Friday, December 26, 2008

How Do The Holidays Affect Your Writing?

It's nearly 2:00 in the morning on December 26th as I'm typing this blog entry. I've been sitting in the bed working on my laptop (off and on) for the past five hours. That means that even on Christmas Day, I was writing.

As I looked at my beside clock and noted the time, it occurred to me that when it came to my writing pattern, weekends and holidays were just like any other day of the week. In fact, sometimes these "special days" seem to add fuel to my motivation, and the creative juices seem to flow more freely; pushing me to write even more. There are very few days that pass that I don't find time and/or inspiration to tap away on my keyboard; writing, editing, journaling, blogging, etc. Am I in this alone? Please share your thoughts with me.

How do "special days" affect your writing...or do they affect them at all? Do you turn off the computer completely on the weekends? When you're on vacation, do you vacate from your writing as well? On holidays, do you break away from your writing just like you break away from a corporate American job? I'd love to hear your feedback.

Okay....back to my manuscript. :-)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Writing That Makes Music

At the age of fourteen, I developed my first crush. And it happened to be on a writer. I didn't view him as such at the time, but he was. And his writing made music. I didn't know who he was or what he looked like, but for every single minute that the song played on the radio through the speakers in my daddy's car, the lead singer of it held my heart in his hands. It would be years before I'd discover the owner of that captivating voice. Four years later, to be exact.

In my staunch Christian childhood household, gospel was the only music allowed. My parents (both of whom are preachers) had their preferred gospel artists. Their album collection sported worthy names like Rev. James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, and the like. My father and mother weren't big fans of quartet music, but at the age of eighteen, I purchased my very first album, and it was quartet music at its finest. The title of it was Blessed and the group was The Williams Brothers.

A few days before my purchase, I'd been listening to the radio again and heard the words, "I'm just a nobody, trying to tell everybody, about somebody who can save anybody" sang over the airways. I immediately knew that the man behind the mic was the same singer...the same writer, who had captured me four years earlier. Once I purchased Blessed, I did a little research of the four men on the cover and learned that the identity of my "first love" was the one standing behind the sofa. His name was Melvin Williams.

Ironically, many years later, Melvin (unknowingly to him, but definitely by God's design) rescued me from the onset of a bout with severe depression. It was April 14, 1996, six months after the death of my first husband and the darkest time in my life. Melvin didn't have a clue of what I was going through at the time, but a concerned friend of mine saw my situation and insisted that I go to meet him backstage after a Williams Brothers concert. I'd seen Melvin in concert before, but this was the first time I'd met him. It was a brief encounter that consisted merely of a few exchanged words, a handshake and a photo opportunity. On the outside, it appeared to be insignificant, but somehow, meeting him gave me the courage to breathe again.

When I founded the ministry of Cruisin' For Christ in 2006, Melvin was the first artist on my list to add to the talent roster. Ten years had passed since the '96 encounter and I knew he would not remember me; but I prayed that when the cruise's Entertainment Director reached out to him, he would see the vision of Cruisin' For Christ and agree to join our first launching in 2007. And he did. Not only did he sail with us on our inaugural cruise, but he returned for Cruisin' For Christ II in 2008 and is a confirmed featured artist for the upcoming Cruisin' For Christ III in 2009.

And it is with great honor that I share my recent interview with him with my blog readers. Introducing a man whose writings make music.....the legendary, Melvin Williams.

KNB: Thanks for joining me, Melvin. Please share the back-story of how you got your start in gospel music.
MW: I got my start in gospel music through my dad, Leon “Pop” Williams and my older brothers, Frank and Huey Williams of the Jackson Southernnaires. Frank later became the founder of the Mississippi Mass Choir. But before all that success, he was an original Williams Brothers first. We were organized in the late 60’s and recorded our first Williams Brothers album in 1973.

KNB: Hands down, your success and longevity has earned you the right to be categorized as a legend, but I know it hasn’t always been easy. What are some of the obstacles you had to overcome on the road to become the respected artist we know today?
MW: One of the things we were concerned with over the years was that we did not want to be categorized as just a quartet group. We wanted our music to cross all genres and touch people from all walks of life. And we thank God that He allowed us to achieve that goal by writing and producing music that everyday people can relate to and identify with.

KNB: That's the same way I feel about my fiction writing. I want all readers to be touched by my message too. I have colleagues who dislike being labeled as "Christian writers" because they believe it limits their appeal to the book-buying public. As a gospel recording artist, do you embrace the identification as such, or would you rather just be generalized simply as an entertainer, without the Christianity label?
MW: I like being labeled as both. There’s always been a certain amount of entertainment in our music. But at the end of the day, above all, we want our music to be remembered as our ministry.

KNB: Oh, it will be. No doubt about that. Now, this question is always a difficult one to answer when people pose it to me regarding my books; but I'm going to put it out there to you about your music. Over the years, you’ve written and recorded many songs with The Williams Brothers and as a solo artist. Among your collection, do you have one song that is your personal favorite? If so, which is it and why does is resonate so fondly with you?
MW: “Prayer Made the Difference” from the This Is Your Night album is one of my favorites because it is one of those songs that helps me get through a lot of issues and struggles in my personal life. Another favorite of mine is “I’m Still Here” from the Still Here CD.

KNB: Why is that one a favorite?
MW: Well, when you listen to the words it's self explanatory of where we’ve come from, what we’ve been through and where God has allowed us to be today.

KNB: Speaking of things you've been through, what has been your greatest heartbreak or disappointment to date (personal or professional) and how did you survive it?
MW: My greatest heartbreak would probably be losing my brother, Frank, because he was not only my brother but also my best friend. But it was his contribution to the world through his music that helped me to survive. The song “Special Place” from my Never Seen Your Face CD which was dedicated in his memory sums it up best how close we were and what he meant to me.

KNB: I remember when Frank died in '93. The song, "Your Grace and Mercy" that he recorded with The Mississippi Mass Choir is still a favorite of mine. And as you know, "Never Seen Your Face" is my favorite Melvin Williams song. I remember cheering from my sofa as I watched you accept a Stellar for that album. As a singer/musician/composer, you've won many awards for outstanding music. Is there anything in your career that you have not accomplished that you hope to achieve in the future?
MW: Lately, I’ve done quite a bit of co-hosting with Dr. Bobby Jones. I’d like to do more television and radio hosting and a movie about the life story of The Williams Brothers. And win a Grammy if that’s in God’s plan. You know we’ve been beat out six times between Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker and The Blind Boys. Maybe we should get some dark glasses? (laughing) Just kidding. Y'all know I do have a sense of humor. They’re friends of mine and I’m happy for them.

KNB: You definitely deserve a Grammy, so I hope it's God's will for you to win one soon. In the meantime, what’s next for you? Any new projects on the horizon?
MW: The Williams Brothers just released our first album in over 5 years entitled “The Journey Continues” that is in stores now. Other new projects are a possible “Best of Melvin Williams” in '09, a new Neal Roberson LIVE and The Fellas featuring Pastor Tim Rogers.

KNB: I recently purchased "The Journey Continues" and it's a great project. Well worth the 5-year wait. I highly recommend it. And I'll surely be first in line for the "Best of" album. Maybe we can give you a CD release party for it on the cruise next year...(keeping my fingers crossed). In closing, I'm going to throw out a couple of words and you tell me your favorite in these categories. Just a fun way for my readers to get a feel for Melvin Williams, the man. First, what's your favorite color?
MW: Earthtone colors (brown, tan, etc.)
KNB: Food?
MW: Soul food and seafood
KNB: Seafood is my favorite too. Ummm, favorite scripture?
MW: There are several scriptures that I live by so I don't have just one favorite.
KNB: Okay; pastime or hobbies?
MW: Riding my 4-wheeler, concerts, and going to the movies

That's a wrap! I know how busy your are, Melvin, so thanks for lending Blessed2Write a few minutes of your time. Your talent for writing words that make music is a gift to the world and I pray much continued success to you and The Williams Brothers.

Visit Melvin on the web at any of the following Internet sites:

Melvin Williams - The Williams Brothers - Melvin Williams Fan Club

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Empty African American Fiction Shelves

This past weekend, I had a marvelous time during my first visit to Phoenix, AZ. I was there along with others of my Anointed Authors on Tour sisters, on the last stop of our 2008 tour. Almost everything about this tour stop was perfect. The weather was ideal (low 80's during the day, high 50's during the night). The hosting book clubs (see group photo) rolled out the red carpet, showered us with wonderful Arizona souvenirs, fed us well and provided us with limo escorts (two thumbs up to Girlfriend 2 Girlfriend Book Club and Shades of the Desert Book Club). I reconnected with two wonderful fans-turned-friends that I met three years ago in Baltimore, MD who have now moved to Phoenix (big shout out to Yulanda and Cooky). The community of readers came out and supported our appearances (not just in attendance, but they bought books).

So, there was very little that didn't go wonderfully under the Arizona sun. However, there was one thing that I found unnerving. Saturday afternoon, Yulanda and Cooky, came and picked me up from my hotel between functions and took me on a brief tour of the city. I'd been told earlier that AA books were difficult to find on bookshelves in Phoenix, but I wasn't prepared for what I saw. We stopped by a very busy area mall and strode inside the Borders Bookstore there. After browsing for quite some time, we finally located the African American section of the store. There was only one bookcase to embody that section and that bookcase only contained about four shelves. And on those shelves, there was one AA fiction title. One. O-N-E (big congrats to Jacquelin Thomas for being our sole representation).

Of course, with my sister-girls being the avid readers that they are, and me, being the avid writer that I am, we couldn't dare leave without confronting the store workers about their empty African American section. When asked why they didn't have more of our books, the worker replied, "Oh, we had some, but they just sell so quickly." My challenging response was, "So, if they sell so quickly, that means the demand is there. Why didn't you restock when you sold out?" His answer, "Because the publishers and distributors won't send us any more."

One of my sister-girls asked whether or not he'd placed an order for more books and he responded by saying, "We don't order books. The companies just send them to us. All the other companies for all the other books you see just sent us these books for the shelves, but none of the publishers for the African American titles will send us any." At that point, all the three of us could do was look at him. Apparently, we looked a whole lot dumber than we were for him to think we'd buy that. The publishers and distributors won't send any more? Are you kidding me? The publishers and distributors make their money by sending out the books and having them sold. Why would they not restock the shelves?

"Are you disappointed?" That was the question he asked with an almost sneering smile as we stared at him. At that point, leaving just seemed like the right thing to do.

What does it mean for African American writers when there are stores who won't stock our books? When the buying public has no option other than to go to the counter and order our books any time they want to get one, how many book sells do we lose? The thought is disheartening.

Barack Obama is president-elect, yes. He smashed a barrier that just a few years ago...just a few months ago...maybe even just a few weeks ago, seemed unbendable, let alone unbreakable. The bar has been raised and a new standard has been set. Somehow, as creators and supporters of African American literature, we have to find a way to overcome the obstacles that are set in place to limit our achievements as well.

We've come a long way, baby.....but the battle ain't over yet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When A Writer Is Rendered Speechless

As a woman who makes a living by stringing together words (roughly, 85,000 of them per novel), I can honestly say that there haven't been many moments in my lifetime when I found myself literally speechless. I've been surprised. I've been awed. I've been blindsided. I've even been amazed. But rarely has whatever it was that unfolded before me, left me unable to utter a word. Last night was the exception.

When Senator Barack Obama became President-Elect Barack Obama, I was too moved for words. For the first few moments following CNN's announcement, all I could do was stare at my television screen, looking at words and images that tears had blurred beyond recognition.

I had followed the happenings of the presidential race. Saw the number of contending democratic hopefuls dwindle to three, then two, then one. All the while, I was impressed at how this man, who, until three or four years ago was a virtual unknown, spoke with such eloquence, proliferated such knowledge, and handled himself with such dignity. A family man. A God-fearing man. An educated man. A black man.

The odds were most definitely against Obama. He came from a broken home where his father left when Barack was two, and only returned once to visit when he was ten. After that, he never saw his father again. Obama had only served in the Senate for a few years and was still viewed as "green" and "inexperienced" by his opponents. They said he wasn't ready to be president. Wasn't qualified. And add to that that he was African American (the product of a black father and a white mother) and his chances seemed slimmer than slim. Yet, unfazed and unintimidated, Senator Obama set out to become the holder of the highest political office in the United States.

Few expected him to win the democratic nomination against the better known, well-liked and more experienced Senator Hilary Clinton. But with the declaration of three words that became his mantra: "Yes We Can," Illinois Senator, Barack Obama began a long, historic battle that he ultimately won, not only against Senator Clinton, but against the much-respected Republican hopeful, Senator John McCain, making Senator Obama President of the United States of America.

I'm not sure why the realization of it all rendered me dumbfounded. Perhaps it was because I never thought that a man who looked like me would ever be voted U.S. President. Maybe it was because I was grateful that not only had it happened in my lifetime, but that even my parents, who participated in marches, sit-ins and endured the days of segregation, had lived to see it. Perhaps it was because God had just given my children an excellent example to assure them that with Him, all things are possible if they believe. Maybe it was a mixture of all of the above.

Whatever the reason, November 4, 2008 goes down in my life's history as the day I became proudest of my country. The day that I became happiest to be an American citizen. The day I came to believe, more than ever, that a change.....a GOOD change was on its way to our government and our world.

Many books will arise from this moment in history. Authors from within the U.S. and beyond will capture pieces of Obama's life and his journey between the lines of their novels, memoirs, children's books and poetry. And no doubt, all that will be written won't be positive. Everybody didn't vote for him. There were some who desired to see him fail. But years ago, before the foundation of the world, God's pen wrote Barack Hussein Obama's name as the 44th U.S. President, and His pen is always right.

God bless our President-Elect Obama. God bless our newest first lady, Michelle Obama. God bless their children, Malia and Natasha (Sasha) Obama. May the Lord protect them from harm's way, keep them in His grace, and provide them with all of the knowledge, courage and strength that they will need to successfully lead our country into a brighter future.

God bless the United States of America.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

He Saw the Writer in Me

In a few days (on October 15th) my father will turn 70 years old. On yesterday, my three sisters and I (my brother, who lives in California, couldn't make the trip) surprised our dad by traveling to Macon, Georgia and showing up on his front porch, bringing with us gifts and nine of his twelve grandchildren. It was a wonderful surprise to him and we spent much of the day with him, treating him to dinner at one of his favorite restaurants (Ryan's) and sharing family time at my parents' home. (Photo at left was taken at Ryan's)

Most people who know me well, are aware that my dad is a preacher, and has been most of his life. As a child, I remember growing up thinking that my mom and dad were the strictest parents in the universe. My siblings and I were never allowed to go to many of the places or do many of the same things as our schoolmates. Back then, it seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. Today, age has matured me well, and I realize how blessed I truly was, and still am, that my parents loved me enough to set boundaries and enforce them. Just one look at some of those that I envied back in the day (those that are still alive, that is) is enough to make me thankful for my Christian upbringing.

Often times, I am questioned as to why I choose to write books wherein the main male characters are imperfect, yet positive role models. That is largely due, in part, because of my father. My dad was always the true patriarch in our family. Still is. He may not always get it right, but everything that he does for his family is done in love and with good intentions. Like the lead males in my books, Daddy loves God, his family, and his associates. I am more than thankful that the Lord has allowed him to see seventy years. Not only just to reach this milestone, but to reach it in sound mind and in exceptionally good health. My entire life, my father has never been hospitalized for any ailment and I think that is a major testimony. He's never dyed his hair, but he has so few grey strands in his head that they can probably be counted on both hands. And if I must say so myself, at 70, he looks better than many men twenty years his junior.

One of my fondest memories as a child and as a teenager is how Daddy constantly told me that there was a writer inside of me. Back then, my writing was limited to poetry and plays. For almost every special church or family function, I was called upon to write and read a poetic piece; and I wrote skits just for fun, and often shared them with one of my younger sisters with whom I shared a bedroom. Every time my father would read one of my creations, he would remind me that my talent was a God-given gift and would encourage me to expand on it and allow it to fully flourish. Back then, I had no idea of where my gift would lead me, but I think Daddy knew all the while. He was happy, but didn't seem all that surprised back in 2002, when I first shared the news with him and my mom that I was self-publishing my first book.

So, twelve books and many literary awards and recognitions later, in tribute to him and the part that he played in helping me to realize my destiny, I wanted to dedicate this blog entry to Bishop Harold Norman. I love you, Daddy; and I pray that I continue to make you proud.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ministering through Christian Writing

This past weekend, I had the fortune (once again) of being a featured author at the 5th Annual Pen to Paper Symposium in Dayton, OH. This literary function is the brainchild of author and publisher, Valerie Coleman (of Pen Of the WritER) and I've been blessed to be a part of it each year since it's inception, with the exception of last year when a schedule conflict prevented my participation. Valerie is never going to let me live down that one absentee, so I'll be apologizing from now until when Christ makes His return. (So, once again....sorry, Val!)

As in previous years, Pen to Paper was a delightful experience. Valerie (along with her husband, Craig, and their team of assistants) always manages to pull together an organized conference that is well attended and with workshops that are capably anchored. The facilitators this year (among others) included myself (I not only facilitated a writing workshop, but was honored to be keynote speaker for an empowerment session as well), Pam Perry (who I was so very delighted to finally meet after years of only knowing her through web interaction), Avalon Betts-Gaston (an amazing legal mind, to say the least), and Christopher McNeal (lead vocalist of the gospel group, CHRISTOPHER) who facilitated a very insightful music artist workshop.

Okay....let's take a moment and just talk about CHRISTOPHER (whose members names are Christopher McNeal, Christopher Reid, and Christopher Surratt.....seriously, all their names are Christopher!) This trio is a blend of harmony and energy that is almost beyond description! They've been around for about 16 years, but I only heard of them last year. I'd purchased their newest CD in 2007 from a member of their management team, so I knew that they could sing. But seeing them perform live as they headlined the Friday night concert, was an entirely different experience. Oh, my! These fellas know how to fire up a mic and rock a stage. And their personalities are as endearing as their voices. After the concert, I lingered around until the "fan line" died down and met them personally. I was also able to talk to their management and get them booked for Cruisin' For Christ III. I know the onboard guests are going to love these guys. (You may see a live performance by clicking HERE).

As an author, I travel quite a bit to promote the works that God has chosen me to pen. In doing so, I attend many, many conferences. Those who know me well, know that I don't promote a conference unless it is planned and carried out with professionalism. The Pen to Paper Literary Symposium is one that I would highly recommend for any writer, poet or artist who has a desire to learn more about the craft and the industry as a whole.

Hats off to Valerie Coleman and Pen Of the WritER (POWER) for another job well done!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

The official announcement came on the eve of Thursday, September 25th, during the 4th Annual African American Literary Awards Show, which took place at the Harlem Gatehouse in Harlem, NY. This year, I was nominated for three of the prestigious awards, and was blessed to win two of them: Best Christian Fiction of the Year for Battle of Jericho and Best Short Story/Anthology of the Year for This Far By Faith, an anthology title that I share with noted authors, Stacy Hawkins Adams and Linda Hudson-Smith, who also have short stories in the collection.

A heartfelt "Thank you" goes to everyone who sent in enough nominations to place my books on the "finalist" lists, and to those who voted in the online poll and made Battle of Jericho and This Far By Faith winners. The third category in which I was recognized a finalist was Best Independent Publisher. For the second year in a row, my company, KNB Publications, LLC was nominated for that award and made it to the final round. Although, in the end, it was not chosen the winner, I count it a blessing to be recognized as an independent publisher whose work is worthy of such an honorable mention.

God is good!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Hello, and welcome to the Blessed 2 Write (B2W) Blogspot, featuring your new resident blogger, Kendra Norman-Bellamy! Yes, I've been a writer for a few years now, and yes, I currently have twelve published works of fiction on the market. But this blogging thing....well, I avoided it like the plague for as long as I could. Why? Nothing against blogs, bloggers or blogging. I just didn't see how I could fit the time in my ultra busy schedule to keep a current one going. Still can't. LOL! But I've finally bitten the bullet and joined the ranks of professional bloggers everywhere. What can I say? I love a good challenge!

Since writing is my life and my ministry, most of the blogging that you will find in B2W will reflect that. I will make it my weekly endeavor to not only share my thoughts about writing and publishing, but also my experiences as I travel to fulfill the demands of my literary appointments. I'm always meeting interesting people and seeing fascinating things and I'll be using this blog as a means to share them with you.

If you've not yet read any of my titles, please consider picking up a copy and experiencing a Kendra Norman-Bellamy novel. They are guaranteed to entertain, uplift, inspire, and test every single one of your emotions. I feel favored to have been given this gift by God and I am humbled that He allows me to use it for His glory.

Welcome again and until next blessed!