I have a very special guest today--and another one tomorrow. Anyone with children (or the young at heart) will enjoy the next couple of days. Before I get into today's post, however, I'd like to make two quick announcements. First, take a peek at the botom of today's post; there is this cool new gadget I found that I hope all of you will enjoy. Second, I'm a guest blogger over at Katie Hines' blog today and would love to have you stop by and take a look :-)
This is Dr. Mosetta M. Penick Phillips-Cermak. Mosetta lives with her two Labrador Retrievers, one black and one yellow, and two Siamese cats in West Park, Ohio. Dr. Penick Phillips-Cermak is the mother of two, grandmother of two, and great grandmother of two. A native of Cleveland Ohio, from a family of educators, she is a retired psychotherapist/counselor and a teacher of many years. Over the years, she has taught everything from kindergarten through teacher education, English, psychology and sociology.
Mosetta’s first short, short story was published in the local newspaper when ,at the age of ten, she won first prize in a creative writing contest. In college, her literary essays and short stories were published in the colleges’ literary magazine, The Spectrum. Eventually, she rose to serve as editor-in-chief of the very same magazine.
A woman with a myriad of talents, she performed as both an instrumentalist and vocalist, played the piano and flute, as well as teaching chorus, and both instruments.
She is also a dog trainer, registered with the State of Ohio to train and certify Handicap Assistant Dogs. A relatively well-known speaker in the Cleveland area, this writer has presented more than a dozen papers and workshops throughout the State of Ohio.
A minister ordained in 1980, she states that her main strength resides in her absolute faith and tenacity, a desire to know all that is knowable, a love of research, and the ability to consistently identify the truth of any subject matter. She is a member of has attended numerous writers’ workshops, and is currently active in a critique group. She also has completed several other short stories, a children’s interactive picture book to teach educational concepts, and her first middle-grade children’s fantasy novel that she expects will be published soon.
Tomorrow, we will be looking at Rajah and the Big Blue Ball and get to talk with Rajah. Today, however, I want to share with you an interview I had the honor of doing with Dr. Mosetta Penick Phillips-Cermak.
What three words do you think describe you as a human being?
If I only had three words with which to describe myself, I think that I would choose, loyal, tenacious, and religious.
How do you think others would describe you?
I think that others see me as very smart ( I hear that all the time), and very accomplished. I don't necessarily see myself that way. If I were as smart as I am told that I am, I would not have missed so many opportunities or have so many regrets.
Please tell us what you are most passionate about outside of writing.
Beside my writing I am passionate about my faith, my absolute belief in God and his son, Jesus Christ. I am passionate about animals and children. And, I am passionate about learning. Not just my personal learning, but the academic,moral, and ethical education of our children. When I see people that won't buy their child a book, I cringe. Not that they have to buy my books, but these are the same people that tell me that books are too expensive, yet they spend $100 bucks every month on cable TV. I once challenged a mother to accept a free copy of one of my books, if she would sign a statement that she would read to her child every night before bed, and she refused.
Do you have any pets? If so, introduce us to them.
Shhh! it is a secret. I can only introduce you to Rajah LeBeau and to Chynna at this point. Actually, I am currently living with my two labs and two cats. But you will meet them in other books, rather soon.
What is your most precious memory?
My most precious memory is of my mother reading to me at bed time every night. It felt so safe to have my mother hold me as I fell off to sleep. My mother worked outside the home. I think that I spent the days being afraid that I would never see my mother again. War does that to young children, even when the war is very far away. I think that along with those memories are spending every summer with my Nana, my mother's mother. She, too, was an educator, and she told me stories every single day during the summer, until I was old enough that I started to tell them back to her, and make up new ones. When I was about 6 years old, I wrote a play. I decided to stage it in the backyard. My grandmother helped me make the puppets and all the costumes for the puppet performers.
What is your most embarrassing memory?
I am not sure. I think that I was most embarrassed when I gave birth to my first child. We were very modest in those day. At my age, very little can still embarrass me. If I try to evoke memories of being embarrassed, I no longer can. I have done a lot of stupid things in my life, but I cannot feel the emotion of embarrassment about them, anymore.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing with your life?
If I had been born at a different time in the world, I would have been a Veterinarian, or a Thoracic Surgeon. I think that for me a better question would be what do you do when you are not writing. I say that because I believe I was born a writer. I have always been a writer, although I have made my living as a psychotherapist, as a counselor, a social worker, and as a teacher.
In two paragraphs or less write your obituary.
This is a very hard one. I think a lot about dying these days.
Author of children's books dies at the age of 210 years old (Ha ha ha..wishful thinking).
Dr. Mosetta Penick Phillips-Cermak, world renowned author of more than 1000 books dies as she completes her last made for TV movie. The worlds oldest person, Dr. Mosetta's works have been turned into 500 children's TV series, 400 feature length movies, and 100 interactive computer games.
Dr. Mosetta was attended at her bedside by her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and her great-great-grandchildren.
Can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a “real” writer?
I have always been a "real" writer. I was 9 and 1/2 or ten when I won a writing contest. The prize was publication. That didn't seem like a big deal in those days because I always won the creative writing and essays in my school.
I remember when I was a freshman in college, I had to take this test, before I could take English 101. The instructor said that it was standard procedure. I completed the test on grammar and composition early, and then I wrote a short story about being forced to take an inane test prior to signing up for English 101. The instructor, who was the faculty advisor for the school literary magazine, published the short story.
What is going on with your writing these days?
I am under contract for 5 more books in the Rajah series.
I am editing my middle grade chapter book, The Book of Moncoto.
I have completed both a young adult novel and a picture book for preschool/kindergarten.
What are your future goals for your writing?
I have a new children's series in mind. But, no hints, yet. But I promise that you will be the very first to know what it is.
In addition, I have three new stories that I am trying to hone. These three stories are related to things we, as parents, want to teach or children. And, I hope to start an adult horror that I outlined. Finally, I have been working on a parenting book. I hope that after rearing successful children, who have also reared successful children, that I may have something to offer related to this concept.
Can you describe a typical writing day for you?
Most days I start my day at 4:45 a.m. I write only about 2000 -2500 words per day. I usually write straight through from 7a.m. until about 2:30 p.m.
Why do you write?
I write because it is the same as breathing for me. It makes me happy. I guess I never grew up in some ways. When I was a child I wanted to be "Peter Pan." I have always felt a connection to children and to animals. When I look at a little child or at an animal, I truly believe that I know what s/he is thinking. Of course, with my background in psychotherapy, I am a keen observer and a student of behavior.
I write because I love children, and because I am a teacher. The foundation of this writer's philosophy is predicated on one simple belief, which is that all children can learn. I believe in inspired teaching. I believe in helping children to love to learn, just for the sake of learning.
Good teaching is primarily based on the premise that every student can learn, show concern for one another, and choose to act responsibly in the classroom, and in life. From this concept springs all other aspects pertaining to this philosophy. A secondary theorem is that all learning springs from a desire to develop understanding of the world, and it is the responsibility of the teacher to nurture this desire within her/his charges.
And, I am a definite believer in discipline. If students develop discipline, they learn persistence, the ability to see a matter through to its conclusion.
It is particularly difficult these days. Instead, our children are being taught a demand for instant gratification, instead of the discipline of patience. Many parents are too busy in an attempt to support their children and provide for their physical need that they do not have the time or energy to connect with the child's emotional needs.
The purpose of teaching is to provide a positive environment where all students can learn and the purpose of my writing is to construct a positive universe for the children who read my books. When I write for my audience it is another way of imparting information and affecting a child's life. As a writer I create a world where children can reach out and test the limits of their imagination in safety.
What writer most inspires you? Why?
I cannot choose just one writer. First, I would say the Bible. The metaphors are outstanding and very moving, and the imagery is incredible. Next, I would have to say Greek mythology. I loved the stories of Homer, even when I was very young.
As a child, our library had a rule that you had to be 12 years old to get an adult library card. They needed to waive that rule for me. By the time I was eight and one-half, I had read all the books in the children's section of our branch of the Cleveland Public Library. The newspaper wrote a story about me. It was the first time I was in the newspaper.
Once I received my adult library card, the world of literature opened up for me.
My journey into literature was eclectic. So, of course I was influenced by Shakespeare and Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet. My great aunt had left the United States to study fashion in Paris during the 1920's and she brought back copies of Candide and La Princesse de Babylone with her. An advanced education in Fashion was not available to women of color in the United States at that time).
I loved to read anything...from the breakfast cereal boxes to the New York Times. I think that the first grown-up, mainstream, book that I ever read was Sinuhe the Egyptian by Mika Waltari, (the English translation by Naomi Walford) and then, Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk.
I most definitely read the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hansberry, Dorothy West, Langston Hughes, Alexander Dumas, Henry James, L. Frank Baum, Edgar Rice Burroughs, William Makepeace Thackeray, and the Grimm fairy tales. I could go on and on with such writers as Edward Gorey, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Dr Seuss, Margaret Mitchell, Pearl Buck, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, and John Dos Passos. Somewhere in my youth I read T.S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, Jules Vern, and H.G. Wells. I think Vern and Wells helped me develop a love for science fiction.
I also enjoyed reading plays, and I spent a great deal of time at the Karamu Theater, in my pre-teen and early teen years, where I had a very small part in Seventeen by Booth Tarkington. I think that in my world, both plays and books, were equally important to developing my imagination. But, I am not a playwright by any stretch of the aforementioned imagination.
How do you define your writing?
I don't know. I guess I am a Scientific fantasy writer for young people.
In one sentence—what do you want people to say about your writing in fifty years?
Dr. Mosetta M. Penick Phillips-Cermak was an enduring talent, and an inspired author for children.
Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website? Blog?
I would love to have people follow my blog at http://www.docmosetta.blogspot.com/ . I think that my blog is a little different. I only write when someone or some event spurs me on...forces me to write, so to speak, because I have something that must be said.
I am also posting at http://hubpages.com/profile/MaiaCer .
Is there a place where readers can reach you?
I invite your readers to connect with me on facebook or twitter. My facebook and twitter addresses are as follows:
Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?
I only have four books currently in print at this time. They are The Wishing Flower, The Magic of Laven-Rock, and Rajah and the Big Blue Ball. In addition I have a little book on promotion for authors.
For new readers—what can they expect when they read your book(s)?
When a new reader reads my books, they can expect to be transported into a magical and sensory heighten world...A world of imagination. In all of my worlds, they will find a respect for life and a lesson to be learned.
Take as much space as necessary to speak to our readers—what would you like them to know about you and your writing?
I want to thank you for this opportunity to discuss my personal philosophy and my latest book, Rajah and the Big Blue Ball.
All of my life I have watched animals. As a child, I used to look into my dogs' eyes, and try to imagine just what they were thinking. Our protagonist, Rajah, is my real dog, Rajah LeBeau. He really does love running around our backyard. He chases the squirrels, and sniffs the air.
Rajah has such a wonderful personality He tries very hard to communicate with me.
As I have mentioned in my blog, I dedicated this story to one of my favorite second grade classes. It was for these children that I wrote "Rajah and the Big Blue Ball". The book evolved from their "Tell Me a Story" time. I would makeup a story about what things Rajah did each day.
One of my students had watched as his cousins was shot in the head by a drive-by shooter. The child was so traumatized by the sight of blood and neural material splattered all over him, that he did not speak for six months. But when he did, he asked me to tell him a story.And the story I told was "Rajah and the Big Blue Ball".
My special cause is the Cleveland Animal Protective League. $1.00 of every purchase of Rajah and the Big Blue Ball goes to the Cleveland APL. I am currently working to raise money to sponsor a cage. Sponsorship is $1500 per year. This would guarantee a puppy or older dog a cage of his/her own until he or she is adopted.
In addition, I encourage people to buy one of my books and donate it to an inner city school or library.
People have to buy books and share them with children. It hurts my heart when I hear someone say that a book is "too expensive". Yet, many of the same people spend one hundred and fifty dollars for a pair of tennis shoes, or $300 for a gaming console. We need to re-think our values in order to save our children.