Friday, April 9, 2010

Guest post with Connie May Fowler, with a special message about the power of the written word


Friends, the day has arrived! Amidst the insanity of launching her newest (and most excellent) book, How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, Connie May Fowler has graciously agreed to spend a little time with us today. What touched me more than anything, and proof of this lady's gigantic heart, is that in sharing her passion and mission with us, she forgot to promote Clarissa! I told her that she could leave that up to me. If you have not read my review of her most amazing work yet, please click on the link above! At this point, I will turn it over to Connie:


Tonight, I’m finally going to meet the fabulous Sandy Nawrot. She’s fabulous not because she’s a fan of my work (for that I deeply love her), but because she is a stalwart believer in books. She knows that books change lives and that reading is an essential component to being a happy, healthy, successful person. Through this blog and by getting involved in community literacy projects, Sandy backs up her belief with action.

So it is particularly apt that Sandy and I will—after a couple of years of email correspondence—meet in the flesh at Reading Between the Wines, an annual fundraiser for the Adult Literacy League of Central Florida. According to the League’s website, “One in every five Central Florida adults reads at or below the 5th grade level . . . Parents with low literacy skills have trouble reading to their children and many don’t even try. Sadly, the literacy levels of children are strongly linked to the educational levels of their parents.”

As a child no older than four, I understood the soul-saving properties of the written word. We were desperately poor and my parents, paralyzed by their failures and dashed dreams, fought every night. My sister and I huddled in our small bedroom and—in an effort to block out their angry voices—she read to me.

I escaped from my family’s violence by disappearing into books. In the fictive world, I found role models. I discovered that there was a different kind of life out there and it was one that I wanted. I perceived—even among the ruins that defined my childhood—something my parents’ had long lost: hope.

My father died when I was six. His death propelled my mother into a quagmire of depression and anger from which she would never recover. She turned on her children, spewing hate, filling us with shame, and leaving both physical and mental scars. Still, I am loathe to blame her; she came from a long line of battered women, and I believe that the generational abuse culminated with her, exacting its greatest toll yet: a penchant toward child abuse. My lingering regret is that when my mother was at her best, she was brimming with intelligence, humor, and potential. But it wasn’t enough to save her.

Through it all—the curses, the name-calling, the belittlement, the beatings—I sought refuge and found it, time and again, in tales told by authors I would never meet but always love. Without books, I do not believe I would be alive today.

And that is why I am taking this opportunity as a guest blogger on Sandy’s site, to ask each of you to put books into the hands of children. I urge you to buy everything from picture books to young adult novels and donate them to your local domestic violence shelter. The children in shelter have witnessed unspeakable acts of terror committed by a parent they love. They bear guilt that they could not stop the violence and heal the battered parent. Notions of safety and happiness—notions many of us take for granted—are skewed in children who come from this background. We need to help them because, simply put, they deserve better. And it’s so easy. One of our daily mantras should be "Give a kid a book".

I am living proof that a child whose family is wracked with violence can find her way out of the darkness one word, one paragraph, one page, one book at a time.

~~~Connie May Fowler


I am not ashamed to admit that Connie's message brought tears to my eyes. As someone who has read her memoir, and read the nearly autobiographical "Before Women Had Wings", I was aware of Connie's childhood. But knowing how books became her motivation for a better life, and how she gives back by sharing her gift with us, I'm so deeply touched.

So here is my promise to myself and to you. Every time I buy a book for myself, my kids or for someone else, I will match it with one for a child. In addition, in the purging of my kids' bookshelves (which is WAY overdue), all donations will find a home with the local battered women's shelter.

The story of how I initially happened upon Connie's books is a tale for another day, but suffice it to say that I believe she was put in my path for a reason. I believe THIS is the reason. There can be no more important mission.



23 comments:

Melody said...

It brought tears to my eyes too after reading Connie's guest post. Thanks for sharing with us, Connie!

You rock, Sandy!

Molly said...

WOW --- what a post!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I have never read this author before but after reading her heart, I want to collect every book she has ever written!

Julie P. said...

What an amazing guest post! One of the best I've ever read! You can't help but be moved by this one!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Wow - what a story! I love that books helped her so much. And how admirable that she sounds so un-bitter. And what great taste she has: the "fabulous Sandy Nawrot"!!!

ds said...

Oh, my. Thank you Connie May Fowler for sharing your story. Thank you, thank you, thank you Sandy for introducing Ms. Fowler to us!

I think Ms. Fowler made an excellent suggestion. I intend to follow through.

caite said...

excellent post!

I am a strong believer in the power of books to take us to other worlds, to other experiences. And sadly, for some, that travel is in answer to a need to escape, if just for a short time, from the less than ideal reality of their own life. Hopefully, in time, it becomes for them, in introduction to an even bigger world, an unlimited one.
When we give a child that gift, I think it can have a transforming effect.

Alyce said...

This was such a powerful post! And she is so brave to be so honest about her past and use it to help others!

bermudaonion said...

Oh my gosh, how could anyone not cry when they read that? What an amazing story. I've got to find a shelter to donate books to now.

Kathleen said...

Wow, this post definitely made me cry. Connie's story is so powerful and makes me want to read her book even more. Sandy, thank you for bringing this author and her work to my attention. I fear I would never have discovered her otherwise.

farmlanebooks said...

This is such a good post - so moving.

I am really pleased that you are finally going to meet Connie. I hope that you enjoy your time together and raise a lot of money.

Literary Feline said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Connie, and thank you Sandy for letting her use your blog as her forum!

Connie's story is truly inspirational. I am sorry you had to go through what you did but so glad you discovered a love for books in the process. It was similar for me. Turning to stories, whether through reading or writing, was what pulled me through some very rough moments during my life. I can totally relate to the power of books you felt as a child. I felt it too.

And good for you, Sandy, in your plan. I am sure you will bring many smiles to deserving faces.

Iliana said...

Thank you Connie for such a powerful post, and Sandy for introducing me to her books. While my life experience has been different I also firmly believe in the power of books to change lives.

And, Sandy, that's a wonderful mission you have set out for yourself!

Jeane said...

What an inspiring post. Sometimes I can't read the stories of abused women, just because it hurts too much. I cried reading it. Thank you, Connie Fowler, for being brave to share something so personal with us.

I don't even know where my local shelter is for battered women, but now I'm going to find out and take my books there next time I clean out.

Anne Pages said...

I love the post. I have no doubt its one of the best I have ever come across. Keep up with the good work.

Andreea said...

Thank you so much for this touching guest post!I am happy that you shared this with us and that you introduced us to this great author!

The Bumbles said...

This is exactly the community building I love to see in the blogosphere. Two people bound by a strong, purposeful belief - that reading is meaningful. Sandy - you know I love your spirit and who you are. Connie - I know that you must be as wonderful for Sandy to support you so gushingly. What a terrific challenge - to devote books to shelters. I'm in.

Bonnie said...

What a powerful guest post! I am inspired to find a local shelter to donate childrens books, I really don't know where one is. I just finished Connie's newest book and highly recommend it.

Oneida said...

Hi, everyone! I am so moved by your many comments. You have reminded me that ardent readers the best people on the planet! Thank you for your generosity: reading books, sharing books, teaching kids to read. You all make me proud to be a writer. And thank you, Sandy, for allowing me this chance to share my thoughts. Heart and soul, Connie May Fowler

Zibilee said...

What a moving post! Connie sounds like an amazingly brave person, and I really admire her for having the spirit and fortitude to be able to break out of the chains of the past. I will also be doing my part to get books into the hands of those that need them and will be looking for the closest battered women's shelter where I can donate my family's books. Thanks so much Sandy, for sharing this great guest post and for the wonderful message expressed inside it. You rock!

Marie said...

Hi Sandy. I just finished reading Before Women Had Wings today, and I came upon your blog via a web search for more information about Connie May Fowler. I will definitely be returning to your blog--looks like we share a passion for books! I linked to your post in my blog: http://marie-everydaymiracle.blogspot.com/2010/04/book-recommendation-before-women-had.html

Alice Teh said...

Hi Sandy! Hi Connie! This is a post that touches me and reminded me a little about my own life. Yours is an inspiring story.

My irresponsible dad decides to just leave my mom with us six siblings to fend for ourselves. My mom wasn't working and it was a terrible and intensely difficult time for us. I had to work as soon as I finished high school. My mom took up all kinds of work to sustain the family. She's a strong woman. We worked as a team. My love for books and reading made a significant difference in my life. Without them, I would've live a life full of resentment and regret. It gives me a sense of escape (when I read fiction) but it's the non-fiction books that kept me going.

I'm definitely going to read this book. Connie, thanks for the wonderful post and message! And thank you, Sandy, for bringing Connie to us! :D

Penelope said...

I just got goosebumps. I think of the childhood Connie every time I drive down Kennedy past the apartment building she references in When Katie Wakes. It was great to hear her speak when she was in Tampa earlier this month. I LOVE HER!

Anna said...

Wow, what a guest post! Just goes to show you how much power the written word has. I'm looking forward to reading Connie's work soon.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric