Today on the Showcase, I’m delighted to welcome Dedra L. Stevenson, author and filmmaker.
Dedra, the Showcase is yours for the day.
Get a Real Job!
As I haven’t seemed to “make it big” as a writer, although I am considered a regional talent, and have two Master’s Degrees gathering dust on my shelves, one may wonder, “Why does she keep doing this? Why doesn’t she get a ‘real’ job?”
There are several kinds of writers, but most fit into 3 categories as I see it: those who write as part of a “real job”, those who write as part of a larger project, and those who write because it’s part of their soul and writing (to them) is like breathing. I happen to be one of the latter.
Of course, I’d dearly love for one or all of my books to really catch on and become international best sellers. I’m a human being, and would love the fame and fortune that would go with such an amazing occurrence, but even if that never happens, I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep writing because I must, or I shall slowly die.
You see, I believe that each and every human being has been born with a secret ingredient, something bestowed upon you by your creator (whatever you believe that to be), and this secret ingredient is what you were born to do, something that makes you feel alive, something that makes you feel that you’re fulfilling your cosmic purpose. I call it the Divine Spark, and that’s why my first non-fiction book will bear the same name. The Divine Spark is that little sliver of kinship to the Divine that we all have, the part of us that isn’t just interested in survival, wealth or carnal pleasures. The Divine Spark is our higher self, the part of our being that connects us to the universe and creation.
When I was a free-lance journalist, I enjoyed journalistic writing. It was fun to find creative ways to express thoughts on issues that needed to be addressed. However, when I started writing The Hakima’s Tale: The Revenge of the Blue Jinni, my life changed. I wrote the first 40 pages in two days, longhand! My hand simply couldn’t write fast enough. I was in heaven, enjoying an uplifting feeling that I hadn’t experienced since childhood. Isn’t it amazing that when we’re children, we have the clearest understanding of ourselves?
When I was a kid, I had slews of imaginary characters. Perhaps they came to my imagination to comfort me during my long days of loneliness, as I grew up in a small town that didn’t understand me? Maybe it was my broken home and tragic family circumstances that resulted in a very broken me? I spent many hours in the school library and the public library, letting the stories take me somewhere else, somewhere I wasn’t alone, and I imagined many characters along the way. They became my friends, my family, and my therapy, and I truly think it was this imaginary adventure that healed me and gave me the heart of a storyteller.
Somewhere between then and the time that I started writing The Hakima’s Tale, I lost my imagination. I went to the University of Alabama, all the way through graduate school, got a Master’s in Library Science, got married, had a few “real jobs”, had my children, and took on a second Master’s Degree in Communication from Drury University in Springfield, MO.
After my middle son was formally diagnosed with Autism, I decided to devote most of my attention to raising my family, which made me feel good about myself, because family is the most important thing there is to me. My health and my family are my greatest treasures, and anyone who sees me with my darling children or my wonderful husband, you can see clearly how much they mean to me. However, …. there’s a place in your soul, a place beyond worldly things, a place in your consciousness, that if left empty, will eat away at your soul, and ultimately make you feel empty as a result. I couldn’t understand why I would cry, or feel so deeply depressed when I had so many blessings to count.
In my darkest hour, my imagination came back to rescue me once again. I remember feeling frustrated with all the immense popularity of books and films like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Exorcist, and all vampire related stories. I remember wishing that there were characters out there that brought about some of the magic of Middle Eastern Folklore in a way that Western children would appreciate it, and that’s when Phoenix came to me. Phoenix Kassim is the protagonist of The Hakima’s Tale, and she is charged with defending the human world from the attack of the rebel Jinn army led by their Master, the Blue Jinni, as they wish to take back the Earth and wipe out the scourge of humanity.
The Blue Jinni is the grand villain of The Hakima’s Tale, and his ultimate goal is to free the Earth from us, humans, so he doesn’t see himself as a villain at all, but a hero! In my opinion, that’s the kind of Villain we are missing, one that believes he’s doing the world a service. Also, I suppose you can say that the Blue Jinni represents that side of me that does wonder how much damage this world has suffered at the hands of mankind, and how much we all should be held accountable for that. The Blue Jinni, as a villain, can say things that I can’t as Dedra L. Stevenson. Isn’t that the great thing about writing a villain?
A book signing in Sharjah, UAE.
In a world that’s had quite a large dose of sparkly vampires, Western based heroes, and Western lore in general, isn’t it about time to revive the East, or at least tell it in a way that Western children would enjoy? Besides the Jinn are considered real by billions, so aren’t they are a much more tantalizing monster? The Hakima’s Tale, in my opinion and in the opinion of the current fans of the trilogy, accomplishes all that.
Writing The Hakima’s Tale trilogy: The Revenge of the Blue Jinni, The Rise of the Warrior, and The Dawn of Redemption filled that empty place in my consciousness, and made me feel that I was doing what I was meant for. I felt complete, and until today, even after completing my short story collection, Tales of the Lantern, my courtroom drama Desert Magnolia (my most personal novel that’s been compared to the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird), and my first horror, The Skinwalker: Resurrection, each time I sit down and put pen to paper or my fingertips to a keyboard, I get that deeply satisfying feeling of being complete. I have found my Divine Spark, and now that I know what it is, I can never have enough, so please understand that writing is like oxygen to the writer who writes from the soul. No “real job” will ever fill that void unless it’s a job as a paid fiction writer with complete creative freedom, so until that day comes, I’ll keep writing, and hopefully, all of you will keep on reading what I put out there!
You can find everything I’ve done on www.dedralstevenson.com or www.dedrastevenson.com and you can follow me on social media (links are on my website) to see what I’m up to. I’m not only a writer, I’m a filmmaker and a cookbook creator as well, and you can find out about my latest projects, a documentary called Just a Girl, and my upcoming international cookbook, Breaking Bread Around the World, that’s been based on the concept of preparing food from 30 different countries for the month of Ramadan, here in the Middle East! A percentage of the profits for that book will be donated to charities that feed the world’s needy. I haven’t forgotten the little ones as well, and my upcoming series, The Magic Carpet Series, will be a series of inspiring stories for the very young.
Yes, it was The Hakima’s Tale that started all of this, and hopefully my life will produce many more fabulous works, as I know I’ve got hundreds more characters in my mind! So, when you wonder what’s your Divine Spark, try to remember what helped you when you were very little. Somehow you always knew what you were, even back then. Forget the fears and doubts of adulthood and remember a time when you were sure of who you were. As Mencius said, “Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.”
My thanks to Dedra for a great post. I hope you all enjoyed it.
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Have a great week,