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!

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