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Cindy L. Freeman – A Day I’ll Never Forget, 9/11/2020

That Tuesday morning in 2001, I dressed for my school’s first day of classes. Good Morning America aired on the bedroom TV nearby, but I wasn’t tuned in to Charles Gibson. Rather, I focused on reviewing my lesson plans and checking off the mental list of preparations necessary for a successful start of the school year.

At 8:59, the television’s abrupt silence caught my attention. Wondering if the power had failed, I turned from the bathroom mirror toward the screen to witness a rare occurrence: a confused, mute host of a popular, upbeat morning show. Gibson’s too-calm demeanor belied a palpable tension. For a moment, he shuffled the papers on his desk and manipulated his earpiece. I expected the “Breaking News” warning to flash like it had in November 1963, the day of JFK’s assassination…another unforgettable moment in history–the kind of day when you recall where you were, what you were doing, and exactly how you felt.

The difference was that, nearly sixty years before, I had been sitting in my eighth grade math class when the announcement came over the loudspeaker, unable to watch Walter Cronkite’s profound reaction to breaking news until later that evening. Like every family in America, my family gathered around our black-and-white TV until bedtime when we lay awake wondering if the world was ending.

Precisely at 9:00 am, a plane headed straight for one of the Twin Towers in New York City not far from Times Square where Charles Gibson sat in his GMA studio. A sickening explosion followed. Somehow, an eyewitness had caught the exact moment of impact. It was happening in real time. Gibson could only try to make sense of what his audience was already seeing. Was it a tragic accident? What actually was happening? Wait! Wasn’t that an American Airlines plane? When a second plane crashed into the South Tower, we knew. Every viewer had caught the indelible image, and fear engulfed a nation.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

Just as Gibson began to make sense of the unfolding event, sorting the jumbled messages that surely deluged his earpiece, he learned of a plane crash in Pennsylvania and another plane crashing into the Pentagon. Could they be related? Had war reached our shore? Surely not. This is America, after all–“land of the free and home of the brave.” Wars happen in faraway places, not here.

Within moments, President Bush had grounded every American airplane and put the U.S. military on high alert. Eyewitness reports, including photographs and videos taken by reporters and ordinary citizens, alike, flooded news stations. They were surreal; they were grim.

It was just the beginning.

I sank to the bed, paralysis gripping me. Yet I knew I had to go to work. Teachers, parents and children would converge on the school at 9:30. Children needing reassurance would ask questions I couldn’t answer. I had a ten-minute drive in which to prepare.

On September 20th, 2001, President George W. Bush declared that the United States of America was at war. Life would never be the same.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of three award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available at amazon.com or hightidepublications.com

Coming soon: After Rain, Devotions for Comfort and Peace.

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Sharon Canfield Dorsey – Scenes from a Writing Life

(From an interview conducted by my son, Steven, who is starting a writing career of his own.)

WHY DO YOU WRITE?

It’s a combination of entertainment and therapy. I kept diaries as a teenager which evolved into journals as an adult. When life was good, I celebrated it in poems and stories. When it was bad, I created satire as a way of taking away the heaviness – kind of like late night comedians do now with politics of the day. Writing is like breathing for me, necessary for survival.

IF YOU COULD TELL YOUR YOUNGER WRITING-SELF SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Write what you know. When I first started writing, I didn’t think my life was interesting enough to write about. I grew up in a small coal mining town in West Virginia – what’s to write? But looking back, most of the stories and books I published came from my life.

WHEN DID YOU START WRITING FOR PUBLICATION?

I was in my twenties. One of my early children’s stories was for a magazine with a feature called, My Father Is… I wrote about my Dad working in the coal mines. My first job was a secretarial one for the Executive Assistant to the Governor of West Virginia. He was a bachelor with a string of girlfriends. His antics became funny short stories in secretarial magazines. Interesting side note – they were published in shorthand and then “translated” in the back of the book. When I married your Dad and had you and Shannon, I was a stay-at-home Mom who did crafts to stay sane. I published articles about those projects in crafting magazines. Later, when your Dad and I divorced, I wrote articles for single-parent magazines and children’s stories. My memoir, Daughter of the Mountains evolved from a scrapbook about my life that I created for you and Shannon when you were grown. Many years later, when I met your stepdad, our travels around the country became a beautiful travel book called, Road Trip.

HOW HAVE OTHER WRITERS HELPED YOU BECOME A BETTER WRITER?

I’m a member of a poetry group called the James City Poets. Before I joined that group, I had never really studied poetry. I just always wrote it, both rhyming and free verse. Through the group, I learned to write form poetry and through their critiques, I learned to edit ‘til it hurts. My first poetry book, Tapestry, resulted from those classes. We also published an anthology together, Captured Moments. I think every writer should at least attempt to write poetry. It teaches you to be concise, value each word, and take out anything unnecessary.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN’S BOOKS.

The first two, Herman the Hermit Crab and the Mystery of the Big, Black, Shiny Thing; and Revolt of the Teacups were done in collaboration with a talented artist friend, Vivien Mann, who did the illustrations. The third one, Buddy and Ballerina Save the Library, wasabout a bookworm who wanted to read the books instead of eat them. It was illustrated by a couple of talented artists you know well, your daughters and my granddaughters, Adaline and Emma. They were only eight and ten at the time and that was such fun for me.The fourth book was a spin off, Buddy the Bookworm Rescues the Doomed Books.

SO WHAT’S NEXT?

I just finished a new poetry book, Walk With Me, which should be released this month.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM YOUR OTHER POETRY BOOK?

This one is a coffee table book that is a combination of art and poetry. It’s really unique and beautiful. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.

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Cindy L. Freeman – Words Have Power, 9/6/2020

Recently, an interviewer asked me who inspired my desire to become a writer. Certainly there have been numerous “writer heroes” whose work I admire, some famous, others more obscure. But one person stands out as leaving the greatest impression upon my aspiring writer-self. Her name was Mrs. Davis, and she was my seventh-grade English teacher.

From an early age, I knew I would be a singer and music teacher. That’s what I studied in college, and music education became my long career. But for many years, I set aside another persistent dream. Starting from an early age, I wrote journal entries, poems, stories, and plays. I couldn’t help myself. I had a love affair with words and a burgeoning appreciation for the beauty of language.

Mrs. Davis’ job was to teach English to a bunch of pimply faced preteens. I remember her as  young–probably straight out of college–beautiful, and kind. Yes, she taught us grammar, punctuation, and the importance of correct spelling, but the most important thing I learned from her was that carefully chosen words have power…the power to influence and the power to stir deep emotions.

Mrs. Davis assigned her students a weekly essay topic. Some of my classmates balked at this assignment, but I couldn’t wait for Mondays when we would see the week’s writing topic displayed on the blackboard in her classroom. I always wanted to get started immediately. Why? Partly because I loved to write but also because Mrs. Davis appreciated and affirmed my essays. She never gave me a grade lower than A, which she always accompanied with an encouraging note. Additionally, she displayed my work on the bulletin board outside her classroom, and, as I learned later that year, she read my essays aloud to all her classes.

I recall one instance in particular. As she was sharing my essay with the class, she began to cry. I don’t remember the topic, but I will never forget the euphoria in realizing my words had stirred my favorite teacher to tears. That was the moment I realized that words have power.

If, in my teaching career, I have touched even one student as profoundly as Mrs. Davis influenced me, it has all been worth it. To have your hero believe in you and admire your work is, indeed, powerful. Through the years, I’ve tried to locate Mrs. Davis…to thank her for her inspiration. Chances are, she is no longer alive, but she lives on in the heart of this “literary late bloomer” who finally fulfilled her dream of becoming an author.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of three award-winning short stories and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com  Coming soon: After Rain, Devotions for Comfort and Peace.

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Sharon Canfield Dorsey – Fifty-Seven Voices (From the Democratic National Convention)

They spoke in cornfields. 
They showcased calamari. 
They wore sarongs and leis. 
They cheered their candidates. 

We witnessed the contrasts of our land… 
dilapidated low-income housing, 
high-rise views of Lady Liberty, 
farm fields destroyed by storms. 

We heard voices of pain… 
children who’ve lost parents to covid, 
parents afraid to send children to school, 
jobless workers, reaching out for help. 

We cheered hope in the faces of diversity… 
young, old, all colors, all genders, 
Republican, Democrat, Independent, 
hands outstretched, pledging unity. 

Fifty-seven states and territories 
spoke their truth, shared their hopes, 
stepped up to nominate new leaders 
to guide America out of the darkness. 

We listened to our new team’s origin stories, 
met their families, felt their hearts. 
We critiqued their plans for us, We, The 
People, their ideas for our futures. 

We were reminded of the gravity of our choices – 
hate and division vs. fairness and acceptance; 
conspiracy theories vs. science and truth; 
daily corruption vs. honest government. 

The choice should be obvious… 
but good vs. evil is never that simple or easy. 
We must all vote on Nov. 3 and choose wisely.  
The planet, democracy, and our lives depend on it. 

SHARON CANFIELD DORSEY is an award-winning poet and the author of four children’s books; a memoir, Daughter of the Mountains; a book of poetry, Tapestry; a travel memoir, Road Trip. All books are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, High Tide Publications, and the author. WATCH FOR A NEW POETRY BOOK, OUT IN SEPTEMBER, Walk With Me. 

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Cindy L. Freeman, “A Timely Story” – 08/10/2020

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be homeless through no fault of your own? Suppose you are a teenager looking forward to her senior year with dreams of going to college. Imagine you live with your college-professor dad, your stay-at-home mom and two younger brothers in a comfortable home in an average middle-class neighborhood. Now imagine that idyllic picture, painted with the colors of hope and a bright future, fading to black.  

In 2018, when I wrote my novel, I Want to Go Home (click on title to link to Amazon), I was trying to understand homelessness at its core. I found it challenging to create a plausible situation where Abby, the teenager, and her brothers lost their home and their security. After all, what events could possibly be extreme enough to plunge a comfortable middle-class family of Williamsburg, Virginia into financial ruin and a situation dire enough to compel the children to run away, avoiding foster care and ending up in a shelter in Washington, DC?  

Little did I know that only two years later, the events of 2020 with its pandemic, political and racial unrest, and economic nosedive would happen. I could not have predicted that some breadwinners would die of COVID-19, that business owners would suddenly be left without their source of income or that families, many already having to live paycheck to paycheck, would find themselves in danger of eviction. Had I waited to write I Want to Go Home, my research into the causes of homelessness would have been unnecessary. Now there is clear evidence of how quickly peoples’ lives and livelihoods can change.  

On the news, I see a single mother with four children standing outside her apartment house in Chicago, tears running down her cheeks. She has lost her job because the company she worked for had to close. She wants to work; she wants to support her children, not lavishly, but with basic food and shelter. She cannot pay her rent. I see the owners of a popular restaurant in Washington, DC forced to close for three months, unable to pay their loyal staff. The business this couple poured their finances and energy into for twenty years is now in danger of foreclosure. It is their only source of income, which means they could also lose their home. These are only two examples of thousands of true stories that reveal how fragile life is and how easily someone, even in the USA, can become homeless.  

Little did I know that my fictional story would be so timely only two years after I wrote it. I was determined to depict a plausible homeless journey, but I was just as determined to end it with Abby’s survival and triumph. I wish I could do the same for my fellow citizens who are experiencing uncertainty, anxiety and hopelessness. I wish I could guarantee happy endings for them, too. Unfortunately, I have no control over the current situation or their uncertain futures. But there are leaders who do have a degree of control. It’s time they set aside their partisan differences and worked together to create happy endings for real people experiencing real struggles.   

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com. Coming soonAfter Rain, Devotions for Comfort and Peace.