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Monday, April 25, 2011


My guest today is Joe Mynhardt..teacher, poet and dramatist.

Joe was a figure that stayed in the misty heights of my admiration when I timidly joined my writers circle, an online community of writers and poets. As I groped my way through the boards I learned about Joe, who is a highly respected moderator in the circle.
Joe is a teacher, but it does not stop there, he likes to fire the imagination of his wards to take a look into the sky and pick a star for themselves. He teaches his pupils to see how they can own a star and make it their very own. However, there is a passion to his teachings, which is based on solid reality. He is practical even as he weaves dreams.
Fantasy maybe a place that children can escape into and from their see if they can walk a manual for themselves for life. Every human being has a responsibility to strive for a luminous goal, and work in every way to achieve this. You might then ask how does writing horror poems, visiting haunted houses help you reach a luminous goal?
Let us find out as I have the honour and pleasure to present Joe Mynhardt.
1. Please tell us a bit about you as a teacher of young minds and do you worry about the kind of literature they read?
The teacher in me is supposed to worry, but the artist in me doesn’t. Not in the least. Because kids have to read. Imagination is something that has to be nurtured from a young age. Too many people have lost theirs and have therefore closed themselves off from the world of fantasy. Just imagine a world where anything is possible. Where all your dreams can come true?. But we have to guide children and explain to them that there is a difference between fantasy and reality, fiction and true life. I remember watching a movie about a boy who could fly (which was one of my many fantasies as a young boy), and having my parents explain to me why it wasn’t possible. You can’t just tell kids it’s impossible, explain to them why.
2. I understand ignorance breeds fear, is there something really fearful about horror stories or poems?
Oh, definitely. If you’ve trained your mind to visualize what you read, and you allow yourself to be pulled into the story, it can be very scary indeed. That’s if the writer is capable of suspending disbelief in the reader. Imagine being inside the mind of a serial killer, or even the victim, experiencing something completely new. And you get to do it from the comfort of your own home, safe and sound. Going back to ignorance breeding fear, people are scared of what they don’t understand. Put them inside a horrible situation with supernatural elements and you’ll get them scared, whether they believe in ghosts or not. Writers just have to make the stories believable, no matter how incredible the facts.
3. You visit haunted houses, do you feel these houses are actually haunted?
Definitely. What’s better than an old abandoned building with a few legends slapped on? Most ghost experts agree that ghosts are pretty much territorial. So they’re likely to stay in the area where they died or lived. And if you look at how old most of these buildings are, you can just imagine all the things that have happened there - from deaths to tragedies, accidents or just plain heartache. All these traumas will leave some kind of residual energy behind. I’m not hundred percent convinced that ghosts are really conscious dead people walking around, because I believe in heaven and hell. But they are definitely some kind of energy left behind by those people. And it’s exactly that mystery that makes most people interested in ghosts and hauntings. I mostly go for the excitement, the change in routine from my everyday life, and inspiration. I walk through those dilapidated walls and start wondering what could have happened there. Hence the saying, “If these walls could talk.”
4. When you write about haunted houses or write about horror, what are you hoping your readers should glean from it?
Basically two things: To be entertained and to have them thinking about the story days after they read it. Horror should be exciting. Different. I want it to shake people out of their daily thought and feeling routines. Every person needs to get their adrenaline going now and then. Why do you think adrenaline-junkies look so happy? But because not everyone has the guts to jump out of an airplane, we need some other kind of stimulus. But I hope the readers see more than just a scary story. For me the writing itself, the words, are important. Writing is an art, no matter what the genre.
5. A concept of haunting, presupposes ghosts or demons, or spirits, is this a popular genre of writing now?
Some believe the horror genre is a dying a slow death, but I disagree. It’s had its ups and downs in recent decades, just like comic books, but both genres have an extremely hardcore following. In today’s world people want to escape from the horrors of their own lives by seeing or reading about the bad things that happen to others. If I get someone to forget about their problems for just a few minutes, I’m happy. There’s also been an increase in demand for horror stories since this whole 2012 end-of-the-world rumor started.
6. Why do you love this genre?
Since a young boy I’ve always been interested in the supernatural. I loved scary movies, not that my parents really allowed me to watch them. I didn’t care if there were not monsters creeping around in the dark. It’s the possibility that excited me. You put two kids in a dark room with an open closet and each one will imagine their own unique monster. I’d say the biggest turning point was when I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Final Escape episode. The twist in the tale story has been my favorite ever since. As writers we quickly learn what grabs the attention of readers. Things like drama, action, conflict, strong characters, dire situations and an antagonist that wants the exact opposite of your hero. And if you look carefully at these aspects, you’ll see they all play a big role in all especially horror stories. Horror is in every other genre: Losing a loved one is a horrible event; standing on a stage in front of people; being laughed at; losing a fight; being dumped. And plain and simple, horror stories are exciting. You never know what to expect.
7. J K Rowling created Harry Potter, she had been preceded by the likes of Dennis Wheately, Stephen King and more, who were the authors that have influenced you in this genre of writing?
The first person to attract me to the darker side of the imagination had to be Alfred Hitchcock. Then I’d say comic books, especially Batman and Tales from the Crypt. The first movie I’d say was Stephen King’s ‘IT’. I jumped right into King’s novels and short stories after that. Other writers that influence me are H.P Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Who wrote some heavy supernatural stories in his time), Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood, Richard Matheson, Clive Barker, Bram Stoker, John Connolly, J.R.R Tolkien and many more. My most recent interest has got to be Joe Hill, Jeremy C. Shipp and Gary McMahon (Whom I had the pleasure of working with recently). But I’m always open to new writers - whether they’re young, old or not with us anymore.
8. Fiction and fantasy is a heady world that (and very recently thanks to Harry Potter ) play a significant role in the subconscious of a child, how do they separate fiction from reality?
Education of course. My parents, teachers and personal experience taught me about the rules that govern our world. From gravity to relativity, life and death. But the world of the imagination is where all the fun stuff happens. My first experience with the world of fantasy was The Never ending Story by Ralph Manheim, which was originally written by German’s Michael Ende. So I quickly learned that dogs couldn’t really fly and mountains couldn’t talk.
9. Personally, share with us a significant haunted house that has impacted on you, and as a rider to that, do you believe in ghosts?
In the town of Walvisbay, Namibia, where I grew up, stood a small abandoned building on the outskirts of town. There wasn’t even a house close by. And the stories we heard about that house still makes me shiver. Unfortunately we moved before I got a chance to visit it. I doubt that it’s still standing, but that doesn’t stop me from visiting it in my dreams. Isn’t imagination a wonderful thing? On the ‘do I believe in ghosts’ question: Yes. I’ve seen the specters of soldiers, boys, nuns and just plain old white ones. Not to mention demons.
10. Would a horror writer make the best seller list again after J K Rowling?
It will be difficult after what Stephanie Meyer did to horror, but I’d have to say yes - eventually. Any genre has its ups and downs. Like I said earlier, in today’s stressful world people want to experience the horrors of others to forget about their own. Sooner or later a horror writer will find a way to get horror back onto the best seller list.
11. The West has picked a new fancy, witches, Satanic worship and not so recently these beliefs were seen as savage rituals of the Africans, what do you feel will be the reaction of Africans to some of the horror stories now being published?
Once again it comes down to fearing what we don’t understand. If I can give you an example: Bruce Lee used to be scared of losing a fight, so he accumulated a library full of books on the art of fighting. And as soon as he understood it, he no longer feared it. People have to start realizing that the world is much bigger now than it was ten years ago. There’s no more room for ignorance. I’m not saying we should make an in-depth study into witchcraft, but at least know where it comes from. Know when something is part of a culture and when it’s just plain evil. The quickest way to lose a reader is by not doing your research. In the end I don’t think African people should be offended at all, as many cultures all over the world have ties to witchcraft and satanic worship.
12. How do you manage an average day with teaching and being a moderator in a writer community?
Teaching is a great job for any writer. Some days are a bit hectic, especially due to the fact that I also help out in the school hostel, but just think about all the nice holidays. And I don’t multitask when it comes to writing. I’d rather do one thing at a time and to the best of my ability, than two things at a time. I live most of my life according to inspirational quotes, so I’ll sum it up with this one from Calvin Coolidge: “We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”
13. As a South African, where will you place the Sangoma in your writings?
As a writer, I can’t let my personal beliefs or even preferences dominate my work. The sangoma is part of cultural history and can play any part in a story. From victim to killer to mentor.
14. Please give an aspiring horror writer tips on what he should do to become a published author.
When you start out, make sure you read more than you write. Read new stories. Read old stories. Read any genre. See what’s come before you. And as soon as you’ve found what your passion is, start writing more than you read. But never stop reading. And don’t underestimate ‘How To’ books. Be open to history and the buildings around you and ask yourself questions about what could’ve happened there. Think outside the box by training your imagination. Use strong verbs and always make sure you have good drama, suspense and conflict in your stories. Good characters also go a long way in any fiction. But the three most important things are this: The story always comes first, and open yourself up to experiences, especially the scary ones. And get your stories out there. Submit, rewrite, submit!
If I can leave you with one last thought. Take your writing serious. Study it. Writing is an art form, treat it that way.
Are you just solely interested in horror or do you use other genres?

I’ve actually just started planning my first novel and, believe it or not, it isn’t horror. The reason for that is the fact that I’ve had this story on my mind for the last few months and just can’t get rid of it. It has to be written. There will of course be a lot of suspense and mystery. Maybe even a few murders. Wish I could tell you more, but I’m sure it won’t be long before this story sees the bookstores. But don’t worry, I’ll still be dishing out a few horror shorts every month.

Thank you for coming on CENTER STAGE
VISIT JOE'S BLOG www.joemynhardt.com

Saturday, April 16, 2011


My guest is A’Keith Walters…. Poet.

In my secondary school days, we learned poetry and most times I struggled to follow the sonnets, and the very many different types of poetry that my teacher felt I needed to learn. Being a natural rebel each time I got an assignment I wrote in my own words what I felt or sensed. I held poets in awe and still do today. The ability to reduce to the basics the myriad of emotions, vices and virtues into simple but powerful words.
Akeith Walters is one such poet that has me wondering why on earth he has called me a friend. I have wondered how I came to be his friend but the sense of wonder is also enhanced by my respect for his craft for in today’s world, a poet is a rare find indeed and a good poet is an absolute treasure. Since I said this blog is meant for literary pursuits, I wanted to bring in on Center stage someone who has added colour and depth to my litetrary pretensions.
Akeith is not an aspiring poet but has had his poems published in an anthology Smokestacks, as well as five other anthologies including Fosebooks. Keith gave me an autographed copy and it has been thumbed through over and over again. His other poems have been in print in some lit magazines as well as online.

1.Please tell us a bit about you and your genre of writing.
I’m an urbanized Texan who has an obsession about writing, especially writing poetry. Well, at least my kind of poetry, which I call free verse. Little tidbits or literary snapshots with atmosphere. I was born and have spent most of my 55 years in Houston, Texas and have only recently in the past 4 years begun to write seriously. I dabbled in composing poetry when I was at the university years ago, but life and its many paths carried me in a direction away from the opportunities of writing. My hectic pace in the past has slowed down to a stroll now and I seem to have more time to indulge myself with this great and wonderful art form.

2. Like fiction I understand that poetry has many categories, please share the many categories you know.
Poetry, just like any form of fiction, has so many categories. I am familiar with only a few of them, such as narrative and epic, and balladic. Personally, I am not fond of categorizing art forms. I think to do so limits a reader’s response to it.

3. Do you think the Gregorian chants of the middle ages can be classified as poetry?
Yes. Poetry originated as a spoken method of passing records of events (history) from one generation to another, long before written language was developed and employed. Religious chants or any spoken poetry, was a device used to more easily remember and deliver information.

4. Share with us how you write poetry, is there a particular pattern?
As I’ve indicated, I prefer to write free verse. I like what Denise Levertov postulated in one of her books that a poem grows on the page, that it is organic and forms itself as the poet writes it. I prefer a poem that uses as few words as possible and one that can be contained on a single page. I like the challenge of starting with a blank page and writing spontaneously, discovering along the way what emerges from the effort. Sometimes it works and of course, sometimes it does not. But I find it to be an invigorating experience.
Once I have something I think can work, then I began a process of refining, whether it is rewording or cropping words from the over all effort, or simply making complete changes to the images being used. I like the finished piece to have a beginning, middle, and end. Brevity is also important to me.

5. Poetry has been described as human drama in a short form, do you agree?
Yes, I do. Poetry, like any art form, any good piece of art, reflects the sensual world around us. It connects us together on many levels. Human drama is to me nothing more than the interaction of people with each other, either directly or indirectly.

6. Fiction and Creative writers are generally lionized, feted and admired but not so with poets, do you have an idea why?
Mainly, as with most things in the world, it is a matter of economics. The general population loves to be entertained and absorbed in escapism, whether that is through story telling such as novels and movies or through something as simple as news and gossip. The work of Fiction and Creative writers make for an easier escape from life’s trials and tribulations, so people will invest more time and money in such things. Poetry, because of its layered meanings and its brief presentation or duration of experience, tends to offer less escapism. It is like a great sweet apple. Once it is eaten, its good and new tasty experience, regardless how enjoyable, is over. Where as in comparison, a good movie or book, like a grand meal with many courses, lasts a long time.

7. Who are your favorite poets?
I like the style and writings of Denise Levertov, especially considering her background and the times in which she wrote. There is a gentleman that I have recently met, Lynn Stokes, who is a “Cowboy Poet”. I like his narrative, rhyming style. He has been composing poetry privately for his wife for decades and has only recently been published (on a CD). He has a great reading voice and can be very entertaining, despite his old school approach to structured poetry.
I must confess that one of my favorite poets is Vassar Miller. She was a native Houstonian and I was first exposed to her when I came across a self-published pamphlet of hers thirty five years ago on a bench outside the University library. Her style was to me unique and ahead of its time. Brief and very attuned to the senses of the reader. Brilliant, I think. She went on to become the Poet Laureate Of Texas in the mid-eighties. On a personal level, she had to overcome the handicaps of cerebral palsy which greatly influenced her creativity.

8. Has there been a poem that has had a very profound effect on you?
I love Vassar Miller’s Faux Pas. It is so brief, yet packed with so much. In writing about death, she writes about life, about friendship, about common threads that individuals share and have in common with each other. Brilliant, for sure. I find new layers each time I read it.

9. Rap music is sometimes regarded as protest poetry of the young against the establishment, can poetry be used as an activist tool?
It can but then poetry of this day and age has such a limited audience that I do not think it can be an effective tool. I mean, during the Victorian age (late 19th century), poets were treated like today’s rock/pop stars. Such an influence now I think can be found with rap, rock, and pop singers/songwriters and not so much at all with poets.

10. What advice will you give an aspiring poet?
As other poets have said to me, write, practice, write, and practice some more, and above all else, keep reading good contemporary poets (and writers).

11. Can a book of poetry become a bestseller and fetch comfortable living for a poet?
It can, but I doubt it. I mean, there is just not the audience to support the sales of strictly poetic writing. More likely, a writer can support himself with his poetry if sold in conjunction with other, popular writing or other creative artistic endeavors. But that is like selling a sofa and having a throw pillow included as an additional touch.

12.Do poets also suffer from writer’s block, and what can you do in such a circumstance?
Poets can definitely have writer’s block, at least I can. What I do, and what has worked so far for me, is to set writing aside awhile and to read some really good poetry. I like to discover new writers and explore their talent.

Thank you for coming on Center Stage.

If you do want more of this poet please visit his blog http//grayayes.blogspot.com

Monday, April 4, 2011

Center Stage

Chaz Young….Author,

We “met” by accident, since it was a virtual introduction through a social media networking site. I had talked about my book BLOOD CONTRACT and she became interested in the name. I learned something too. A white lady living up North in the United States had been writing about my race because she liked my race..the Yorubas. I was very intrigued and quickly showed my willingness by trying to cram into scanty emails the thousands of years of the Yoruba people. I wanted to know her and she wanted to know more from a live Yoruba woman across thousands of miles. It was a virtual meeting of impressive dimensions. So you will thus understand my excitement when I invited her to be my guest.

FAHDAMIN-Ra is a fantasy built around a family, Celestine, her father and brother as Creators. It is a creation story/fantasy using the Yoruba creation concept and ethos. It is both modern and ancient with twists and turns. What I find enchanting about the story is its treatment of the Yoruba traditional religion belief in a pantheon on gods and goddesses with OLODUMARE as the supreme being. Chaz showed enthusiasm, fine taste and sensitivity as she has portrayed a people she only met on the pages of research information with the love she has felt. There is no sense of condescension you will find from the pages nor the patronizing superciliousness when ‘whites’ speak about ‘savages’ or ‘natives’. I really look forward to her book being available in the Nigerian market so young Yoruba children can enjoy a refreshing outlook on their customs, and hopefully show pride in what makes them so distinctive and appealing.

Here is Chaz Young.
1.Tell us a bit about you and your books
I live in Bath, Maine, which is in the northeast section of the United States, in an area called New England. I am originally from Maine but I lived in several places in the United States and in Puerto Rico because my husband was in the military. I have always like to write, and have always amused myself by making up stories in my head. I wrote Travels to Fahdamin-Ra because my daughter and son wanted a fun, fantasy story where brown children were the heroes for a change, instead of white children. I had so much fun writing it that I published the sequel, Across the Savannah. I am currently working on the third book in the series, The Voyage North,and plan to have five books in all for the series. The first and third books are narrated by the main character Celestine Bridges, and the second and fourth are narrated by her younger brother, Joel. The last book will be a prequel, narrated by Obasi, who became the first Creator in Fahdamin-Ra.

2.You live thousands of miles away and belong to a different race, what attracted you to the Yoruba people?
I have been interested in Africa since I was a little girl. I don't remember when I first heard about Nigeria, but when I started doing research for my books, that was the country that I chose. I picked the Yoruba culture because it was governed by kings and seemed the most interesting. I found Yoruba sayings and music, and enjoyed some videos that showed Yoruba weddings. It seems like the most colorful and fun tribe in all my research.

3.How do you authenticate your stories to make them resonate with the real Yoruba concepts of creation and ethos?
In my books, the original world of Fahdamin-Ra was created by a Supreme Being and then given to a man named Obasi, who challenged the Creator by saying he could make people who were better than the ones he found in this world. The Creator was amused, giving Obasi a world and letting him create people for it from clay, stone, and wood and bring them to life. When Obasi lives in this world, he was a normal man, but when he went to Fahdamin-Ra, he was a supreme being himself. He goes on to have a line of descendants, with one person in each generation that carries the Creator's mark and is allowed to go to Fahdamin-Ra and rule.

Even though my story is a fantasy fiction, it fits with Yoruba creation stories in that there is a God that rules over the other gods, and that he sent someone to earth to create people and bring them to life. People were created from rock, clay, or trees, so they have a connection to the materials they were made of and interact with all other living things. They are considered the Creator's children and keep their identity by singing songs and reciting poems and stories.

4. How received are your books within your immediate community as these are stories of another clime and concept?

People find them interesting and like the exotic location, but some say that the character's names are hard to pronounce. However, I have had many readers tell me that they relate to Celestine and Joel Bridges, the children that the reader meets in the first book, and people have favorite Fahdamin characters that they like to talk about. The idea of a positive fantasy book that features children of color is considered unusual in America, where most books about black people are what I call "victim" books, and are very negative. It is also against the current trend to feature brown or black kids from an intact family, who are happy and well adjusted.

5. There is a tendency to view cultures different from ours as a piece of curio, how have you related with concepts that must be alien to you and write a believable story at the same time?

I have always been fascinated by people from other places, and after I meet someone foreign, I try to learn more about their culture, which is a lot of fun! For my books, I researched a variety of cultures, starting with the Yoruba, and selected what customs and traditions that I wanted to give to the three tribes in Fahdamin-Ra. I also made some customs up. I gave myself a little leeway because I always had it in my mind that Obasi had to leave his home at an early age and that he traveled to many places, so he was influenced by many kinds of people. Fahdamin-Ra is a different world that the Creators visit, so it is not intended to be exactly like here. I worked out the beliefs and customs of the tribes before I started writing the books, trying to make them different from each other, yet somewhat alike. Their tribal personalities are based on what they were made of. The Harun, for example, are made from stone. They are not as emotional or imaginative and tend to be solitary, but they are the most loyal to the Creators.

6. You are a wife, mother and author and as I heard some kind of philanthropist, what drives you? And how do you balance all these roles?

By being organized, and having a schedule in my head, so I don't waste time. I also have a lot of energy. I get up early every morning and write before I go to my full-time job, and sometimes I write at night if I have a deadline, but if I have to do that, I might say to my husband, "I have to work on my book until 8 pm. After that, I am all yours." My children are in college now so they take care of themselves. My daughter lives in Hawaii, where she is attending the university there, so every Wednesday night at 7pm, we Skype with her, and my son has Sundays off, so I know that we can spend time with him then. My husband, son, and I also sit down together every night for supper and get to talk about our days. I have a meeting once a month for one of my philanthropic groups, and fit the others in when I can.

7. Do you have any plans to make your books easily available for Nigerians and particularly for Yoruba people to read?

They are for sale on the Navarone Publishing site, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Both will be available shortly as e-books and Travels to Fahdamin-Ra is going to be released shortly as a soft cover book instead of hard cover. I don't know how else to reach the Nigerian market, but I will definitely talk to my publisher about it.

8. What aspect of the Yoruba culture do you find admirable, and which one do you find puzzling?

I find your long history, music, and family closeness admirable and the Abiku children idea puzzling. How would someone know that they had an Abiku child? What kinds of marks would they have? Would the child always die young, or could you prevent it?

9. If we were to give you a Yoruba name, which one will you like?

I would like to be called "Ayobami" because I have a joyful personality.

10. As a female author, have there been any special challenges ?

No, not because I am a female. I have had some disappointed readers who meet me in person and expect me to be black, or at least a brown person like my daughter. The biggest challenge is trying to promote a book with an African type country here in Maine, especially when some bookstores put my books in with the Maine writers, among the books that have covers with lighthouses, pine trees, and snowy scenes.

11. Who is your favourite female author and one that has most influence on you?

Jane Austen is my favorite female author because she wrote about family and relationships. My books are basically about the Bridges family that is thrust into Fahdamin-Ra and have to go about ruling it like they are gods, and the relationships they develop with the Fahdamins. The author that has had the most influence on me is Stephen King, another Maine writer.

12. What do your children think of your books?

They were very proud when I got the first one published and continue to be interested in each one in the series. Since the main characters of Celestine and Joel are based on my daughter and son, they advise me on what Celestine or Joel would do. Sometimes I read parts of my manuscripts to them and they disagree strongly with what I wrote, so I go and change it. They are usually right.