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- Conversations Book Club President Cyrus Webb interviewed, Sat. Feb. 21st
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Sunday, January 24, 2010
A Conversation With Author Anthony Littlefield
We all have a past, whether we are aware of it or not. Some make the decision not to pursue knowing about it, but others make it a goal or a pursuit to find out all that they can. Author Anthony Littlefield chose the latter. He chronicles his journey and those with him in the book BITTERSWEET JOURNEY. He talks with Cyrus Webb about the experience, the hard work that goes into marketing and promoting a book and his advice for aspiring writers.
Anthony, thanks for taking out the time to talk with us. Before we get into your book BITTERSWEET JOURNEY, why don't you tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Los Angeles, California in 1954. My father is from Columbus and my mother is from Jackson, MS. Unfortunately, my parents were divorced when I was five years old. After my parent's divorce, my younger brother Ron and I were sent to live with my father's mother, Juanita in Columbus. I attended Columbus public schools and attended classes at Franklin University. During my formative years I developed a passion for history, especially, black history here in America. I just completed my 37th year with my employer. Thankfully, with the publishing of Bittersweet Journey, I'm at the beginning of a second career.
If I had grown up with you, would your journey to being a published author be a surprised to me?
Yes, by that I mean I never really talked about becoming a writer or even thought that I had a talent for writing, especially since English was one of my more difficult subjects in school.
When did you know that you had a book that you felt like needed to be written?
When we first began our journey of discovery, my intention was to keep a small journal. But after our first initial visit to Black Mountain, it occurred to me that we had a fascinating story about our family and the incredibly beautiful land they called home. I think this was because we knew so little about our family that every discovery of relatives and the events surrounding their lives meant more and more to us.
Tony, your book BITTERSWEET JOURNEY is about your trek to find out more about your family, but it is about a journey to better know you as well. What was the most surprising element that came from the journey for you?
If I had to pick one thing it would be that I learned how much my family's past really has meant to me personally. Learning how some of them adapted to life after slavery and becoming prosperous and leaders of their communities despite incredible odds. That has sustained many times when I ran into 'brick walls' along the way, keeping me going when there were times when it became difficult or I wanted to quit. Whenever those situations arose, I thought of the obstacles my ancestors overcame. And my journey has given me an opportunity to see up close and personal how race relations still matter in how we sometimes see each other.
You really made it a family affair. Do you think it would have meant as much if you didn't have them with you along the way?
I can't even imagine traveling down this road alone. Having various family members with me along the way at different times has brought us closer together as a family with our experiences as we have struggles to put the pieces together of our history. The relationship that I have appreciated the most is my relationship with my father. I hope that readers see a lot of the story through his eyes based on his life's experiences as a black man in a world that has changed for the better over a period of time.
For individuals who believe the past should be left in the past, why would you tell them that maybe they should rethink that ideal?
I think it goes without saying that "to know where you are going you have to know you have been." So much of who and what we are today is a result of our shared past. I can understand why some do not want to remember the mistakes and hurt of the past. But I think we owe it to our ancestors to remember them for what they overcame to make life better for us today. I believe that we can draw strength from the triumphs of the past.
Putting on your marketing hat for a moment, Anthony, did it surprise you as to how much work it took to let others know about your book?
Not really. With thousand of books on the market at any given time, I knew getting my story out would be a monumental challenge-and it has been just that. Working with a small ad budget, and this being a first-time experience for me, identifying and reaching the audience I wish to has been difficult. Thankfully, with the explosion of the internet I have the ability to reach out to readers around the world.
You and I spoke recently, and you told me that some have wondered aloud who outside your family would be interested in your journey. Tell us about that conversation and what happened to you that let you know that others were benefiting.
Several months ago I had the good fortune of being contacted by family members in the South that I was unaware of, but they knew about my book. We began sharing information, and I was later told that another relative had recently published a 'picture book' about another branch of the family tree, with the intentions of distributing her book to family members only. Her reasoning for family only was that she felt that the general public would not be interested in reading or seeing our family history. I took the opposite approach because I knew that millions of people around the world are devoted to preserving cultural and family history. I think that nothing garners attention more than literature about country, home and family, and that is what Bittersweet Journey is about, country, home and family. Whenever I'm contacted by perfect strangers who are either intrigued by the subject matter, or have read the book and found my story a great read and inspirational, I'm simply thrilled.
Anthony, for those who might be aspiring writers out there, and are wanting to make 2010 the year they get something done, what advice would you give them?
My advice to potential writers is that every book begins with the first page. You haven't done anything until you actually write the first words. And when contemplating what to write about, keep in mind, does the story have a hook, and is it worth a book? Look for a writer's group in your city, sharing your thoughts with others pursuing the same goals as you is invaluable.
Thanks again for your time, Anthony. If our readers want to find out more information about you, where can they find you online?The pleasure has been mine. Readers can learn more about me at my website, www.anthonylittlefield.com