Author Interviews

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Friday, 19 April 2013

Author interview with J Moffett Walker (revisited)

Back in February 2013, I interviewed author J Moffett Walker for my interview-only WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with poet and non-fiction author J Moffett Walker. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
jmoffettJuanita: I am Juanita Moffett Walker, a retired teacher / counsellor. I am based in Mississippi, my home state. As a child, I loved learning new words and using the same words arranging them differently to express a new thought. The day I found out that I could do that I was so happy. I wanted to become a write after college, but my parents advised me to train for an eight to five job. They further advised me to write during my spare time. So I became a teacher.
Morgen: Starting with your poetry, do you write poetry to form or as it comes?
mississippiJuanita: Most of the time I write rhyming lines. My main goal is the message, one that is easily understood. Although I studied and taught poetry, I do not write all my poems to comply with a certain form. However, I do use a variety of literary techniques such as figurative language. The one published poetry volume I have is a historical volume called The Mississippi I Love.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Juanita: My pseudonym name is J Moffett Walker. My six books all are published under that name:
  1. Church Folk, novelette, 2001, Author House;
  2. Muh, 2004, novelette, Cork Hill Press, now T J Company;
  3. The Powerful Web of Kinfolk, nonfiction, 2005, Publish America;
  4. The Mississippi I Love, poetry, 2007, E-Book Time LLC;
  5. Muh’s Cookbook: Recipes before 1930, Jumbo Jack’s Cookbooks, cookbook, 2009; and
  6. Blueprints of Sir Michael, biography, 2010, Author House.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Juanita: I have had rejections. At first I threw them away, but as I kept on writing and submitting, I learned from my mistakes. Now I keep the rejection letters in a notebook. Sometimes editors will give the authors some recommendations for publication with traditional companies.  I consider that to be excellent free information.
Morgen: Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Juanita: Yes, contests are other avenues writers can use to improve and learn to compete.  I received honourable mention in a contest where participants came from eleven countries. That motivated me. My recommendation for writers: search the web and look for free or almost free contests. Check for fraud ones as well. Needless to say I recommend Southern California Genealogical Society Family History Writing Contest because they recognized something in the quality of my writing. Also use magazines such as Poets and Writers and Writers Digest.
Morgen: Do you go to poetry slams?
Juanita: I do recommend poetry slams for those who enjoy it.  I will attend when one becomes convenient for my location.
Morgen: Do you deal with publishers directly or do you have an editor / agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Juanita: I am searching for an experienced agent. I feel that I need one to take my works to another level.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process?
churchfolkJuanita: Church Folk and Blueprints of Sir Michael are both in eBook format. The company offered it to me and I accepted.
Morgen: Do you think eBooks will change poetry? If so, how?
Juanita: Yes, it can. E-books are more useful for the younger generation. They grew up with technology. Many older adults do not have a computer or any kind of technology to read e-books.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your poems or topic to write about?
Juanita: Yes, I do. The theme poem in my poetry volume has the same name as the title of the book, The Mississippi I Love. The poem tells the story of my life from birth to future times.
Morgen: Presumably you choose the titles of your poems – do you get to keep them or are you ever overridden?
Juanita: I choose my titles most of the times. However, my manager assists me too. I share with friends and relatives and also the writing club I founded for feedback.
Morgen: Do you show / read your poems to anyone before you submit?
Juanita: Yes, I do.
Morgen: Why do you think poetry is such a difficult market to break into?  Is it just poetry?
Juanita: I do not think so. Breaking into any literary form is a challenge. Getting national free coverage is a difficult challenge. I understand that modern technology has helped, but writers who do not have connections or a certain last name will need to know they have to stick with it and do not give up. For me I love to write. It makes me happy.   I find that one invitation or performance usually gets another and that keeps me going.
Morgen: Are there any tips you could give to someone wishing to write poetry?
Juanita: Get started and know that this is a challenging business. Read and read and read some more. Then write and write and write some more. Keep at it. Do it because of the love for it.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing of your poems or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Juanita: Regardless how long one writes editing is most significant. It is also quiet important to have a professional editor to proof one’s works. The English language is beautiful, but it is also tricky to a writer. Sometimes I think I have said one thing, but I said another. Sometimes I think I have used a correct word, but instead the wrong one ended up on the page.
Morgen: I used to write a lot of 60-word stories and found the more I wrote the closer they came out to the word count. It’s obviously not a direct comparison but do you find your poems come out at similar lengths, or do they really vary.
Juanita: My poems vary in length.
Morgen: Do you write any fiction, non-fiction or short stories?
Juanita: I have not gotten into the desire to write the short story yet.
Morgen: What / who do you read? And is it via eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Juanita: I generally read the paper books. I have the technology for e-books. I read my two e-books to get a feel of what other would experience. I read books, magazines and newspapers to stay informed.
Morgen: How much marketing do you do?
Juanita: Self-published authors such as I am, have no option, but to do the marketing or hire someone to do it. My husband is my manager. Therefore, he helps me to market. Marketing is a big challenge but a necessary aspect.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Juanita: Currently I am working on two manuscripts. They are nearly finished. The first is Earth Angel a novelette about the wrongful death of a 24- year old pharmacist and the legal ride the parents had with their legal teams. The second is my memoir which I call Daybreak in Mississippi. I have been asked to co-author two biographies.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Juanita: I must admit I do not write everyday. I cannot say I have writer’s block, but I must say some days the ideas and words flow fluently. I do not write everyday, but I have a schedule or routine for my writing projects.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
kinfolkJuanita: I do not believe any writer can write any form of literature without researching. I realize some works will require more research. For example, Muh, The Mississippi I Love and Blueprints of Sir Michael required plenty research. I researched for the others, but the nature of those books did not require as much reach.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Juanita: I have two pieces I am not too sure about.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Juanita: The favourite aspect is presenting to a group and answering questions from the audience. I love feedback. The least favourite is marketing.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Juanita: The first would be Richard Wright, Margaret W. Alexander and William Faulkner. I would hide all my stained cooking ware.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Juanita: I like Frances Bacon’s “Reading maketh a full man.” I say,  “Readers and writers are friends.”
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing? Yes, I am glad you asked that question. I am president of the Clinton Ink-Slingers a writing group I founded in 2006. I also am on the board of directors of the Clinton Arts Council. And finally, I am a member of Friends of the Library in my city.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Juanita: I volunteer for the Clinton Visitor Center. I am a member of Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Edwards, Mississippi, where I am a mother of the church, church announcer, choir member, soloist and substitute musician. I am a volunteer musician for Pleasant Green Christ Holiness Church on third Sundays.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Juanita: I believe the future for writers is quite bright.
Morgen: I think so too. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Juanita: You may find out more about me and my works as;;;, Clinton, Mississippi Arts Council, Publish and E-Book Using my pen name J. Moffett Walker will direct readers to information about me.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Juanita: Yes, I appreciate you taking the time to interview me.  I am grateful. Thank you for the time you spent with this adventure.
Morgen: You’re so welcome. I really enjoy what I do. Thank you for joining me.
I then invited Juanita to provide one of her poems…
The Mississippi I Love
Boot shaped-like, spacious, with plains and roving hills,
Plenty room to move at one’s free will
The Mississippi I love
It’s the home of my dear ancestors’ dreams
Living peacefully, beautiful rural scenes
The Mississippi I love
My childhood, good times, bad times, heartaches and pains
Fruitcakes, hog headcheese, and sugar cane
The Mississippi I love
Where I learned my ABC’s
All about the “P’s” and “Q’s”
Dotting “I’s” crossing “T’s”
The Mississippi I Love
Belmont, Utica Institute, Utica Junior and Jackson colleges
Where teachers were respected; learners were detected,
nourished and corrected
The Mississippi I love!
Little Zion, Spring Ridge, Pleasant Green,
Mt. Mariah, and Morning Star
Bethlehem, Little Star and Belmont…the whole village
We have a car!
The Mississippi I love!
Cities and towns, center of the state,
Bolton, Clinton, Edwards, Raymond, Utica and Vicksburg,
Can’t forget Jackson, the capitol, for my slate
The Mississippi I love!
My life, molded hard work, corn and cotton fields,
Eating greens, peas, cornbread with buttermilk, pork,
rabbit and other veal
Wearing cloth tennis shoes, just one dollar!
Hand-me-down, flower-sack dresses without silk collars
The Mississippi I love!
Where I learned family, ethics, and responsibility to a tee
And, education made my mind mentally free
The Mississippi I love!
Where I decided, a husband, a house and a home
With plenty space for our children to roam
Without a family what would my life be,
Even if that Mississippi I love is inside me.
Not the only place I lived, worked and travelled
Learning from those locations unravelled
But the roots and foundation made this building
And the Mississippi I love is never chilling!
Happiness, love, joy, goodwill!
Sharing, erring, and forgiveness- in the deal!
Forever, and ever and ever and ever
The Mississippi I love!
and a synopsis and this is of Blueprints of Sir Michael…
blueprintsThe self-taught musician, Michael J. Jackson, electrified a performance with his brothers at a high school, Roosevelt, Gary, Indiana, and changed the course of events for his life and his brothers. At the early age of six years old, Michael stood self-assured with Sigmund, Esco“ Jackie”, Jermaine, Toriano Adayll, “Tito”, and Steven  “Randy” Jackson in front of a packed auditorium. The little kid led the Temptations’ My Girl then a popular song causing the audience and judges to forever remember their performance. Joseph Jackson entered them in that local contest; after that evening’s event in 1967 the Jackson family was on an uphill journey to success.
A performance at Gilroy Stadium, Gary, Indiana, with Gladys Knight introducing the group opened a brand new chapter in the lives of the Gary, Indiana, natives. Although the Jackson Brothers had won many other contests, winning the Roosevelt talent competition was probably the highlight of Michael amateur career. They began to get invitations to perform outside their local area and in other states. But the most significant─ Keith Gordon owned and operated a recording studio in the city and offered the family a contract.  Gordon recorded the family’s first record called Big Boy.
Joseph Jackson then had an avenue to share his children’s talents without travelling to distance places.
The brothers performed the opening acts in Chicago for many great singers. They performed at the world known Apollo Theatre in New York, New York and won. It was a known fact that if one could win at that spot where audiences booed acts off the stage, they could make it in show business. And so it was.  Barry Gordon gave the brother a contract and the group became world know as the Jackson Five, a name given to them by an Indiana contest sponsor.
Years later Michael went solo and became the best performer ever. He appeared in The Wiz as Scarecrow. He developed the short film called the video and changed it forever.  He produced games. Although some may have been out to destroy the talented young man, Michael survived and earned his rightful place in history.
Blueprints of Sir Michael, chimed notes about Michael Joseph Jackson’s life, all the way from 2300 Jackson Street, Gary, Indiana, to his comeback plans and the end of his musical journey.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog,, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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