An Interview With Fort Worth’s Rare Diamond–Author Amara Russell

Fort Worth native, Amara Russell is the author of the much talked about novel “A Rare Diamond”. Even though this is her first novel to be published she is no stranger to writing.  Her love for writing has been evident to those around her since elementary school when her first article was published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It was our honor to have a great conversation with her.

Who are some of the authors you enjoy reading today?

Some of the people I enjoy reading are Priscilla Shirer. Her book “A Jewel in His Crown” is one of my favorites; it has brought me through a lot of things that were occurring in my life at the time. Another author that I like is Lysa Terkeurst.  Her book  “The Best Yes” is about making wise decisions when going through certain situations.

Who and what do you read just for fun? Also, what is a book that you have read more than once?

I love romance novels.  There is a book by Eric Jerome Dickey called “Friends and Lovers” about different relationships.  He adds a lot of humor to his books and I enjoy that. It’s a thick little novel, and I have read it several times.

Was “A Rare Diamond” the first manuscript that you finished?

It was the first manuscript that I finished.  It took me a year to write it.  I was laid off my job in 2015, and for the first couple of months, I spent my time trying to find employment. When I didn’t find anything I decided to use the time to do something that I liked–writing.  Writing helped to heal my stress. I put my frustrations into the manuscript.

Writing became my full-time job.  Every day when I woke up, I poured myself into writing.  It was something I loved to do.

Tell us about the inspiration for the novel–was any of it born out of personal experiences?

Actually, there are a lot of bits and pieces of the story that are related to my life, and things around me. I would visit coffee shops, relatives houses and observe activities that I added to the story.

When I found employment, I wasn’t able to put the time I needed into the writing of the book.  When I loss my mom I  was able to relate to Celeste, the main character in the book who loses her mom.  This event inspired me to get back to writing nonstop.

That’s interesting what you said about being able to relate to Celeste after the loss of your mother.  That’s something people tend to think they can relate to but can’t when they have not experienced that loss.  They know what to say, but they can’t relate.

Right, when I would express to people that I was still hurting they couldn’t understand because they had not experienced it, and until they do, they won’t understand.

I understand, and God will get you through it, but you never get over it, and it is never the same.  There is a void that is always going to be there.

Right.

Now Celeste is the main character in your novel.  Tell us a little about her.  I know that you said she loss her mother at 5.  Without giving away the story tell us a little bit more about her.

Celeste is witty, smart and beautiful.  She is courageous, and she doesn’t bite her tongue about anything, but she says what she means in a subtle way.  She takes her characteristics from her mother who was filled with integrity.  Her mother could walk into a room and capture everyone’s attention.  Celeste picked up a lot of those qualities.

The story is about her life from the age of 5 to 25. She is a young woman trying to find her way, her identity without her mom.

What other characters in the novel play a pivotal role?

Derrick is a childhood friend of Celeste who grew up in the neighborhood.  Really he was her brother’s friend first.  As they grew older they were able to relate because he had suffered the loss of his father at an early age, and he had older siblings who were all girls, and her older siblings were boys.

Another main character is her brother Craig. Celeste and Craig have a very close relationship.  She leans on him, and he leans on her in certain situations.  I would say that Derrick and Craig are two of my other main characters.

From some of the comments that we  have read people say that the book kept them on their toes until the very end.  So if we were going to the bookstore what two sections would we find “A Rare Diamond”?

Probably in the Faith-based section and also in the Romance section.

If you were to have “A Rare Diamond” made into a movie, who would you have to play the main characters?

Oh my God, I knew you would ask that, and I have those people written down (laughter).

It’s important because when people read a novel they picture certain people.  I have to read the book before I see the movie.  I remember going to see “Waiting to Exhale”, and none of those people were the people I pictured except Loretta Devine.  She had the sass that was in the book.  I met Walter Mosley and told him that I did not see Denzel Washington as Easy Rawlins, and he said he didn’t either.  I told him I pictured a young Laurence Fishburne.  He told me when you sell the rights to your book, then the studio picks the actors.  So who do you have as Celeste?

For Celeste, there were two people. I had in my mind LeToya Luckett could play her or Keisha Knight Pulliam.

Oh, why those two?

The similarities when I envision my character, I see them as her. And then their personalities when I see them in films or on television.  Those personalities fit Celeste.

Ok, what about Derrick?

Derrick, the minute I started writing I don’t know why but I envisioned the actor Lance Gross.

Oh, okay, yes.  That’s a good one.  What about Craig?

Craig because he’s so hilarious–even when I was writing the novel I would crack up from some of the things he would say.  To me, I always said Mike Epps (laughter) .

Oh my God! (laughter).  He would be a wonderful big brother. 

Just to add one more, the mother because she is such an inspiration.  It’s like I didn’t want to kill her off at the beginning so I was kind of going back and forth, but Angela Bassett always came to mind when I was writing the story.

She would be good.  Even in her personal life, she seems to be into her family and her faith. You are going to have a hometown book signing.  Tell us about it.

The book signing will be downtown Fort Worth at the Marie Antoinette Parfumiere and Spa which is located at 101 West 2nd directly across from the Worthington Hotel.  It will be on Saturday, February 10 from 3 to 5.  A pre Valentine event.

Are you working on a sequel or another novel?

I am actually working on a trilogy to “A Rare Diamond”, I’m going to break it up into three parts.

That will be nice.

Well, we thank you for your time.  We’ll see you at your book signing.

Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

 

“A Rare Diamond” can be purchased at Amazon, the Barnes and Noble website or on http://www.nspired2write247.com.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At The Texas Conference For Women–Women Rock

It is always great to be in the presence of women, especially smart women.  The Texas Conference for Women has so much to see, hear and do that it is hard to decide which way to go. That is why you see me rushing almost running in the halls of the Austin Convention Center with my two bags, comfortable shoes, and phone. I was off to races.

Texas Conference 2 Photo by Getty

I was able to snag two great interviews with two amazing women.  My first interview came as a surprise.  We just struck up a conversation, and I knew women would love to know about her company “iFundWomen”.  Below is the interview that I did with the CEO and founder of “iFundWomen”, Ms. Karen Cahn. For women who are looking for ways to fund their startup, she is the person to know.

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My second interview was with the Emmy award winner, Ms. Gaby Natale.  She is the host of the Emmy award-winning show Super Latina, and now the author of the book El Circulo Virtuoso.  Her story is one that a lot of people can identify with. She is inspirational.  My interview with Gaby is below.

Both women are successful entrepreneurs who have found their passions and turned them into their careers.  As each would tell you it has been a journey that has taken some unexpected turns.  They epitomize the women that attended and participated in the Texas Conference for Women.  This year there were 7,500 women in attendance from all over the United States.

Each of the women had their own schedule to adhere to and knew which sessions they wanted to attend and why.  All of us were able to hear the three keynote speakers, Ms. Anita Hill, Ms. Sheryl Sandberg, and Ms. Viola Davis.  Their presentations were informative and more.  You can see some of Ms. Anita Hill’s talInstagramFacebook Page–thisisyourbestyear, Instagram–thisisyourbestyear and Twitter–@mariciajohns.

If you have never attended this conference, you should think about it for next year.  There is something for everyone from, pitching your product to QVC, working on your Linkedin Page, coping with grief, fitness and much more.

This is one of the highlights of my year, seeing and hearing the speakers and meeting up with other bloggers, photographers, and other media again.  Hope you will take advantage of this great gathering of women.  Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

To find out more about how to fund your business go to the “iFundWomen” website.

www.ifundwomen.com

If you would like to know about Gaby Natale, and how to contact her for speaking engagements, book signings and more please visit her website.

www.gabynatale.com

Join me on Instagram!

We’re on Instagram as @thisisyourbestyear. Install the app to follow my photos and videos. https://instagram.com/download/?r=380485317

You can also follow us on Facebook–thisisyourbestyear, Twitter–@mariciajohns and of course our website–www.thisisyourbestyear.com.

          Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

As I Look Back And Celebrate My Birthday

Today, October 2, 2017 I have officially done something neither of my parents was able to do.  I was able to celebrate my 65th birthday.  Daddy passed at 49 and mama left us at just a month shy of 65.  So on this birthday in particular I am thinking of them, and that little girl who loved to play in the dirt in East Texas. The little girl who could not wait for the birthday parties held on the front porch with all the friends from Fox Hill.

When I tell friends that I worked on my birthday, they are a little confused since it is a day that I should be celebrating.  My children inform me that they don’t, and will not work on their birthdays. At one time that was my position, but as life would have it circumstances change. Working on my birthday does not upset me since I have decided to celebrate my birthday everyday.  There may not be an official celebration with cake, gifts and such, but nontheless there will be a celebration–a celebration of life for myself and those that did not make it to celebrate their 65th.

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Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.  Happy Birthday–celebrate everyday.

Isn’t She Lovely–Mother’s Day Giveaway Winner

 2016 Mother’s Day Giveaway Winner–Tracy Marshall

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Tracy is an amazing woman of a certain age. She is the creator of the lifestyle blog–Tracy Marshall 1961 Blog which features articles on topics from travel, great gifts, family adventures and more. She is the winner of our 2016 Mother’s Day Giveaway.  Her lovely price is the beautiful statement necklace donated by Kendra Scott*

 

Congratulations Tracy!  Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

*Special thanks to Kendra Scott, 1612 South University Drive, Fort Worth, TX  76107

Dirk Nowitzki Does Baseball With A Little Help From His Friends

Dirk Baseball 2The Heroes Foundation presents the star-studded, fun-for-the-family celebrity baseball game.  Benefiting the children’s charities of the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation and Heroes Foundation.

GREAT FAMILY FUN FOR A GREAT CAUSE

Who:

People to see include:

Dallas Mavericks

  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Deron Williams**
  • David Lee
  • Chandler Parsons
  • J. J. Barea
  • Devin Harris**
  • Wesley Matthews
  • JaVale McGee
  • Salah Mejri
  • Justin Anderson
  • Jeremy Evans
  • Dwight Powell
  • Rick Carlisle (head coach)**

Dallas Cowboys

  • Cole Beasley
  • Byron Jones

Texas Rangers (former)

  • David Murphy
  • Michael Young

Actors

  • Geoff Stults
  • Chance Crawford

What:

Dirk Nowitzki’s 2016 Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game and Fireworks Finale

Dirk Baseball 3When:

Friday, June 10, 2016  (7 PM)*

Where:

Dr. Pepper Ballpark, 7300 RoughRiders Trl., Frisco, TX  75034

Why:

The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation  awards grants annually to organizations focusing on children’s wellbeing, health and education. With this he offers all of us an opportunity to help give positive experiences to children around the world.

*5:15 PM–The Heroes Special Olympics All-Star Softball Game

**Will appear, but will not play

Tickets are now on sale for $9, $13, $17 and $20 at Ticketmaster or at the Dr. Pepper Ballpark Box Office during office hours.  Tickets are also available at the door. LAST YEAR WAS SOLD OUT!

For more information, go to Dirks Foundation.  Like the Heroes Foundation on Facebook for the latest updates.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.  Enjoy some family time or a great girlfriends night out with a little baseball where everyone wins.

Dirk Baseball

You May Be The Same Size, But…

I love it when people say they are the same size they were way back when. At this stage of life I am probably about the same size I was before l had children. Even saying that the weight is distributed differently, you know not sitting like it use to unless of course you have visited your local cosmetic guru to have some work done, then it is probably sitting higher.

As we have become women of a certain age, we don’t want to look like our mothers and Lord forgive us surely not like our grandmothers when they were our age. Sadly though for most of us we can’t look the way our daughters and granddaughters look. Seriously Beyonce and her mom may be about the same size, but there is almost a 30 year age difference. One is Blue Ivy’s mom and the other is her grandmother.
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Remember when you go shopping the sales lady is nice, but her job is to sell. She may tell you that you can pull something off, and you want to believe you can, but please look in the mirror. As we mature unless we are a dancer, have good genes or have always exercised and even then we may not avoid the inevitable–we sometimes just have to let some outfits go. Hey it may be time to try something new.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.  Same size or not, check the mirror before you leave home.

Protecting Women & Children (New Friends New Life)

AMAL CLOONEY TO KEYNOTE WINGS LUNCHEON BENEFITING NEW FRIENDS NEW LIFE ON APRIL 14

Internationally Known Attorney and Human Rights Activist Shares Nonprofit’s Passion to Protect Women and Children, Combat Human Trafficking and Provide Healing and Hope

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(From New Friends New Life) New Friends New Life, a nonprofit organization that restores and empowers formerly trafficked girls and sexually exploited women and children, announces that Amal Clooney will headline its 13th Annual WINGS Luncheon on Thursday, April 14, 2016, at the Hilton Anatole Dallas.  She and her husband, famed actor and director, George Clooney, share a passion for philanthropic work with a focus on protecting human rights.  This will be her first trip to Dallas.

The Honorable Jeanne Johnson Phillips will serve as luncheon chair for the second year in a row.  Honorary Co-Chairs the former First Lady Laura Bush and Ruth Altshuler, also in their second year with the WINGS Luncheon, are joined this year by Caren Prothro and Annette Simmons as well as Board Chair Nancy Ann Hunt.

“As a human rights activist on a global scale, Amal Clooney is a perfect voice to advocate against a crime that is happening in our own backyard,” said Jeanne Johnson Phillips.  “The subject of sex trafficking and the sex industry as a whole were rarely spoken of just a few years ago, but thanks to the incredible work of organizations like New Friends New Life and a corporate community that is willing to step forward with funding, we are making huge strides to end human trafficking in Dallas and throughout Texas and empower its survivors. Clooney’s knowledge, experience, and presentation will help us educate the community and send a strong message that Dallas is a no tolerance zone for human trafficking as we strive to protect our children, an estimated 400 teens on the streets each night – the most vulnerable targets of human traffickers.”

A Lebanese-British barrister, human rights activist, philanthropist, and author, Amal Clooney’s long and accomplished career in the fields of international law and human rights have won her international acclaim. Her recent work as of 2015 has been in the field of advocating for the protection of women against physical and sexual violence in combat zones.

Serving more than 1,200 women and children annually, New Friends New Life provides holistic services for sexually exploited girls, women, and their children including access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health and spiritual support.  By partnering with law enforcement, corporate sponsors, community organizations and individual donors and volunteers, New Friends New Life helps to provide legal assistance, medical services, budget counseling, job-readiness training, and educational opportunities. The nonprofit’s High Risk and Trafficked Teen Girls Program offers sexual abuse recovery groups for adolescents, teaching girls, ages 12 to 17, how to define, recognize, and ultimately recover from abuse.  The program is an intervention and prevention effort to help girls avoid a lifetime of exploitation as human trafficking victims.

Past WINGS luncheon speakers have included Kevin Costner, Sally Field, Barbara P. Bush, Nicholas Sparks, and Harriet Miers.

Sponsorships are available, ranging from $2,000 to $100,000.  Contact Kelly Cruse, wings@newfriendsnewlife.org, (214) 965-0935.

Inspiring–Hats Off To Mothers–Easter Seals of North Texas

Hats Off6Hats Off1As a non-hat wearer, it was a challenge to find a hat, and then find something that would kind of go with it to wear to the Easter Seals of North Texas annual “Hats Off To Mothers Luncheon”.  It was well worth the effort.  There are a variety of community organizations that honor women, and use the funds received to assist in their causes.  I can truly say that the Easter Seals of North Texas  is one of the best to attend.

The Hats Off To Mothers Luncheon honors outstanding mother’s in the North Texas area.  These women are community minded, and are all loving mothers.  Each one of the honorees has a story to tell concerning a hat that has a meaning to them personally.

Hats Off2Easter Seals of North Texas is a nonprofit that has for over 75 years in the North Texas area guided, supported and inspired those with disabilities to reach for the stars.  They assist over 4500 people of all abilities with assistance each year.

There were demure hats, and those that seemed to have been worn the week before at the Kentucky Derby. It was a beautiful, fun sight to behold. There was good conversation, entertainment, cocktails and food, but most of all there was information and testimonies that inspired every person in the room.

A powerful testimony was given by Nicole Lasswell who told of the work that Easter Seals of North Texas had done with her son who is autistic.  Her testimony was a mother’s heart felt thanks to those who had assisted her family.

This years honorees were five mothers who are amazing businesswomen, educators and so much more.  A short video Hats Off 7featuring an introduction given by their children presented each honoree.  They were:

  • Jineen Bessire who is the mother of two children.  She is a very active member of several organizations including  Junior League, TCU Frogs for the Cure and the Jewel Charity Ball.  Her children introduced her as an amazing strong woman who had survived breast cancer who works to assist others.
  • Jill Clifton who is the mother of three children.  Jill is the Chief Operating Officer of Cendera Funding.  Her children said that she was the “boss” lady, but also their best friend.
  • Joan Trew is the mother of three children.  She is an iconic figure in Fort Worth and the co-founder of Williams Trew Realty.  Her children talked of her faith.
  • Tonya Veasey is the mother of one son.  She is the president and CEO of OCG PR.  She is the president of the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses’.  Her son introduced her as the mom of the year.
  • Robin Ward is the mother of two daughters.  She is  professor of math and the director for the Curriculum Integration for the Rice University Mathematics Project.  She is also a huge TCU athletics fan.  Her children told the audience a secret, their mom was also a spy.

Hats Off 4Each honoree spoke from their hearts when talking about what this award meant to them.  There was laughter and even a few tears from the honorees and the audience.Hats Off3

You can learn about the amazing things that Easter Seals of North Texas does by going to:  http://www.easterseals.com/northtexas/

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”

HATS OFF TO MOTHERS EVERYWHERE