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Archive for March, 2014

Jaded, YA thriller

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

By Kristy Feltenberger


Jade has spent her entire life within the confines of the eye-color- obsessed Nirvana commune. She dreams of experiencing freedom but travel to the Outside is forbidden. Besides, she’s a dutiful daughter who never breaks the rules. As her seventeenth birthday approaches, however, she realizes just how little she wants to follow the commune rules. She doesn’t want to undergo another eye color surgery, or immediately choose a life partner, or follow her parents’ life paths of teaching or wine making. In fact, her green eyes suit her just fine, she’s never even been on a date, and she’s passionate about photography. And yet she’s resigned to do as she’s told because it’s easier for her to close her eyes and follow orders. 
Her Grandmother Ruby’s murder is the catalyst that causes Jade to open her eyes wide for the first time in her life. She’s devastated yet determined to find the killer and their motive. With help from her mysterious friend Tyrian, and Peaches, the commune leader’s sweet daughter, Jade unearths dark secrets which include her mother’s illicit affair, her maternal grandparents’ escape from Nirvana, and a plethora of murders. To make matters worse, someone is hell bent on ending Jade’s mission for the truth, and that someone is most likely the killer. 
Jade can’t continue conforming to an evil society and yet she fears the Outside is just as corrupt. If she resolves to flee and is caught, the punishment is banishment to the slave cabins…and blinding

Although Jaded is considered a young adult dystopian novel, adults will be able to relate to Jade’s plight. 




My blog, Keep Calm and Write On-







Kristin Clark Taylor Visit

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

 By Cindy Brookshire

 Kristin Clark Taylor inspires students to power down and become memory makers

While Olivia Pope fans were home watching “Scandal” on Feb. 27, I was taking myself on an “author” date to NOVA’s Manassas campus. The Office of Student Life sponsored a free community event with Kristin Clark Taylor – Scandal-inspiration Judy Smith’s real life friend – speaking about her years working in the West Wing.

 Taylor was the first African-American woman to serve as White House director of communications for President George H.W. Bush. She wrote a book about her experiences called “The First to Speak: A Woman of Color inside the White House” (Doubleday, 1993).

  Taylor kept her comments brief so she could interact with the young adults in Colgan Theatre. She shared what it was like to find a job after leaving Michigan State with just an undergrad degree in classical literature. Luckily her byline in the Detroit Free Press caught the eye of the launch team at Gannett, who recruited her to help start the new national daily USA Today. From there she was offered the job as Vice President Bush’s communications strategist, press officer and writer.

  Taylor was proud to bring her mother to the White House one day, and even kept a clump of dirt and grass from the Rose Garden that she cleaned off her high heel as a memento. When her mother died two months before Bush was elected president, her death forged their friendship.

  “Working in the White House was a living history lesson,” said Taylor, who said she always took a moment of reverence before entering the Oval Office. “I was aware of the hands that had polished the doorknobs I touched. The past is a living, breathing thing. We all need to connect with something larger than ourselves.”

  Oh, and those racy (and racing) scenes in “Scandal” in the West Wing? Taylor said it’s more like working in a private home; calm, even in crisis. So she has to laugh when she sees all those extras running in the background on the show.  She said the décor of the HBO TV series Veep is truer to form – she was sure they were filming in her old office!

Taylor encouraged students to be “memory makers” of those we have loved and lost. As an example, she shared the moment she asked her father if he thought there would ever be a black president. He was in the basement of their family home, bent over a fishing tackle box. She watched his shoulders strengthen, and he said, yes – maybe not in his lifetime, or hers, but yes. When that day came, she said, it was in her lifetime, not his; and it was historic, whether you agreed with Barack Obama’s policies or not.

  Taylor focuses her writing on the inspirational. Since “First to Speak” she has published three more books, “Black Mothers: Songs of Praise and Celebration,” (Doubleday, 2000), “Black Fathers: A Call for Healing,” (Doubleday, 2003) and “The Forever Box,” (Berkley, 2011). Currently, she is working on a novel, and is active in a writers group in Great Falls, Va. Her children are grown; she lives with her husband, Lonnie.

  “Prayer is for God to expand the territory of my heart,” said Taylor, who starts each day with an expression of gratitude and Bible reading to “put the rest of the day in perspective and gird myself” for what comes. She practices tai chi, and encouraged students to “power down” and create stillness so that they could allow space to be filled with whatever is waiting to come in.

  Driving home from campus in the extreme winter chill, I turned off the car radio, and created a stillness that allowed peace to enter. I thought about the loved ones who are no longer here, the memories we made together and the times we cherished. I had held them in, protecting them. Now I realize I need to write them down, and share them, as Kristin Clark Taylor has inspired me to do.


The Prairie Star – An 1850’s Anthology

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Women’s History Month has me thinking about women, yes, but mainly women writers.  Those of you who know me or are familiar with my writing, know I like to illuminate the stories of everyday people from the past, that so often have parallels with our own.


When settlers went west they didn’t leave everything behind.  They brought many cultural traditions to their new communities as a way to socialize with new neighbors and bring some feeling of civilization to newly formed towns.


Today I would like to introduce you to the ladies of the Kansas Philomathic Literary Society.  This group, formed in Topeka, Kansas, held its first meeting during the winter of 1855-1856 in Union Hall.  The first Saturday of the month was set aside for lectures, with the other Saturdays for discussion and literary readings.  In 1857, the Society began producing a handwritten “journal” called the Prairie Star, which featured the poetry and prose of its members.  All punctuation and spelling has been left as in the original documents.


The “mission statement” of the group is poetical as presented in the prospectus:


            We have christened our paper the Prairie Star, Seeking a name synonymous with

our far Western and beautiful land, and from these broad and fair Prairies we will endeavor to send forth Such Sentiments as will serve a beacon light to those

around us, pointing them to all that is Noble, fair, and truthful. 


In the January 24, 1857 inaugural issue, Maria Martin, the journal’s editor, opened with reflections on settlers’ perspectives as they huddled inside for the winter:


            With the early days of the bright New Year, while the cold searching winds

            Come sweeping o’er these broad prairies, entering every creek and crevice of our Kansas Homes,                                                

We circle round our quiet firesides, each busy with his or her own thoughts, thankful for the measure of peace which now is ours after the distracting Scenes of the past year-

The man of business as he rests from his daily toil, thinks of his prospects, how much the receipts of his last years labors were.  How he will provide and act for the future.  The Mother thinks of the home She has left, of the valuable Schools, the many advantages which formerly surrounded her youthful family and earnest hopes that the Same may ere long Surround her and hers, in this there far Western Home.  The young wife with busy thoughts intent, building up in her imagination her little home with all of Nature and Arts adornments . . . but bright dreams for the future occupy her every thought.  And the young man, and blooming maiden full of gaity and mirth, and bright anticipations, Transplant to there new homes, Some of the Scenes and enjoyments of former homes.  First, and most valued among we consider out “Literary Society” . . .



Certainly, our writing groups today are different from the Philomathic Society in many ways.  But think about why your own writing group came together – comraderie, a shared interest in writing, and perhaps educating each other and the community.  Consider the Prairie Star as the Society’s anthology, with its goal to enlighten their neighbors.  Unlike many anthologies today, printed on Create Space or other electronic means, each Prairie Star issue, and each copy of each issue, was handwritten.  What an undertaking and what an accomplishment. 


The editor expressed the group’s desire to produce a quality journal.  Although, the group was primarily ladies, they did not discriminate in accepting submissions as the editor points out:


. . . Our lady friends we hope will rally around aiding us with there contributions of Poetry and Prose, and not only from the ladies but we trust our male friends will lend us the cheering smile, and kindly word, and think it a priviledge to occasionally Send us a few thoughts by the more practicable pens for our mutual benefit and of wit and humour a share to enliven our pages and amuse our

hearers . . .


So now on this fourth day of Women’s History Month, let us raise our pens to the ladies  of the Kansas Philomathic Literary Society.



Writer and artist Linda S. Johnston enjoys combining history, art, and nature in her writing.  She began reading reading pioneer diaries in 1986 and never stopped.  Her first book Hope Amid Hardship: Pioneer Voices from Kansas Territory, is a collection of pioneer writings about the happy side of life in early Kansas and includes watercolor sketches throughout.  To learn more about Linda and her writing, please visit


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