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“HIGHER GROUND” is the Word for 2015



So, with the beginning of every New Year, I receive a word from Above to guide my efforts. For 2015  the Good Lord gave me, “Higher Ground.”  This word came to me while researching the Mississippi Flood of 1927.

As I make my ascension up, I think I will climb the stairs to new frontiers in these  Fluevogs. Don’t show these to my mother. They are what she calls, “pretty-ugly.”

In the words of Jill Scott, “Everything ain’t for everybody.”  Your mother may never like your shoes.  Just remember, you’ve got to travel this road in what makes you happy.  Whatever happens,  just make sure you are stepping high.

Walk tall in 2015.  Yes, walk tall.


FOOD IS A MOOD CHANGER…Conversation is Too!





On the Monday before Christmas,  I loaded my car with gifts and went about the city to make deliveries to family and friends.  Then I met a friend for lunch so we could talk about writing and identify measurable goals for 2015.  I said, “Let’s have lunch at the Eclectic Cafe.”

She said, “No, no, no!  We MUST go to Midtown Crossing.”

She gave me the address . My car pulls up to this tiny blue brick building located at Watkins and Overton Park.   What is it?  A dump?  A dive?  A bar?  A grill? A what?

I go inside where I am greeted with bright smiles from the bar tender who looks like a 23 year old Robert Deniro.  The co-owner and  chef, Octavia, says, “Take a seat!”

Octavia and her partner, Jeremiah, are trained chefs who have worked their magic in five star hotels around the nation.  They landed in Memphis on a fluke.  But that story is for another blog post. Let me move on…

Swiftly I am given a menu.  I look around.  Midtown Crossing is a bar and they serve all the local beers for those folks who care about these things. It is a clean and pristine non-smoking environment.  I see  bass guitars standing in a corner on a guitar stand.  So, I know that this is venue for live entertainment too.  On Monday afternoon,  folks talking and laughing over their meal was he only action happening.

I ask, “What is good?”  Octavia answers, “EVERYTHING!  But if you like pizza you must have the ‘Viggy.”

My eyes roll down the menu.  They serve smoked chicken wings dusted in rosemary spices.  They serve smoked turkey sandwiches.  Like a NY food critic, I order the wings, the smoked turkey  and the ‘Viggy ‘ pizza.

My friend, who insisted that we visit the Midtown Crossing, arrived after I made my order.   She promised, “You are going to like everything here.”

Then the food arrived to the table.  Before I go further, please know that I am a fan of the local gastropubs in Memphis.  Name one…Bardog,  S.O.B.,  Local, Chiwawa’s, Slider Inn,  Babalu’s, Second Line…I am a frequent patron.

Now back to Midtown Crossing…The fire grilled ‘Viggy’ pizza came to me as a BIG SURPRISE.  It is a thin crust pizza made of dough that is buttery and crispy with a light delicate crunch.  The pizza is covered in juicy Italian sausage, Alfredo sauce, baby spinach leaves and thin slices of potato.  I knew this was not going to work.  Who ever heard of potato on a pizza? I was WRONG!!!!

The  Italian sage sausage on its own is aromatherapy.  Then I took my first bite.  And I did not stop munching and crunching until the light crispy buttery pizza  delight was completely consumed.

I took the smoked wings and turkey sandwich home.  They were wonderful too.  But I must go back for the Viggy pizza.

After my experience at Midtown Crossing, I am sure that food is a mood changer.  And with the new gastropub being a tiny spot, your table talk about New Year resolutions and world affairs will probably be a community discussion up for friendly debate  among all the diners who have gathered for food, laughter and good times.

Feeling blue?  Hurry to the blue brick building and have a meal at the Midtown Crossing Grill.  The Viggy Pizza will chase your blues away!




KINDNESS…Start in Your Own Backyard!

Earline Duncan

Writer, Tayari Jones, gave folks a facebook challenge.  Starting, November 28th and for the next 29 days, she has asked people to commit to the intention of kindness.  She is asking participants to love without condition.  You know, be kind.  Like, pay for a stranger’s meal, read to a child, donate money to charity, smile, speak, feed the homeless.

Do you know what the Bible says about giving?  God loves a cheerful giver.  The Bible says that you will reap what you sow.  The Bible says that God gives seed to the sower.  The Bible says to go forth, love people and do not grow weary in well doing for in due season, you shall reap. A harvest is ripe and ready for the picking.  But those who labor ceaselessly toward intentional kindness are few.  That is what the Bible says.

In this Advent Season as we celebrate the Christ Child, I have begun my giving campaign with Tayari and her facebook friends. I don’t choose to share when and how I give my gifts of intentional kindness. I do it without fanfare or details.  But, I will tell you this.  I have a 78 year old mother.  She is my Mary. She is my Black Madonna. And while I am in the mood for sharing with folks outside my bloodline and social circle, I have decided to make myself available to serve my mother in this season too.

Most days, I call Mother while I am en route from work.  I ask about her day.  Then I drive on home.  But in this season, I will drop by her house at least twice a week and I will make myself available to her. I will ask…Mother, what do you need?  Can I take you to the grocery store?  Can I pick up your mail?  Do you need a ride to church?  Can I buy your dinner?  Would you like to play a game of Scrabble? 

Mother is going to answer with great delight…Yes!  And I will not be impatient.  I will not say…Mama, hurry up.  I will not say…Mama you are taking too long.  I will surrender to the selfless, constant love that she has always given to me.

So, yes, as I share holiday cheer, my kindness will extend out there somewhere…but love will also begin and extend to my own backyard.

Have you called your mother today?  You should.

Selling STRONG…Buy Your Copy Today!


HELLO, SUNSHINE —  5 Habits to UNCLOUD Your Day made its amazon debut on Tuesday, September 23rd. Within that short time, over 200 copies have been sold.  Thus far, I’ve promoted the book on facebook and I have contacted buyers using the text service on my phone.  This is “guerilla street marketing.”

It is my aim to push the book by word of mouth.  So feel free to tell everyone about it. I will do television and newspaper promotions toward the end of the month.  I am also proud to report that the greatest joy has come from walking through the streets of Memphis and offering my tiny power-packed book to complete strangers.  They see the bright yellow cover and break out into a big sunny smile.  The reviews on amazon have been very candid and favorable.

Readers have contacted me by email to report how the book has blessed them.  Many readers have also written to say how they purchased more books to give away to friends and relatives who need a dose of sunlight and encouragement on this journey.

Chapter 3 (Feed the Need–Benevolence)  and Chapter 4 (Loose the Noose–Forgiveness) have figured large for several readers.  Many report that they also love the list of SUNNY DELIGHTS which has exposed them to unfamiliar movies, musical artists and authors.

In these trying times with high unemployment, high incidents of domestic abuse, police brutality and voter suppression, folks must learn to manufacture their own sunlight.  HELLO, SUNSHINE is a start.  So like a concerned citizen, do share this book with family and friends.  Don’t hoard the light all for yourself.

HELLO, SUNSHINE– 5 Habits to UNCLOUD Your Day                                                                     is available in paperback on amazon.




(Interview by Alice Faye Duncan)


As summer came to a close, there was so much death and sadness around us. The sketchy details of Michael Brown’s murder plagued the news. Actress and activist, Ruby Dee died. Maya Angelou passed away at the top of the summer. And while writing this note, I just received word that J. California Cooper passed away today.

Like never before, we need a visitation of sunshine and good feelings to bolster us. To this end, I reached out to teacher, poet, activists and lover of music, Arnold Adoff. Arnold is a noted anthologist. He edited the seminal collection of African American poetry, I AM THE DARKER BROTHER. For more than 30 years he was the devoted husband to award winning children’s author, Virginia Hamilton.

I posed five questions to Arnold a week after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. His wise words offer writers and readers a way to find hope and joy, even in the face of trying times. Hear him with your heart.


dear alice:

virginia once said she wrote long and talked short…and i wrote short and talked long…..your seemingly straightforward questions all require…. paragraphs and paragraphs of o perspectives and details….think of monet setting up several easels in his garden and going from one to another to continue painting as the day progressed and the light changed…..but i will try and be short and honest at the same time…. so :
What part does music play in my everyday life?

  1. my various simultaneous lives have always progressed with musical foreground and background accompaniments….from the eurocentric so-called classical music playing in my home all day….to my discovery at a young age of bird and prez and mingus and much of progressive jazz and blues…their african roots and the myriad aspects of african american cultures and classes and literatures….i met virginia through my friendship with charles mingus and i play his compositions several times a day at least….many times to be followed by monk piano performances….each sunday morning there will be a mahalia album on the turntable…sometimes late at night i will kick back and sip some red wine and go from willie nelson to waylon jennings to joni mitchel to leonard cohen to nina simone to the last poets to meshell ndegeocello…however….unlike many other writers of several generations…it is an absolute longstanding rule of my process that there is  n o  music playing while i read and research and rewrite and write…


What are the top five songs that bring sunshine into your day?

  1. mahalia’s   didn’t it rain children….on a rainy day…of course stevie wonder’s you are the sunshine of my life….anything by ray charles….john lee hooker and lightnin hopkins and bessie smith…zep’s stairway to heaven…jeff buckley’s hallelujah….wade in the water….and on and on and on…depending on time of day and the placement of the easel…so to speak….the position of the sun in my life and the passion and yearning… and always the flash of love in  some dark room…in some dark mood….


If Nina Simone were alive today, how would she respond or what would she say about themurder of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown?

  1. of course she would speak out and rant in her own powerful voice as she would introduce a piece and she would compose…but perhaps in that  mississippi goddamn approach and overview…..i know there would be much weary deja vu edges around the words…how many times…. bobby dylan wrote and sang….and in her time she was challenged and buffeted by countless racist  unspeakables and the drumbeat of murders and injustice and genocide and…to borrow the title from ralph ginzburg’s seminal collection…100 years of lynchings….


If Langston Hughes was alive, what would he say about the rap music playing on the radio?

  1. to read langston’s poetry out loud is to sing incipient rap and hiphop foundation rhythms and beats…concerns and struggles…i can only assume given his all-encompassing racial and world view…that he would embrace hiphop nation as he embraced each succeeding generation of african american poets and versifiers…perhaps he might chide now and then….but if you read one of his later collections…the panther and the lash….he was not left behind…inside his soul and within his political and literary times….


When you find yourself missing Virginia, how do you uplift your spirits?

  1. i live in this house in yellow springs we built together in 1969 where we raised our two superb  children…and i am surrounded by photos and medals and awards and rooms of floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled to overflowing with copies of her books…of files and speeches and her spirit and sense of pride and her striving for excellence and her unremitting honesty….the w o r k   is all around me and our values and dreams…realized and unrealized as well….our intertwined histories…our lives together of course….it is too simplistic to say i miss  only  h e r…what i miss is being able to walk into her office and sit down and talk about something…some aspect of a book project…some opinion on a family or personal matter…or listen to her read me the latest chapter from her latest book….and all of that and much more has been internalized…all of our lives together and my life since her passing….i need silence to think and work and poet…(really….one of the many things she taught me is how to take from life experiences of all kinds and use that as food as fuel to make some kind of art)….and within that silence is her voice and her face….

   ….the struggle continues… 

arnold adoff    25 august 2014     


Good News!  HELLO, SUNSHINE– 5 Habits to UNCLOUD Your Day is available in paperback.  Please visit amazon at the following link:







Do you want to write for the Christian Market?  Today’s post is an interview with Tracy Crump.  Tracy has published over 100 articles and essays for popular books like CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL and GUIDEPOSTS.  She has a special call on her life to help aspiring writers find their path to publishing. Tracy’s blog, THE WRITE LIFE is rich with information for writers who want to reach the Christian Market.  


 You can locate her writing webinars and upcoming workshops at This interview reveals how Tracy uses life experiences to write herself into a place of peace.  As she helps herself, her writing blesses others too.  

  1. What meandering path led you to the writing life?

It was the same path that led Paul to become an evangelist. God gave me a shove, and here I am. I felt God leading me to write about a family situation and began submitting articles to Christian magazines. The more I wrote, the more ideas God gave me. As I say, you can’t lead a horse unless it’s walking. So I keep writing, and God keeps leading.


  1. When emotions are dull, how do you encourage yourself to keep writing and moving forward?

When I write, I feel that I’m just where I need to be, doing just what God wants me to do. This energizes me. The clouds come when I can’t find the time to write. That became the problem about five years ago when my mom and then my dad became very ill, requiring much of my time. God was gracious and allowed me to keep my writers newsletter going and to submit short pieces here and there. But most of my writing came to a halt.

The darkest day came when I had to dissolve a two-year relationship with my agent. She asked me to update my proposal, and I couldn’t find time to sit down and do it. If I couldn’t even update the proposal, I sure couldn’t write a book. I felt like a failure. I’d had an agent. Now I didn’t. Then I realized that was just pride talking. It wasn’t an agent who got me where I was. It wasn’t even my “wonderful” writing. It was God. So now I write when I can, and I feel at peace, trusting in God’s timing.

  1. What Bible Verse do you live by?

Since high school, my life verse has been Ecclesiastes 3:1: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. When I was submitting and publishing frequently, that was my season for writing. Taking care of my parents has been just another season, one I cherish no matter how frustrating it is at times. Even now, God has been opening interesting doors with a story I wrote for the Chicken Soup book on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The Alzheimer’s Association has set up book signings where I was able to tell people about a treatable condition that is often mistaken for Alzheimer’s. God fused my two seasons of writing and caring for my mom into an opportunity to educate others and at the same time, share the gospel. I couldn’t have orchestrated that if I’d tried.

  1. Why is helping others find their path to the writing life important to you?

Many people have suffered difficult times in their lives and want to use what they’ve learned to help others. Writing is one way to do that, but most don’t know where to begin. I enjoy helping writers learn more about writing and encouraging them to go ahead and submit. Words sitting in a desk drawer or a computer file don’t help anyone.

  1. What song do you listen to when clouds begin to gather?

It would be the old Irish hymn “Be Thou My Vision.”

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

For information on writing and publishing for the Christian Market, visit Tracy at 


We stand on the cusp of a new week.  There is so much to do. We get tired just thinking about our obligations.  Why can’t every week have a 3 day weekend?  The yard is still undone.  Your car needs to go to the shop.  You need to pay your bills.  You need to return those books to the library.  You need to buy your spouse a gift.  You need to run errands for your mother. You need to put money in the bank account for your kid who is away in college.  Wait.  School just started and the college kid needs MORE money ALREADY!  Lord have mercy. You feel overwhelmed.  Life feels chaotic.  But this is just an appearance.  Look again.



All of us encounter days and weeks that turn busy, messy and appear unmanageable.  In times like this, you need to begin the day in silence.  Sit still. Pray.  Meditate.  Ask the Creator, “Where do I begin this day?  How do I take charge of the tasks in front of me?”  In the silence, you will receive Divine direction.  By the end of the week, you will be amazed by your own efficiency and success in handling your business and completing your tasks.

Say it with me…I CAN DO THIS…YES I CAN!