Thursday, November 21, 2019

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 bill berry, jr.

Publisher and CEO, aaduna &
Member, Rockford Kingsley's Advisory Board
 
 
 
 
 
 
Frank A. Gladden
 

 

 

   

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Interview With Frank A. Gladden
 
bill berry, jr.
 
This month my thoughts are running joyfully all over the place. I am thinking about the “dog days of summer” with the humidity, laziness, and last ditch efforts to get in as much beach time, cook outs, county fairs, and overall fun as possible before Labor Day. I think about how wonderful this fall season will be with its quiet beauty, change of leaf color, and cooler evenings made for romance and affection. I am thinking about retired folks who consistently rejuvenate their lives with interests that captivate their spirit and make the personal spaces of other people that much better. I also think about one other thing. No one can define creativity by time, structures, or expectations. With these thoughts, it is more than appropriate to present my conversation with noted writer, Frank A. Gladden. Frank’s work, “Pieces” appeared in the premier aaduna issue; however, his works have graced multiple and varied literary journals. If you do not know his extensive body of work, do yourself a favor, discover Mr. Gladden. His work touches on a gamut of human emotions and feelings. You will not be disappointed.
 
Frank, 78 years young, resides in Silver Spring, Maryland. He earned his MBA from Federal City College in Washington, DC.  A retired accountant and current businessman, Frank has always been a writer. He still is, and a prolific one to boot! He is married with a son who is 42 and daughter who is 40. aaduna has been graced with his creativity and Rockford Kingsley is a venue for him to continue his spirit of sharing and growing.  
 
bill berry, jr.:
You grew up in a small town in South Carolina and enjoyed a boy’s passion for fishing, skinny dipping, squirrel and rabbit hunting, the kind of activities that frame an idyllic country childhood. In reading your short story “Stealers” (2010) about young boys stealing watermelons, enjoying the rewards of their labor, and just being rascally kids, it appears you re-captured your childhood. Furthermore, from one of your early works “Maude” (1972) to “The Old Man” (2009) and “Pieces” (2011), you capture an ambiance with your characters that are rooted in another time and place, a simpler time, folksy or rather down to earth, and genuine. Does your southern upbringing permeate how you write and what stories you want to tell? And, do you consider yourself as a “southern writer”?       
 
Frank:
I never thought of myself as a “southern writer.” However, after considering your question, I realized that most of my stories do have a southern flavor, based in many cases on the characteristics of people I have known as well as places I have lived.  I do however have several stories written with a hard urban edge, which reflects to a certain extent my current nearby surroundings.
 
bill:
I am going to return to that “hard urban edge” influence later. I suspect your several years serving in the U.S. Air Force shaped how you perceived the world and larger society, and to some degree affected your writing.  
 
Frank:
I joined the Air Force right after high school. I have always felt that it was one of the most important periods of my life. Coming from a segregated setting, I joined the Air Force just as the military was being integrated. Interacting and competing with other races as well as individuals from other parts of the country, helped me realized that I had the ability to compete with anyone. In addition, benefits received for my military service was the main factor in obtaining my education.
 
bill:
And your education eventually led to a MBA and a career as an accountant. Were you writing during this period, and how did you become involved with the DC Writers’ Workshop?
 
Frank:
I continued to write while studying for my undergraduate degree as well as my MBA. I finally discovered an outlet through a writers’ magazine and decided to submit one of my many stories entitled, “The Debt” to Marriage Magazine. The magazine accepted and published the story. During that period I learned (through a flyer) of the DC Black Writers Workshop, which was the support group I needed and embraced at that time.
 
bill:
Is there a story or incident that initially prompted you to write, and why did you settle on fiction? With your background, non-fiction seemed like a straight path for you to comment on social, economic, and political conditions pre-, during, and post your academic degree work. 
 
And at the Black Writers’ Workshop, you provided leadership for the fiction arena. What was that experience like?
 
Frank:
There is no particular story or incident that prompted me to write fiction. I have always felt that there are missing pieces or incomplete stories about people who migrated from the South to settle in major cities. What habits or customs did they bring with them? How did their new environment change them? What did it take away from them? What new customs were they forced to accept? I feel this does, to a certain extent address social issues.
 
The DC Black Writers Workshop was composed of four sections: Playwriting, Poetry, Children’s Literature, and Adult Fiction. The main function of the workshop was to encourage individuals who had an interest in writing, to write. It was a very good learning experience for me as well as the attendees. Several of the sections’ leaders were much more experienced than I was. One had previously produced plays. Others had published children’s book. The experience helped me as much or more than people, I attempted to help.
 
bill:
You published a work in the early Seventies in Black World. If I have my timeline correct, you are a eyewitness to integration (as you mentioned earlier), the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, Gay and Women’s Rights, assassinations of American leaders and heroes, and more recent challenges to the status quo by common folk worldwide seeking their rightful place in various societies. Is there any one “movement” that influenced you more than the others, and that veered your writing towards a particular philosophical bent? Did you ever think you would ever see an African American serve as President of this country?   
 
Frank:
The Civil Rights Movement was undoubtedly important in bringing national attention to the treatment of African Americans as well as other segments of the society.  However, I feel that the most important movement was the Black Power Movement, when (young) black people started to accept their blackness, their customs, and their kinky hair as a thing of beauty, created their own identity, their music, and most of all when they started to fight for their rights. Hopefully, my short story Maude captured this defiance.  I never really dared to dream about possibility of an African American President.
 
bill:
You described Maude as a Black (with a capital “b”,) “take no mess,” stately and regal woman with a spine.  She took her shotgun to the government people, and her house remained with a highway around it when the story ends. Defiance did permeate the Black Power Movement and the ability for people to finally assert what have always been basic human and American citizenship rights. Also, back in 1972 when the story was published, you used the now dreaded “N” word. How do you feel about the use of that term, nigger, in the politically correct environment that permeates today’s society?
 
And let’s get back to your use of urban imagery. I take it you lived in Washington, DC for awhile. You are now residing in the “burbs” with Silver Spring being 40-45 minutes from Baltimore, MD and an even closer drive time to Washington, DC. In your writings, do you take from both urban cities or is your writer’s heart set in the intricate goings on of the “District”?
     
Frank:
The “N” word is used by a certain segment of society to degrade, and make the people it is directed toward fell inferior or less than human. I do not feel that the use of the word is appropriate. In the short story “Maude”, the character was expressing her interpretation of the powerful man’s thoughts.
 
My writing is primarily set in urban areas, where the mixture of people, living conditions, backgrounds, and ideas create a fertile setting for characters development and story ideas.  I frequently use ideas drawn from experience, and knowledge of life in Washington DC, because of the many years I lived there.
 
bill:
As this discussion comes to an end, I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with me. But before we go, what was the situation surrounding the 2010 micro story, “Bubba’s Place”? It is a very, very short story. And again, somewhat rooted in a southern tradition and environment.
 
Frank:
Bubba is a slang name for some southern — good old boys who toss beer cans out of the window of their pick-up trucks, drink white lighting, and shoot up road signs.  “Bubba’s Place” is written to capture a little of the flavor of this idea. It was written for a literary magazine that favors offbeat flash fiction pieces.
 
bill:
Any final words or advice for Rockford Kingsley’s readership?
 
Frank:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my ideas/opinions, and to be a part of your publication where I hope to learn from the knowledge of others.

  

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