Stars & Stripes columnist Terri Barnes interviews Kathleen M. Rodgers about her new book, overcoming struggles, and more…

 

Terri Barnes, columnist for Stars & Stripes
Terri Barnes, columnist for Stars & Stripes

 

What an honor to be featured in Terri Barnes‘ popular column in Stars & Stripes! After Terri read an advanced reader copy of my forthcoming novel, Johnnie Come Lately, she offered to endorse it and she also requested an interview. We talked for over an hour. Please click the red link to read the story she gleaned from our conversation.

http://www.stripes.com/blogs/spouse-calls/spouse-calls-1.9571/defeating-a-monster-1.307741

 

 

 

 

Terri’s endorsement for Johnnie Come Lately, forthcoming from Camel Press 2/1/15

“The Kitchen family could be any wholesome All-American family, and like any family, they have secrets. In Johnnie Come Lately, Kathleen Rodgers brings to life an extended family that could be yours or mine. Their secrets will draw you into this book, and Rodgers’ characters — from Johnnie Kitchen to her lovable chocolate lab, Brother Dog — will jump off the page, grab your heart, and won’t let it go until the very end.”

Terri Barnes, author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life and a columnist for Stars and Stripes 

Terri’s full bio:

Terri is the author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life and is the special projects editor at Elva Resa Publishing. A well-respected columnist, Terri is the writer and creator of the weekly Stars and Stripes column Spouse Calls, which first appeared in 2007. Now published in print editions worldwide and online, Spouse Calls serves as a voice for military spouses and families, through personal stories, incisive interviews, news analysis, and interaction with readers. Terri has been a member of the Washington, DC, press corps and has contributed to several other books about military life. Her work has appeared in Air Force/Army/Navy TimesThe Huffington Post, and Books Make a Difference, as well as newspapers, magazines, and base publications in many of her adopted hometowns around the world. Her other media appearances include CNN Newsroom, Positive Parenting with Armin Brott, and Semper Feisty Radio with USMC Life. 

 

 

Novelist: My claim to “fame” at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony at Tarrant County College/NE Campus

Updated March 18, 2015TCC:NE Distinguished Alumni 2014

Kathleen M. Rodgers on the Wall of Fame at Tarrant County College/NE Campus, 2014 Distinguished Alumna Award
Kathleen M. Rodgers on the Wall of Fame at Tarrant County College/NE Campus, 2014 Distinguished Alumna Award

I sat through the awards luncheon waiting for the real Kathleen Rodgers to show up. The one that grew up to become the person she’d always wanted to be: a successful writer.  The one that smiles big for photo ops and has tried for thirty-five plus years to “make it” as a writer. I sat through a two-hour luncheon waiting for it to feel real. I looked at the other distinguished alumni and kept asking myself “how did I get here?” I can’t even remember my multiplication tables!

Kathleen on the big screen at TCC:NE campus' Distinugued Alumni ceremonyThen my name was called. When I turned to see my photo and a sample of my professional credits on the big screen, it started to feel real. All at once I was back in my comfort zone, especially when the president of the college asked jokingly if I brought any books to sign. And then when I took my seat and finally stared at my award:

Tarrant County College Northeast Campus

Distinguished Alumni Award

Presented to

Kathleen Rodgers

Novelist

 

(L-R) With former advisor/instructor Anita Peters, best friend Rhonda Revels, and literary agent, Jeanie Loiacono.
(L-R) With former advisor/instructor Anita Peters, best friend Rhonda Revels, and  Jeanie Loiacono.

It was the word “novelist” that cemented the deal for me, and I got to share it with my dear friend, Rhonda Revels (the inspiration behind my character Whit Thomas in my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately.)

Rhonda Revels and Kathleen, best friends for 22 years.
Rhonda Revels and Kathleen, best friends for 22 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doris Jones in her office at TCC/NE Campus. Don't you love her bookshelves?
Doris Jones in her office at TCC/NE Campus. Don’t you love her bookshelves?

 

 

* A special note of thanks to my former government professor, Doris Jones, for nominating me. What I respect about Doris is how she respects her students.

 

 

 

 

 

See the press release about the Wall of Fame at TCC/NE Campus:

http://sites.tccd.edu/tccbuzz/2014/05/08/tcc-northeast-campus-dedicates-alumni-wall-of-fame-2/

Author Kathleen M. Rodgers named a Distinguished Alumni for Tarrant County College/NE Campus 2014

kathleenmrodgers:2014 Distinguished Alumni Tarrant County Community College

When I walked across the stage at Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, TX to receive my diploma in May 2007, I felt ten feet tall in my cap and gown. I was also one of the oldest graduates at 48. With my husband Tom, our two grown sons and my mother looking on, I graduated with highest honors, a total victory considering I feared I would flunk college biology my first day in lecture and lab. Most people complete an AA degree in about two years, but then I’m not most people. It took me 30 years to earn a college degree. In that time, I attended one university, two community colleges, recovered from a life-threating eating disorder, wrote numerous articles for national and local publications, completed one novel, followed my Air Force fighter pilot turned airline pilot husband from base to base, and raised our two sons. I also raised one puppy dog and served as a nanny to my three young boy cousins while their mom worked as an attorney in downtown Dallas.

By the time I earned my associate degree, I’d already enrolled in Southern Methodist University’s noncredit novel writing course. With one completed novel The Final Salute under my belt, a second novel began to take shape. That novel grew up to become Johnnie Come Lately and will be published by Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015.

Being named a 2014 Distinguished Alumni for Tarrant County College/Northeast Campus is one more affirmation that I’m on the right track with my new novel. My protagonist, Mrs. Johnnie Kitchen, goes back to college later in life. In my own little way, I’ve tried to shine the spotlight on community colleges. Tarrant County College inspired the fictional Portion Community College in the novel.

Although I didn’t need a college degree to become a writer, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Regardless of my many successes in the writing profession, earning a college degree thirty years after I graduated from high school gave me a boost of confidence like nothing else.

No matter what level of education we all achieve, we are all students of the world. Every day we have a chance to learn something new and to apply it to our lives.

Here’s the announcement I received from the President of Tarrant County College/NE Campus:

Greetings Kathleen Rodgers,

As president of Tarrant County College Northeast Campus, I would like to congratulate you for being named as one of the Distinguished Alumni of the campus for recognition in 2014!

Recognition of graduates who have made a difference in the community is a relatively new endeavor for TCC Northeast.  Twelve years ago I established a committee of faculty members with the goal of developing guidelines for this project.  The committee decided to ask departments to name outstanding former students who had graduated from TCC Northeast at least five years ago with associate degrees or certificates.  In the last few years, we also wanted to include students who had attended TCC Northeast for a substantial portion of their college course work, but who may have transferred to another institution to finish a degree.  Each discipline chose one person to be recognized in a ceremony that will take place on campus in May during the Faculty Luncheon.  As a member of this group of Distinguished Alumni, you will receive a certificate that will be presented during that ceremony.

We have scheduled the recognition ceremony/luncheon to take place in the Center Corner (NSTU 1615A) in the Student Center Building.  You might remember that this is the building with the clock tower.  It will begin at approximately 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 and should be over by 1:00 p.m.

The photo and a short bio will eventually be transferred to our Distinguished Alumni Wall of Recognition housed in the J. Ardis Bell Library on the Northeast Campus.

Again, congratulations, and I look forward to seeing you next month.

Larry Darlage, PhD

President| Tarrant County College Northeast Campus

 

 

Homecoming Queen and the Football Star

1953, USA --- Original caption: 1953-A homecoming queen smiles and waves from the back seat of a convertible. --- Image by © Jack Moebes/CORBIS
1953, USA — Original caption: 1953-A homecoming queen smiles and waves from the back seat of a convertible. — Image by © Jack Moebes/CORBIS

 

The homecoming queen

and the football star

out on a date

in Daddy’s car.

They’re the popular kids

in the town’s high school

that plays by

its own set of rules.

She wears a gown

and traditional crown.

He holds a pigskin

and helmet for the pose.

He’s the cream of the crop

and she – the unblemished rose.

After high school they’ll marry

and raise a mess of kids.

And some Saturday night

they’ll sit reminiscing

over the way things used to be:

before she wore aprons

and pockets of fat,

and he had hair

under his helmet

and the spare tire

rested in the trunk.

Their children vie

for the titles this year.

They keep the spirit of harvest alive

in small towns across America.

They’re the homecoming queen

and the football star…

the heart of the parade

in the convertible car.

© Kathleen M. Rodgers  ~ Alaska 1986

 

My poem inspired Denise Norris to purchase these charms for her mother, Johnnie Dale Norris, who was a homecoming queen and whose husband was a football star.
My poem inspired Denise Norris to purchase these charms for her mother, Johnnie Dale Norris, who was a homecoming queen and whose husband was a football star.

“I Don’t Want To Live Forever”

Lynne M. SpreenLynne Morgan Spreen 4

~ author of the award-winning novel Dakota Blues

Guest blogging today, 9/10/13

So now there’s a chance we can extend longevity to 120.

Yay, right? Not necessarily. Many midlife people, myself included, don’t want to see that happen. I think it would make an elder person go nuts. It would me, anyway.

Let’s consider the challenge of keeping up with your profession. How much information can you learn, discard, learn, discard, learn, discard in middle-age and beyond? And even if you can learn it, after fifteen or twenty new campaigns, do you even care to? You’ve seen change after change in your corporate setting, much of it brought about by new people refusing to learn from history. If your brain absorbs sixty, seventy years of information, might there be a point where, like an old draft horse, you simply refuse to haul that load one more step?

What about technology? Born in a time of party lines and carbon paper, you’ve mastered the tech revolution, with all your new passwords and tech support and wireless and ether and RAM. Do you really want to be around when they start doing microchip implants under the skin? I don’t want to be sitting out on the patio of an evening, wondering if that bug I just swatted was a mosquito or a miniaturized drone.

Now consider the emotional challenges we face during a long lifetime.

What if you started out here?
What if you started out here?

When I was researching Dakota Blues, I drove around rural North Dakota and saw many crumbling homesteads from a time when there were no roads, stores, or neighbors within miles. Dakota blues cover image with awardThe parents would produce a dozen kids, because half of them would die before adulthood. Drought killed crops. Locusts ate the paint off farm tools. Cattle starved. I imagined the woman of the house looking up from her labors and thinking of her family still in Germany, whom she would probably never see again. Then I pictured her, years later, as a very old woman standing by a grave in ND, and I wondered how she handled being the only one who remembered sailing from a dock in Hamburg. Assuming this woman was born in 1900, do you really see her thriving through 2020?

When you look at it organically, death might be as much a relief at the end of a life as sleep is at the end of a day.

My Mom sometimes laments being “so old” (she’s 88), and I try to cheer her up with some positives: after many years of seeing your kids slaving away at careers, they’re enjoying retirement – and you’re getting more visits than ever. Your grandkids are having adorable babies which you can cuddle and hug. A great-grandson just graduated from Marine Corps boot camp. Life is long. That’s a privilege.

Lynne, golfing at Bully Pulpit in ND (setting for a scene in Dakota Blues)
Lynne, golfing at Bully Pulpit in ND (setting for an evocative scene in Dakota Blues)

But there’s a price. You may be the oldest person around. Nobody remembers what it was like back then. You’ve been widowed for how many years? You miss your parents, who’ve been gone half your life.

For all the good, longevity comes with an accumulation of sorrow. You might manage it for thirty, forty years. Then what? You can rejuvenate your face and maybe even, eventually, your blood cells, but what of your heart and soul?

Lynne’s bio:

Lynne Spreen’s award-winning novel, Dakota Blues, is about a woman’s journey of self-discovery in the second half of life. Contact her on FacebookTwitter, or on her blog, AnyShinyThing.com. Watch the book trailer for Dakota Blues and read reviews at: http://anyshinything.com/dakota-blues-midlife/.

"Motherly Secrets"#2 2011 by TCR - Version 2
“Motherly Secrets,” Litho by Thomas C. Rodgers
(used by permission)

 

 

 

 

She’s Come Undone

"She's Come Undone" is my interpretation of this photo. What is yours? Feel free to post in the comment box below the poem.
 Maybe she is all of us who’ve ever come back from grief, hardship, disappointment or simply discovered that we’ve entered our  second childhood.   

8/27/13

 Stepping out of the pool

wearing nothing but a dare,

she looks around.

No roofers in sight,

only the neighbor’s cat

curled under the Mimosa 

and a gecko doing pushups on the fence.

She crosses her arms in front of her

covering herself like a shield.

It’s the Pilgrim in her you know.

Then slowly, she drops the facade,

lifts her arms wide

and does breaststrokes in the air.

The stars aren’t even out,

high noon howls at her back

as she glides this way and that,

barefoot in the sun,

pirouetting in grass that’s still green

until the scarecrows come out.

 A hawk flies overhead,

his high-pitched keeee calling her

to join him.

She takes off across the yard

and decades fall behind her,

shedding the years until she is five

and running through sprinklers.

 Diving into the blue,

she torpedoes through the water

propelled by an energy

she hasn’t felt in years.

 When she comes up for air,

she spots two lily pads of cloth

floating nearby…the discarded suit.

 Flipping on her back,

the buzz of a light plane catches her attention.

And she laughs at the moment

 when she defied convention.

 © Kathleen M. Rodgers