Tell us your name. What is your age?

Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D.  Age: 68

 Fiona: Where are you from?

Originally from a rural area in Southwest Mississippi. Currently, I live near Kansas City,    MO

Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e.,  your education, family life, etc.).

Janice S. Ellis, M.A., M.A., Ph.D., a native daughter of Mississippi, grew up and came of age during the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Liberation Movement. Born and reared on a small cotton farm, she was influenced by two converging forces that would set the course of her life.

The first was the fear and terror felt by blacks because of their seeking to exercise the right to vote along with other rights and privileges afforded whites. She became determined to take a stand and not accept the limits of that farm life nor the strictures of oppressive racial segregation and gender inequality. She aspired to have and achieve a different kind of life—not only for herself, but for others.

 The second was her love of books, the power of words, and her exposure to renowned columnists Eric Sevareid of TheCBS Evening Newswith Walter Cronkite and Walter Lippmann, whose column appeared for more than three decades in over 250 major newspapers across the United States and another 50 newspapers in Europe and Asia.

 It was the study of Lippmann’s books and commentary that inspired Dr. Ellis to complete a Master of Arts degree in Communication Arts, a second Master of Arts degree in Political Science, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Communication Arts, all from the University of Wisconsin. It was during her course of study that Dr. Ellis’ unwavering belief—the belief that the wise use of words is what advances the good society—was solidified.

Dr. Ellis has been an executive throughout her career, first in government, then in a large pharmaceutical company, and later as a president and CEO of a marketing firm and a bi-state non-profit child advocacy agency. In addition to those positions, she has been writing columns for more than four decades on race, politics, education, and other social issues for newspapers, radio, and online. Her commentary can be found at JaniceSEllis.co

Follow her on facebook.com/janicesellis1/and twitter.com/janicesellis1.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news.

 I have been on a ten-city book tour across America and have completed many TV and      radio interviews about my book. Those interviews can be found on my website         at:        https://janicesellis.com/american-dream/


Fiona: What is your book about?

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream is a true, powerful, and compelling story about the enduring scourge of racism and sexism in America. It is a personal account of how that bane of evil plays out in the lives of blacks and women despite the great promise of the American Dream being available to and achievable by everyone. It shows how, more often than not, access to the playing field and the rules of the game are not equally and fairly applied among men and women, blacks and whites, even when they come prepared with equal or better qualifications and value sets to play the game.

This book is also hopeful, filled with expectancy. From Liberty to Magnolia will help decent and fair-minded Americans—America as a nation—see how the country has been and continues to be enslaved by its own sense of freedom. This sense of freedom is one that boasts and finds it acceptable to persistently disrespect, deny, marginalize, and minimize the value of two of its largest and greatest assets—women and people of color—when there is overwhelming evidence throughout the landscape that shows America has everything to gain by embracing two groups that make up the majority of its citizenry.

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream is written for Americans from all walks of life who care deeply about how our great nation can become even greater if we boldly and courageously face our internal, crippling, and unnecessary fear—the fear that we stand to lose rather than gain by embracing and extending mutual respect and supporting equal rights and equal opportunity for our fellow citizens regardless of their race or gender.

The book is a beacon for all who are concerned about America’s future and who want America’s children of all colors to realize their full potential. It will inform the racists and non-racists, the sexists and non-sexists. It will inspire and empower men and women who are in positions that can make a difference and have the will to do so—parents, teachers, policy makers, social and human rights activists, journalists, business leaders, faith leaders, and many others. Caring Americans, working together, can break the chains of racism and sexism that keep America bound.

A Discussion Guide is included for book clubs, classes, and group forums.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing as a radio commentator for a large radio station in the mid- seventies, and continued to write commentary for newspapers and radio throughout my career. I also published articles professionally in trade journals. I began writing because I thought the need was great for a good political columnist to help the public better understand those issues that affected their daily lives. A good columnist can impact policy and help shape public opinion to support what Aristotle call the “greater good.”

Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

  I gave it a fleeting thought when I was exempted from an English composition course    as a freshman in College after writing some essays during a summer program.

Fiona: What inspired you to write this book?

There are lessons from my life journey through poverty racism, sexism and sexual harassmentthat I believe can directly benefit women, blacks and other minorities. It  addresses many of the issues around racial and gender inequality that America  continues to grapple with.

Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

I was born on a small cotton farm between two Mississippi towns, Liberty and Magnolia. But life for blacks who live in, around and between those two towns was not anything    like the meaning of those two iconic names. Liberty means freedom. Magnolia means  beauty.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

I think my writing style is cinematic, rhythmic, yet clear and flowing. Writing about your life is very tough, in terms of deciding what to include/exclude in supporting   the purpose of the story.

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

Seventeen years ago, a young, single black mother was working a part-time, second job in retail when I walked in to make a purchase. This divine encounter, as she also calls it, has had a lasting effect on both our lives. Telisa Hassen and I had a brief conversation that day, and she followed up with sending me her resume. I hired her to be the graphic designer for my marketing firm. I did for her what I had hoped someone would do for me early in my career. She exceeded all my expectations back then and now with her creative eye for the book cover design and other artistic elements.

 Fiona: Is there a message in your memoir that you want readers to grasp?

The book is a beacon for all who are concerned about America’s future and who want America’s children of all colors to realize their full potential. It will inform the racists and non-racists, the sexists and non-sexists. It will inspire and empower men and women who are in positions that can make a difference and have the will to do so—parents, teachers, policy makers, social and human rights activists, journalists, business leaders, faith leaders, and many others. Caring Americans, working together, can break the chains of racism and sexism that keep America bound.

Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

Former President,Jimmy Carter. The simplicity, yet elegant way he writes about his life,  his work, and hisvalues in making things better for humanity.

Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.

My literary agent/manager. After signing me, he gave me a very short deadline to complete the book. It forced me to complete the initial draft of the book. It required many additional editing after the initial draft. But getting that first draft done was a major accomplishment.

Fiona: How do you see your future as a writer?

 I have at least two more books I would like to publish in the next 18-24 months. I will continue to write my online column at https://janicesellis.com indefinitely.

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Very little. There are a couple of good and funny stories I wish I had shared.

Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?

Yes, just how difficult writing a book is, and the level of commitment required to finish   it. Also, the process and options of getting a book published are ever changing. It requires a great deal of research and analysis to determine the best option for your book.

Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Quvenzhane Wallis as the adolescent Janice; and Viola Davis as the adult Janice.

 Fiona: Any advice for other writers?

You must love the craft of writing. It is a craft. You must be dedicated and believe that    what you have tosay will make a difference. Be willing to write, re-write, and re-write again and again until your words convey the meaning that is intended. Write in pictures. Always stop in mid-sentence to avoid writer’s block. An incomplete sentence will  help you resume writing.

Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

From Liberty to Magnolia will show African Americans, and women especially, through the lessons of Dr. Ellis’ real-life journey, how to navigate, embrace, use and challenge   those strong internal and external forces that are always at play in our daily lives. Internal  forces, such as the expectations around personal conduct as one balances conflicting    cultural principles and practices; and the dual standards of morality and discriminating    compounded by seemingly intransigent and insidious external forces such as systemic    racism and gender inequality, vacuous promises of Civil Rights and Equal Rights, and the tug of Feminism on the family and traditional family values.

Despite these forces, this real-life story shows how to find, pursue, and achieve real purpose for your life as an African American, as a woman; or as a woman, as an African American, whichever first impression is registered as one traverses American society.

 Fiona: What book are you reading now?

 I am reading a couple of books: A Full Life by Jimmy Carter; and Dreams from My   Father by Barack Obama

 

Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

The Three Bearsas a child, The Catcher in the Rye as a teenager.

 Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

Late night talk shows (Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Cobert, etc.), satire, old sitcoms like Golden Girls. Human suffering, reunions of lost love ones, and abuse of any kind  makes me cry.

Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?

I would love to have met Jesus Christ. My faith is so central to my life. I love my daily    Bible study, readings and meditation. That daily quite contemplative time  makes all the   difference.

Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?

I love to fish, garden, play scrabble and other word games, and take long  drives in the country.

 Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

  I like watching cable news, drama and some comedy shows. Love thrillers,            espionage, and actions films, some romance.

Fiona: Favorite foods, colors,  music?

 I love mostly all vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, sweets (candies,   cookies, and ice cream). I love fish and seafood.  My favorite colors are earth tones. I  love all music, but my favorite is jazz, soul, and gospel.

Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

 Read, listen to music, play scrabble, do crossword puzzles, fish and go for drives in  the country.

Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?

  “She was thankful for the gift of life and worked to make it better for others.”

Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?

  https://janicesellis.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Janice-S-Ellis-PhD/e/B0786YDYRG/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1521740589&sr=1-2-ent

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