Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"What's-Up-Wednesday Guest Interview!"

First, I would like to say “Good morning” to everyone! Then I would like to welcome you all to another segment of the “What’s-Up-Wednesday” Guest Interview. Our special guest for today is my friend and fellow writer, Leona G. Shankle, otherwise known as “Dellgirl”. Leona is the author of the book, "At The Starting Gate" (a collection of assorted poetry and short stories ranging from humorous to serious and inspirational) and the author of the blog by the same name, located here. Please help me to welcome Leona to my blog.

Welcome to my blog, Leona. I am so honored that you would be my guest today. Please make yourself comfortable and I’ll get right down to asking you some questions. I know that my readers are very anxious to learn all about you, so I’ll begin with something easy.

Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, including how long you have been writing?

I am the mother of three grown kids; two boys with a girl in the middle; I've been married to the same man for 40 years this past July 12th; I'm a retired teacher; and I'm a lover of life in “La-la-land” (which I only experienced for a very short time while the kids were young).

I have been writing since the first grade. However, I started my writing life as a plagiarist. Let me explain: after I learned to write, I copied everything I saw. I copied every single thing that Miss Hawkins, my teacher, wrote. I copied the stories straight from our first reading book and made tiny books of my own. Later, after I learned to read and to put words together into meaningful sentences, I made up my own stories and made books, complete with traced illustrations.

By fifth and sixth grade I became disillusioned with the inaccuracies of my tracings and ventured out into free-hand drawings. Writing took a back seat, and drawing was my new passion.

I didn’t get back to writing until after I was married and had two little ones. It was then that I started writing articles and short stories, only to put them in folders and store them away. When the kids reached junior high school, I braved the bold new world of submitting some of my articles, jokes, and short stories to magazines. But then, life took over the reins and it was football games; cheerleading practice; chaperoning this or that trip; proms; and PTA meetings. Writing was again put on hold.

In early December of 2007, my daughter, Jordyn, urged me to get started writing that book I always talked about. I started writing it in January 2008. The rest is history because I am now a published writer.

Was there a light bulb moment that inspired you into becoming a writer?

My “light bulb moment” happened on my first day of school, September 1953. I watched, mesmerized, as my teacher wrote on the cover of my “Big Chief Tablet”. The “moment”, still frozen in time, is the inspiration for the poem in my book, “At The Starting Gate”, that pays tribute to my first grade teacher.

Here is the excerpt from my poem:

“The Agony of Waiting”

Miss Hawkins calls us

one by one

to her desk with our things.

I watch

eager with excitement


On the front cover

of my tablet,

she neatly prints

my name, my grade,

her name —

Miss Mattie L. Hawkins.

Transfixed, I stare

as her hand flows


across the page,

letter by letter until

my information is complete.

From that moment on, I was hooked on writing.

What genre would you say is your favorite?

When it comes to my reading preferences, I have no favorite genre; I love them all. In earlier years, before computers and the Internet, I avidly read everything from historical novels to trade publications, all the way to the ingredients on the back of cereal boxes.

As a writer, I am not established in a particular genre – yet. My first and only published book, “At The Starting Gate”, is a collection of my poetry and short inspirational pieces. In the future, I plan to try my hand at fantasy, mystery, and romance novels; short stories; and maybe even a thriller.

When you write, do you use outlines?

Not an outline per se, but I will at some point. What I do use are bulleted lists, which consist of my title, main idea, and some supporting details.

What are you currently working on?

Right now, when life is not dictating the terms by dragging me in a direction other than the one I want to travel in, I am working on my second book. It is taking on a life of its own, in the form of another collection of poetry, inspirational pieces, and short stories. This is a far cry from the 900-page novel that I proclaimed I would write many, many years ago. But, it’s all good. At least now I am writing, instead of “talking about” writing.

I also have a Daily Devotional Book in the works. This will be a group project with the ladies of my Wednesday morning Bible class. I proposed the idea that we each share an inspirational story to include in the book. The ladies were receptive and really excited about having our very own devotional book. At the moment, it remains in the “idea” stage, and will remain there until September, when everyone returns from summer vacations and other summer obligations.

I really love the sound of your “Daily Devotional Book”. That sounds like a wonderful idea. What other hobbies/interests do you have?

I love to read, anything and everything. I enjoy word games and puzzles. Again, before computers and the Internet, my passions were sewing, crafts, as well as teaching and tutoring.

In addition to that, I love jewelry-making, quilting, antiquing, and upholstery.

Do you have someone special that you look up to or a hero in your life?

There are teachers and leaders I respect, admire, and view as an influential source of inspiration.

However, my number one hero is my daddy. When I look back at where my dad came from, at the challenges he faced on a daily basis, the obstacles he had to overcome, and the difficulties he must have encountered, teaching himself to function at a higher level, I am amazed.

It was not until I was grown, married and had children of my own that I realized he was “a man ahead of his time”. Who is my hero? My daddy —
Hermise Mason Wilkins (July 25, 1918 — September 3, 1988).

"Rest in peace, Daddy!"

What is the story behind the adorable name of “Dellgirl”?

I am the oldest of four children, with three younger brothers. I was “Daddy’s girl” and, although he is gone, I am still “Daddy’s girl”.

Daddy was an extraordinary man, a self-taught carpenter beyond compare, an uneducated man who had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Dell is part of my middle name, Glendell, and everyone else simply called me Dell. Daddy called me "DellGirl", but sometimes he shortened it to DG.

Who are your favorite authors?

Due to the fact that I love so many different types and styles of writing, it would be impossible to name them all. However, for starters, the following names come to mind: Edgar Allen Poe, Spencer Johnson, Maya Angelou, Alice walker, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, and Ernest Hemingway.

What are your favorite writing links and your favorite writing resources?

A few of my favorite writing links and writing resources are:
Write Better at Writer’s Digest
A Book Inside — How to Write and Publish A Book
Sharing With Writers and Readers
Daily Writing Tips
Grammar Book.com

If you could only share one thing, what is the best advice that you would want to share with a fellow writer?

The one piece of advice I would impart to a writer sounds naively simple. At first glance, one would think I am being condescending. I am not. The one thing a would-be-writer must do is …

Just WRITE! Whatever it is you think you want to write, write it. Write until you have a nice stack, then and only then, edit and revise.

Your first order of business is to — WRITE!

That advice is not condescending at all. It’s excellent advice. In fact, I make it a practice to wait until I’ve written several chapters before I even think about editing, so you are right on track.

I want to thank you so much for joining us here today, Leona. We have really enjoyed the interview and I'm sure that my readers will be visiting you at your blog here and your website here from now on. I hope you'll come back for a return visit when you publish your next book. God bless you and all the best to you, Leona!

I just received my own, personal copy of Leona's book and I'm in the process of reading it now. So far, I can tell you that I'm glad that I bought the book. It's filled with delightful little stories and poems that obviously bring back vivid memories to the writer and conjure up sweet pictures for the reader. I especially like "The Joys of Being A Mechanic's Wife", "The Last Cookie", "The Friday Afternoon Storyteller", "The Bench By The Back Door", and "It's Time To Fly." Actually, I have just hunted and pecked throughout the book because I don't want to finish it all at once. It's really a very cute little book.

If you would like to know more about Leona and her publishing company, or where you can purchase her book, please feel free to visit her website, here.

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I hope you enjoyed the interview and be sure to come back next Wednesday for my interview with the mysterious fiction writer, "Aylerion".

Until next time...stay safe, stay well, and may God bless you all.


Please visit my other blogs:
Cynde's Daybook ~and~ Usurper Exposed. Thank you!


Lin said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I bought Dellgirl's book and thoroughly enjoyed it. She is one of my first blogging friends and it's been fun watching her grow as a writer. It's a whole new world on the Internet and fun to find encouragement and stimulating thoughts for our writing and life.

Cynde L. Hammond said...

Hi, Lin!

You're quite welcome. I'm enjoying her book, as well.
Yes, there's a huge territory of information available to anyone who wants to take the time to explore the Internet, and it opens up a vast new world of entertainment and learning capabilities.
In addition to that, we are able to make some wonderful new friends along the way, which is my favorite part.
Thanks for stopping by.


dellgirl said...

WOW!!! That's all I can say. I am so humbled at the awesome job you have done, Cynde. This is so beautiful and special I will have to wait until I calm down to respond appropriately.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the interview with you, it was a fun and heart-warming experience.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Kay Dennison said...

Love this -- nice to get to know Dellgirl better!!!!!

Cynde L. Hammond said...

My Dearest Leona,

It was entirely my pleasure to do this interview with you. I enjoyed myself immensely and I am so glad to have gotten to know you better.

You are a delightful person, a talented writer, and now, a new friend.

It makes me overjoyed to know that you like the way I presented the interview on my blog. I was so afraid that I might disappoint you, and I did not want to do that.

God bless you, Leona, and please, let's keep in touch.


Cynde L. Hammond said...

Dear Kay,

I'm glad that you enjoyed the interview and that you feel you know "Dellgirl" better now. That was the entire purpose of the interview, and in so doing, people would then want to buy her adorable book.

Thanks for stopping by and I do hope to see you again!


A Frugal Friend said...

What a great interview......I feel like I know just a bit more about my bloggy friend, dellgirl.

Congratulations to you both on a wonderful interview!

Kay said...

I've just always loved reading every one of Leona's posts on her blog. It was fun to read this interview and get to know her even better! I love the name Dellgirl even more now that I know how it came to be.

Cynde L. Hammond said...

Dear Frugal Friend--

I'm so glad that you enjoyed the interview. It's great when you learn little tidbits about a friend, isn't it?
By the way, I love your blog! I think I'll start popping in on you every once in a while, and I hope you'll do the same with me.

Dear Kay--
Yes, I also love Leona's blog, "At The Starting Gate", which has the same name as her website AND her book.
The story of Dellgirl is really adorable, and it's so sweet that she is still so devoted to her father, even though he is gone. It reminds me of how I feel about my father who is also in heaven. I just adore Dellgirl--she's a real sweetheart!

I visited your blog, too. It's great! I'll be seeing you again, too!

It was nice "meeting" both of you and I hope to see you again.


Jordyn said...

Well, DellGirl is my MOM! And I am SO proud of her. I'm the middle child she spoke of...the one she said gave her so many problems. Oh, what? she didn't say that? Ooops :-)

I have seen mother write all of my life - short stories, poems, journals, magazine competitions, you name it she has written it. It was an absolute blessing to witness her putting together her writings for "At the Starting Gate." She was determined, even after 40 years of marriage and nearly the same of raising kids, that her dream would come true. And it is...right before our eyes.

I have always loved the way she adds a sense of humor to everything...the way she tells such a gentle story...the way she lures us in with vivid imagery and emotional appeal. I love her book, probably because I was a witness to most of those stories in some way. If not there, I can certainly think back and remember the time. Because of her I, too, am gifted to write and it is one that I cherish most.

Cynde, "The Mechanic's Wife" is hilarious, and believe it or not, it is TRUE! Sorry Mom. Every word of it. I lived it with her, shared in her frustration, and was baffled by her grace in it all. LOL.

DellGirl is just awesome. She's a beautiful writer, a genuine and funny person, and a one-of-a-kind model of a mother. I love her to death. Cynde, thanks for taking time to interview her so that others can come to know a bit of her story. Hopefully they will come to believe as she does, "it's never too late to dream."

Jordyn Lorenz, DellGirls little chic-a-dee

Cynde L. Hammond said...

Dear Jordyn,

I truly adore what you have written here about your mom. It's plain to see how much you love her, and also how much her writing has impacted your life.

I am so grateful to you for encouraging her to finally go forward and "reach for the stars". Everyone needs someone that believes in them enough to push them to do what they need to do, and you were that person. Now your mom has blossomed into a writer that at long last has some confidence in her own abilities and she shines like a beacon on a hill.

I am so blessed that the Lord put both of you in my life--you have definitely enriched it!

I totally love the story entitled "The Mechanic's Wife". I hope that other people buy her book so that they can enjoy it, too.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, and I hope you'll keep coming back.

In His Love,
Don't forget to check out my other blog:
Cynde's Daybook

mom/caryn said...

Well... .I for one am right down proud of you Dellgirl!!

I haven't bought the book. It appears as though I should. I will say this. If the stories you have given birth to hold even a small percent of the value as the young woman you gave birth to, you are a master indeed.

Loved the interview. Loved your daughters comments about you. Love having you drop by my site now and then. You're a special lady.