My Soul is a Witness, a collection of poems that reminds us that there is still hope in our darkest moments. Nothing we go through is without a purpose. No pain we suffer, and no trial we experience happens without reason. It all ministers to our education and the development of ourselves into the people we are ordained to become. It helps to cultivate in us a spirit of patience, faith, humility, and self-control.
Introduce Yourself is back! Please help me extend a warm welcome to Edgar Rider. Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
Edgar Rider, originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, moved to Riverside, California.
Nice. Are you employed outside of writing?
I work in education as a paraprofessional for a High School in Special Ed.
Cool beans. What job do you think you’d be really good at?
Creativity in organizing creative events, and writing educational content.
Any siblings Edgar?
What was your childhood dream?
The first dream was to be a detective, and then I just wanted to be in some creative field where I could use creativity.
What skill do you think you’ve mastered?
Creativity. Coming up with innovative ideas. Writing about Abstract subject matter in an understandable, relatable, and universal fashion. Created tunnel performance society to help others express themselves.
What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
A trip to Amsterdam. It has a reputation as a place where all bets are off. I would like to explore an uninhibited place.
What’s your favorite drink?
Nothing beats a PBR.
Pabst Blue Ribbon is a beer. It is relatively cheap and is the main drink at a pub I go to called TT Roadhouse.
Got it. What songs have you completely memorized?
Neil Diamond Hello Again and The Doors Monlight Drive.
What’s your favorite color?
Blue and yellow combination.
Let’s talk about writing a bit. When did you publish your first book?
I just published it, and it is a great feeling. Riding Out The Kipling Effect is about an experience me and a friend had living in a ladies’ living room for a year.
Oh, wow, lol.
We gave up our respective apartments to save money to concentrate on writing. Carrie Kipling was the tenant, and she lived in a chaotic turmoil-filled world used by moocher friends. The book is about trying to stay committed to a specific creative purpose while overcoming outside challenges. Some of the major themes are relinquishing control, overcoming obstacles, and at certain moments being able to trust in the experience.
It has been a long road, so getting this book out is a big accomplishment.
Who is your favorite writer?
James Thurber. He wrote about ordinary regular events but turned them into extraordinary experiences. Other stories are about dreaming of another kind of life—Secret Life of Walter Mitty and My Life and Hard Times.
If you could shadow your favorite artist, who would it be?
Alice Cooper. I was always a fan. He came up with a stage persona and took it in a particular direction—such a well-defined character. I would learn how to embody and be that person. I have my own alter ego Bob Eager.
I want to learn to become that character and be productive at presenting it for long periods.
Edgar? You’re scaring me lol. What kind of music do you like?
Rock music classic rock eighties rock.
What genre do you write in, why?
Memoir, Short story, Creative nonfiction, and poetry. Not sure why just my most expressive forms.
Okay. I love those genres! What takes up too much of your time?
I think you speak for us all.
What is the most thought-provoking book you’ve ever read?
Purple Cow. It is about coming up with an innovative idea that stands out, not playing it safe, really believing in ideas. It helped me develop tunnel performance society, an innovative environmental theatrical space where poets, musicians, and dancers can express themselves.
That’s cool. What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
Editing is the most difficult for sure. Revision at some points, too, saying, “no, this is done.” Telling stories that have a narrative legacy that will last five-ten years from now, and making sure they are not rooted in contemporary culture.
If you had one superpower that could change the world, what would it be? Why?
Suspending Disbelief. Being able to create reality and make it more pleasing.
If you could, would you visit the past?
I would visit the past and try and help myself and others make their lives easier.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Find Purpose and go full throttle, eliminate distractions.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? What made it special?
Write in your own voice. I was young and in college, and it meant a lot to me to express how I was feeling.
I love it.
Thank you Edgar for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Edgar Rider has been working in education for over ten years, first as a Substitute Teacher. More recently, he has been a Paraprofessional for an elementary school and high school. Rider worked in a Children’s museum as a Playologist and was a Child advocate for a Domestic Violence shelter. He has published articles on educational topics such as Growth Mindset, Substitute Teaching, Autism, Time Management in a classroom, and how to use an Environmental Theater space.
About the Book
Life in Carrie Kipling’s apartment was a constant struggle. Kipling’s life was in a state of turmoil. Her group of friends consisted of moochers, liars, prostitutes, and convicted felons. Her decision-making process deteriorated over time and became even more dangerous as she let anyone she befriended control various aspects of her life. In this book, a narrative journey titled Riding Out The Kipling Effect, my friend Muller and I lived in Kipling’s living room for a year. What started as a strange situation spiraled out of control. We both wanted to become writers for a living and were willing to give up comfort, space, belongings, and even sanity to achieve our respective dreams.
We jumped from our apartments and ended up on a couch and in a chair and strapped ourselves along for the Kipling Effect’s roller coaster ride. Little did we realize that navigating through this would become the biggest challenge of our lives. The Downtown artistic scene, museums, and libraries also provide a backdrop of inspiration for this particular journey. The juxtaposition between the surrounding dive bars and the posh clubs and restaurants presents a peculiar atmosphere full of contrary subject matter ripe for a storytelling environment. Eventually, I learned that the Kipling Effect had positive ramifications and was the one necessary thing leading me down an essential path towards authentic self-discovery.
Please help me extend a warm welcome to Victoriyah Smith. Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Victoria Smith (Victoriyah Israyl) and I am from Gulfport, Mississippi.
What was your childhood dream?
My childhood dream was to be able to travel to different countries around the world. I have been blessed to travel to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Belize, Progresso, Montego Bay, Cozumel, Key West, to name a few places. I enjoy learning new cultures and trying fresh foods as long as it is not pork or shellfish.
I feel you. I love traveling myself. Got a travel buddy? Married?
I am married to my wonderful, loving, supportive husband, Willie. We have shared this life together for 21 years.
Beautiful. Let’s talk about writing a bit. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I published my first book on June 15, 2020, and it was a wonderful feeling.
Oh okayy. You new, new. Congratulations!
Thank you. It took a lot of work, time, and learning technical things to get it in the correct format for publishing; it was definitely a learning experience. I am now working on promoting my book as I work on writing my next book. I know the process will be more straightforward because of my first experience.
What do you love about yourself?
I love that I am a giver. I enjoy helping others and being a blessing to others who are not as fortunate as myself.
In your own words, what is humility?
Humility is being humble in my heart and my actions. Humility is the opposite of being puffed up and high minded. To walk in humility means to open yourself to understand the pain and disappointment of others. It is a welcoming approach to solving violence, anger, and aggression in relationships and society. Humility is being of no form or fashion, but existing in love and understanding as you seek to understand others when there is no peace. Humility is being as a little child.
I love that part about opening yourself up to understand the pain of others. Victoriyah, what is the best advice you’ve ever been given? What made it special?
My father gave me some wisdom as a young adult after I built my home. He was laying a new driveway for me, and I tried to pay him before he had finished the work. My father looked at me and asked, “Have you seen the finished product?” My answer was “No sir,” and then he said,” Never pay for a service in full until you’ve seen the finished product. Even if it’s your daddy.” Those simple words have been special in my life because it gave me the courage I needed to hold people accountable in business transactions as a young woman.
That’s awesome. Why is writing important to you?
Writing has always been an escape for me. When I became a Sunday school-teacher years ago, writing became a huge part of my life as I would write stories of the bible that would help my students to understand the scripture in a greater way. As I have continued my relationship with the Most High, writing has been a central focus of my meditations as I am being guided by my creator to unfold many truths about the bible. I hope that the truths that are written in my books will help others increase their belief in our creator Yah.
Life is not always pretty, as we all experience hardship now and again and this is magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. What is your best advice for reducing stress?
My advice for anyone experiencing hardship is to understand that there is a purpose for everything we experience. To find the meaning of life is to gain a relationship with our creator Yah and the Messiah Yahoshuah. I believe that by doing that, the Most High gives us understanding and direction in the path we should take in our lives. Pray to our creator Yah, cast all your burdens and troubles on him, and he will lift every burden (stress) and give you peace that surpasses all human understanding.
From the natural perspective, start a hobby, exercise, eat healthily, write more, and evaluate the decisions you are making and set goals to remove anything out of your life that may be causing stress. Our creator will give you the strength to remove those things through prayer.
Beautifully articulated. Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?
I enjoy gardening. I grow my own cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, and peppers. I also have a passion for helping women become their own bosses by giving them the tools they need to succeed. In 2014, I established an organization to work toward that end. It is called “Network of Women Business Owners.” I also enjoy helping the less fortunate individuals in the community with clothes, food, and resources to help them overcome life’s challenges.
Thank you Victoriyah for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Born in Gulfport, Mississippi, Victoriyah received her master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Alabama and her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Southern Mississippi. Also, she obtained an associate’s degree in Business Management from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. With a passion for helping every inspiring woman become her own boss, Victoriyah shares her proven insights with diverse audiences through training, consulting services, workshops, seminars, and online platforms.
Mrs. Smith is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Network of Women Business Owners, a professional business network established in 2014 in Gulfport, Mississippi. Victoriyah resides in Gulfport, Mississippi, with her husband, Willie, and her (4) children and grandchildren live in Texas. She is available to conduct speeches and facilitate professional development training for professional women groups, organizations, and empowerment business events.
Introduce Yourself is back! Please help me extend a warm welcome to VALI BENSON. Vali, welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Vali Benson. I was born in Champaign, Illinois, the home of the University of Illinois. After graduating from U of I, I decided to go west to get away from the brutal winter weather. I now live in Tucson, AZ, where I am very happy with my husband, two sons, and grandchildren.
Brutal is right! I am from Chicago so you ain’t never lied there. Vali, got a favorite drink?
Iced tea is my favorite drink, but it has to be super sweet. When I am writing, I need my sweet iced tea. Oddly enough, I do not like ice in my iced tea, and I always chuckle when I hear someone refer to the drink as “Ice” tea. As far as cocktails are concerned, I love a spicy Bloody Mary.
Nice. Favorite food?
My favorite food is escargots. Growing up in Illinois, I would have never dreamed that I would say that, but I absolutely love them. The first time I had escargots was on my honeymoon, and the only reason I did it was that I didn’t want to appear unsophisticated to my new husband. Thank heaven I had no idea what they were at first, or else I would never have tried them.
Let’s talk about writing. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
My first book, Blood and Silver, was published on April 3, 2020. To be honest, it was surreal. I had completed a lifelong dream of putting my ideas and feelings into an actual book for others to consume. I was numb and excited. At the same time, it was extremely frightening because my innermost thoughts were now fair game for all to criticize. I still cannot believe that I can call myself a published author.
That is awesome. Congratulations and welcome to the world of publishing. That Blood and Silver cover is dope!
What genre do you write in, why?
I generally prefer to write young adult fiction. This is probably because that genre had such an impact on me as a girl. I was not the most confident child, so when I could read about fictional characters that were around my age, it made me feel secure. If my books can instill others with those valued feelings of pride, confidence, and acceptance, I know I will have done my job.
Wonderful. What do you wish you knew more about?
I dearly wish I was more tech-savvy. Computers and I have never really gotten along, but I am sad to say that I am being left behind by the changing times. The day has come when I have had to admit that technology no longer consists of luxury; it exists as a necessity. I better start swimming, or I’ll sink like a stone.
Do you have a favorite color Val?
Blue has always been my favorite color. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I have blue eyes, but I think it is because I am a believer in infinite possibilities. When I was a girl, there was nothing more infinite to me than the big bright blue sky.
Blue is a beautiful color. We love sharing historical fun facts on this blog. Who would you say is your favorite Historical figure?
Jacqueline Kennedy. She was so much more than just First Lady of the United States. Of all her accomplishments, it is her character that I admire most. The way she handled the traumatic events surrounding her husband’s death with the whole world staring at her still amazes me. Her grace, poise, and dignity amid unimaginable catastrophe is something all people, not just women, should aspire to emulate.
Beautifully articulated. What do you think of the world we live in?
The world we live in is truly what we make of it. It all depends on perspective. I choose to be positive and focus on what I cherish in my life and not worry about the elements that are out of my control. One factor to remember is that advancements around our world might change, but people and human nature do not.
What don’t you like about yourself?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have let others’ opinions affect me more than they should. I do not like that I put so much stock in what others think of me. The great thing is, I am getting better at only worrying about how I view myself.
What’s the funniest movie you’ve ever seen?
I love so many funny movies, and comedies are my favorite genre. But one that sticks out to me is Tropic Thunder from 2008. The performances are completely hilarious, and the writing is pure genius, but the film always conjures good vibes. The first time I saw Tropic Thunder, I really needed some cheering up, and it did exactly that. Plus, a bald Tom Cruise in a fat suit always cracks me up!
What is the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
Have low expectations for yourself so you won’t be disappointed.
I’ve heard that one before too…
I understand, in theory, what the person was trying to convey, and they meant well, but the advice was directed at my own performance. It gave me the feeling that no matter what I did, it would not be good enough, so why even try. The adage goes, “If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will either.” It was a long time before I believed in myself due to this piece of warped advice.
Thank you Valie for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Vali started and sold two successful businesses before she decided to pursue her real passion for writing. She published several articles in a variety of periodicals, including History Magazine, before she decided to try her hand at fiction. She grew up in the Midwest and now lives in Tucson with her husband, two sons, and two grandchildren.
In Beyond the Colored Line, book two of The Stella Trilogy, we meet Noah Daniels who is a member of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. There are two books I read that helped me to conceptualize his character in the most authentic way possible: Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton and The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas.
These books helped me to capture the language and the spirit of the movement as realistically as possible. I modeled Noah’s persona after both Huey Newton and Fred Hampton. Noah uses terms like “Pig,” regarding the police like the Panthers did in the 60s, but reading Newton’s story helped me to understand this wasn’t a random term they pulled out of the sky to be derogatory.
Black Panther rhetoric like “All Power to the People,” and the concept of “pig,” came with Newton’s interest in A. J. Ayer’s logical positivism, that nothing can be real if it cannot be conceptualized, articulated, and shared. While I do not agree with this philosophy as a person of faith (because faith is the opposite of this…the belief and expectation of something even when you cannot see it), it was helpful in me understanding the Panthers on a deeper level and thus helped me to make Noah’s story more real.
Not all research needs to be included in the story so you won’t hear Noah quoting A.J. Ayer. The point of research for historical books is to help the writer to better understand the culture of the time so the characters can interact with the setting genuinely.
Historical Fiction is not an easy genre to write because while the story itself is fictional, the dialogue and personas of the characters have to be true to the time. A young person living in 1960 wouldn’t speak like a young person living in 2020. If done right, adding authentic historical details enrich the story by triggering memories of the past.
Excerpt from Chapter Ten:
“That just bugs me. We supposed to march and get hit upside the head by the pigs?” he would say in conversations with his mother when he would visit her. Unlike many young black men raised by their mothers, Noah’s mother had decided early on that her son’s narrative would be different. When he came of age, she would turn him over to be raised by his father. She could provide a lot of things, but she could not teach him how to be a man. She supported most of Noah’s radicalism, but only to an extent.
“Now don’t you go rappin’ ‘bout all that communist jive talk in here boy. Violence and hatred never helped to expand no revolution.”
“But Ma, that’s where you’re wrong. It’s not about violence. It’s about defending ourselves. Violence is only the guilt complex that exists in the minds of America.”
Mama Daniels would lift her head to the ceiling, wishing she’d said nothing.
“To say that a man is violent because he defends himself does not differ from saying a man who is being lynched and thus fighting back is himself violent because he fights back.”
“Boy, what? You know, sometimes I wish you weren’t so smart.”
Noah laughed, “’cause you know I’m right. Mama, white Americans know that they have been violent against Negroes, and they fear that one day the Negro will do unto them as they have done unto the Negro.”
The 1960s presented a new wave of leadership and identity for people of color who went from being Negroes to Blacks. Just the previous year, the heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali refused induction into the army on both religious and political grounds. The epitome of the black power movement was the Black Panther Party, founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. This party organized the use of self-defense in the accomplishment of black justice and was right up Noah’s alley.
My main challenge for book two is making sure that it stays consistent with book one. This is important for any series, but for Historical Fiction, it is even more critical.
Since writing Historical Fiction is writing set in a time that has already occurred, the details of the past must be realistic to what was going on. A good Historical Fiction book places fictional characters somewhere in a world that has already existed in a way that reads authentic. Readers should be able to reimagine what that world was like by immersing themselves in the life of the characters and the world around them. I like to think of it as a time machine, which is also what makes writing #Histfic fun to me.
Style, Language, Dialogue
Like book one, book two opens in 1996 and picks up where we left off at Mama Sidney’s house in book one. But book two also takes us back into the life of Mama Sidney, and we revisit history from the 1920s through the 60s. My focus for book two was to make sure the dialogue, language, racial and political events occurring during this time were realistic to what was happening in the world. We talk about The Great Depression and touch on the reoccurring lynchings taking place in both the north and south. We look at the brutal murder of Emmett Till, the shooting of Dr. King, Jim Crow Laws, and The Black Panther Party. While I immerse Stella in her own world, there is still the larger world to deal with and we watch how she navigates both. How does Stella’s personal identity crises correlate to the identity crises plaguing her larger community?
The biggest thing to deal with for book two is the racial classifications of blacks during this period. African Americans are the only people whose racial terminology has changed with the census. We have been “Niggers,” Negros, Coloreds, Blacks, and African Americans, and this can get confusing when trying to use the right term for the right year. This is also not to mention other racial “nicknames” we called ourselves, such as Afro-American and The New Negro.
The challenge of using the right term for the right years is because there were terms that blacks preferred to call themselves and terms used discriminately by the wider society. Although by the 60s Black Americans were preferring to be called blacks or Afro-Americans (as Malcolm X used a lot after leaving the Nation of Islam) white separatist signage still referred to us as coloreds. “Whites Only / Coloreds Only,” or “Welcome to the Colored Zone,” banners and store signs could have read.
Credited to W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington, blacks advocated for a switch from Colored to Negro in the early 1920s. As blacks redefined themselves, terms like “The New Negro,” became popular and sparked a movement that later became known as The Harlem Renaissance.
By the 1960s, though, African Americans had transitioned from being “Negros,” to “Blacks.” (Malcolm X specifically didn’t like the term Negro).
During the Black Power movement when sayings such as “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” were popular (think James Brown “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud!”) blacks wore their hair natural, read and published black literature and did what they thought would reconnect them with their lost heritage. In this process, many black political leaders of the time, such as Kwame Ture or Stokely Carmichael, helped to shift the terminology away from Negro and toward Black. Black publications like Ebony followed by switching from Negro to Black.
While a large majority of people still preferred Negro, “Black“ was becoming the preferred term with the New York Times and Associated Press abandoning “Negro” in the 1970s.
By the 1980s, Jesse Jackson called for a shift from Black to African American and while the change is still not as accepted or monumental as black was during the 60s, it is the term most socially acceptable when referring to black Americans.
I had to consider these changes when referring to blacks throughout this part of the book. What did they call themselves? What did society call them? How do I integrate this into the dialogue and setting realistically?
Setting, language, and dialogue is the backbone of Historical Fiction because the setting makes the story seem real and determines the character’s beliefs and actions. Not only do I strive to make the characters stand out but the culture of the time in which they live.
About Book Two:
In book two, we dig deeper into the McNair family’s legacy. Named after her great-grandmother, Stella has a very light complexion causing her to be the tease of her classmates. Unable to find solace among her African American contemporaries, Stella finds it challenging to adjust to a world where she is too light to be black.
After The Great Depression of the 1930s forces Stella’s family to move to Chicago, a conversation with Aunt Sara provokes Stella to do something that will dramatically affect not just her life but the life of her children and grandchildren.
Stella: Beyond the Colored Line will be available through my website and back up on Amazon in digital and print by April 24th. I am not putting the rest of the books up for preorder, so you’ll be able to order it immediately on 4/24.
If you have not already read book one, click one of the links below.