She was eighteen and pregnant, but for Deborah Gary, that did not mean that her dreams had to be shelved or dismissed. Born in a small coaling mining town on the other side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she decided it was important to stay true to her goal of being a published author---and she has done just that. Now residing in Columbus, Ohio, Gary is the author of two books (including TEENAGE MOTHER'S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL: Rising Above The Odds, the story of her life) and is using her experience as a teenage mother as a way to show other young women they don't have to give up on life because they have a child.
Deborah Gary talks to Mississippi native Cyrus Webb of Conversations Book Club and Conversations LIVE! Radio about this and more. (Listen to her interview with Cyrus with Conversations LIVE! Radio here: http://tobtr.com/s/925432 .) Here is their conversation.
Deborah, thank you for your time. I want to talk to you about your career as a writer, but first tell me this: Does it surprise you that out of all of the things you have been through that you are now a published author?
No, I am not surprised to find myself to be a published author and I say that with humbleness. I have always had more than one iron in the fire in life. I started out writing for the local black owned newspaper regarding local people and issues. Then my career snow balled. I found myself interviewing celebrities, which I continued to do for over twenty years. Then I was an editor for another newspaper that emerged in the area that was owned by Boxing Promoter Don King. I finally became an editorial columnist for the major newspaper in Warren, I was the first and only Black person to do so. I knew I would write a book someday, but, I had no idea that it would be a motivational book for teenage mothers. I thought I would write a romance novel, which still may happen.
When did you realize that writing was something you were interested in?
My interest in writing actually came from a 5th grade homework assignment. The class was given an assignment of writing a poem within 2 weeks. I struggled to write the poem until the night before the assignment was due. I was the teacher's pet and did not want to disappointment him, but, I had no poem. I told my mother of my dilemma and she, being from the generation of black people that did not go far in school, gave me a signal with her eyes that she understood that black people can't do things like that. I went to bed that night, sleepless and staring out of the window, thinking of what explanation I would give my teacher for my failure. The end result, I wrote a poem about the stars I had been staring at and it was chosen as one of the best written. Much to the surprise to both my mother and myself. I have been writing ever since I was ten years old.
Your book TEENAGE MOTHER'S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL (Rising Above The Odds) is something very personal to you. Tell us about your experience as a teenage mother?
Teenage Mother's Guide To Survival, Rising Above The Odds is very important to me. It is my story of growing up raising two children alone. To quote Maya Angelo "I wouldn't take nothing for my journey". I chose not to enforce child support because as my children grew, I realized quickly as a young woman that I did not want their father to be a contributor to their upbringing. I would rather struggle than to have his input into their mindset. In essence, I did not want them to suffer because of bad decisions I made at a time I had more hormones and curiosity than brain cells. I was fortunate to have a job that enabled me to take care of my children without them feeling the effects of a single parent household. Those high paying jobs do not exist anymore. There were times I did not know how we were going to make it sometimes because of life's unexpected happenings. I remember selling my ten speed bike that I loved, to pay the electric bill. I worked a lot of overtime and we survived. Dating was difficult, there were young men that would not want to be involved because I had children, then there were those who pretended to care about my children as an attempt to get next to me. I learned a lot about life much quicker by having two children than my peers that were childless at a young age. I think the most difficult part of my journey as a teenage and single mother was the judgmental comments and accusations society imposes on teenage mothers. My kids were my family and my love for them made being their mother a labor of love regardless of my age or marital status...