to get the doll so they could see it and play with it. They kept pushing and jumping around and kept me going back and getting it. This one wanted it and that one wanted it, until . . . it got broken that night!
         Then they all said, “Oh, she doesn’t have a doll now.” I cried about it for three or four days. I got more dolls, but I didn’t get that doll back. I realized then that they always wanted what I had and not what they had. Pa didn’t do any more for me than he did for the rest of them, but he encouraged me. I saw how he did things, so I patterned my life after his.
      When Pa left again, I crawled back into a shell. He was just home on vacation. I was three years old. That was 1923.

AT:  Wow! I've got to read this! How can readers connect with you?
WJ: You can buy the book at Ida Bell Publishing, LLC’s website:
http://idabellpublishing.com

To find out about events and post comments, you can request inclusion on the email list (your email is not shared with anyone and you can unsubscribe at any time) email me at: Idabellpub@gmail.com


AT: Any final words?
WJ: It is so important to record the stories of our elders. Please record the life stories of your family members and friends.  Have them professionally transcribed, make copies for your family and friends, then donate a copy to your local library. Later, if you want to shape these memories into a book, go ahead. But preservation is vital. 

This is especially true for African Americans and our indigenous sisters and brothers. African American literacy was illegal during enslavement and our history was invisible even in the best American schools and universities until the late sixties. Indigenous history was written by European Americans until the late sixties.   Extraordinary stories of ordinary people are treasures we can’t afford to lose.

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