In the last edition of my newsletter, I asked if anyone wanted to be interviewed. Frankie Lennon responded to this requesting an interview. It has been an interesting interview and without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you Frankie Lennon …
Aneeta: Frankie, thank you for agreeing to this interview
Frankie: Thank you for asking.
Aneeta: Let’s start with something about you. Tell me about where you grew up, your family background and where you live now.
Frankie: I am a creative woman writes, teaches, gardens, designs and makes jewelry. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, I graduated from Austin High School; then I went to college at Indiana University where she received a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Creative Writing. I have done a number of things to keep a roof over her head, including advertising copywriting, public relations, training facilitator, HIV Health Education program management for Minority AIDS Project, teaching traditional college English composition and literature, and teaching socio-cultural issues in Weekend College for Sociology. At present, I teach in Los Angeles at Mount St. Mary’s College and at Los Angeles Trade Technical Community College. I am a 2005 recipient of the highly competitive Hedgebrook Writers Residency for Women. My other accomplishments include being named Faculty of the Year at Mt. St. Mary’s College, inclusion in the 9th Edition of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and a cherished award from Minority AIDS Project for Outstanding Continuous Service. I am also the Founder and facilitator of Talking Drum Creative Writing Workshop, which is open to the public, and a member of the Soulful Salon, a sexually diverse gathering of artists of color in Los Angeles. I am a working writer who makes sure I nurture her artist within. Among my previous writing credits, I count my stints as a newsletter graphic designer and editor, brochure design and copywriting, feature articles for magazines and newspapers, training manuals, and two soft cover books.
Aneeta: Now let’s proceed to the core of this interview which is your desire to tell my subscribers about your new book, The Mee St. Chronicles: Straight Up Stories of a Black Woman’s Life.
Frankie: The Mee St. Chronicles is a very candid, passionate memoir of my battle to claim my own life and sexual identity. In it, I narrate stories starting with my childhood and take you with me on my turbulent life journey & struggle to find freedom from the many prisons that bind me. How the conflicts in my life play out give my stories page-turning drama that I think readers will enjoy.
Aneeta: How did the book come about?
Frankie: The idea of writing about my life experiences had been at the back of my mind for years. It took my old friend, Nikki Giovanni, to act as catalyst for this. She had planned to edit a book of stories and essays and she asked me to contribute. I did by writing a piece called “The Code.” Although the book never came to fruition, that story ultimately launched me into writing the stories of The Mee St. Chronicles.
Aneeta: How is your book like or different from other memoirs?
Frankie: Well, mine is about my battle to claim my life and my sexual identity. The fact is, “out” Black Lesbians are not crowding the field to write about their struggle to claim their lives with integrity in a world that often appears very homophobic. Of course, there’s Audre Lourde who wrote Zami years ago. And Alice Walker has written a short story or two about living in the life. My book is a different kind of memoir. I put myself out there on several fronts, including my battle with alcoholism. I tell it like it is.
Aneeta: Why should people buy your book? What does your book offer the reader?
Frankie: They should buy because I tell powerful stories, exciting stories, stories that make you think and re-evaluate some issues. They should buy it because I offer the reader the chance to see and experience my naked feelings, conflicts, fears, and struggles. I get down to the nitty-gritty in The Mee St. Chronicles, and you get the chance to experience my trials and tribulations along with me. It will be exciting, funny, and heartbreaking. And it will never be dull.
Aneeta: Who are you targeting as readers?
Frankie: There’s something for everybody—young and old, Straight & Gay, Black, Latina, White, people fighting addictions, people with the virus, people who know or don’t know about living Jim Crow in the South. My stories are stories about finding out who you are, about trying to make sense of your life, about learning how to get rid of the shame that binds you.
Aneeta: What have you learned about yourself as a result of writing this book?
Frankie: I’ve learned that understanding who I am and finally not being ashamed of that was worth all the struggle. And I’ve learned that I really am a good writer whose work people like very much.
Aneeta: What inspired you to write this book? Why did you take the time and effort to write it not knowing whether you’d be published or not?
Frankie: First, the act of creating pushed me forward. Writing quenched a lifelong thirst and filled a void because I began to honor and express the creative spirit within. Second, I wanted to preserve my memories by telling my stories. Memories are all about identity for me. And telling you who I am, through my memory stories, set me free. No more secrets to poison my spirit. And third, I thought that my stories might help to set many people free. Or at least put their feet on the road to freedom. Especially those who feel different and think they are cursed by that difference. These stories are to reassure them that they aren’t cursed. To encourage them to keep going no matter how bad things look or what others may say or do. To tell them they aren’t alone, that there’s somebody else who’s survived choosing the wrong road more than once, who’s fallen off the road several times, who’s lost the road completely, but who, in the end, has finally found her way.
Aneeta: What has been the greatest delight in your writing career so far?
Frankie: Getting The Mee Street Chronicles written and published.
Aneeta: What writers have inspired you?
Frankie: James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, Judith Ortiz Cofer, bell hooks, Stephen King.
Aneeta: Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
Frankie: My pastor and friend, Archbishop Carl Bean. His work in and out of the pulpit continues to leave its mark on me.
Aneeta: Where is your book available?
Aneeta: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Frankie:Keep writing. Make time to write no matter what. Don’t give it up and don’t let anything or anybody stop you.
Aneeta: Frankie, thank you
Frankie: You’re welcome.
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