Wednesday, February 24, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Deborah Gary

She was eighteen and pregnant, but for Deborah Gary, that did not mean that her dreams had to be shelved or dismissed. Born in a small coaling mining town on the other side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she decided it was important to stay true to her goal of being a published author---and she has done just that. Now residing in Columbus, Ohio, Gary is the author of two books (including TEENAGE MOTHER'S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL: Rising Above The Odds, the story of her life) and is using her experience as a teenage mother as a way to show other young women they don't have to give up on life because they have a child.

Deborah Gary talks to Cyrus Webb of Conversations Book Club and Conversations LIVE! Radio about this and more.(Listen to her interview with Cyrus with Conversations LIVE! Radio here: ) Here is their conversation.

Deborah, thank you for your time. I want to talk to you about your career as a writer, but first tell me this: Does it surprise you that out of all of the things you have been through that you are now a published author?
No, I am not surprised to find myself to be a published author and I say that with humbleness. I have always had more than one iron in the fire in life. I started out writing for the local black owned newspaper regarding local people and issues. Then my career snow balled. I found myself interviewing celebrities, which I continued to do for over twenty years. Then I was an editor for another newspaper that emerged in the area that was owned by Boxing Promoter Don King. I finally became an editorial columnist for the major newspaper in Warren, I was the first and only Black person to do so. I knew I would write a book someday, but, I had no idea that it would be a motivational book for teenage mothers. I thought I would write a romance novel, which still may happen.

When did you realize that writing was something you were interested in?
My interest in writing actually came from a 5th grade homework assignment. The class was given an assignment of writing a poem within 2 weeks. I struggled to write the poem until the night before the assignment was due. I was the teacher's pet and did not want to disappointment him, but, I had no poem. I told my mother of my dilemma and she, being from the generation of black people that did not go far in school, gave me a signal with her eyes that she understood that black people can't do things like that. I went to bed that night, sleepless and staring out of the window, thinking of what explanation I would give my teacher for my failure. The end result, I wrote a poem about the stars I had been staring at and it was chosen as one of the best written. Much to the surprise to both my mother and myself. I have been writing ever since I was ten years old.

Your book TEENAGE MOTHER'S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL (Rising Above The Odds) is something very personal to you. Tell us about your experience as a teenage mother?
Teenage Mother's Guide To Survival, Rising Above The Odds is very important to me. It is my story of growing up raising two children alone. To quote Maya Angelo "I wouldn't take nothing for my journey". I chose not to enforce child support because as my children grew, I realized quickly as a young woman that I did not want their father to be a contributor to their upbringing. I would rather struggle than to have his input into their mindset. In essence, I did not want them to suffer because of bad decisions I made at a time I had more hormones and curiosity than brain cells. I was fortunate to have a job that enabled me to take care of my children without them feeling the effects of a single parent household. Those high paying jobs do not exist anymore. There were times I did not know how we were going to make it sometimes because of life's unexpected happenings. I remember selling my ten speed bike that I loved, to pay the electric bill. I worked a lot of overtime and we survived. Dating was difficult, there were young men that would not want to be involved because I had children, then there were those who pretended to care about my children as an attempt to get next to me. I learned a lot about life much quicker by having two children than my peers that were childless at a young age. I think the most difficult part of my journey as a teenage and single mother was the judgmental comments and accusations society imposes on teenage mothers. My kids were my family and my love for them made being their mother a labor of love regardless of my age or marital status.

A recent study showed that teenage pregnancies are back on the rise in the United States. I'm curious as to how much of a role you think peer pressure plays in schools today versus 10 years ago?
Teenage motherhood being at a ten year high, in my opinion, does not derive as much from peer pressure as it did when I was a teenager or even ten years ago. The world we live in has changed drastically. Some of these young girls live in environments that did not exist as prominently years ago. They are dealing more with their mothers addicted to drugs, ignoring sex abuse, like in the movie Precious, physical abuse, being awakened in their own homes by gun shots in the neighborhood. I personally think sex acts as the catalyst for their attempt to find happiness just as adults seek that same solace. I am not trying to downplay the presence of raging hormones; I just think that the condition of today's society contributes greatly to the rise in teenage pregnancies. Also, they are constantly faced with sexual implications through the media, music, and advertizing. Those combinations elevate sexual touristy more so than peer pressure.

When you travel into schools and do events to tell your story, are you surprised at how many can relate to your experience?
When I first began to talk to people about my book Teenage Mother's Guide To Survival, Rising Above The Odds, I met so many women in various professionals admitting that they were also teenage mothers. I have met pastors, social worker, politicians, nurses and many women in respected professions that were also teenage mothers that continued to reach for and attain their goals. That is why I find it vitally important to reach back and help another generation that needs to reach that same level of determination. This generation of teenage mothers has to be convinced that continuing their education is vital to their survival and the survival of their child.

What do you hope they get from not just hearing from you but reading the book?
I hope that teenage mothers that I encounter would use my book as a point of reference. The book talks about identifying with the young mother's emotions when the baby's father disappears, when people make hurtful comments, the importance of achieving a triumphant lifestyle because children are imitators, if they are achievers, their children will be also. I speak from my book which is really an asset to have on hand after the speech or seminar has ended.

The GUIDE TO SURVIVAL is not the only thing you are writing and promoting. Tell our readers about your other projects.
I have another book coming out soon entitled Info Ivan Discovers Black Inventions. Info Ivan is a character I created, whose image is similar to children today. The books teaches about such inventions by Black people such as the golf tee, the super soaker, the suitcase on wheels, the fact that Jack Johnson, the first Black heavyweight boxing champion, invented the hatchet wrench. I want the image of Info Ivan to convince young students that it really cool to use your brain power when their peers tease them for doing so. Young people often tend to downplay their intelligence and try to be cool to fit in with the so called in crowd. That book will be released within the next month or so. Also, I will be a March contender for The Pepsi Refresh Project, 10 companies with the most votes will receive a grant from Pepsi for funding their project. So, I am asking your listeners to mark the date of March 1st on their colanders and give my project their vote, search words are motivating teenage mothers and teenage mothers into independent lifestyles. I am thanking all who support my project in advance.

Some would say that you your experience of being a teenage mother and finding success is not the norm but the exeception. What do you think?
I have always felt that failure as a teenage or single parent is an excuse more so than a reason. I have met many such parents who not only are successful, but their children are as well. I have a son and daughter who are both very successful adults that I am extremely proud of. I do consider my journey as my destiny, if it were not for my journey, I would not be doing the things I am doing now to reach back and help someone else. Sometimes the absentee parent can actually be a hindrance to the child . Success depends upon the mindset of an individual, more so than their marital status or whether or not they have children. There are a lot of under achievers that are single and childless. I do not consider my situation as an exception to the norm, it was just my journey, and think that journey and my desire to achieve made me stronger and allowed me to achieve goals. I have met too many women with similar journeys that are also successful to consider myself an exception.

If you could give some advice to aspiring writers about there interested in telling their story, what would it be?
I was once asked by an aspiring writer what was the most difficult part of writing. My answer to her was my struggle with myself. I have learned as a writer to just write and not try to make it right the first time. As an editorial columnist, I wrote about issues I was passionate about regarding the betterment of our world. But writing a book was a whole new ball game. My advice to aspiring writers is to find your comfort zone, what you want to write about, where you want to write, and the best time to write and just write until it no longer flows easily. Good things take time. And most importantly, don't become discouraged by writer's block, it does not mean you are not a writer, it only means it is not time to write, but, do not allow to last too long in your mind.

Thank you for your time, Deborah, and continued success to you. How can our readers find out more information about you and your projects?
Thank you for having me Cyrus, I have enjoyed it. I have a web site There excerpts from both books and information regarding my teenage mothers consulting firm, Hannah Rose Consulting Firm. Teenage Mother's Guide To Survival, Rising Above The Odds can be purchased on the web site and will soon be available @ Barnes and Noble and

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