Saturday, January 30, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Tracy L. Bell

She is by far one of the most out-spoken, passionate individuals that Conversations has featured, however, Tracy L. Bell is true to who she is and doesn't mind letting you know what she thinks. As the author of the book CONVERSATIONS OF A SISTAH, she uses it as a way to give advice to friends as well as let us into her own life. In this revised interview, she talks with us about her personality, what we will find in her book and what she hopes readers get from it.

(NOTE: On Wed. Jan. 20, 2010, Tracy appeared on Conversations LIVE! Radio to catch us up on what she has been doing. You can listen to the discussion here Click here to read Cyrus Webb's review of the book.)

Here is our conversation.

Tracy, thank you for talking with Conversations. Before we get into your book CONVERSATIONS OF A SISTAH, tell our readers a little about yourself.

I'm stubborn but reliable, faithful, confident, dedicated, determined and spiritually intuitive. A hard worker and homebody, I religiously tune in to watch "I love Lucy"; I'm a sucker for old movies and love stories. I'm a stone cold vegetarian with a weakness for pizza and decaffeinated green teas. I know there is a God, and I believe in happy endings. I'm best when I'm busy and happy when I'm helpful. I love eating out, entertaining and spending time with my family.

This is your first book to be published, but I'm sure it isn't your first thing to write. What did you experiment with in your writing growing up?

Yes, Conversations Of A SISTAH – The Truth And The Myth About Praying For A Mate is my first book but surprisingly as a youngster I delved more into poetry.Poetry is carefree writing to me; it's an inner gift and talent that comes from deep within.

What made you decide to go from writing for yourself to wanting to share it with other people in book form?

Wow great question…I wanted to expose my experiences, therefore writing became a strong antidote for pain; it was my outlet and my therapy. We all respond to anger, hurt and disappointment differently; I just learned to redirect this energy through a keyboard. I would write letters everyday to a girlfriend of mine who lived in Baltimore, MD and in these letters we talked about most of the trifling things that were happening in the church, that were happening in relationships; and that had happened to me. My letters were raw with emotion and sharp with hostility. My girlfriend thought my letters were so moving; she constantly encouraged me to put these letters and experiences in book form. I couldn't fathom her vision, until one evening I was sitting in a church service, when a Prophet of God (the speaker) looked at me and said, "Did you know that your misery is your ministry?" "That your misery will deliver and save someone else the heartache". At that moment, as the prophet elaborated on his message, I realized it was only a confirmation of God's plan for me. So after that message, that night, my letters and my correspondence filled with misery but wrapped up in all of God's splendor, gave birth to the book; "Conversations Of A SISTAH" The Truth And The Myth About Praying For A Mate.

How did your personal beliefs shape the way you approached the writing of the book?

I'm a little tearful as I think about your question here, because God will only use us, when we can truly be ourselves. My biggest challenge was the language I used in the book, the curse words. Nothing justifies cursing but I thought about how God said,  "He knew me before I even knew myself, how He had formed me when I was yet in my mother's womb" (Jeremiah 1:5). I thought about the book of Psalm chapter 139, when God said, "He knows me and is acquainted with all of my ways; and how I could never flee from his presence". I knew God was there throughout my pain, inspired my thoughts and was already aware of what came out of my mouth. Although I'm a believer, I'm also human, one who could never pretend. I'd rather have women read my emotions raw, than be phony and pompous and not genuine about my emotions; anything less would be fake, which is, so not me. That is why I love that line in the Color Purple when Sophia said to Celey (after being beaten by Harpo) "You better Knock the hell out of mister and think about heaven later".

One of the fascinating things about you is your desire to stand up for your principles. Tell our readers about what you did in the 1990s to address the issue of condoms being available in public schools.

Because teenage pregnancy and the HIV virus was at an all-time high throughout Passaic High School, the Passaic Board of Education felt, the solution to this issue was to have condoms available through the nurses office. This solution and intent was publicized in the local newspaper. Well, I was not only insulted and appalled but knew I had to speak out against this issue, especially since the majority of my Sunday school students attended Passaic High School. I wrote an in-depth letter to the superintendent of schools, denouncing the school board's plan and expressed my strong beliefs for abstinence instead. I felt their (the board of education's) intent; compromised my teaching and contradicted God's Word. I was adamant about such actions; and had a strong passion concerning the moral degradation of our young people. As a result, I was chosen to serve on the Superintendent's committee to support abstinence instead.

For America to say it is "One nation under God", does it surprise you at how much we have compromised on moral issues in this country?

Not at all, America's compromise regarding moral issues were written and predestined long ago. There are generational curses constantly being repeated, when many are not aware of how to break these cycles. It's about right and wrong, this is why future generations suffer; the choices you make today, will affect you tomorrow.

Did you have a certain market in mind when you finished it?

I thought my book would compel to the Christian circuit and church folk (I'm laughing), but not so much. I discovered that SOME church folk have a problem with the truth. In my very first book discussions and interviews, I drew more non-believers than believers. I had a lot of young women and teenage girls telling me how my book changed their lives. So I stopped concentrating on the market and focused more on the message.

A lot of authors talk to me about loving the writing process but dreading the business side of the industry. What about you?

This is definitely not the case with me; I'm a full fledged business entity. It's all about a professional presentation in every aspect of my production. I want to be taken seriously therefore I present myself proficiently on every side. Books tell a story but business builds alliances.

What has been the response from readers, and how has the internet helped you to get the word out about the book and issues you are passionate about?

Some of the response from readers can be found on my webpage "The Talk" located at The internet is a great source but with strong force, I have two websites and make that known throughout my travels in doing seminars, workshops and speaking engagements however, not everyone have access to the internet. My passions and issues are expressed in my bi-annual newsletter, which my goal is, to transform into a magazine. These are sources I us to publicize the books and future endeavors.

How can readers find out more about you and the book?

Your readers can visit my websites at and

Sunday, January 24, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Anthony Littlefield

We all have a past, whether we are aware of it or not. Some make the decision not to pursue knowing about it, but others make it a goal or a pursuit to find out all that they can. Author Anthony Littlefield chose the latter. He chronicles his journey and those with him in the book BITTERSWEET JOURNEY. He talks with Cyrus Webb about the experience, the hard work that goes into marketing and promoting a book and his advice for aspiring writers.

Anthony, thanks for taking out the time to talk with us. Before we get into your book BITTERSWEET JOURNEY, why don't you tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Los Angeles, California in 1954. My father is from Columbus and my mother is from Jackson, MS. Unfortunately, my parents were divorced when I was five years old. After my parent's divorce, my younger brother Ron and I were sent to live with my father's mother, Juanita in Columbus. I attended Columbus public schools and attended classes at Franklin University. During my formative years I developed a passion for history, especially, black history here in America. I just completed my 37th year with my employer. Thankfully, with the publishing of Bittersweet Journey, I'm at the beginning of a second career.

If I had grown up with you, would your journey to being a published author be a surprised to me?
Yes, by that I mean I never really talked about becoming a writer or even thought that I had a talent for writing, especially since English was one of my more difficult subjects in school.

When did you know that you had a book that you felt like needed to be written?
When we first began our journey of discovery, my intention was to keep a small journal. But after our first initial visit to Black Mountain, it occurred to me that we had a fascinating story about our family and the incredibly beautiful land they called home. I think this was because we knew so little about our family that every discovery of relatives and the events surrounding their lives meant more and more to us.

Tony, your book BITTERSWEET JOURNEY is about your trek to find out more about your family, but it is about a journey to better know you as well. What was the most surprising element that came from the journey for you?
If I had to pick one thing it would be that I learned how much my family's past really has meant to me personally. Learning how some of them adapted to life after slavery and becoming prosperous and leaders of their communities despite incredible odds. That has sustained many times when I ran into 'brick walls' along the way, keeping me going when there were times when it became difficult or I wanted to quit. Whenever those situations arose, I thought of the obstacles my ancestors overcame. And my journey has given me an opportunity to see up close and personal how race relations still matter in how we sometimes see each other.

You really made it a family affair. Do you think it would have meant as much if you didn't have them with you along the way?
I can't even imagine traveling down this road alone. Having various family members with me along the way at different times has brought us closer together as a family with our experiences as we have struggles to put the pieces together of our history. The relationship that I have appreciated the most is my relationship with my father. I hope that readers see a lot of the story through his eyes based on his life's experiences as a black man in a world that has changed for the better over a period of time.

For individuals who believe the past should be left in the past, why would you tell them that maybe they should rethink that ideal?
I think it goes without saying that "to know where you are going you have to know you have been." So much of who and what we are today is a result of our shared past. I can understand why some do not want to remember the mistakes and hurt of the past. But I think we owe it to our ancestors to remember them for what they overcame to make life better for us today. I believe that we can draw strength from the triumphs of the past.

Putting on your marketing hat for a moment, Anthony, did it surprise you as to how much work it took to let others know about your book?
Not really. With thousand of books on the market at any given time, I knew getting my story out would be a monumental challenge-and it has been just that. Working with a small ad budget, and this being a first-time experience for me, identifying and reaching the audience I wish to has been difficult. Thankfully, with the explosion of the internet I have the ability to reach out to readers around the world.

You and I spoke recently, and you told me that some have wondered aloud who outside your family would be interested in your journey. Tell us about that conversation and what happened to you that let you know that others were benefiting.
Several months ago I had the good fortune of being contacted by family members in the South that I was unaware of, but they knew about my book. We began sharing information, and I was later told that another relative had recently published a 'picture book' about another branch of the family tree, with the intentions of distributing her book to family members only. Her reasoning for family only was that she felt that the general public would not be interested in reading or seeing our family history. I took the opposite approach because I knew that millions of people around the world are devoted to preserving cultural and family history. I think that nothing garners attention more than literature about country, home and family, and that is what Bittersweet Journey is about, country, home and family. Whenever I'm contacted by perfect strangers who are either intrigued by the subject matter, or have read the book and found my story a great read and inspirational, I'm simply thrilled.

Anthony, for those who might be aspiring writers out there, and are wanting to make 2010 the year they get something done, what advice would you give them?
My advice to potential writers is that every book begins with the first page. You haven't done anything until you actually write the first words. And when contemplating what to write about, keep in mind, does the story have a hook, and is it worth a book? Look for a writer's group in your city, sharing your thoughts with others pursuing the same goals as you is invaluable.

Thanks again for your time, Anthony. If our readers want to find out more information about you, where can they find you online?The pleasure has been mine. Readers can learn more about me at my website,