Pearls of Wisdom

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Q & A for Tina McElroy Ansa for Bronze Thrills Magazine - Part Three

Q. What is the next level for you?

A. I plan to continue what I’ve been doing for the past 35 years and to expand my horizons with more writers retreats around the country, writing more books, and perhaps venturing into other areas of creativity, such as television and feature movies.

As a matter of fact, my husband Jonee’ Ansa, a graduate of the American Film Institute in California and a director, cinematographer and filmmaker, and I are currently working on the film adaptation of my first novel, BABY OF THE FAMILY, for the big screen. My dream is for our production company DownSouth Filmworks, Inc. to produce film adaptations of many of your favorite fine African-American novels for television and theaters.

Pray for us.

Q & A for Tina McElroy Ansa for Bronze Thrills Magazine - Part Two

Q. How do you feel about your contribution to African-American literature thus far? Please explain.

A. When I was little, I was always that girl who knew that she wanted to spend her life telling stories. I grew up in Macon, Georgia, a mid-sized town in the South, in the 1950s and 1960s, surrounded by and African-American culture that respected reading, writing, stories and storytelling.

My grandfather told us ghost stories before we went to sleep. The folks who came to my father’s juke joints told me the stories of their lives. My great aunt Elizabeth Lee, a good Christian woman, told us morality tales to keep us on the straight and narrow. Even my mother gossiping on the phone to her friends seemed to my little ears to be fascinating and imaginative stories.

I grew up at a time when the written word was respected and appreciated by black folks. In my household, books were everywhere, and everyone was always reading different books that interested them: love stories, Westerns, adventures, contemporary fiction. I grew up hearing my family say, “Oh, you know, Tina’s going to be a writer” because I had expressed interest in writing and telling stories.

I feel my greatest contribution to African-American literature thus far is that I have done exactly what I have wanted to do: tell stories.

For the past 35 years, I have published four novels (I’m working my 5th and 6th novels now.), written for newspapers and magazines, created a writers retreat for emerging and established writers, and traveled the country reading from my work, lecturing and teaching. My respect for the written word, especially the stories that spring from my African-American heritage, culture, and family and my support of other writers also constitute what I feel is my greatest contribution to African-American literature.

Q & A for Tina McElroy Ansa for Bronze Thrills Magazine - Part One

Q. How did you get started working behind the scenes in the literary industry? (Such as your mid-wife mentoring service; and your Georgia writing workshop excursions).

A. I began my writing career as a journalist at The Atlanta Constitution, the morning newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia. This was back in the 1970s. Although I was a journalist, I always knew that I wanted to write fiction: stories of my family, black folks in the South. I published my first novel, BABY OF THE FAMILY, in 1989. And since then, I have published three more novels (UGLY WAYS, THE HAND I FAN WITH and YOU KNOW BETTER) as well as book reviews, essays, magazine articles, and op-ed pieces. But in the back of my head and in my heart, I knew that I also wanted to do more in the field of literature. One of those things was to start a retreat for emerging and established writers in the Georgia Sea Islands where I have lived for the last 20 years.

The Sea Islands off the coast of the Southern United States are the repository of so much of African-American history and culture. I knew this would be a great place to offer workshops, discussions and sharing about creating black literature. I wanted to offer a safe place for writers who had never been published to interact with established writers and new writers like themselves to sharpen their craft, share their work and improve their writing.

I thought about this endeavor for more than a decade before founding The Sea Island Writers Retreats in the fall of 2004. This year, 2006, we have decided in addition to the Writers Retreats held on the Sea Islands in the fall, to take the Sea Island Writers Retreats on the road to cities across the country where we can reach even more writers who cannot make the trip South.

To find out more about the retreat and if you’re interested in us bringing the Sea Island Writers Retreats to your city or area, go to my website and fill out the registration or interest form.

Another project that grew from the Writers Retreat is my Midwife/Mentoring Services. While conducting workshops at the retreats, I discovered how helpful it is for emerging writers to have a brief session with an established writer, editing and discussing their work. I started these sessions with members of my staff who are writing novels and memoirs and was amazed at how much progress they made after a half-hour or hour session on the phone with me.

So I thought, why don’t I offer this service to other emerging writers who are serious about their work? I offer this service as my time permits. And I’ve discovered and helped some wonderfully talented writers.

You know, everyone in the world should not be writing a book. But for those who should be, some guidance is usually needed.

You can find out more about this service and sign up for it if you are interested at my website

Monday, August 28, 2006

Right Now!

Two words…I have two words for you. These are words that I want you to burn into your consciousness. These are two words that should be on your mind first thing in the morning when you awake and then all through the day as you go about your routine. When you see something that you know has your name all over it, whether it’s a chore, a pair of gorgeous shoes on sale, an idea, a new job, an undiscovered park, a new route to work, a person who could use your help or expertise or smile. Whatever! These are the words I want you to remember. They are words that will change you life. Are you ready?

“Right now.” That’s it. Nothing more. “Right now.”

Those two words can change your life. If there’s anything you’re dreaming of becoming, of doing, of having, of achieving, of sharing or giving…right now. Those are the words that you should repeat to yourself whenever you find yourself putting off efforts, projects, phone calls, emails, visits, prayer, quiet time, meditation, joy, laughter..

How many times have I practically fallen over a great idea and not followed up on it. “I’ll check it out later this month when I get a break,” I tell myself . And the idea passes undone for someone else to make a load of money on, get credit for or change the world or their community. Or even worse, the idea never gets done and brought to fruition.

Or how many times have I thought of someone and put off calling them for days, weeks only to discover later that a call from a friend would have lightened their load back then. Or when have I not returned a phone call and lose an opportunity to promote my books, my ideas, my business, my name, my friends?

You know what happened? I didn’t do it RIGHT NOW!!!

For some reason, perhaps because procrastination is so comfortable to human nature, doing things RIGHT NOW is a challenging lesson to learn. Yet it is one that can be life-changing once we get a handle on it and find ourselves facing, handling, doing things RIGHT NOW.

Think about it, right now.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Unopened Gifts

Some of us are going to get to heaven, and the first thing God is going to say to us is, “Hey, why didn’t you open all those gifts I gave you?”

And arranged around the heavenly throne, there are going to be stacks and stacks of gaily and luxuriously wrapped presents with organza and roses tied to them and grosgrain and velvet ribbons and satin bows around them. And those packages are going to be full of gifts that God gave us that we never opened. Never even opened!

Stop for a while. Think about it. What gifts do you have that you’re not using? What interests or secrets yearnings have you ignored in the pursuit of empty busyness? What packages did God give you that you haven’t even opened yet?

Do you have a gift for communication that you’ve never given full rein? I always thought of myself as a shy person before I became a journalist and acquired a reporter’s notebook and pen that let me release the naturally inquisitive (nosy) inner person on the world.. I always assumed I was a bit stage shy until a wrote a novel, went on book tour and discovered I was fearless, just FEARLESS, in front of an audience, a television camera or microphone. And that gift of communication was one that for decades I didn’t even realize I had been given.

Don’t let your life end and you end up in Heaven with your beautiful packages still unopened. Unwrap them suckers! Rip those boxes open! Use the gifts inside. Share them. Perfect them. Then, give thanks that you opened your gifts.