I’m Laura DiNovis Berry and I grew up in Lititz, PA, a town that once had its own chocolate factory and now draws famous musicians in.
Yess to chocolate. What genre do you write in, why?
I primarily write poetry. I dabble in short stories, but poetry is like painting with words and there’s something about verse that constantly drives me to keep pushing myself to improve in that arena.
Got another poet in the house ya’ll. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I self-published my first poetry chapbook, Bright Pink Ink, right before my wedding last year. It was extremely liberating. I was planning a wedding and a move from Pennsylvania to Texas so having the ability to channel some of my frustrations and nerves into that book provided me with a fantastic stress reliever.
Congrats on the book AND wedding! Laura, are you employed outside of writing?
I am! I have had the pleasure of working and learning from a wide variety of jobs. Currently I work as a Drama Teacher and work with children all the way from kindergarten up to high school. On the whole, it has been a wonderful experience.
I love teaching children. What’s the best thing about working with children?
There is nothing like working with human beings who have only been alive for a few years!
Their take on everything is fascinating. They can be exceptionally mean and fabulously kind – the reminder that they are still learning how to function in this world is sobering, but makes me feel extremely privileged to be a part of that growth. It can also result in some hilarious situations like having the kids be convinced that your hair is a wig since you’ve cut it short. I had to let my class of six year old tug on it to verify.
I understand also you write free poetry book reviews? Tell us about that.
I do! Book reviews are desperately needed in the poetry community so I created Berry’s Poetry Book Reviews last year. This is a platform for poets so they may reach out to a broader audience! The reviews I provide are free but I donate 10% of of my earnings and donations from patrons to a non-profit organization every year. Last year the beneficent of of these program was the Kennett Square Garage & Youth Center, an after school program which aims to empower middle and high school youth. This year, our combined efforts will be helping Lambda Literary!
Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?
Rugby has had a grip on me since college. Right now I play with the Corpus Christi Clams Women’s Rugby Club. I will be moving soon, sadly, but I have actually begun working on a full poetry collection inspired by the female rugby player’s experience so I don’t think I’ll be able to stop playing any time soon!
Alright now so we got another book in the works. If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
My husband would sniff at this, but there’s a very good chance it would end up looking like an earth witch’s hobbit hole.
It would be warm, cozy and lead out into a garden filled with vegetable, guarded by maple trees.
Okay that sounds better. Scared us there a moment. What skill do you think you’ve mastered?
Oh, that’s easy. The skill of being ridiculous.
Lol. Care to explain? What’s ridiculous about you?
Well, I am generally known to be silly – it is not an uncommon occurrence for me to start dancing…wherever really. I like to have a good time and make people laugh.
Yea, laughing is lit. Does blogging help you to write?
It does and it doesn’t. It helps in the sense that I practice different forms of writing (more journal-esque writing), but it hurts because I distract myself from working on my poetry.
Understood. Laura, life is not always pretty. We all experience hardship every now and again. What is your best advice for reducing stress?
Exercise – it doesn’t even have to be anything intense. Just the other night my husband and I were in, not quite a fight, let’s say more of a spat, but walking – taking a nice walk outside together – really helped both of us calm down and better engage with each other.
Nice. What do you love about yourself?
My parents once said I don’t know the concept of failure, and I think that is definitely something that I love about myself.
Thank you Laura for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Laura DiNovis Berry recognizes that poetry is a near magical craft that she will never fully understand but will forever be held in fascination by it. When she is not working on her own poetry, she provides free book reviews for her fellow contemporary poets.
We are so excited to meet all the amazing poets who will be entering this year’s contest! Prizes include a $50 Barnes and Noble gift-card, promotion, and publishing in our 2nd Edition, 2020 Poet Magazine. Below are some tips and best practices for bettering your chances of winning this contest! (For the video version of this post, go to my IG account and watch the EcTV version!)
Make sure your poem lines up with the theme surrounding one of these words: Strength, Courage, Wisdom, Faith (Read the rules).
To qualify as entry you MUST subscribe to my email list. CLICK HERE to sign up. Then, go ahead and send your poem to email@example.com. Don’t rush to write your poem and forget to sign up for the email list. Last year’s winner got her poem in just before the deadline and won the entire competition so take your time and do it right. The best way to remember is to sign up for the email list first and then spend the rest of the time writing your poem. (Read the rules)
Deadline for entry is August 1st. Winners announced November 1st. (Read the rules)
Poems are judged based on ORIGINALITY, style, and how closely it relates to the theme. Poems cannot be previously published in a book or online and plagiarism is cause for immediate elimination.
Pay Attention to the theme: If you submit a poem that is not about Strength, Courage, Wisdom, or Faith in some capacity you put yourself at risk for elimination. Why? Because poems that don’t follow the rules are one of the first to go. My team has to read through a lot of poems and you don’t wanna make it easier for them to disqualify you by not…following the rules.
Thanks a lot for the opportunity to introduce myself, and I hope I do your space proud. So here goes.
When I was a child, I asked one thing of God. I asked that I never live a boring life. I just know the minute I made that prayer that God leaned back, smiled, and said: “Okay, buckle up Mr. Adventure!”I guess you really need to be careful what you ask for. You just might get it. My name is William Ablan (not my real name, of course). I write under a pen name for one reason. About seventy-five percent of what I write about happened, and doing so under a pen name gives me the chance to put some distance between me and it. More on that later.
Okay Mr. Adventure, what was your childhood dream?
I was raised a cowboy, and I can do all the cowboy stuff to include riding, roping, branding, and so on. I’m the son of a rancher but realized at an early age that wasn’t the life I wanted. My eyes were fixed on the stars, and I wanted to ride a rocket into space (still might someday). I took my degree in the second most useless thing in the world and then couldn’t find a job.
Aww. That sucks. What then?
Two months later they called, and I spent the next twenty years being a police officer. As I said, I wanted adventure, and I got it. I worked not only the streets but undercover narcotics, plainclothes investigations, protected VIPs, been an Undersheriff and a Chief of Police. I can’t say I regretted my time working in Law Enforcement. During that time I’ve been assaulted several times, stabbed twice, and shot at a few times. It opened my eyes to the dark side of the human race.
It also showed me that there’s good in everyone. Sometimes, you have to dig to find it, but it’s there. Sometimes the last person on Earth you’d think would be at your side are the ones trying desperately to save the life of a stranger, or going into a dangerous situation and doing something heroic. Or something as simple as being vulnerable to try to talk to someone. The good is there, and when people let it out, it’s dazzling.
With, you being a former law enforcement officer, I have to ask. What do you think of police brutality in the black community? How would you solve this problem?
Any brutality isn’t good. I think I’m ill-equipped to answer that question. The towns and counties I was a police officer in had no black community. That said, it still happened, maybe not to blacks, but certainly other races. I knew Hispanic cops that got themselves in a bind being racist against whites, and the reverse is also true. But I also knew Hispanic cops who brutalized their own and the same concerning whites. The first time I was around a lot of blacks was when I was in the military. I never had any problems and count a huge number of blacks among my best friends.
What’s the answer? I wish I knew. Part of me says better training and better screening of potential police officers. I suspect the truth is simply being a better human being. I only know one way to get that, and that involves God.
William, what are your thoughts on race in general?
The genealogy stuff factors in with my views on race. I don’t get it. From what I’ve been able to learn, my ancestors got ran out of almost every decent country around, got here, and ran into more of my ancestors who did their best to scalp them. Somehow they managed to get along long enough to produce me. I’ve got blood connections to almost every people who have ever walked the Earth with the possible exceptions of China, Japan, and India (and it wouldn’t surprise me too much to find out it’s folded in there someplace).
Now an admission I wish I didn’t have to make. My parents were rather racist, especially against whites (and here I am, half white) I found their views disgusting. They openly expressed hate, and I thought that’s not logical. By their thinking, I’m having to hate part of me. I guess I’ve extended that thinking to all people since I have a pretty good idea of what became me.
Let’s talk about writing a bit. Why did you start writing?
I started writing because I’m into genealogy. I always heard stories about some of my ancestors, and with very few exceptions, none of them left more than the barest records of what they’d done and who they were. In some cases, the stories I heard weren’t true.
I can understand that for sure…
An example is my great, great grandfather. The story I heard was he was in the Confederate army, had been captured, and spent the war in the Union POW camp in Allentown. Now, granted, the POW system back then was a mess, but if you spent four years someplace, you would think your name would turn up. I could never find anything from the Confederate Army reference him either. Then one day, I got an unexpected break. Turns out he was never in the Confederacy, but in the Union Army. And he was an officer to boot. Where did the other story come from? Near as I can figure that since he was from North Carolina, they made it up so he wouldn’t get beat up! Later, he and his family came out west with the Mormon’s, and he was a General in their militia. I’d love to have known his stories and heard what he had to say.
What a story.
So, that’s why I started writing. I’ve not only been in places where history was being made but in some cases, helped shape it. I didn’t want my great, great grandchildren trying to figure out who I was. I’d leave a record for them.
But writing it down involved taking a step away from myself. Some of the events were still pretty raw and I had to report the best I could. I invented a character and inflicted my adventures on him. And a really funny thing began to happen. I discovered writing was healing.
I take it you are religious William…
Yes. I’m a Christian. Now why I’m a Christian involves what I could know I’m capable of being. In the Bible, we read the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee stood in the temple telling God how cool he was, and that he did this and that. Basically, he was telling God that God was lucky to have him on his side. The Tax Collector didn’t do that. The Bible tells us he stood there, admitting again and again that he a sinner. The Bible tells us it was the Tax collector who went away justified before God because he was being honest with God.
Well, I was the Pharisee. As a Police Officer, I saw it my duty to protect the world, and while I never abused anyone, took bribes, or such, I was viewing myself as the perfect person. It’s easy to do. What I didn’t realize is there was a monster in me.
One day, I ran into it. We were in Saudi Arabia, a few short days from invading Iraq. We had a Platoon Sgt who was horrible at best, incompetent at worse. He thought you pushed combat troops the same way you push recruits (you don’t, in case you’re wondering). He went down with us saying he wanted to get the purple heart. By day two, we were all willing to help him.
So, we’re breaking down and getting ready to move up to the border when he comes up and starts screaming at me about something. To this day I can’t tell you what he said. All I know what something in me said, “Screw him!” as he turned and started walking away, I suddenly felt a hand on top of mine. A friend of mine was whispering in my ear, “Will, he’s not worth it.” My pistol was halfway out of its holster. My friend had stopped me from doing something incredibly stupid. Had he not been there, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.
You got some stories in you William!
I got a glimpse of the monster in us, and it terrified me. I realized I was no better than some of the people I’d sent to prison for murder. It was a very humbling encounter. That night, I prayed, maybe for the first time in ages. I asked God that if he got me out of this intact, and my mind sane, I’d serve him. And I thanked him for putting someone in my life for stopping me from killing that man.
It was six months before I started trying to keep that promise. Today, I can’t imagine ever having been the guy who almost killed a man.
Enough heavy stuff.
Okay. Let’s switch it up a bit. Tell us more about you, what foods do you like? Music? That stuff.
I’m a huge fan of hamburgers.
Lol! Yes to hamburgers!
While I love County-Western music, and Rock, I spend most of my time listening to Classical music, especially when I’m writing. I’m into some of the newer stuff that has a classical sound to it (think the soundtrack to Tron by Daft Punk).
Umm.. no idea who that is but carry on.
And if there was a single artist I could shadow, it would be the country artist Charles Russell. I’d enjoyed spending an afternoon with him riding across the open plains. He wrote about and painted the land he loved. I guess it’s his passion I’d want to tap into.
What genre do you write in?
I write what can best be called Police Adventure. I published my first book last year. It’s called the Cross and the Badge, and to a large degree is about learning to live with the pains of the past. My next book is a direct sequel called “Dead Friends.” I’m aiming for a release date of 1 Sep.
Congratulations on the new release! I don’t think we discussed what you are doing now.
My wife and I live in a not so little town anymore called Greeley, Colorado. Some of my fondest memories is time spent with her. Like when we’d be coming back late at night from a gig she’d played (she played in a Country-Western band), stop under a star-filled sky, and talk until dawn.
I’ve children and grandchildren and could acquire great grandchildren here real soon. I’ve threatened my grand kids with death if they do that to me anytime soon. I’m too young to be a Great Grandfather.
And I like to introduce myself as a Writer who moonlights as a Systems Administrator. I’ve been working in Information Technology for over twenty years now. People consider me an expert (definition of an Expert – Someone who knows nothing about everything…)
…in Virtualization, Information Security, and Disaster Recovery. I must know something about it. I also teach it.
If you had a superpower that could chance the world, what would it be?
It’s odd that one of your questions would be about having a superpower and using it to change the world. I think I discovered I had a superpower while I was a police officer. It was the ability to change lives, often times for the good. Granted, there are people I sent to prison. I thank God we have prisons to put some of those people in (some of them were a lot dangerous or crazy or whatever. Suffice it to say, they killed people and enjoyed it). But often times I was able to intervene in things and get people the help they needed to get them off the path that led to those places. I guess if the superpower had a name it would be called “caring.” I found myself being a mentor, a counselor, and an encourager. As I see it, I’d been placed in a unique position, and I’d be a fool not to try to help people out.
While I hung up my guns over twenty years ago, I still find myself helping people. As part of my church, I find myself working closely with veterans, gang members, and people life has beat up. And I suppose in some crazy way, that answers one of your questions about what love is. I know there’s the love I have for my wife, children, and grandchildren, but this is the kind of love Jesus has I suppose. The kind of love that tells someone that they’re important and not something to be feared or cast aside. I always remember that one of the miracles he performed was with a leper. A leper was someone who should never be touched. Before Jesus healed him, he touched him. He acknowledged that person as important. To me, that was a true miracle.
So, you don’t need to be able to fly, or have knives come out of your wrist to change the world. Sometimes you just need to stand up and try.
Thank you William for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
William R. Ablan is a graduate of Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado where he majored in Astronomy and Physics. Because of the tough job market, he spent the next twenty years in Law Enforcement where he’s worked as a Police Officer and Deputy Sheriff. He’s also held several important positions to include Undersheriff, Chief of Police, and Regional Emergency Manager for the San Luis Valley. He’s also an eight-year U.S. Army combat veteran where he served as a Military Policeman where he worked undercover narcotics and investigations. He’s been decorated several times for heroism and performance in both Law Enforcement and the Military.
He’s currently the author of “The Cross and the Badge.” His second book, “Dead Friends” will be released September 1, 2019. It’s what he calls, Autobiographical fiction in that the majority of the cases happened, but he’s taken some literary license with the facts to turn them into a work of fiction.
Will hung up his guns in the 90s, and has work in the Information Technology field since. He’s considered an expert in Network Security, Cloud Technologies, and Virtualization.
He resides in Greeley, Colorado with his wife Julie and works with veterans through his local church. He has children and grandchildren, and currently lives in dread of possibly becoming a great grandfather.
The purpose of this year’s theme is to use words that empower and inspire us to be the best version of ourselves. We talked about Self-Love last year and now it’s time we spoke it into existence and live it through our actions.
Choose any one of these words to dedicate your poem to.
Strength, Courage, Wisdom, Faith
The poems submitted must be original work. This means that the poems must be written by you. If we find a poem that resembles any previously published poem in any way that poet will be disqualified from the competition. Poems must be your own work.
The poem must not be previously published in a book or anywhere online (including your blog)
The poems will be judged based on originality, writing, style and how closely the poem adheres to the theme.
We are judges of the competition only. All poets are welcomed to enter regardless of race, religion, political views or location.
*Poems using discriminatory language will be disqualified from the competition.
All poems must be written in English. In the event a poet wins this competition and their residence is outside of the U.S., any prize requiring shipping (if any) will be awarded in digital form. ex. ebooks /e-cards.
All poets must be at least 18 years of age to submit.
There is no entry fee for this competition, but you must subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HEREto enter. Anyone who subscribes only to unsubscribe beforethe competition is complete (any time before the winners are announced) will be disqualified for the win. Any subscription that has not been made before 11:59pm EST on August 1st will be disqualified.
Authors of the winning poems grant Yecheilyah of Literary Korner Publishing the right to publish the poems on her blog located at www.thepbsblog.com as the winning poem. Permission is granted upon entry of the contest for publishing to The PBS Blog. The poets retain all rights and copyrights of their own work. (I don’t own your stuff.)
Upon submission, poets grant Yecheilyah of Literary Korner Publishing the right to publish the poem in the Literary Korner Publishing 2020 Magazine Edition. The poets retain all rights and copyrights of their own work. (I don’t own your stuff.)
Multiple entries to this contest are allowed. If submitting multiple poems there is a 2-poem max per poet.
Entry is taken as acceptance of ALL of these guidelines.
Click on THIS link and subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list. This will automatically give us your name and email address. *If you are already subscribed to my list you are halfway there! Just email your poem*
Once you’ve subscribed to the list, please send your poem(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both of the above steps are needed for a poem to be considered submitted.
Winners are announced November 1, 2019 on The PBS Blog and across social media.
$50 Barnes and Noble Gift card
Publishing in the 2020 2nd Edition Literary Korner Publishing Magazine for Poets
Publishing and Author Spotlight Interview on Yecheilyah’s Blog (over 2800 subscribers, 70k views a week)
3 Runner-Ups (Wins everything minus the gift card)
4 Honorable Mentions (Wins publishing in the LKP 2020 Edition Magazine)
All entrants will have the chance of being featured in the magazine. Put your best foot forward, only a few will be chosen!
Don’t forget to support the contributors to this year’s contest.
Follow Tehilayah’s Blog HERE Follow Lisa’s Blog HERE
Wanna sponsor this contest? We are looking for poetry related books and publishing services from sponsors. If you would like to sponsor a poetry book or collection, writing services (editing, proofreading, ebook formatting), gift cards and more for our poets, reply to this post or email me at email@example.com. In return you get promotion alongside our contest both on my blog and across social media. Whenever the contest is promoted, so will you be.
What exactly am I working on now? A lot of things but mostly my memoir. Now that Keep Yourself Full is on its way out, I really want to get this done and I will have to deter a lot of projects to do it. At least until I finish the first draft and then I can work on other stuff and just work on the memoir from there.
This is the hardest writing job I’ve ever undertaken. I have deleted everything I ever sent my email list as a sneak peek two years ago (can’t believe I let you in on that *insert eye-ball roll*) and have started over. I am fifty pages and nine chapters into the first draft so it’s not so bad considering starting over. What I don’t want this memoir to be is an autobiography. I’ve always wanted to write an autobiography, but that’s before I learned the difference between the two.
I learned memoirs differ from autobiographies. Memoirs are popular because they center on one theme and read like novels,making them much more interesting than the chronological format of the autobiography.
One thing I am working on is not making this psychoanalytic, if that’s the right word. While I’ve endured much trauma in my life, I don’t want this to be a dark history of my crazy. I don’t want this to be a therapy session. This is difficult because I’m not a sugarcoat type person and neither is my mother. I gotta keep it all the way real. I gotta be honest. How do I do this without going too far?
My title is “I Wasn’t Built to Break,” so my theme is to take all the things that have been obstacles and challenges in my life, that could have broken me physically, mentally, and emotionally, but didn’t. This means that I will not go into every single detail of my life but I will focus on certain significant events, starting with growing up in the Robert Taylor Projects.
Anyone who grew up in any of Chicago’s projects is a survivor in my eyes, a warrior. It meant they not only escaped the drugs, violence, poverty, neglect, and gangs, but they also escaped literal death. Perched above the high-risers of Robert Taylor and Cabrini Green, snipers (aka Gang Members) with high-powered rifles would sit on a top floor (in a vacant apartment) and shoot their rivals. These bullets though, often hit innocent bystanders, mostly children. I remember my Uncle coming to school to get us early because the buildings were shooting, and we had to run to our building. When I say it was a Warzone, I mean that literally. And none of us project kids ever got counseling or therapy for the things we saw. Not even the classmates of the seven-year-old Dantrell Davis from Cabrini who was shot by a sniper on his way to school in 1992 in front of his mother, teachers, police officers, and classmates.
Writing a memoir is no easy task so my approach is to research and write this as if I am writing a Historical Fiction novel, except everything is true. Since I enjoy writing Historical Fiction, I’ll use history as a buffer. Instead of focusing on my experiences only, I want to take us back into the politics of some of what was going on in the world I did not have knowledge of as a kid. There’s my world where I can only see what’s in front of me and around me. As, a child my view is limited not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. I can only understand my current surroundings and circumstances from an eight-year-old‘s perspective (which is the timeframe I am focusing on in the beginning of the book). Then there’s the world at large. How did the decisions of others affect me, one of 21,000 children growing up in what became known as one of the poorest urban communities in the United States, a concentration of poverty they called it, the Robert Taylor Projects?
I want to go into how the projects under the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) replaced the Chicago Slums, the discriminatory policies like redlining that kept blacks from purchasing homes in their own neighborhoods, the kitchenettes and one-room basements blacks lived in during the 30s, 40s and 50s, the beacon of hope the projects promised as a replacement, the mixed-community that was there (because whites and blacks both lived in the PJs!), the racial riots that never made the news, and the racist policies that caused many white families to move out of the projects and into the suburbs. Also, the Plan for Transformation that demolished Public Housing and replaced them with a mixed-income community of condos and townhomes and what this cultural mix meant for former public housing residents. (There is even history behind the name Robert Taylor. He was a black man on the board of CHA who opposed building the projects on the same land as the slums. He wanted to spread them out, so they fully integrated blacks throughout Chicago. After CHA refused, he quit. To name a building after him in the same location he worked against was disrespectful and an insult to his memory.)
I hope that if I do this, it will be a much more enjoyable read. I want to incorporate both history and personal testimony with the testimony supporting the history. I remember for instance that whole “Homie the Clown” Scare of the early 90s. I remember that because I had nightmares of the clown coming into our apartment and chasing me around the couch. In 1991, rumors surfaced that a man who we called “Homie the Clown” was riding around in a van kidnapping and killing kids. “Homey the Clown,” was the name of a character played by Damon Wayans on the early 90s sketch-comedy show In Living Color. The character was an angry black ex-con who carried a sock for knocking bad kids upside the head. His catchphrase was “Homey don’t play that.” Our “Homie the Clown” was allegedly dressed as a clown and went around kidnapping kids. Rumors said that he rode in a van and liked to stand next to mailboxes eating bananas. This sounds silly now, but it was serious back then, just like the recent clown scares. We got let out of school early and children were afraid to walk by mailboxes. It also didn’t help that Stephen King’s IT had also just come out.
It wasn’t all bad though so I want to talk about the close knit community that existed there too that never made the news. Generations of families grew up together in what is rarely seen today. My mother’s friend, who lived next door, helped her to babysit. People watched one another children, shopped together, stepped up when someone was in need and shared food. We could go next door or downstairs to ask if someone had sugar or flour. We bartered services and passed along information about job openings or what was new at the Aid office and the candy lady was an entrepreneur. She used her food stamps to open a candy store back when you can get one piece of candy for every penny you had, better known as Penny Candy. People threw house parties and sleepovers. Robert Taylor was not just a concentration of poverty. It was also a thriving community. When things were good, they were really good, and everyone was family. But you didn’t see this on the news. We were not all crack babies. We were not animals.