Thursday, January 27, 2011

LIFE AS AN ASPIRING FREELANCE WRITER

It has been several months, since I posted on the blog. Tonight I ran into an acquaintance who said she had been to my blog but noticed I had not posted anything new. My face began to burn with embarrassment. I have a commitment to my followers to share my writing. I don't have any excuse. I should have written about the 69th anniversary of the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7. I should have written so


mething about the Invisible Warriors, who are dying every day, I apologize to anyone who may have wanted to follow my blog. I will make it a point to write every day. Tonight I am free writing.

There are many resources for writers such as online workshops, books, writing coaches and editing services. In articles writing experts advise aspiring writers like me to write, wright, write. This is good advice and I have been writing. I just submitted an essay I wrote about a family tragedy to contests. Now I have my fingers crossed.

The title of my essay is "Jessie's grand kids and the charcoal painting. Jessie who is six years older than me is my niece. Sadly, three years ago their mother murdered her late son's daughters. It was hard for most of us to understand how a mother could murder her own children, even though research has shown that young children are more likely to be abused and sometimes murdered by their mother than anyone else. For the last 20 years, I have had a print of a charcoal painting by Bermudian artists, Sharon Wilson. The painting is of a young mother who sits on the floor lotus style with her baby. She is holding her baby so that there noises are touching. For me, this image represents the bond that a mother has with her child. A bond that is supposed to last forever. This image is incongruent to the image of a mother methodically murdering her children. This is what I wrote about. Now I have to wait three months to hear if I won. In the meantime, I have been pitching the Randolph Williamson Jr. story to my local newspaper.

Sammy, my two-year-old Beagle hound mix, prompted my other writing project. I want to know if it is better to adopt a dog or buy from a breeder. Based on my research I honestly believe it is more humane to adopt. If Sammy had not been rescued, he would have been euthanized. This wonderful little dog would have been given an injection to put him to sleep.

Through my research, I have learned that shelter dogs or rescue dogs are healthier than many dogs raised by Puppy Mill owners. My advice to anyone who wants a dog is to check out your local shelter or SPCA and adopt. You won't regret it. I promise.

Well, it's after midnight and my eyes are getting heavy. Look for more updates later.

Monday, October 18, 2010

STILL SEARCHING FOR RANDOLPH WILLIAMSON JR

I've been away working on three story ideas. I am still waiting for information from the National Park Service in Hawaii about Randolph Williamson. I also have an op-ed I am pitching about a very sad family experience and my third writing project is about quilting. Is quilting a dying art? Or, does anyone younger than 60 hand sew quilts?

Wow, when do I get to sleep? I don't. It's midnight and I had planned to be in bed by ten p.m. Oh well. Life is so exciting. I do have a writing project for this blog and I hope to post it by Friday. In the meantime, check outhttp://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Homeless-Female-Veterans.
Sharon Denise  

Monday, September 20, 2010

WRITING FOR A LIVING

It appears I am not the only person who has problems blogging every day. Today fellow blogger Maggie Sullivan wrote about the notorious "Writer's block," that writers sometimes experience on her blog titled "I simply found it difficult to write" ramblingsfromtheleft.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/mondays-at-home. Sullivan notes that writing on a blog several days a week is "as pressing as keeping a deadline for a newspaper or magazine.”

Sullivan, who is a published author and editor, describes the process of developing an idea and transferring that idea from her brain to paper. She also writes that sometimes this work did not make it from the brain to the blank page, but rather "remained, often untended and with no conscious effort on my part, continued to grow," she writes.

Like Sullivan when my work does not make it from my brain to the blank page, it remains, often untended and with no conscious effort on my part, continuing to grow. Sullivan writes that she believes "our worst nightmares, fears and insecurities are the product of those lousy weeds needing to go to the trash."

What does this mean for aspiring writers like me? Sullivan writes that her stories are" event-driven, an alter-ego, a character from an ongoing series, the memory of someone from my childhood or the man across the counter at a diner this morning." This is also true for me. For example, I am currently working on an article I hope to convince my local newspaper to publish.

Last year I interviewed a wonderful 92-year-old woman in my city named Millie Dunn Veasey. Veasey, who is black, had served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. She casually mentioned that one of her classmates died on board the battleship USS Arizona December 7, 1941 during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, HI. I have carried that bit of information in my brain for more than a year without understanding the impact of what she had said. I mentioned this young man, Mess Attendant Second Class Randolph Williamson Jr. in chapter one of my book. I even checked the Arizona casualty list and found his name. But, I did not connect the dots – this young man from my state may have been one of the first men to die in that war. More importantly, he may have been the first black man to die during World War II. This is relevant.

Thus, like Sullivan I had an idea that was event driven churning around in my mind but it would take time before that idea could make it to paper. The way Sullivan describes this process is that "the idea gets stuck in your brain, it becomes that germ and most of us, at least at the beginning, never know what we’ll get, a bouquet or a tangled mess."

Sullivan wrote about her feelings and experiences but she also described my writing journey and probably that of many other writers as well. Today Sullivan motivated me to write for my blog. Last weekend I completed a 1,000-word draft about my shipmate, Petty Officer Williamson and I am working on my query letter. Wish me luck and if you are an inspiring writer check out Sullivan's blog.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

MY WRITING BLOCK IS OVER

I have been away from my blog for nearly three months. When I started this blog, I did not realize how much time and effort it would take. I still believe my primary goal, which is telling the story of black men and women who served in the US military during World War II is worth telling and I intend to complete my project. However, I now understand it is not as easy as I thought it would be.

None-the-less, after working on other projects and completing a one-month deployment with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Kentucky in support of a flood disaster relief there I am writing again.

This was my second deployment with FEMA as a research/writer. Working in a Joint Field Office External Affairs Office (public affairs office) is just like working in a Navy public affairs office. The only difference is I did not have to wear a uniform or call anyone 'Sir' or 'Ma'am'.

I learned something from this experience. It is good to be able to do honest work – especially when that work makes a difference. This experience also reminded me of how important my twenty-year military experience was. The military is where I developed my work ethic. The first two weeks I was in Kentucky I worked from7 am until 7 pm, seven days a week – nothing new for a sailor. It was rough, but I understood the reasoning. I was comfortable in Lexington, which is about 100 miles away from Pike County, where most of the mid-July flooding occurred. But there was little comfort for many of the families in the flooded areas where it was a 24-hour a day, seven day a week reality – I could not complain.

In spite of the long hours, many of the Disaster Assistance Employees or DAEs (as we are called because we are FEMA's reserve force) are older. Some are retired and several of my co-workers are in their seventies and older. Like me, many DAEs are also ex-military.
It is unfortunate that it takes a disaster, such as an earthquake, oil spill, hurricane or a major flood to bring work for DAEs like me, but natural disasters and sadly some man-made disasters cannot be avoided. I have been following Hurricane Igor in the Atlantic right now. I live in North Carolina and hope this category-four storm does not hit my state. It looks as if it may possibly hit Bermuda. I was stationed in Bermuda and as grateful as I am that the US is not in danger I am not relieved that the storm may hit Bermuda. All I can do is pray that the storm stays out to sea and disappears.
In the meantime, I am writing again and I am writing about the black military men and women who served during World War II. I owe them so much.

Friday, June 25, 2010

MY HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED

Yesterday I spent some time in the State Library of North Carolina looking at microfilm of back issues of The Raleigh News and Observer. As I scanned the newspaper pages from 1941, I was struck by something odd. The headline of every story involving someone black included "Negro" in the headline. Headlines for stories involving whites did not indicate that the subjects of those articles were white.


I read sports stories with the first word of the headline reading, "Negro." The headline for auto accident reports began with the word "Negro." Even obituaries identified the deceased as "Negro."

I am still trying to understand why the N&O staff felt the need to indicate when a news story was about a black person. Was this to warn white readers that they could skip the story? Or, was it a way to notify black readers that there was some news about them in that issue? Today I can not understand the relevance of identifying stories about a black person.

This was the world Invisible Warriors fought to change. I was in the library looking for information about Randolph Williamson. Williamson was a Raleigh, North Carolina native who was killed onboard USS Arizona during the December 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. I believe Williamson was probably one of the first black men killed in the war and certainly the first black man from North Carolina.

Now 69 years after December 7, 1941 I sit here in my comfortable townhouse, typing away on my laptop and enjoying a comfortable middle class life thanks to men such as Williamson. This morning when I read my morning paper, the N&O none of the headlines identified race in headlines. Things really have changed.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, June 20, 2010

SAYING GOODBYE TO A FAMILY FRIEND

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a family friend. Jack Wiggins, who was 92 when he died, had been a family friend for as long as I could remember. He was also an invisible warrior (black men and women who served during World War II). When I started working on my book, I drove 50 miles from my home in Raleigh North Carolina to his home in Nash County. When I got to the house I knocked several times, but no one answered. I later learned Mr. Jack, as we knew him, no longer lived in the aging, clapboard house he had lived in when I was a child. He had moved into a mobile home behind the house. That was two years ago. I planned to go back to interview Mr. Jack but never found the time – now I have lost my chance to interview him. Another warrior has taken his story to the grave.

After the funeral, I talked to Mr. Jack's son and his younger brother, but neither could give me much information about this warrior's service. His son, Toby did remember his father mentioning that the father had been a truck driver in the Army. Toby also believed his father served in Europe. I went to ancestry.com and found Mr. Jack's enlistment information. In 1942, Mr. Jack received his draft notice; he enlisted in the Army on April 30, 1942. As a truck driver he was probably assigned to a quartermaster unit. He may have been a part of the Red Ball Express: one of World War II's most massive logisitics operations, namely a fleet of over 6,000 trucks and trailers that delivered over 412,000 tons of ammunition, food, and fuel (and then some!) to the Allied armies in the ETO between August 25 and November 16, 1944, http://www.skylighters.org/redball. Or he may have been a truck driver in Italy where my uncle drove trucks.

I do not know how Mr. Jack felt about serving his country. I imagine he faced the same racism other warriors faced. I have no way of knowing how Mr. Jack handled serving in a segregated army. He grew up in North Carolina and probably had personal knowledge of bigotry. Still he fulfilled his commitment to his country, came home to his wife and child and went to work on my family's farm. My parents and the Wiggins quickly became close friends.

I remember Mr. Jack as a very handsome, gentle, and understanding man. His wife, Betty Blanche, who died in 1975, had been one my mother's closest friends. In my mother's later life Mama and Mr. Jack, the widow and widower spoke by telephone twice a day. My siblings and I were indebted to him for his friendship with our mother in her later years.

Now this warrior is at peace. I never got the chance to thank him for his service or his friendship with my mother. As an Army soldier folded the flag from Mr. Jack's coffin, and a bugler blew taps I stood at attention and rendered a salute. Then I silently mouthed, 'Thank you Mr. Jack for paving the way for me to serve my country.'

The men and women of the greatest generation have passed the baton to my generation and they a taking their well deserved rest.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Saturday, April 10, 2010

WHY HITLER FAILED

In 1925 future German dictator, Adolph Hitler called blacks "half-ape" in his propaganda rag, Mein Kamph. He wrote, "From time to time the illustrated papers show how a Negro has become a lawyer, teacher of perhaps even a minister. It never dawned on the degenerate middle class America that this is truly a sin against all reason. It is criminal madness to train a half-ape until one believes one had made a lawyer of him."

Hitler underestimated the capabilities of men and women of African descent, who willingly helped the Allied Powers defeat Germany. One such individual was Ghana Africa native, Akasease Kofi Boakye Yiadom, who was only 14 when Hitler wrote Mein Kamph – 16 years later he would help the allies defeat the country lead by the man who believed blacks, such as Yiadom were "half-apes." Recently, this 99-year-old World War II veteran, earned his college degree again dispelling Hitler's myth.
99-Year-Old Ghanaian Man Graduates College

The man who sought to conquer the world had a distorted view of anyone who was not like him – always a dangerous view. He underestimated the depth of the capabilities of the men and women he called "half-apes." Hitler is long gone and individuals such as Yiadom are still inspiring generations to excel. I am grateful to men like Mr. Yiadom for proving Hitler wrong.