Tag Archives: interview

Interview With Zoe Forward

Happy Friday, readers & writers! A few weeks ago, I told you about Dawn Of A Dark Knight, a great Paranormal romance novel by Zoe Forward. Today, I ask you to join me in welcoming Zoe to Clara54’s writers blog.


Dawn of a Dark Knight is a spellbinding read! Is writing your passion?

Writing is simply wonderful, but I came to it well after I had an established career as a veterinarian. I recall reading a dreadfully written paranormal with a rather blasé plot. Annoyed, I determined that the characters bumping around in my brain would be vastly more interesting to read about. So, I released them onto paper. And what an exhilarating experience. I’ve got many more characters and stories. So, I’d keep writing even if I never publish another novel (although Forgotten in Darkness, Scimitar Magi series novel #2 is on the way), I’ll keep on writing.

Your book is in the paranormal realm. What led you to write for this genre?

I’ve been a paranormal romance and mainstream fiction addict for decades. I’m not sure there was much of a choice not to write paranormal for me having grown up loving Ann Rice and movies like Indiana Jones. For Dawn of a Dark Knight everything came together at the right creative moment — my thoughts on Egyptian mythology, my interest in archaeology, my ideas about a new type of paranormal hero and more. It all just gelled.

What sort of research, if any lends itself to such interesting characters in Dawn of a Dark Knight?

This book required researching Egyptian mythology, which I discovered is complex and there is not always consensus between references on much of anything (from the names of gods to what exactly they did or represented). I spoke with people well versed in weapons to learn about knives and guns, as well as what makes sense during fight scenes.

The odd mixture of characters just seems to work for this book! Were you concerned that readers might not care about such an integral part of fiction writing?

Characters are the key to driving the story. If we’re not interested in who is in the story, then it’s probably not a book that the reader is going to finish. I never thought about readers being concerned about introducing so many different characters. I was careful to differentiate the characters so they each have a unique voice and unique personality quirks.

Tell us how you approach a writing process…do you use an outline, notepad or just hit the blank page with fingers to the keyboard?

I’m not a plotter and outlines don’t work for me. I rarely use actual physical writing…too slow. It’s just me and my laptop. And I just go for it. I have a rough idea in my head of where I want to go, and the story arc. I create my characters and then throw them together. They usually drive the story. On occasions when I have a strong idea of where and what I want them to do and I try to push them into doing it, the character has rebelled. I had a few fights with my characters while writing, and ultimately the character won.

I’m paraphrasing a bit, but, some great author/writer shared that a writer who haven’t written about sex in their stories, essentially does not a writer make, although, that’s not the case here. Care to comment?

When I first started writing romance, I found love scenes tough. But now I don’t fight it. I just let them flow as any other scene would. I don’t let the subject matter hinder me. My job as a writer is to put what’s in my head on the page as faithfully as I can. That includes the love scenes.

What’s next for Zoe Forward?

Dawn of a Dark Knight is the first in the Magi series. In the second novel, Forgotten in Darkness, there is a new magus who just got released from an unjustified stint in purgatory. Long ago, a dark-magik sorcerer cursed him and the woman he loves to murder each other within days of meeting in each new lifetime. Being back means this cycle will start again. He’s attempted countless curse-reversal rituals over the centuries, and all failed. Now, he may have discovered a way to break their vicious cycle. But it requires he kill her before she strikes her deathblow, something he’s never done in the past.

Where can readers pick up their copy of Dawn of a Dark Knight?


I’d like to thank my readers for picking up my book and taking that chance. There are so many options out there. I’m honored when you put my book on your shelf. I love to hear from readers whether it is via email, facebook or twitter. So, don’t be shy.

Website: http://www.zoeforward.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorzoe.forward
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6591244.Zoe_Forward

Buy links:
Wild Rose Press: http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=195&products_id=5122

NOOK: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dawn-of-a-dark-knight-zoe-forward/1114807621?ean=2940016381633

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dawn-Dark-Knight-ebook/dp/B00ADAD9AU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354129181&sr=8-1&keywords=dawn+of+a+dark+knight

Zoe Forward writes action-adventure paranormal romances. Although a deep part of her wishes she had pursued a career that would have her at a dig site in a hot, sandy country, she’s a small animal veterinarian, caring for everything from chinchillas to dogs…and even one hermit crab in there. When she’s not being a vet, a mom, or sneaking out to a movie with her husband, she’s at her laptop writing.

Zoe is the creator of the brand new Scimitar Magi series. The first book in the series, DAWN OF A DARK KNIGHT was released by Wild Rose Press on March 1, 2013.

Having read Zoe’s interview, would any of you tackle this genre? If you already write paranormal, please share your thoughts.

An Interview With Romance Novelist- Kwana M. Jackson


I recently read the steamy romance novel, Through The Lens and knew I had to talk with the author about her new, saucy release. Please join me in welcoming Ms. Kwana Jackson to Clara’s writer’s forum.

Kwana, welcome. I really enjoyed reading Through The Lens, your new release. Before we get to your novel, please share a bit about yourself.

Thank you so much for having me here today. It’s a great honor. I’m a born and raised New Yorker and former fashion designer, mother of teen twins and am now a full timed writer.

Please share some of your prior works.

I’m proud to say that Through The Lens is my first publish work. That said it’s the first of a 3 book series out from Crimson Romance. My next work, still set in the creative romance world will be out at the end of May and just in time for summer beach reading.

What led you to the romance genre?

I’ve always been a fan of woman’s fiction and romance. Some of my favorite authors, and these are just a few, have been: Jackie Collins, Terry Milan, Helen Fielding and Danielle Steele. Being a New York city kid I’d read romances on my long train commutes to and from high school.

Readers of Through The Lens will get swept away to some exotic island to live vicariously through your protagonists and some steamy makeout sessions…were you concerned at all about how women of a certain age might react or was age demographic not a factor?

LOL. Oh now what would you consider women of a certain age? Really, I’d love to know in the comments what readers think that certain age is . I think that would be a fun survey. I happily give the credit of my love of romance to my mother and my grandmother who always seemed to have a new romance novel around the house and these were not the tamest of books either. I think women of any age (as long as it’s a legal age) could enjoy Through The Lens.


What advice would you give the millennial who might have a passion for writing the romance, but, fear rebuttal or embarrassment ?

I do understand some having that fear, I sure did. It seems romance is, sadly an easy genre to make fun of, despite the fact that it’s been documented that it’s the best selling genre in the industry. This gives me great pause and makes me wonder why is it so singled out and put down when others are not. Could it be because it’s a genre primarily dominated by women for women. I don’t know, but still it’s something t be considered. That said, I don’t know what to tell folks besides follow your passion and do what speaks to you. You can’t work to please everyone, only yourself. As for me, I try and do the best work that I can each time and write a story. One that in the end makes my heart feel good and if I can make another person happy with that story then I’m done my job twice over.

Would you ever use a pseudonym?

That’s funny. K.M. Jackson actually is my pseudonym, but I’m horrible at secret keeping and in this Google day what’s a secret anyway? It all comes out in the wash so I kept my long standing Kwana.com website figuring folks would somehow marry the two.

Tell us about your next project and where readers can grab a copy of Through The Lens.

As I said Through The Lens if the first in my Creative Hearts series for Crimson Romance. My next in the series which is tentatively titled: Still Life will be out at the end of May. It’s the story of Samara, a bad girl New York socialite and artist with a dark past who falls for her new neighbor, Mark Thorn who has an equally dark past that he’d rather keep secret. I can’t wait for everyone to meet the two of them.
As for where you can find Through The Lens it’s available in ebook and in print at all your favorite e-tailers:
Barnes & Noble
And I can be found on my website http://www.kwana.com
On Facebook http://www.facebook.com/KmJacksonAuthor
And on twitter https://twitter.com/KwanaWrites

I really appreciate having you here, Kwana. Thanks for sharing your ‘romance’ author insights with us.

Thank you so much once again for having me.

I’ve read many romance novels. Through The Lens did not disappoint the romantic in me:) Have you written a romantic short story or novel? Please share your experiences with us on the forum.

An Interview With Author And Emmy Winning Filmmaker- Melissa Peltier


Melissa, thanks for visiting Clara54’s writers forum. Your body of work is so amazing. I’m just going to introduce you as an emmy-award winning bestselling writer, filmmaker, producer and author. Please share some of your fascinating career highlights with us.

I feel that (so far) I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had a varied and interesting career, though really, I see myself as more of an average worker bee in the industry than someone special. Of course I’d like to change that – and still have quite a “bucket list” of dreams and dream projects I’d like to create – but as you can probably guess from my novel, most ‘Reality TV’ isn’t on that list!

Looking back to these 25 plus years, I’d say I’m most proud of the longform documentary film projects I did with my mentor Arnold Shapiro (model for the “Marty Maltzman” character in Reality Boulevard), including Scared Silent: Exposing and Ending Child Abuse, hosted by Oprah Winfrey, which was simulcast on three networks and was, at the time, the most-watched television documentary in history. Break the Silence the follow-up, is another ASP project of which I’m very proud. I am also still immensely proud of my mini-series for A&E on the Titanic, which won two Emmy’s in 1995. Then of course, White Irish Drinkers, the indie feature film written and directed by my husband John Gray, which I produced (with Paul Bernard and Jim Scura) in 2010. We did it for $600,000 in 17 days and it’s a true indie gem.

You referenced your writing as “cathartic” and I’m sure many writers can agree on how freeing the creative process can be. What’s it like for you ,being ‘in the zone’ so to speak?

When I was in college, I wrote a lot of fiction and poetry and was so frequently ‘in the zone’ that my favorite place to write was the busy student union…because somehow the act of shutting out all the noise around me made my focus even stronger. I went many years without writing my own fiction (with the exception of a handful of dramatic scripts, only a few of which ever went anywhere.) Writing non-fiction books and television was a different, more intellectual process. Now that I am writing my own fiction again, I am so pleased to be back in that place – ‘the zone’ as you say – that I remember. It is amazing, how the characters speak through you and lead you down paths you never expected to go. In a few places in Reality Boulevard, characters would open their mouths and teach me lessons about myself and my life that I really needed to learn. That’s what writing is all about – it comes through you, from somewhere else (I’m a Jungian at heart and the collective unconscious describes a very real place for me) and your perceptions, history, and craft are the conduit. It’s a near magical experience. Of course, some days, it’s just a slog. But you have to do the slog days to get to the magic days.

Let’s talk about this exciting new novel! Tell us about Reality Boulevard.

imagesmelissa's book!

Thank you! Reality Boulevard is set in present-day Hollywood, and its premise is a long-running, 16-year award-winning show about heroic first responders, cops, doctors, etc. called Lights and Sirens (for fun, drop in at http://www.lightsnsirensprod.com !) is unexpectedly and unceremoniously bumped off the air by an ambitious, recently-hired network executive (who would secretly like cancel all drama shows too, and turn her flagging broadcast network into all reality, all the time). Lights and Sirens producer, the quirky, loveable, Oscar-winning documentarian Marty Maltzman, and his loyal staff and crew suddenly find themselves out in the street in a world filled with Kardashians, Real Housewives and Survivors. The novel is about how they cope with this crass new Hollywood, and follows a number of different, colorful characters as they try and reconcile their dreams and idealism with what they must do to survive in a business that is (and has always been) ever-changing.

Reality Boulevard reads like a satire and many readers have called it “laugh out loud hilarious,” but the truth is, I wasn’t thinking “comedy” when I wrote it! Unfortunately much of it is more deadpan truism than satire. But I’ve been in that world a long time and truly, it satirizes itself. There are days when you feel like you’re living in an outlandish satire. Without a sense of humor about the absurd, it would be impossible to survive it!

Although your novel is fiction, I’m frankly embarrassed with some of the disturbing behaviors seen on these shows. Being a black woman and a celebrity blogger, I do call out ugly behaviors at my entertainment site. Is the stereotypical aspect of reality television a big part of executive behind the scenes decision making? Do you think viewers have become desentsitized to what they see on reality tv and how their children might also be affected?

I’ve been around the business a long time and have watched as, slowly, non-fiction/documentary television morphed into what we know today as Reality TV. It has been a gradual process, starting in the 90’s and really exploding on network with the arrival of Survivor in May of 2000. My stepdaughter and her friends were born in 1993 and watching their reaction to shows like The Hills and The Bachelor made me realize, these girls have never known a world without reality TV! I believe it has strongly colored their perceptions toward the world and not for the better. In fact, the Girl Scouts did a study on the effect of regular Reality TV viewing on 1100 girls. http://blog.girlscouts.org/2011/10/new-girl-scouts-research-exposes-impact.html A few of the results of the study showed some positive effects in the areas of leadership and ambition. But to my mind, many more of the results are quite frightening. The girls who watched more reality TV showed a markedly higher belief in the importance of physical appearance (like we women need more of that!), the idea that women have to outdo one another for a man’s attention, and that backstabbing and manipulation were viable life strategies for success – the normalization of the ‘mean girl’ stereotype.

The stereotypes perpetuated on Reality TV, when taken as a whole, are equally as disturbing. As a black woman, you have every right to be enraged! The racial stereotypes in reality TV (“Flavor of Love”; “Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”) are appalling. The gender stereotypes are equally dangerous and I believe the Girl Scout study is the tip of the iceberg as to the subliminal damage they do to young women who are just beginning to develop their grown-up identities. An outstanding and very readable academic analysis of this can be found in Jennifer Pozner’s outstanding and impeccably researched book, Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV.” ( http://www.realitybitesbackbook.com )

Sadly, Reality TV could not exist without stereotypes. You see, it’s mostly not real. (I’m not talking about real docu-style shows or shows with reality-based formats like Hoarders, The Dog Whisperer, Intervention, Beyond Scared Straight, etc. here – there are still people who are trying to make redeeming TV. I’m talking about the average docu soap and many contest shows) The shows are conceived and greenlit in a cynical, reactive kind of way based on trying to capitalize on or outdo the success of what came before (although to be fair, all TV, film, theater, commercial art and publishing contains an element of this.) The “cast” – who are cast in much the same way a dramatic project is cast – are often wanna-be actors or even simply wanna-be celebs who don’t want to do the work to actually learn something for which to be famous. They just want to be famous – end of story. Their greatest talent is the ability to play and to improv a larger-than-life aspect of themselves that fits into a stereotypical niche. What most people don’t know is, much reality TV is actually what’s called “Soft-Scripted” – an absurd moniker if I’ve ever heard one! “Soft-Scripted” means that the situations, scenes, conflicts – even lines, from time to time (I know an agent of one of the top and most successful reality docu-soap TV ‘stars’ who dutifully passed on a full script to his client every week) are ‘written’ by someone who, for union reasons, can’t be called a ‘writer’, so he or she is called a “series editor” or “story producer,” or other bland title like that, that won’t alert the Writers Guild that something fishy is going on. It’s paint-by-numbers, lowest-common-denominator drama – if you can call it drama – but it’s very deliberately planned out. Then there are the on-scene “directors” – like writers, they are often simply called segment producers or field producers so the Directors Guild doesn’t get upset – who use any and every technique possible to create conflict and drama among the characters. This could include passing along rumors, to giving the participants alcohol (there’s a lot of that), to forcing the participants into dicey situations. There is enormous pressure on these field producers to bring back heightened spectacle for every episode. And enormous pressure on the editors and post-production producers to heighten that drama and conflict even more in the editing process.

I don’t want to come off as a crusader against reality TV because I’m not. I like being entertained by silly things and guilty pleasures, just like anyone. Television is an ever-changing business and there’s no point in railing against change. The genre itself will evolve like anything else, and maybe it’ll even die a natural death some day. In the meantime, a lot of people seem to love it.

What I want to do is shine a light on an aspect of reality TV that is unsavory and in my opinion, potentially harmful. For instance: I’d say to parents, don’t let your daughters sit and watch the Kardashians on their own. Use it as a teaching moment to discuss superficiality and materialism and let your children know that these situations are about as real as their school musical. When watching shows like Survivor, ask your kids questions about backstabbing behavior, forming factions, etc. as ways to win. What do they really win? (Look up the “where are they now” features about past winners and you’ll see how hollow their victories.) And I think discussing the concepts of fame and celebrity with your kids is important too, because many in this generation truly believe in the Andy Warhol edict – that it is their birthright to be famous. This can be dangerous, because often ‘anything goes’ in this quest (case in point: Tila Tequila). Help your kids develop other role models who actually have a true gift, a skill, an ability or a talent which they’ve honed through hard work.

In the film Iron Lady, Meryl Streep (a great role model for actors!) says, “Today, all everyone wants is to be somebody. In my day, we wanted to do something.” Teach your kids the difference between these two concepts, and reality TV will be far less harmful to them.

What is the reaction from inside the industry, now that you’ve given the world, Reality Boulevard?

My mentor, Arnold Shapiro, loved it, which is what mattered to me most. I know plenty of people who might not be happy about the portrait I paint in the book, but the novel makes a huge point of defending the worker bees in the business – the producers/field producers/story producers/whatever, the editors, the crews – because they too are victims of the market. People have to work, have to feed their families – especially in this economy – and they have to take the work that’s out there. One outcome from the book is, I’ve received lots of private communications from people around my age with years and years in the business, who are paying mortgages and putting kids through college and although the business was quite different when we all started out in the ‘80’s, they aren’t in any position to change career directions at this point in life. Some are indeed upset by and ashamed of some of the work they do, but they still have to put food on the table.

I also wanted people reading the novel to understand that the majority of people who work in the film/television industry are not rich by any toss of the coin. What outsiders call “Hollywood” is mostly peopled by a huge group of middle class workers – creative people and technical people – who work insanely long hours with incredible dedication, for fair but not excessive wages. Without union protection, most have to pay their own (and their kids’) health insurance premiums. They also work from project to project. When a show is cancelled, they have to find a new job. Reality TV has lowered wages across the board, so they’re not only creative victims, they’re financial victims as well.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

My book is only available in eBook at the moment, through Apostrophe Books http://www.apostrophebooks.com – through Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and hopefully B&N soon if Nook gets its act together! You can also visit my author website at http://www.melissajopeltier.com.

Melissa, it was such a pleasure, having you here. I can’t wait until my readers and your new fans weigh in!

It’s been a pleasure; you ask great questions!

Did you guys enjoy the interview with Melissa? What’s your take on Reality TV?

Book Review: Nine Rubies By Mahru Ghashghaei

 In 1946, Mahru Ghashghaei was born in Ardebil, Iran, somewhere along the Russian Border. The youngest of three daughters, her life was like that of any child with love and appreciation for her Iranian upbringing. The onset of Revolution would bring change to the young girl’s life and to the people of Iran. Marhu’s mother would suffer humiliation and theft from her husband; father to Mahru and her two sisters. As the family struggles from the embarrassment of financial ruin and nearly destitute, their mother must make hard decisions to protect her three young daughters in a male dominated world where women have no voice.

In 1990, Mahru Ghashghaei, a Muslim woman would meet Susan Snyder, a Jewish woman,at a school function both their children attended. Their 20 year friendship would help to unleash secret stories buried since childhood…Stories that would evolve into an inspiring account of women survival, courage and resilience.

Mahru Ghashghaei, the author of Nine Rubies, along with Susan Snyder, co-author, sheds light on how people faced with adversity share commonalities, regardless of cultural differences.  I enjoyed reading this book filled with heartfelt moments, historical modules, passion and purpose. As a book review blogger, I encourage you to visit www.NineRubiesTheBook.Com  to purchase your copy of Nine Rubies today!

Clara54 received complimentary copy of Nine Rubies for review purposes…

An extra bonus for my readers!

Clara54 In Conversation With Mahru Ghashghaei:

Mahru, I want to thank you and Susan as well, for allowing me to review NINE RUBIES for my readers. I enjoyed the book immensely and also got a bit of education in Iranian Culture.

 How long has it been since you’ve been back to your homeland and is that difficult, considering the state of affairs in Iran now?

I haven’t seen my homeland for more than 3 years.  And now I am living where my sons and husband are with me, in the United States.

While reading Nine Rubies, I was struck with how very little laughter there was In your family growing up…was your childhood so structured and strict? And can you elaborate on what’s more important in an Iranian household?

Actually, I had my own world that was sometimes happy and sometimes not.  I was happy in the garden with my flowers. Even though I didn’t have a father, mom replaced him by telling stories and creating a woman’s world where I didn’t miss men.  This was very natural to me.

If strict means that I had discipline, this is true.  Mom guided me to follow the cultural rules such as “don’t laugh loud,” or the rule of “tarof (if you want something, don’t accept immediately – use lots of self control),” and “cover yourself decently.” In many Iranian households, privacy is important, and personal matters are secret.  Also, it is important to show yourself as more than you are, especially financially.  Iranians are proud people.

Mom actually had a very free soul, but in our situation living between two worlds, she often did not want us to appear close to her.  This was confusing and difficult for my self-identity – I didn’t know I belonged.

Why do you think your mother trusted your father by signing over papers that would rob your family of her father’s wealth? Could she have done anything about it and who was there to help her?

My father was devoted to his mission.  The Communist party was called Tudeh, and Tudeh means ‘people.’  As a Tudeh member, he wanted to take resources from wealthy families and distribute them to the poor.

I don’t know the circumstances under which he had mom sign away her wealth. However, at the time she may have felt very secure, or been assured by him that things would be fine.  She may have signed the paper to save her marriage, or maybe she was betrayed.  Or maybe she was convinced that it was right to give the money to the poor.  We just don’t know.

She did have her father for help, but she did this in secret, and hid the paper away – my husband and I saw the document many years later.  Her father probably would have stopped her.

It’s always interesting to look back and think about what decisions you would have made, but decisions are made without the advantage of hindsight.

Tell us about your mother…

My mother was always a very peaceful person, and her strong belief in her mission and that harshness was a good message for her.  Her father taught her that her life was not going to be easy, and she learned the lesson well.  She waited faithfully until the end of her life, knowing that she would be rewarded in the afterlife. 

Through my work, I was able to eventually release her from her servitude.

After my marriage, Khosro and I sent her on many trips to Mecca and other holy places that she wished to go. She had the best time with my children, and I gave her the privileges that she would have had in her father’s home.  She wasn’t ‘grandma’ in my house, she was the house manager.  Whatever rules she made, that was how it was, and she liked this life.  I wanted her to finally have everything she wanted, and I sacrificed for her the way she sacrificed for me when I was young.

At the end of her life, she lived happily in the United States for five years, even though she was quite sick.  Her health was poor, but her mind was peaceful.  She returned to Iran days before her death with peace in her heart and soul.

You spoke of your sisters. How are they and are they in Iran? Your half- brother as well? Have you two ever spoken about your lives as children of the same father?

My sisters are in Iran, and living very full lives with their children and grandchildren.  They are role models – Ashi is a spiritual guide in her community, helping orphan and abused children as a non-certified counselor.  Aki is still very wise – the wisest person in our family  – and a powerful example for all of us.  She competes with her children and grandchildren in using new technology, and with the grace of the Internet, we are in touch every day.

As for my half brother, this is a painful story that requires more than a short answer.  The confusion and shame we felt as a result of our father’s actions was a disaster for us, and we did not continue contact.  With wars around the world, this story is repeated more than can be imagined, and will continue to be a source of pain for many young people as a result of forced separations.  We hope to be advocates for these innocent victims.

Do you think/believe Iran will ever become a democracy? 

Why not?  Iran tasted democracy before the coup in 1953 against Dr. Mossagdeq, and I believe there are many intellectuals in Iran who favor democracy.  Today, many Iranians pay their lives to bring democracy back.

For all of my curious readers, please explain the significane of NINE RUBIES

When my grandfather was on his deathbed, he gave nine rubies to mom, who had lost her only son and was heartbroken.  He promised her if she stayed strong and took good care of her daughters, and didn’t give up on them, she would have nine grandsons.  And she had nine grandsons (and two granddaughters!).  Three of the rubies are mine.

Have you always felt that you wanted to become an advocate for women rights?

I have always felt that I was an advocate for EVERYONE’S rights.  And I know for that is a price to pay.  There are many examples in Nine Rubies, and in the rest of my life.  But it is always worth it to speak out for others.

Khalil Gibran…  why do his words bring you comfort?

I loved him since I was a child, hearing the poems in Farsi and their metaphors for my experiences.  The words helped me understand and process often-difficult situations and relationships.  After I learned English, I loved the poems even more, because they helped me understand my new language, and the new language helped me understand the poems more deeply. The comfort is because he speaks to my heart and calms it.

On a lighter note: Do you watch Reality Television’s Shahs Of Sunsets airing on VH1?

Yes.  I watch it because it reminds me of the time before the revolution in Iran, when a very small group of royal and privileged Iranians lived that way, only more gloriously.  Their behavior, like this group in California, was very flamboyant, and was harmful to the overall Persian culture. This group became an example that the clergy could hold up as being destructive to the culture, thereby pushing toward the revolution.

What do you think about how the Persian people are represented to American viewers?    

Definitely, Persian people are not well represented in Shahs of Sunset.  Persians in America have the same range of lives as all Americans.  Persians are scholars, business people, teachers, artists, hard working people, mothers, fathers, children, politicians, doctors – dealing with the daily issues of life. Iranians have a positive effect on the American culture, using our research and knowledge to improve our surrounding society, and are members of families, communities, and the country.

Also, as other Americans, there are a wealthy few, some of whom seek fame rather than positive influence and contribution to society.  I know that most Americans are aware of the difference between a reality show that flaunts the riches of a few, and the real and productive lives of the majority…

What do you think of this interview? Will you purchase a copy of NINE RUBIES?

A December Whatcha Doing!?!

Happy Monday! Today is a hump day for me. I’m doing research on articles I need to send out for my entertainment column for December at London’s City Connect Magazine.

Doing laundry- an early morning habit retained from an “up with the chickens” sorta mom:)

 Working with &trying to remember “I’m not my hair” because it’s growing back faster than a speeding bullet- cut it 1 year ago:( 

Preparing for an interview this afternoon!

Cooking comfort foods-yummy

Keeping an ear out for delivery-xmas comes early for the grandchildren at my house- Love playing Ms. Claus ( a reasonable ms. claus, doncha know?)

Glowing from my most recent accomplishment in continuing to hone my coaching & mentoring skills…admiring the certificate I just received after completing a ten week Leadership and Coaching class via Depaul University’s online Values- Centered Leadership Course, under The Hay Project.

Anyone interested in this awesome skills enhanced course, can go here for details http://leadershipdepaul.edu/secure/eng/lEduCP.asp or email hayleadership@depaul.edu

Sooo, Whatcha Doing my fellow scribes!?!

Tennille White Talks Spring Fashion for 2011


Okay, so here’s the deal. I’ve been excited to bring you fashion news from none other than Chicago’s very own  fashionista and designer, Ms. Tennille White. Last year, Tennille made a splash in New York as her designs were cause for audience standing ovations in BET’s Rip The Runway. Tennille White is back for a 2nd consecutive year, showcasing her Spring 2011 collection for the full figured woman, ranging in sizes 8-14.

The designs are described as bolder, brighter and better . Tennille will be joined by designers, Rachel Roy and LaQuan Smith in this year’s extravaganza!  After talking with Tennille for the 3rd time about her designs, this doesn’t really seem like an interview, so, here’s clara54 on the dish with Tennille White!

c54- Hey Tennille, what’s going on? How’s the business going?

Tw-Oh my gosh, we’ve been selling, selling, selling! After the show premiered last year, Clara, the sales have been through the roof. The show re-aired I don’t know how many times. It’s been such a blessings. In a weird way. I mean, I didn’t even know the show re-aired. It’s been such a blessing. It’s been just crazy!

c54- I’m sure. You know I sent you an email asking what the heck was going on~laughter- so are you showing  many new designs for this year’s line?

Tw- Oh, of course! I mean, we’ll be showing our Spring 2011 collection & it is so awesome! So full of bright colors. Every single piece is easy to wear, figure flattering and reflective of your personality. My gosh, the line looks like a bag of skittles. It’s a lot of color working. I mean, yea, Spring is about color anyway, that’s a huge trend and it’s so amazing because I designed all of this stuff early spring of last year. To see the pieces on the stage-the colors are like orange,pink, reds, greens and linen whites-we love our linen which come in a variety of colors.

c54- Sounds awesome. Now you know last year’s Rip The Runway was huge! So, are you just a bit concerned about this year and are you constantly trying to top yourself?

Tw- Oh, I mean, if I was a hit last year? I don’t know what it’s going to be this year because I’m being honest, Clara, I never been this passionate about a line before. I don’t know what it is-I am in awe. Honestly, God has put such a calm-such a energy in my body- where there’s not even a tenth of a 100% of a concern. You know when you top yourself? It’s almost like, what are you going to do next is the concern- not about now,you know what I’m saying?

c54- Yes, definitely. To be clear, I want you to tell my readers where they can find your designs.

Tw- I want everyone to go to my website. We get a lot of people that want like, “Can we fly you?” “We’re gonna have a little party” blah, blah, blah and I love to meet with the customers. I’m so passionate about their thoughts, issues; but, I want people to go to the website at www.TennilleWhiteChicago.com

We’re relaunching the website to coincide with the airing of BET’s Rip The Runway- airing 9pm Monday, March 21st. The line will be available as well. So, I’m hoping that of course, everyone goes and obviously look at the show first.

c54- I know that you mentor young people who want to become fashion designers- any lessons you want to impart?

Tw- You have to really be… when you get people to work with you and work for you, you have to really be on the same page. If their motives are any different than yours, it’s not going to work. I can now tell other people and be able to help someone else, especially younger people. Keeping them from spending and giving all that they have to someone is more valuable than that money could ever be.

I’m grateful that God gave me that experience and I’ve learned from it. “I’m over it. I’ve let go and let God”  (Tennille is talking about a bad experience she had placing her monies & trust with someone she hired as a recommended representative for her fashion line, only to lose lots of money and netted “0” sales- the valuable lesson)

c54- Tennillle White Fashions are seemingly everywhere. Would you ever move your business from Chicago to New York?

Tw- I’d never say what I would never do. I have no intentions, that’s not in my plan. Like if I met some sexy man in New York!  hey, it is what it is! (laughter) but I love my city. My family is here, my business is here.

c54- Thanks for giving me this feature interview Tennille. I know it’s only going to get bigger and better from here.

Tw- I’m claiming it Clara and I have the best feeling about it!

I always enjoy talking with Chicago’s very own Tennille White. Make sure you guys tune in to BET’s Rip The Runway,Monday March 21st at 9pm Est and 10pm Cst on the BET network.

Do Writers REALLY Take A Non-Working Vacation?

I’m in the midst of packing for my annual family vacation/reunion this time in sunny Florida! I look  forward to these little trysts with family from near & afar, because life is a constant cycle of busyness and let’s face it, we oftentimes disconnect with those we love. Whatever happened to the good ole days of telephones and snail mail?

Which brings me to a bit of dilemma here. I’m always happy as a pea in a pod to see and play catch up with family members, but, I’m also an addictive writer here folks and I’m debating if I should carry my laptop with? Ok, I’m definitely NOT going to make this a working vacation, but, I’m wondering how other creatives handle this vacation/non working thing?

The time spent with family is priceless and so I’m only taking a notepad, camera, and voice recorder:) After the last couple of weeks working my tush off to meet deadlines and writing up  interview questions for  upcoming clara54’s guests spots, I’m so open to a bit of R/R. But, I have a writer’s mind and I will be posting a review of the affordable digs my lil bro scored for the family to hang out in, so stay tuned.

Oh, yea, I forgot. For those who want to know? Everything worked out perfectly for that magazine feature mentioned in a prior post. The editor was happy. I’m happy and I’m knowing my loyal readers, you’re happy for me as well:)

This is clara54 signing off until my laptop & I re-join you for another post next week…

P.S. Alright writers, are you vacationing without actually working a wee bit?

just sayin’

Tracy Koretsky On Poetry, Life & Possibilities…

1. Tell us about the person behind the work.

I guess what I’d most like readers of Even Before My Own Name www.TracyKoretsky.com to know is that its author is happy. Several centuries ago, while still in my very first few months of college, I happened to be watching the evening news. There had been a study; it found that most people who have unhappy childhoods turn out to have happy adult lives. This fell upon me like a ray slipping through the edges of a drawn blind. It had never occurred to me that I’d had an unhappy childhood; I would have said I had an unhappy life. But in that instant, I understood it was over. I was on my own now, an adult, and happiness was not only possible, but mine to craft. All right, I was wrong. At the age of seventeen, I still had a fair amount of childhood left to wend, and let’s face it, it never leaves us entirely, but I was on my way, most definitely on my way.

Even Before My Own Name, I think, can be read as the history of that transition, the long insistence that despite the bad luck of a mother who died when I was twelve and a father who was mentally ill, there is still so very much to laugh at and be grateful for. I have never lost my sense of wonder about that. I sometimes find myself on a sunny day singing out loud while gazing at some breathtakingly beautiful view – the San Francisco Bay Area is so abundant with them – and I just find myself taken again by the thought: what if they could see me now. I think they (whoever the heck “they” are) would say, “Hey, I like her smile!

2. Even Before My Own Name. A huge undertaking. Where did this need for expression come from?
Writing has always been my way to drop anchor long enough to hear my own thoughts, or to play the most consistently fascinating and often hilarious games. My education angled me toward fiction, but my proclivities drove me to try everything – everything literary anyway – all lengths of fiction, plays, screenplays, poetry, journalism, criticism – everything that is, except autobiography. In a lifetime of writing, I have produced only a slim file of personal essay and that mostly in response to some assignment. Instead, whenever I did broach the “I” subject, it came out as poetry. I think this may have less to do with need than permission. Writing about myself in poetry meant writing in code. Also, the likelihood that any member of my family might come across it (and be hurt by it) was lessened if it were poetry

3. How long did it take for you to complete the book ?

I’m never good at that question. I often return to projects after writing something else for a while – sometimes a long while. For example, during the years I wrote my first novel, Ropeless  www.ReadRopeless.com, I got my poetry yah-yahs from writing the voice of Danny, one of its four narrators. So the poems in Even Before My Own Name were mostly written pre-Ropeless or post-the first draft of my second novel, which I returned to before revising “Even Before…” for cohesion. So you see…a pattern.

Oh, this is all about process. Forgive me. You want to know the personal stuff. Okay. Many of the poems were first composed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the years I worked as a guidance consoler taking graduate classes in art history and fiction writing. I begged, and I mean this – abjectly begged – to be let into a stellar community group: The Squirrel Hill Poets, http://squirrelhillpoets.org/ who were all way, way more experienced that I was, and off I went. Many of the poems woven throughout this collection were first written under their tutelage and loving care.

Fast forward a great many years and find me in one never-ending-quest-for-novel-publication exhausted moment in 2005. I slump on my bed and promise to give myself poetry for 2006. Which, let’s face it, wouldn’t have been enough time even if I’d had any idea where to begin. I recognized that I was not skilled enough to read poetry much less write it, so I began there. I thought about the kinds of stuff an M.F.A. program would include: some reading classes, including criticism; some prompt-type classes; an individual mentor; peer-exchange, maybe some magazine editorial work, some critical writing – then asked myself how I could mock-up something like that for myself. Of course I couldn’t do it as well, of course not. I’m not presuming to say I gave myself an MFA. I’m saying that I looked at what the teachers thought might help one become a strong poet and either signed up or created it myself. So, by the fall of 2009, I was ready to release the resulting book.

4. Your thoughts on turning 50?

Haven’t done it quite yet, not until this coming Thanksgiving but, hey, I’m precocious, so I gave myself my gift to myself last year! One to give away, that’s what I wanted – a piece of my life-long art that I feel is complete and satisfies me. No money involved, no competitions, or publishers, the only goal: reach as many readers as possible. After all, it’s connecting with readers that makes me happy, and this is a book about letting go and choosing happiness. I should say too, that I dedicated the book to “the girl I once was.” That girl didn’t care all that much about the judges’ opinions. I wanted to honor her.

5. You’ve led an interesting life; how’d you get so lucky?

By being a weirdo kid, I guess. And also, all my life glasses, and much of my life, hearing loss in my left ear. It kinda put me in my own world. And is it ever interesting in there!

6. Tell us a bit about ROPELESS

What I think surprises readers the most about Ropeless http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0984124217
is how much fun it is to read. They hear that the main characters are a 78 year-old balebusta http://www.asinine.com/essays/yiddish.html
from Brooklyn living with her middle-aged son, a man with Down syndrome; her obese, repressed daughter; a brilliant man whose wheel chair cost him a career; and a prissy social worker, and they think ,“dour,” or “sentimental.” All I can say is, not from this author. Uh-uh. Once again – letting go and choosing happiness. Laughter and acceptance I guess I’ve got a bit of a theme going.

7. What are you working on now?

All I wanted from poetry once the poems in the collection were locked down was for it to make me laugh. The result is a chapbook of what I call “la-la poems,” pretty, pretty nature lyrics that are fun to wrap your mouth around, with a fair amount of Japanese genre influence – that’s been a keen interest. I’ve got quite a few of those out to magazines. Meanwhile, though I haven’t written more than a few short stories since Pittsburgh, I’d like to try them again. I would do it too, if I had any idea where to begin. Alas, it seems I am not skilled enough to read them much less write, so I’m beginning there. And then, of course, as you can see, I am doing my best to share Even Before My Own Name with as many readers as possible. So many more readers than if I had just cajoled friends and family and made sad eyes at acquaintances; readers from all over the country – the world in fact. Amazing places! I can’t imagine how the story of a struggling teen-ager from Chicago’s Jewish suburbs might be received by someone from Malaysia or Iceland (and yes, my e-book has gone both places.) What can they possibly make of it? Certainly it can only be encountered by them as literature, as an opportunity for an empathy. Really, what more can a writer ask for?

8.Please provide any contact info you would like for my readers to find you/r/work.

Although you can get both books many places online as well as a free download of the poetry collection from its website, there are interesting readers’ comments on their Amazon pages. People might also enjoy the audio readings I’ve posted on the my books’ homepages, which are, once again, http://www.ReadRopeless.com and http://www.TracyKoretsky.com.

There’s an interview with me about Ropeless here http://www.wordgathering.com/past_issues/march_2007/interview/koretsky2.html) and one of me all the way back in Pittsburgh, PA here: http://www.tracykoretsky.com/EBMON/html/audio_poems.html.

The Adirondack Review http://www.theadirondackreview.com/ will publish a review of Even Before My Own Name in June. Meanwhile here is another http://bayareapoetsreview.com/fall_2009_reviews_1from the Bay Area Seasonal Review.

I write a regular column http://www.winningwriters.com/resources/critiques/urc_critiques.php for the monthly WinningWriters.com online magazine in which I critique a poem or two from contributors. Check it out April 15th for a special edition on haiku.   http://www.winningwriters.com/resources/critiques/2010/urc_1004haiku.php

Clara54 was pleased to bring you this awesome interview with Tracy. Keep in touch for more insights & wonderful profile creatives like Tracy-peace.

Tennille White:Chicago Fashion Designer…

Recently clara54 was contactedtennile-2
to do a story on Tennille White, a young African-American designer right here in Chicago, Illinois. After seeing the young lady fashions, this blog was pleased to make her acquaintance… you will be as well. To view designs from The Tennillle Collection log onto her website @http://www.tennillewhitechicago.com/designs…Plus size women wear it well with designs by Tennille! Now the interview…

c54 -I read from your bio that you started your fashion business four years ago at the young age of 25. What motivated you to tackle such a competitive field?

TW- I fell in love with designing at 14. I remember being so excited to go to high school every single day and getting the opportunity to create new and fabulous pieces. So, I guess being so young when I first started the business, I never even thought of it as being a competitive industry. I just knew that this was my first love and I would have been miserable doing anything else.

c54-You sent me pieces from your best sellers…what has been the most challenging instances so far, deciding to design for the plus-sized figure as your first priority as opposed to the skinny runway types?

TW -The actual designing process is a piece of cake and just comes naturally…the most difficult thing is actually getting media coverage for the collection. I have been successful just by word of mouth. It would really help if magazines and newspapers would devote the same amount of coverage to Plus as they do to Misses.

c54- I was showing my daughter your designs as she has a critical fashion eye, and she truly love your pieces, especially the whites. What bold statements do you think will grace the runways for fall? And do you feel pressured to design something that speaks to your authentic vision & yet make an impact in the fashion world?

TW- The collection in the photos you received are from the Spring 2010 Collection that I will be debuting during the Macy’s Runway Show for Fashion Focus Chicago. I think dresses will continue to have a major presence on the runway, along with a softer more neutral color palette.
The one thing that I have learned from my 4 years as a designer is that this is a business first and foremost.

So, although I may want to create something totally out of the box, I somehow can turn on the “business woman” switch in the middle of the design process. My goal is to make each plus size woman look amazing whether she’s just going to work or going to a gala.

c54- I know your clothes are sold in Chicago at Macy’s Department Store… are there other venues folks can find your designs and are they affordable for economically challenged shoppers like myself? (smile)

TW-Oh I wish! It is my dream to forge a partnership with a company like Chico’s or Lane Bryant. One of the big boys…I would love to make the clothes accessible to the everyday plus-size woman.

c54- Do you have a hands on in selecting fabrics for your designs?

TW- Very much so…I select EVERY fabric and design every piece in the collection and design for individual clients that are looking for a custom piece. I’ve done everything from bridal gowns to sportswear.

c54-Tell us how you came to mentor young people interested in having a career in fashion?

TW- When I was in high school I was afforded the opportunity to be exposed to various industries and thus I chose to become a designer. I wanted to give that same opportunity to other young people. Having a goal is extremely important for teenagers these days, especially in Chicago. Just last week I facilitated a workshop with the McCormick Boys and Girls Club and it is truly a blessing to be able to inspire our youth. I am currently the President of the Apparel Industry Board Inc.’s Young Designer Network. Through the Apparel Industry Board, I help to develop and facilitate a program in conjunction with the Chicago Public Schools Education to Careers program for an inner-city high school with a fashion department.

During this year-long program, I teach the students what it really means to be a fashion designer. I expose them to the “real” culture of the fashion industry through interactive activities, lectures and field trips. We all have to do our part!


c54-Tennille White how do you define success?

TW-Success is setting a goal and completing it!

One On One With Kai Duc Luong-Filmmaker

C54. Last we talked you were in Paris doing  the video for CHAT-how’d that go?

Kai. Yes, indeed I was in Paris shooting a music video for EMI/Capitol France and an up -and-coming French Band called CHAT (which means CAT in French). She is a talented pianist classically trained @ the Conservatory in Geneva who started a career as a singer-songwriter three years ago. After being discovered through Myspace, she signed a major contract. Chat contacted me in October 2008 to work on her single ‘Alice Music Video’ for the release of her debut album (Folie Douce )which came out in February 2009. We had known each other for a few years and always wanted to do something together. This was the opportunity.

C54. You sent your readers/fans & such(myself) a copy of the spoiler interview. It was quite interesting and informative. Will you be doing that sort of Radio/interview soon?

Kai. I am always open to interviews. If any of you know of anyone interested in doing so, please do not hesitate to contact me. Spoiler Radio Alert is a very nice concept & I am grateful of radio host Toni Pennachia’s for her support of independent artists in the movie arena.

C54. Tell me about Los Angeles. How did folks receive the screening of your documentary “SomePlace Else”? Are you still getting rave reviews?

Kai. Yes, we went to LA for the screening of our documentary SOMEPLACE ELSE at the Director’s Guild of America, for visual Communications’ LA Asian Pacific Film Fest.  It was both a little trip for leisure to get out of Chicago’s moody weather and obviously go there to promote the film. My co-director Avisheh Mohsenin is Iranian, and the largest Persian community in the US is the LA area, and Avisheh happened to be featured on the main Iranian website so we had a great showing from this community. Also I am always humbled by the support of non-for-profit organizations and Asian-American programmers, who have singlehandedly been the most supportive of my efforts.

C54. Are you back in Chicago? 

Kai. Yes, I’m in Chicago but will have to go back to Paris again. I’ve been here for about a couple of months now,and was working on a few projects. I was quite drained after my Persian stint, so I also took a little time to relax.

C54. I’d read sometime ago an interview where you’d talked of how you’d like to make a film about your family’s escape from Cambodia. I thought of this beautiful/inspiring legacy for your family. Are you still considering this project?

Kai. I tried to pitch this to the producers in Paris, but no success thus far. Sometimes they don’t think about the personal touches that one can imprint on a story & tend to just see that a movie or a documentary has already been done on that subject, so this should be enough…Movies about World War11 are produced every year and keep on popping up… so why is it that there shouldn’t be more than one movie about the experience of the Cambodian genocide, or the Armenian one, or the Rwandan one?

C54. Have you kept in touch with that ‘raunchy’ bluesman from SOMEPLACE ELSE?

Kai. (laughs) Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Vance Kelly play for about nine months now…kinda miss it. I should try to go see him before I go out of town again but he’s aware of what’s happening through his daughter with whom I keep regularly in touch with. 

C54. I know you’re busy kind sir, so I’ll say keep in touch and much success.

Kai. Thanks so much Clara for your kind support all along and keep me posted on your end with what’s new!!!

*This interview was edited for sake of brevity. Clara54 will alert her readers to the full interview in upcoming posts…