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Friday, 14 June 2019

A Letter to Daddy on Father's Day

Dear Daddy,
   I know it's odd that I'm reaching out to you. I know you won't respond. I've not seen since I saw you at my brother's place. I remember you stating that you look like you were thirty-five, and I laughed and said, "More like seventy." I heard you never forgot what I said and didn't like it. You know what, I don't care if you did or didn't. 

  You know, oddly, I was thinking about you in April, and I even had someone close to me talk to me about you. He said that I needed to forgive you, and I was resistant in that. I finally did, though. It took some time. I wanted to reach out to you and ask you some questions They've been heavy on my mind, so here I go. Here are the items that have been on my mind. Let me start with a casual one. How are you doing today?  I've not seen you in a while and can't help but wonder do you miss me. 

  What was it about Mom that you knew you wanted to marry her? Was it her hazel eyes or lovely smile? Did you ever dream that you would have nine children together? I mean, was that your dream growing up? You work in construction or carpentry. What was it that drew you to that?

  I can remember Mom telling me you liked to sing, and there was one song you used to sing to her. Do you remember? Here's a couple of lines: "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You never know just how much I love you, so please don't take my sunshine away." So, was she your sunshine? And, if so, when skies were so gray, why did you try to drink your sorrows away? You would drink and become a violent drunk that you would beat your wife who I'm assuming was your sunshine, or was she?

  You couldn't hold down a job. Were you lazy or not motivated? Did you lack skills? I mean, you had nine children that were depending on you to provide for them and a wife? Did you not feel the need to stick with something? 

  I also wonder about your parents. What was your Dad like? I never heard much about him. I knew your Mom, but I don't have many memories of her. Did you love her and treat her well? I did hear that you were mean to her as well. What was it about you that you mistreated the women in your life? I mean the woman that gave birth to you and the woman that gave birth to your nine children? Was life so hard that you wanted to make others feel the pain you were going through? I'm curious, what was that pain? Or were you unable to control your actions due to the alcohol you consumed?  I mean please tell me, enlighten me on why you did the things that you did.

 I think about you a lot around this time of the year. Some people tell me I should be over this and move on. I've regretted of ever having the idea of there ever being a good dad in my life. I don't think that I actually mourned YOU. I mourned what you could have been.  I do wonder about what in life caused you so much pain? What traumas in your life caused you to hurt others? I bet there's a novel inside you just waiting to tell its story. I wish I knew what it was. 

  Then, I wonder about the simple things. What was your favorite ice cream? What was your favorite film or musician? If you could have three wishes granted, what would those be? I mean if you were right here in front of me, I would interview you. These questions haunt me because I don't know, and I wish I did. Here's the crazy thing. I'll never know the answers to these questions because you're gone. Gone for a long time now. Almost thirty years gone. 

   Why didn't stay around long enough for me to find out? I was going to talk to you before you died. I heard you were in jail about a month before you passed. I just knew I was going to get my chance and ask you some of these questions. I just knew it, and then you were dead. I guess my feeling was wrong, huh? Wishful thinking on my part, I think. 

   I have to tell you that I know it was best for me that I wasn't around you that much, and that I didn't know you that well. But I wonder and ponder. I imagine I'll always wonder these things and ponder if I was really wanted by you, but then does it really matter if I was or wasn't? You're not here to prove it either way, and I don't think I would want anything to do with you anyway. That's the hard truth that I can say from the bottom of my heart that I'm glad you're not here and that I can say goodbye
Goodbye to the man that never really wanted to say hello.


Your eighth child

P.S. I don't call you daddy I call you by your first name...Robert. 

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Interview with writer and performer -Grace Aki

Grace Aki, lovely lady with southern charm is leading her dream in New York City with her solo show To Free A Mockingbird. She's been gracing the stage since she was five and has performed in numerous productions with her many gifted talents of acting, storytelling, painting, singing, dancing as well as set designs. She shares some fun facts with me as well as what inspired her to write her show among other juicy tidbits and where you can see her perform live.

What do you love about your life right now?

I love that regardless of how tough life can be, I love that I don’t let it affect my productivity!  I have a great living space, a tolerable cat, and a decent husband.

On a scale of 1-10 (10 being super excited), how excited are you about your upcoming solo performance in New York with your first performance of To Free A Mockingbird?

Well my NY show is actually a workshop. Basically, I’ve invited a ton of people to view the production before it is finalized (kind of like a dress rehearsal.) In the workshop process, you can ask the audience what they remembered or forgot about during the show.  Things that help the writer/director what to keep or discard in the show. This is how changes occur in the developmental process.  Basically, I’m very excited, I’d say I’m at a 12.

Tell me what inspired you to write your show To Free A Mockingbird?

I’ve gotten really inspired by comedians that have turned to storytelling instead of a traditional hour-long stand up special. I have a lot of stories inside me, just bursting to get out ya know? In particular, a roommate of mine when living in the Bronx, Joe, heard me tell a story one late night and convinced me to turn it into a one-woman show...and here we are!

To my understanding, this is going to be a standup performance with storytelling, as a dramedy. What have been the challenges and joys of writing a work directly from your heart?

It’s very scary to perform as yourself, you can’t hide behind a character when the character is you.  The joy, however, is working with people that you feel artistically challenged and elevated by. My director, producers, etc. are a dream and I feel so lucky to have them working with material so close to my heart.

Was there a particular comedian or actor who had the most impact on your writing your solo show?

I think about Mike Birbiglia (Broadway’s The New One) and Hasan Minhaj’s (NETFLIX: Homecoming King) were huge inspirations for me. They were so crafty at blending their tone and execution with humor and drama. I highly recommend their work! The director of Mike Birbiglia’s show, Seth Barrish worked with me on the original workshops of my piece.

What’s your writing process? Do you have a particular place or cut on some music to get the thoughts flowing?

My director, Kate, always says to create a playlist that inspires you and your show. However, my writing process doesn’t involve a lot of writing. I’ve done a lot of transposing from voice recordings. I’m not an organic writer. I have taken recordings from rehearsals and performances and decide what works and what doesn’t.

There’s a quote by George Bernard Shaw that says, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” What are your thoughts on his quote?

I’ll say this, I’ve never had a year where I said, “I did exactly what I did last year.” I believe you should constantly be learning, creating, doing, volunteering. Nobody is ever too young or too old to be trying and perfecting something. I’d say I reinvent myself every year.

Your performances are going to be in New York and Atlanta and possibly Chattanooga as well? Any other cities that you’re planning to perform in?

I may have a show in the DC area in September, stay tuned!
I’ll perform wherever people will have me… seriously.

Are you currently working on any other projects?

I am trying to finish out the year having published the script for this show. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in just a year.

Where do you see yourself in a year?

I hope to be illustrating more and completing my first DIY guide, more information on that later.

Tell me three fun facts about you. Something that maybe your hubby, Damon, doesn’t even know.
  1. Nobody loves cheese more than me. Nobody. Fight me.
  2. I love all forms of trivia... like honestly. trivia on apps, at bars, whatever. Even if I don’t win, I like learning what the right answers were.
  3. I’m an extroverted introvert. I happily enjoy the solitude of watercolor painting at home, a tea and my cat & Damon by my side.
In one word describe yourself.

To Free a Mockingbird
Director: Kate Robards
Written and Performed by: Grace Aki
Wardrobe Consultant: Damian Dominguez
Producers: Double Back Bone Productions + Damon J Gillespie

For tickets to her show at the Atlanta Fringe click here

Keep up to date on her show and fun Instagram Posts with incredible pics and laugh out loud tweets by following her on her social media:

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Interview with Andrea Waltz -Author and Speaker

My latest interview is with Andrea Waltz of Orlando, Florida. She's an author and public speaker and is passionate about helping others to pursue their dreams by encouraging them to go for no! So passionate that she and her husband co-wrote a book all about it.
One of my favorite questions to ask an interviewee is have them tell me three fun facts about them. Well, one of hers is that she met a famous T.V. dog and it's not Lassie. She loves quotes too which is another favorite of mine to share favorite quotes with my readers. You have to keep reading to find out her three fun facts and who that dog was!

What do you love about your life right now?

I’m always involved in new and interesting projects. We’re helping people write and publish books. And I do a lot of sharing of the Go for No message each and every day which I love. And my husband Richard and I started the year off working out and eating healthier which is great and much needed!

How did you and your co-author Richard Fenton come up with the book Go For No that chronicles four days in the life of fictional character Eric Bratton a copier salesman? Is it based on someone’s life or experience?

The character of Eric is made up and the entire situation which is a little “supernatural” in nature is also made up of course. We were actually inspired by a movie called The Sixth Sense which has a really crazy twist at the end, so we wanted something that was different and fantastical.  Now that said, the way Eric discovers ‘go for no’ selling suits in the clothing store and having Harold challenge him is real and is Richard’s story.

I’ve read Go For No twice and I love it! I can already see a difference in how I respond to being told no; I don’t become upset about it like I used to. Years ago, I allowed NO to impact me very negatively. What are some of the feedback that you receive from readers of your book?

That is so great and it’s the best thing about writing the book – having people change their mindset like you have.  Many people tell us the book was not what they expected. They did not know it was a story. A lot of people really like the idea of meeting a future version of themselves and what secrets or lessons that person could offer them.  Many people have told us that they never thought to fail more or be willing to hear no more. It is so counter-intuitive. We love that we can create such a shift in a quick amount of time.

The book cover for Go for No!

Without giving away the story, what’s the takeaway that you want all future readers of your book to know and why they should read it?

Our goal is to “liberate” people from fears of failure and rejection. It’s one thing to get a ‘no’ from someone else but we feel it’s criminal to give yourself the ‘no.’ We would like people to exercise their courage and take a chance and ask. And, over time, become better and better at it. We hope that people learn the lessons but also have a fun time reading it and lose themselves in the story.

How long have you been writing?

We’ve been writing “professionally” (meaning making money from writing books) for 20 years! We’ve always self-published which is fine because we have sold many books to companies who give them to their salespeople and managers.
We have written several fables but  Go For No! is by far our most successful. We have also written a ten-book paranormal suspense series under the pen name, Diandra Archer. That series is called Onyx Webb. Although we’ve not yet sold anything to Hollywood,  we’ve also written a few movie screenplays as well. Of all the things we do, writing –teaching lessons and creating stories – brings us the most joy.  

Are you working on writing more books?

We have so many ideas for books. We are working on a new fable which we intend to publish this year. We’re publishing a couple books for other people and speaking so it takes away time to write. Plus, we always have such a hard time choosing what to write next. We also have a sequel to Go for No! on the agenda for someday. 

Besides writing, you’re also a public speaker as well; did writing the book spark the public speaking? 

We intentionally wrote the book in order to book speaking engagements. It’s one of the best ways to get your message out there. And people who plan events typically don’t just want someone who can speak, they want to know the message is there. They want someone with expertise and authority and having a book establishes that.  

What’s the main topic that you speak about and how does it impact your life to be a public speaker?

Our speaking is focused entirely on the Go for No! message of teaching people to hear ‘no’ more often to increase success. The funny thing is that before I found a message I loved and believed in, I absolutely hated speaking in front of groups and now I can’t shut up!
We typically speak at business and sales conferences and so there is some travel involved since we will go to wherever the meeting is being held.  

Andrea on stage.

Were you fearful of public speaking at one time and if so, how did you overcome it?

My husband and co-author Richard isn’t really fearful of public speaking at all. I was terrified of it. It took a few years of practice and many practice engagements to get better. Also what I discovered was that it was having a message like Go for No that I was so passionate about that made all the difference. I care about sharing it so much I got over my fears quickly.
Any advice you can offer to someone who is fearful of going for his or her dreams because of past failures outside of going for the no?

Success and failure are not choices. You can’t have one without the other. The trick is, the faster you fail, the faster you can succeed. You’ve got to get back to that tenacity you had as a kid when failure was part of the process and you didn’t care what people thought of you. Try to remember this: “No one is thinking about you. They’re thinking about themselves just like you.” (That’s from a book called Olivia Joules) It’s not easy and it requires courage, but you have to decide how much you really want something. You get to choose.    

Who are your biggest supporters?

My husband and I are definitely our biggest supporters as we work together and a lot of people in our family circle don’t really get what we do. We also count so many people as supporters who are fans and readers. All those people, all the comments and feedback is so wonderful to hear to know we’ve made an impact.

 What’s your favorite holiday and what do you love about it?

My favorite is Halloween. I am not a winter person but I do love the Fall. And candy. And dressing up so Halloween is my perfect “holiday!”

Tell me the one thing that motivates you to go for your dreams and to be successful?

I know that life is short, uncertain and nothing is guaranteed. Jim Carrey, the actor said one of my all-time favorite quotes: “you can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” I try to keep that in mind all the time! 

I share motivational and inspiring quotes with my readers, do you have one you can share?

I am a LOVER of quotes! But here is more of a poem that is one of my favorites:
“I’d rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are; because a could-be is a maybe who is reaching for a star. I’d rather be a has-been than a might-have-been, by far; for a might have-been has never been, but a has was once an are.”
- Milton Berle

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

My husband and I love movies and theater and performances of all kind. Hugh Jackman is performing in a city near us so we got tickets to see him. Hamilton came to our city, so we’re going to that. It’s not like we go every week, but it’s definitely one of our favorite things to do. I also really enjoy cooking – I’m a fan of the service Plated which has really helped me learn how to be a decent cook by sending me the exact ingredients and the recipes. 

Andrea with husband Richard Fenton. 

Tell me three fun facts about yourself.

1. In Los Angeles, I worked as the training director for a pet supply company and met the dog from the TV show, Frasier.
2. I’ve taken two massive driving trips around the entire US. One that was 10,000 miles one was longer at 14,000. The 14,000 took 44 days!
3. I have been on twitter (@Goforno) for 10 years.

In one word describe yourself.


Follow Andrea on social media:

Book on Amazon:

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Interview with J.D. Estrada -Author and Poet

I've known J.D. Estrada for a few years who I have had the pleasure of knowing first as a fellow writer and now a dear friend who is very much like family to me. He's funny, quick with wit, a great storyteller, a big heart who cares for others and loves his family and friends. Become acquainted with this very talented writer J.D. and make sure you check out his books.

Introducing J.D. 

J.D. Estrada bio-
Hey there, this is your friendly neighborhood JD Estrada. I’m a Puerto Rican indie author who is now based in Atlanta because home shall always be my Caribbean Island. I’m a multi-genre author, would-be renaissance geek, and advocate of creative kindness. I like tea, socks, video games, and am also known as #00Bananas (look it up if you’re curious, but expect something silly when you do). 

What do you love about your life right now?

What a curious question. I think I like that whatever success I have has been through hard work and dedication, that I’ve never gotten a handout or a free ride, and that slowly but surely, I can make a difference.

How long have you been writing?

As a hobby, I’ve been writing since I was a kid, though plenty more when I was a teen. I’ve published six poetry collections because to me poetry has always helped me heal and make sense of my life and the world I live in. My first published book was in 2013, but before that, I did win a couple of prizes in college for short stories and poetry. I also was part of a rag-tag group of people who wrote anonymously in a blog for close to a decade, but that’s as much as I can say about that.

Tell me about your newest book Given To Fly like where did you find inspiration to write it and how long it took to write it.

Ah, Given to Fly is such a special book for me. The inspiration came from several sources. Firstly, my wife gave a wonderful gift almost 10 years ago. She asked me what image meant a lot to me and without batting an eye I told her the picture on the single for Pearl Jam’s “Given to Fly”. A couple of months after that question and she surprised me with a hardcover notebook with hard case with that image and my name on it. It’s one of the most amazing gifts I’ve ever received in my life so the stakes were high in regards to what the book would be about. Then a while after we had our first trip as a couple to Disney/Orlando. We went to Epcot Center and got on Soarin’, which has become one of our favorite rides ever. As we were immersed in beautiful visuals, music, and aromas during the flight simulator, one idea led to another and another and by the end of that 2 ½ minute ride, I knew what the story would be about: a boy who dreams about flying. It’s taken me all this time to finally write the book and the inspirations come from all over the place. Influences of Coraline, Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter, Easter Eggs of Pearl Jam, Elbow, The Who, Tori Amos, nods to my favorite comics growing up which were from Hong Kong, nods to the lead singer of Days of the New, whom I hope can one day kick his drug habit and stay clean and creatively adventurous, nods to video games and even some of my books, and beyond. Heck, there’s even a library pillaging bookworm that’s based on Noam Chomsky. All in all, I’d say the plotting took me about 4 months and full one writing and editing another 4-5 month, but it happened in bursts throughout the years as I finished several other projects and hunted down someone who could nail the cover.

As a writer myself, I’ve struggled with writers’ block. Do you and how do you overcome it?

Writer’s block is luckily not something I get hit with much if at all and it’s all down to working on several projects at the same time. I’m sure that genetically I share some % of DNA with octopi because I can multi-task that way. At any given time, there are 3-6 projects running at the same time and in different stages of development. Now that I’ve finished Given to Fly, I’m focused on two main projects, Book 3 in the Human Cycle and a collaboration I’m doing with a great friend from the UK. I write in my blog, write music, and always strive to have something creative going along and to lean into the projects that most call out to me. Time is not something I have a whole ton of so when I do get time, trust me that I work hard to make it count. But reading different things, writing different types of projects, and other things help me to always stay in flow as much as possible. I think every block happens for a different reason and to me, I have projects I full on plan and others where I’m a bonafide pantser. I also like to mix things up and always try different things with my writing rather than finding my perfect method because part of the fun for me is discovering more of who I am through my projects. Things you can do to overcome it is to work on other things that flow easily and allow your brain to relax. We sometimes get so caught up and wound up that we forget to enjoy the process and I think that’s why I rarely get blocks because I love the various ways I can weave a story.

Where do you go to write your books like a coffee shop or home office and do you have a particular place that inspires you? 

For me, writing is more about my mood and the moment rather than a particular place. I’ve written plenty of times in food courts, restaurants of all types, coffee, shops, and even the bathtub. I think it’s all about picking up the notebook when inspiration strikes and running with it. I’ve known to take a notebook into a bathroom stall during work hours only because I was the only male who worked in a department with 14 other coworkers and I needed some space to write :) I can say that I’m particularly fond of writing during flights and I’ll NEVER buy in-flight WiFi. I also don’t mind long waits at the doctor because I always carry a notebook with me.

Who’s your favorite author and book?

 Favorite author has to be Neil Gaiman although the more I read Terry Pratchett the harder it is to answer this question. As for favorite books, to me, it’s a tie between two series: Harry Potter and the Sandman. In regards to fantasy fiction, these two books have hit the deepest and mean the most to me. Harry Potter arrived in my life at a time where I sorely needed some magic and the Sandman is a series that is as creatively amazing as anything I’ve read. Part of my goals in life is to write something both Joan (JK Rowling) and Neil (Gaiman) could enjoy. They have my respect and love for who they are as humans AND writers.

 Any advice you can offer for new writers?

Write for you, not the market. The market will change and will always change. You are stuck with you for the rest of your life and the more fun you have, the better off you’ll be. Be a ball busting editor, be brutally honest about what works and what doesn’t work, read everything, learn something new every day, taste new foods and dance outside your comfort zone. Also, focus on finding YOUR voice. Don’t be the next best [INSERT NAME OF AUTHOR]. Be the best you. Be uncompromisingly you. Be selfishly you. And then share it with others.

 What advice do you wish you knew before you started writing?

Transcribe as you write. Lol. My first manuscript was probably over 180K words long… and I began transcribing when I finished it… and trust me, that wasn’t fun lol. Also, save your work in several places. Jump drives die, computers get fried, and life happens. 

Tell me three fun facts about you.

I began 00 Bananas in a former job to make co-workers laugh.

I’ve tried to be in 3 bands… maybe 4th time will be the charm? Hey, one can dream.

If I could have any corporate job, I’d work in R&D for a candy factory.

In one word describe yourself.



His newest novel Given To Fly at Amazon 

Please support his writing journey and purchase some of his books below:
Find his books on Amazon at this link: JDBook
Follow his social media links below as well as his website, YouTube, and Goodreads. 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Interview with Christie Stratos

My latest interview is with Christie Stratos who is an award-winning author and poet, and she has a degree in English Literature. She loves to read all genres of books and in her free time enjoys baking and cooking. Find out who inspired her to write and what advice she offers to new writers. 

What do you love about your life right now?

I recently left my full-time project management job to run my editing business full-time and write, and I can’t get over what a difference it makes to do what you love 24/7. My job doesn’t feel like work, and that’s something I haven’t experienced until now.

How many books have you written?

Two so far and many short stories. The two books are in the Dark Victoriana Collection—Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and Brotherhood of Secrets—and there are many more to come from this collection. I also just released a standalone horror short story called “The Subtlety of Terror,” and my works are in a number of anthologies and literary journals. You can also find a couple of free short stories on Wattpad.

Picture from her Facebook of her books

Was there anybody or a book that inspired you to write?

I have always been a writer ever since I was capable of writing. I started with poetry, moved into novels, and then finally got into short stories. I would say the biggest inspiration for me to really take writing seriously was both Julius Caesar and Hamlet. They introduced me to succinct, deep psychological writing where things aren’t just handed over to the reader. I not only devoured them when I read them, but I knew that I wanted to write and incorporate what I felt was so great about them.

Writer Inspiration for Christie
Pic from Pinterest 

What are the joys and challenges of writing for you?

I love spilling creativity onto the page and then fixing it up to become something complex and suspenseful. I enjoy coming up with new ideas that I haven’t seen written before and making them come to life. The hardest part is when I can’t decide which way a scene should go, and I end up having to write it a couple of times to see which option is best…and then sometimes I change my mind a couple of times! I’d say that’s the least fun part for me—when I’m not sure which way to go.

Do you have a favorite book so far that you’ve written?

That’s such a hard question! I like both of my books for different reasons. The evolution of my main character, Abigail Whitestone, is what I love most about Anatomy of a Darkened Heart—watching her grow, learn, and develop into a person the reader comes to dislike and yet sympathize with is something I quite enjoyed doing. In Brotherhood of Secrets, which may be my favorite of the two by a narrow margin, I wrote my favorite character of everything I’ve ever written: Jude Wickes. He is a severely damaged person who truly can’t tell right from wrong anymore, and Mr. Locke takes advantage of this in the worst ways. As I wrote him, I loved him, and even now, a year after publication, he is my most favorite.

Tell me a little bit about The Writer’s Edge the show you host.

The Writer’s Edge is a twice-monthly show on YouTube with both discussion panels and one-on-one interviews, all live-streamed. You can bring your questions to the chat, meet new friends, contact the participants afterward, and learn a lot about the writing and publishing industry. We discuss everything from holiday-themed writing and marketing to getting the most out of your time at a writing conference, from indie vs. traditional publishing with very experienced authors to getting your work published in magazines and journals. As the host of the show, I’m constantly learning from my guests, which is a wonderful bonus!

On your IG account, you describe yourself as a book hoarder, how many books do you think you have?

I have 160 books in one bookcase—the small one. And then there’s a floor-to-ceiling one and another one of those… Let’s leave it at a ton. 

In one word describe yourself.


Are you working on any new books or projects?

I’m working on book three of the Dark Victoriana Collection, which I’ll make huge headway on during NaNoWriMo. I have a WIP halfway done which has the working title “Greed”, and a horror anthology in the works to release this year. I probably have as many WIPs as I have books!

When you're not busy working your business, what are some of your hobbies and interests?

I love cooking and baking, coming up with new recipes on my own. It’s just another form of creativity! And of course, reading all different genres. I actually do what used to be my hobbies and interests for a living now—read, write, and edit all day. So I’m in heaven!

What have you found to be the best place for you to write?

At home or at a library are my two favorites. I love either burying myself somewhere deep in the books and writing or finding a section of books I like to read and writing from there. I can write anywhere, but being around books or being where all my notebooks and research books are, those are my favorite spots.

Do you use any particular software like Scrivener?

I do use Scrivener and I love it! I use Word for short stories, but for novels, I skip around to scenes all over the book, and it got hard for me to organize my Word document. Even using multiple Word documents didn’t work out for me. I tried Scrivener and it solved all my problems!

Any advice you would like to share to a new writer?

Write what you want, write what you want to read, create something new, and believe that there are new experiences in books, no matter what anyone says.

Advice to new writers by Christie

Tell me three fun facts about you.

1.    I was originally going to be a music teacher and I played French Horn professionally.
2.    I must have a different journal for every major WIP and by genre for short stories. I can’t get my ideas down without the right ones!
3.    I love Victorian cameos and collect them. I have some that are framed, some that are in their natural state, and some totally unique ones! My Victorian jewelry has helped me write my Victorian novels.

I share inspirational and motivational quotes with my readers, do you have one you can share?

“Your doubts create mountains. Your actions move them.” – Mel Robbins
When you feel your doubts creeping up—self-doubt, doubts about whether you’re good enough, even doubts about whether you’re headed in the right direction in your life—re-read this quote. It makes all the difference between wallowing and taking action.

Follow Christie on social media and check-out her website

Facebook      Patreon 
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Monday, 22 October 2018

A Stylish Chat with Kelvin and Lauren Burford of Simply Wynn Custom Clothiers

Lauren and Kelvin Burford of Atlanta are taking on the fashion industry in the Hollywood of the South, and they have a unique, fun, and creative approach with their Simply Wynn Custom Clothiers. They can style you from head to toe along with weekenders and backpacks so you're traveling in style as well. Learn about more about their business as well as the challenges and joys of owning one. 

What do you and Kelvin love about your life right now?

Kelvin-Since retiring from the military, I have loved my overall freedom. I can come and go as I please, travel when I want to. 

Lauren- I love being able to be a wife and mother without the demands of the military. Although I enjoyed my career, my duties often took me away from my family.

Which one of you wanted to start Simply Wynn? Did you both have an interest?

Lauren- Ever since I was a young girl, I would design clothes and dream of one day owning a boutique called Mary Jane’s after my great-grandmother. She was the original Coco Chanel! I was known for my fashion-sense and enjoyed and still do, making others look their best. I joined the Air Force and put my dreams on hold. Once I finished my military career, I had the opportunity to learn the custom clothing business from my mentor.

Kelvin- Although I grew up fond of wearing suits, it never crossed my mind that I would have my own line of clothing. I used to wear suits regularly in high school just because I wanted to feel like a professional and I liked to look good.

Kelvin & Lauren- Together we discussed creating our own brand once we understood how the business worked.

When did you create Simply Wynn?

Kelvin & Lauren- We created Simply Wynn August 2016.

I notice you honor veterans by giving a discount to them. As you both have mentioned that you served in the military, which branch did you serve in?

Kelvin & Lauren- We both served in the U. S. Air Force.

Thank you for your service. By serving in the military, did it prepare you for your business?

Kelvin & Lauren- Thank you!

Kelvin- The military taught me how to work well under pressure. It taught me to maintain high standards, professionalism, and I display that in my business. The Air Force paid for my degree in Business Entrepreneurship.

Lauren- My first job in the Air Force was in a mental health clinic. Working there taught me more about life, understanding the mind, and how to work with people than any other job I have ever had. The military also paid for my education so no complaints there. 

Is it hard to put yourself out there with a fashion business? What have been the challenges?

Kelvin & Lauren- It is hard putting yourself out there in the fashion business when what is considered fashion today is skin-tight, revealing, and extremely flashy. Call us old-fashion but there is still stylish clothing that can accent your shape or features without revealing everything.  

Lauren- The challenge from my perspective has been getting customers to trust your brand as a start-up business.

Kelvin-Also, knowing the who’s who in the business and making the right contacts without being taken advantage of. That is what I consider to be the biggest challenge.

What are some of the joys?

Kelvin- I love the travel and meeting new people. I like the transformation of seeing the client when we first consult with them and the end-product. I really enjoy those clients who have never owned or worn a suit and seeing the confidence that I helped instill in them by designing a suit. They seem to walk a little taller and hold their heads higher.

Lauren- I love seeing customers look at themselves in the mirror with an air of confidence because we designed a look just for them. I have met actors and models in the industry who are down to earth and who desire to be the best representation of your brand. My husband and I work well together. We have forged genuine relationships with some of them. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and it works for us.

Was there anybody in the fashion industry or a company that inspired you to create it?

Kelvin-No, no one in the fashion industry or a specific company inspired me to create it however, our mentor Clarence Jones of CJ Custom Clothiers encourages and inspires me. I watch his determination and professional work ethic and it is worthy of emulating.

Lauren-There was no company or person in the fashion industry that inspired us to create Simply Wynn. My inspiration came from my grandmother. My grandmother inspires all who come around her because she is such a peaceful spirit.

With your company, a client can custom design their own clothes and your company makes it? Is that how it works?

Kelvin-We specialize in custom suiting, tuxedos, overcoats, and shirting. We do a consultation and design each feature of the aforementioned with the client. He or she selects their fabric and accessories and our team of tailors constructs it.

Lauren- We also offer ready to wear pieces for women. We recently teamed up with a seamstress that can bring our design ideas to life for women. Whether it is a dress or a gown, we have the resources to make the design happen.

Who are your biggest supporters?

Lauren- Our family members are our biggest supporters. Simply Wynn is named after my grandmother, Ernestine Wynn Patrick and she is overjoyed knowing that her legacy will continue.

Kelvin- I would have to agree, my mother and mother-in-law have been our biggest supporters. Yasin Abdul, model/actor and Clarence Jones (C.J.) have been there since day one.
Yasin Abdul and Vernice Grigsby modeling Simply Wynn Custom Clothiers.
Photograph by Ralph E. Williams of e37 Photography 

 I read a quote on Pinterest that says, “Fashion is what you buy, style is what you do with it.” Do you agree?

Kelvin- I agree. Growing up I was not able to afford name-brand clothes however with what I had I wore it well. I got “Best-Dressed” in high school and people couldn’t believe what my outfit cost from head to toe. It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it.
Lauren- I couldn’t agree with the quote more. You can put the same blouse on two different women. Woman number one may add a necklace, make up her face with complimenting colors, and even style her hair based on the blouse. Woman number two may simply wear the blouse without giving any thought to the garment and without making it her own. You’re born with style; either you have it, or you don’t.

Anybody in the fashion industry that either of you looks up to?

Kelvin- I look up to Damon John because like us he started his clothing line out of his home. Like him, he saw a product that was over-priced and went home to recreate the product and sold it for less. I have found some custom suiting to be overpriced. Not being able to afford custom suits in my younger years, I feel as though every client should be able to afford custom clothing.

Lauren-I do like the character Whitley Gilbert from the 90s show A Different World. Although Jasmine Guy was playing a character, she was always stylish and feminine in her role. Also, I am a huge fan of Calvin Klein and Coco Chanel. I like classic and chic! These influences inspire me to keep our products classy and tasteful.
Another individual who did not start out in the fashion industry but is a style influencer is former First Lady Michelle Obama. She is a community servant at heart and does it with such style and grace.

Coco Chanel once said “Fashion has two purposes: comfort and love. Beauty comes when fashion succeeds.”  Do you agree with Coco?

Kelvin- I agree and disagree. I agree with fashion providing comfort and love however it only accentuates a person’s natural beauty. What fashion does is boosts the person’s confidence which exudes outwardly. Beauty doesn’t come when fashion succeeds, it comes when they are centered mentally and spiritually.

Lauren- This is another quote I agree with. When people look good they feel good and their beauty radiates from within. We have another business Inside Out Life Coaching that is still under development. It is our belief that regardless of what we design and style you in, the confidence only lasts temporarily. Inside Out is designed to help cultivate the beauty from within so that when you wear any garment not necessarily Simply Wynn’s, your confidence lasts because you have achieved mental and spiritual soundness.

Finally, what are a few things you would like future clients to know about Simply Wynn Custom Clothiers?

Kelvin & Lauren- We want future customers to know that Simply Wynn is all about its customers. We strive to make our clients feel comfortable, confident, and that they’ve become a part of our family. When we do consultations, we try to familiarize ourselves with our customers. We care about the things that impact them such and make it a point to remember and celebrate those special things in their lives. Without clients, there is no Simply Wynn.
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