Archive for June, 2009

From Fact to Fiction

I’ve been asked many times in last few weeks if Surviving Chadwick  is a true story. The short answer is no. However, in many ways the story really is true.

First the facts.

I attended boarding school in the 70’s and grew up in Oakland, Ca.  But after these facts, and a few more similarities to my own life, I embellish alot to make the story of a young African American male attending boarding school more compelling.

   The process was fun.

The best thing I found out about writing this story is that you can tell all kinds of interesting stories, especially your own,  if you’re willing to use your imagination.

The main character in my story is a tall, and politically astute male. He’s sorely lacking in self-confidence.  Physically, I am not very tall but as a young student I struggled with issues of academic self confidence .  This struggle provided me with the insight to lend credibility to the plight of my main character.

Don’t be afraid to change the emotional and physical makeup of your character if the situation calls for it.  Nothing is worse than sticking to the boring details of your own life if other more interesting incidents can be incorporated into your story.  Be flexible. Tell your story and make it sing.

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Preview the Book!

My dorm room was tucked away inside the Middlebury maze. The interior was simple. The door opened to a bare picture window framing a grassy courtyard. Underneath the windowsill was an empty desk, and near the walls were two beds with bare mattresses sitting atop built-in dresser drawers. The shiny linoleum floor smelled like disinfectant.

The brown paneled walls held countless pinholes from previous residents.

There’d be no problem hanging the poster of Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the power salute on the victory platform at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the one of Huey P. Newton I’d concealed in my trunk. My parents, concerned with me fitting in and appearing too radical, would have opposed both photos. But no matter what, I was determined to stay in touch with and—when necessary—flaunt my blackness.

Dad carried in the new, all-in-one stereo component set he’d found at a Sears clearance sale, and Mom brought in the bedding. Setting it on the counter, Dad looked at me in the way he did when he meant business.

“Remember, don’t play this too loud.”

“I know.” I looked for the wall outlet. I was anxious to plug in everything and see how the radio, record player, and the tiny speakers attached to it, sounded.

“White people think we can’t play our music at a reasonable level,” added Mom. “Just watch yourself.”

“I’ll keep it real low,” I said.

“That’s good,” said Dad. “But I don’t think you’ll have too much time for music listening anyway. Especially the way Breedlove was talking. You’re going to be pretty busy, I can feel it. Just do your work and make us proud.” He emphasized the word “proud,” making sure I understood the magnitude of the undertaking. Not only was I representing the Issacson household, but I was supposed to be a role model for all the black kids in Oakland who hadn’t been awarded a scholarship.


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