I grew up a in a working class, ethnic, mostly Catholic neighborhood on Detroit’s east side at a time when young girls were not expected to question their elders or have dreams beyond marriage. I quickly identified with the struggles of the heroine in Gloria Nixon-John’s new novel (also named Gloria), Learning from Lady Chatterly. If you really want to experience Detroit in the 50s, this is a priceless ticket.
The novel’s Gloria is the teenage daughter of Italian immigrants in a Wonder Bread neighborhood. As the book’s cover explains, “what sets Gloria apart is the fact that she pays attention, enough attention to discover that the neighborhood local war hero is a pedophile, that her best friend’s mother is a Nazi. What makes her different is what she learns from her father when the first black family moves into the neighborhood on Detroit’s east side, and what she learns about her own , sometimes dark heart when the home of the affluent kids are literally picked up and moved to make way for the I-94 Expressway.”
Gloria also has a crush on the neighborhood bad-boy and sneaks books out of the adult sections of the public library – books about love, sex and sorrow. In short, Learning from Lady Chatterly is a story that is both distinct about a certain time and place – and universal in its tale about the pain of growing up and being different.
I met the author, Gloria Nixon-John when I took a writing workshop at the Warren Public Library-Civic Center in the Summer of 2013 and admired her published poetry, essays and fiction, especially her previous novel, The Killing Jar, about one of the youngest Americans to have served on death row, published in June 2012 by Neverland Publishing. Learning from Lady Chatterly is available in paperback on Amazon.
A few years back when I was living in Brooklyn, a writer and friend in my coop building named Tim Sheard suggested we start a local writer’s group. Although working full-time in the medical industry, (he calls himself “a veteran nurse”), Tim was already prolifically turning out an amazing series of mystery novels set in a fictional Philadelphia hospital and featuring Lenny Moss, a janitor, shop steward and working man hero extraordinaire. Today, Tim’s Hard Ball Press is also publishing other new authors at www.hardballpress.com. Tim introduced me to the National Writers Union www.nwu.org (NWU) and I soon was inspired by so many talented writers in many genres. When I recently moved back to Michigan, I joined the local NWU Chapter, (NWU-SEM) but focused my life around my late brother’s struggle against AML leukemia. It was only this fall, a few months after his heroic battle ended, that I was able to really focus on the metropolitan Detroit area’s writing scene. And what an amazing scene is unfolding.
I first noticed that the Warren Civic Center Library was starting an invitation only writer’s group this fall. I sent in a writing sample and was accepted into the group led by Michigan author, editor and writing consultant Gloria Nixon-John, PhD, whose latest work is the fictionalized story of an incredible murder trial in the south http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14759761-the-killing-jar—based-on-a-true-story
This workshop gave me a chance to start writing about the last miraculous year with my brother and channel the grief into a tribute to his courage. When first given the diagnosis, Gil refused to consider the strenuous program of chemo and white cell transplants. He had gone through so many tests already and was so weak, he just wanted to be left alone. However when Doctors warned him he had only six weeks to live without some form of medication – and that there was a clinical trial that had a good chance of extending his life without the side effects of the traditional program — he agreed to try it. The result was an unforgettable year where, until the final weeks, my brother regained his independence and his hope for the future. As a family, we rejoiced over the suspended final verdict and made every day count. It’s a story I now want to share with others, because it is ultimately about embracing your illness and turning it into a shared challenge and celebration with family and friends.
After starting the Warren Library workshop, I learned that NWU-SEM was supporting the Motown Writers Network and was staffing a table at the group’s November 8-9th event, “The Essence of Motown Conference & Literary Jam!” I volunteered for the morning sessions on the 9th, and got there at 7am, which meant I had a chance to work with founder Sylvia Hubbard and her remarkable team. Sylvia has an astounding story that you can read about on Amazon, where she has her own page at http://amzn.to/19onAHY The single mother of three not only works full time, but writes romance novels prolifically and created the Motown Writers Network in 2000 to fill the lack of education and networking for Michigan authors online and offline. When she became frustrated in 2004 that all the literary conferences had moved too far away from the city, she co-created The Essence of Motown Literary Jam Conference held only in the City of Detroit annually http://motownwriters.wordpress.com/.
Besides witnessing the tireless energy and enthusiasm that makes Sylvia such a success, I also met the inspiring facilitators for three workshops, and I also got to talk with Alecia Goodlow Young, an officer of NWU-SEM, as well as other local members. That day I came away with an appreciation for the vibrancy of the writing scene in the Motor City and was particularly excited to find out more about the theatrical scene. If you are a writer, I encourage you to reach out to groups like the National Writer’s Union or Motown Writers Network — or your local library — and get inspired!