Monday, February 16, 2009

Award Winning Author and Playwright Alretha Thomas chats with me!

An author, playwright, producer and director, Alretha Thomas is making her name through her pen. Award winning plays and wanting to help her community, Alretha’s background is as diverse as her personality. She started at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher picked and read her short story assignment in front of the class – that simple, loving act empowered a new writer. Continuing in high school, her numerous original oratorical conquests on the Speech Team led her to a journalism concentration at the University of Southern California where she was a team player on the Daily Trojan & the KUSC Radio station. Like most aspiring young women journalists, Alretha dreamed of being the next Barbara Walters.

Synopsis of "Daughter Denied"

An unflinching study of urban decay revealed through the end-days of a make shift family. The story is told through the eyes of 7-year-old Tina and her mother Earnestine. Tina, the third of five children, is a sensitive girl victimized by a stepfather addicted to cruelty and neglected by a mother addicted to heroin. Earnestine is a tortured soul who in spite of her drug addiction and poor taste in men, fights to keep her family together. The story of loss, shame and ultimately compassion is written in terse prose, reflecting the fragmented era in which the story is set - the late 1960's.

Richardson: Greetings Alretha, it's a pleasure to chat with you. Please tell viewers about yourself.

Thomas: I was born in Oakland and raised in San Francisco. I moved to Compton, California at the age of 14 upon the death of my mother. I attended Dominguez High School where I graduated second in my class and received a scholarship to USC where I graduated with a B.A. in Journalism. My interest in writing began in the 5th grade when my teacher read a short story I had written out loud to the class.

Richardson: What are some of your published works? Thomas: "Daughter Denied" is my first and only published work. Richardson: Many authors usually face obstacles that influence them to write. What is your story behind the glory?

Thomas: "Daughter Denied" was inspired by my own tumultuous childhood. I was gagged, bound and beaten by my stepfather as a child and molested by my mother's boyfriend. I was scalded at the age of four by an unstable neighbor and found my mother's lifeless body on our living room sofa at the age of fourteen. There were other horrific events that I am not comfortable revealing. In spite of it all, with God's blessing, I survived my childhood. I always knew that I wanted to write a book about a little girl who struggled like I did, but survived to have a great life.

Richardson: There is a quote:"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." — Maya Angelou "Daughter Denied" The title alone is an attention grabber. Why did you choose, or did you choose to write Daughter Denied? What people sometimes don't comprehend is that when there is a story resonating on the inside of a person, you MUST release it, or live in misery, if you don't. Destiny can become quite persistent. :) Why write Daughter Denied?

Thomas: Writing "Daughter Denied" was cathartic. At one point I thought about writing a memoir. However, there are too many things that transpired that involved other family members. I did not feel comfortable bringing them into my story. Writing fiction gave me the freedom to write a story similar to my life but not actually my life. The title "Daughter Denied" seemed appropriate because Tina, the protagonist in the book, was denied a childhood and a father.

Richardson: Besides being an author, you're also an playwright. Share with us some of your stage productions experiences.

Thomas: I began writing plays for my church 10 years ago. I have written 18 plays and four of those have been produced outside -- NAACP Theatre Award winning play, Civil Rites (2004) and The Stella Adler Theater presented A Shrine to Junior (2002) nominated for an NAACP Theatre Award as well. My play Grandpa’s Truth (2006) ran at the Inglewood Playhouse in Inglewood, Ca, and was extended more than once by popular demand. Not only did radio station KJLH support by recommending this production to its listeners, but notables like the Mayor of Inglewood, Roosevelt Dorn and music legends like Freda Payne and Stevie Wonder had critical acclaim for Grandpa’s Truth. Grandpa's Truth was also featured on Channel 5 (KTLA News) by Entertainment Reporter, Sam Rubin. Most recently, my play, Sacrificing Simone (2007) had a successful run at Stage 52 in Los Angeles and was called “an inspirational crowd pleaser” by the Los Angeles Times.

Richardson: How do/did you deal with rejection(s)?

Thomas: I am inure to rejection. I received over one hundred rejection letters when I was seeking representation for "Daugher Denied." In the beginning it hurt, but then I realized that I had to believe in myself and "Daughter Denied." Many of the rejection letters were canned responses and many had not even read as much as my synopsis. I am glad that I held on because in the end my belief in "Daughter Denied" was right. Readers love it! Check out reviews on my website and and Goodreads!

Richardson: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Thomas: Never give up!

Richardson: Alretha, it has been a joy getting to know you as an author, playwright, a thread-a-story buddy, and most importantly as a friend. You are a source of inspiration, that is deeply infectious to those around you. I am excited about your up and coming projects and can not wait to be a partaker of them. Keep the light shining!

Author and Playwright Alretha Thomas

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