Monday, September 20, 2010


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" 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


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.