Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Musings: Interview with Best Selling Author, Debra Shiveley Welch

Today, we have a very special guest on Butterfly Phoenix, best selling author, Debra Shiveley Welch. She has received The FaithWriters Gold Seal of Approval Award twice, Books and Authors Literary Excellence, Best Non-Fiction Book of 2007, Allbooks Review's Editor's Choice 2010 and Books and Authors Best Native American Fiction 2011.

I met Debra on Master Koda several months ago. I was immediately drawn to her book Cedar Woman, a story that follows a strong Lakota woman. However, I will let Debra speak about the book.

Debra has three previously published novels: AVery Special Childa heartwarming tale of love and thankfulness written for adopted children in honor of the adoption of her son, Christopher; Son of My Soul – The adoption of Christopher, and Jesus Ghandi Oma Mae Adams (with author, Linda Lee Greene).

Like mother, like son. Debra’s son Christopher has written two books of his own: Christopher Bullfrog Catcher, and Just Chris which is a companion book to Debra’s book Son of My Soul.

 Debra, I would like to start with: What inspired you to write Cedar Woman?
In 2004 my son and I were adopted by a woman of the Lakota in the ceremony called Hunkapi or Making of Relatives ceremony.  Through my sister, Julie Spotted Eagle Horse Martineau, I began to learn the ways of The People and very soon embraced their philosophies and ways of dealing with the journey we call life.  I wanted to honor her and The People by writing a book that truly illustrated their beliefs and strengths.

Would you tell us something about the consultant for Cedar Woman, who is she?
Julie was born in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge reservation and now lives in South East Iowa, in a small, rural community called Mediapolis, where she lives with her husband Matthew and her youngest son Logan. Lakota is her mother tongue and English her second language.  Julie is also a highly sought after powwow coordinator.

Here is why Julie helped with Cedar Woman in her own words:

Julie: As a Native woman, I wanted to address and dispel some of the more common misconceptions and stereotypes about Native peoples and to let people know that we are still living within viable and vibrant cultures.  Interview February 1, 2011:;postID=347872581681324327

Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite part of Cedar Woman? Or, what do you hope readers will take away from the story?
These are great questions.  Picking a favorite part is like saying your child’s eyes are your favorite part of them, or their hair…it’s the whole being, the composite that you love.  I hope the readers take away two things: 1. the American Indian is a complicated yet very simple American whose main focus in life is religion, family and home.  As an adopted relative I have been treated with great respect and affection and my son has been honored in many ways.  In fact, at the last Muddy River powwow he was asked to be the Ugly Man in the broom dance. 2. The American Indian believes that the women are the heartbeat of their tribe.  Cedar Woman reflects that concept throughout the book.

While writing Cedar Woman, did you make any discoveries about Lakota women? Or, how did you find yourself identifying with her?
I did.  In the daughters of the Lakota I have seen patience, concern, love of community as well as family, generosity, incredible artistic ability and love of their history and culture.

As an author, I naturally put some of myself into each work.  How else could it ring true? So, much of Lena Cedar Woman is me.  Lena had to take over the care of her family when still a child, as I did, she walked the streets I walked and spent the early years of her life amidst the hills and pastures I knew as a child. The apartment she lived in was my home in my early 20s, the condo she lived in was my condo, the chapter “The Neighbor” really happened, and the house she inherited in Westerville is my home.  Her son is my son and many of the things they go through together happened to me and my real life son.  Women are universal in their feelings, hopes and dreams.  We are connected, and in many ways, one. So Lena Cedar Woman Youngbear is not just part of me, she is part of every woman.

Your previously published works have been steeped in your faith, what makes Cedar Woman similar or different?
I wanted to tell the story of a woman of the Lakota.  So many of our beliefs intertwine with the American Indians.  As Black Elk said, “Mitakuye oyasin,” we are all related.  God has many names: Wakan Tanka, El Shaddai, Jahovah, Allah, Yahweh.  It doesn’t matter what name you call Him by. He hears you.

Is there anything else you would like to share about Cedar Woman?
Cedar Woman was written with great respect for The People.  It is an authentic representation of the beliefs, ceremonies and language of the Lakota.

I would like to make a point here, if I may.  Chapter Eight takes us to powwow.  In reading this chapter you will find that a powwow is not a heathen event.  I have been to powwows where surrounding churches will ring their bells to interfere with the music of The Drum, people will picket in an attempt to stop attendees from entering and insults have been hurled at those who manage to get in.  This simply is not right!

A powwow is no different from the Irish, Polish, Italian, Latino or Greek festivals, for instance, that go on in many cities throughout the world.  A powwow is simply a different word for this kind of celebration, like Oktober Fest for the German festival and Latino Fiesta as some Latino festivals are called.  Should you attend, you would experience a celebration of the music, dance, food and crafts of the American Indian.  Like many festivals, it is also a chance for families to hold reunions.  In addition, throughout the day, Veterans of the American armed forces are honored in a special ceremony as are the elders.  Heathen? I think not.  In fact, many of the people attending are Christian.  “Judge not lest you be judged.”

You have received the FaithWriters Gold Seal of Approval Award twice. What was that like for you?
Unbelievably incredible!  Worth more than gold.  I don’t write to make money, I write because I must and receiving this kind of affirmation is so heartwarming.

What is the one thing that keeps you writing? And, what is on the horizon for you?
I write, therefore I amA third generation poet, I have been writing since age nine. In my early twenties I had my own column in the Baltimore Eagle Gazette.  Later, I worked as editor for several newsletters, including as development editor for The Parent Connection for The League Against Child Abuse. When my son came home, it was like a dam burst and a flood of poems, essays and short stories were born, until finally, I wrote A Very Special Child.  I did so because I could not find a children’s book that told the story of our adoption: the child was from Korea or the parents flew to California.  So I wrote my own, not just for Chris, but for all adopted children.  At age 52 I was finally a published author and I have never looked back.

I am now working on Ista Numpa, the sequel to Cedar Woman, which my readers pretty much demanded, a cookbook with my son and Heads Are Gonna Roll, a mystery thriller which encompasses reincarnation, revenge and murder.

I would like to thank Debra Shiveley Welch for taking the time to share her thoughts with us today. All of her books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble