From the Bookshelf to Off-Broadway

From the Bookshelf to Off-Broadway

by: Denise Newsome

 

When I first began this journey several years ago, I had some naysayers. As if the self-doubt wasn’t enough, the enemy always finds a way to bring people into your life who make you question the road you’ve chosen and the calling that’s been given to you.

 

How could I, a woman with only a GED, write a book?

 

How could I, a formerly incarcerated person, get it published?

 

How could I, a poor person approaching 50, succeed in life?

 

People didn’t necessarily have to say those words out loud or to my face, but I knew by the subtle things they said (or didn’t say) that that’s what they believed. And, for a long time, I believed those things too.

 

I started out creating stories from a young age and shared them with my sisters. The time I spent in prison renewed my desire to write but first, I had a few things to take care of.

 

I obtained my GED in prison. When you’re just trying to keep your head down, meaning staying off of the radar, there aren’t very many things for most people to do inside. As for me, I had plenty to do.

 

When I first began my studies, I was at a 6th grade reading level and an 8th grade math level. Can you believe it? Me, who wanted to write and have a platform to tell my story wouldn’t have even been able to pass a state exam!

 

While the rest of the inmates were busy fighting over who got to watch TV next, my nose was in the books. There were times when I cried; it was so hard. My mom sent me a GED study guide and it was the best thing that could have happened. I was encouraged. I felt renewed. But it didn’t get easier. It took me three years to get my GED. When I finally took the exam, I plowed through most of it…that is, until I got to the Social Studies section.

 

I got up from my seat, tears streaming down my face, and told the proctor that I couldn’t do it. Social Studies was a subject I just knew I couldn’t tackle. I was giving up; it was too hard. That proctor looked me in the eyes and gave me one of the biggest kicks in the butt I’ve ever received. It was like I was in a movie! She told me I couldn’t quit, to go back there, sit down and finish my test. I turned around.

 

And wouldn’t you know it – out of all of the sections on the exam, my Social Studies score was the highest! I know now that was nothing but God’s favor.

 

After I was released, I explored a few ventures, including having my own cleaning company. I was in Georgia with my parents when I received a call from my aunt asking me to be her caregiver.  Being the person that I am, I traveled back up to New York to live with and care for her. It was here that it finally hit me. All those years I knew what I really wanted to do, so why was I not doing it?

 

I recalled the time I got my GED.  I learned what I needed to learn and, although it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, I persevered and succeeded. If I did it then, I could do it again. So I began my journey.

 

I had my story: the story of a family, the story of a young girl. In some ways, her story was similar to my own but, of course, in many ways her life was nothing like mine. I’d call her Misty and she would be the baby I never had. Misty’s Blood was her story, a story for us all.

 

It was a story 15 years in the making, but I began officially putting together all my ideas and notes for Misty’s Blood in the beginning of 2008. I thought about the essence of my story, the characters. Who were they meant to be? Where would the plot go? How would it end? And how would my characters grow and learn?

 

Next, I researched as much as I could about how to write and publish a book. The government took away my ability to attend college in prison before I finished my GED, but I never allowed not attending college or having a degree stop me from learning. When I know what I’m looking for and what I want to do, I just put in the work. It’s got me this far.

 

Now I had all I needed to bring my story to life. But the key for me was, and still is, the story’s purpose. What do I want to say to my readers? How can I reach them? How do I want to touch their lives and bless them? I knew God had a greater goal for my work. At the time, my faith was as strong as anyone’s, but I still hadn’t returned to the church. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was at the start of a beautiful journey.

 

Fast-forward a bit and the book is finished, with a bit of help from a few other people. The process didn’t go exactly as I expected, but boy was I proud. I knew I’d want to…need to,do things a bit differently next time.

 

But before that would happen, first a change…

 

I finally returned to the church a few years later. I had a renewed sense of my own purpose, the very thing I was so passionate about instilling in others. In 2013, not long after I began my new journey of faith, I decided to take the story of Misty’s Blood to the stage.

 

It would be told a bit differently, because of my fresh walk with God, but the essence of Misty’s story – and the purpose of my work – would stay the same: to reach those in the deepest depths and inspire them to reach their highest heights in God.

 

 

With the help of some amazing people, I brought that story to life. But as is true with everything else in life that truly matters, it wasn’t easy.

 

As with the book, I took it upon myself to research how to bring a play to off-Broadway. With the financial help of my nephew, who funded my project, I was able to recruit the right people for the various jobs. With any working relationship, you don’t always get along or see eye to eye on things, but when you’re passionate about your vision, you make it work. The result was amazing, more than I ever could have dreamed. I put together a weekend of shows and all three of them were sold out.

 

When I reflect, I know for sure there are some things I’d do differently. I didn’t always make the best decisions, but I was also new to the whole experience, and hindsight is always 20/20. Lord knows there were times that I wasn’t sure I could do it, times I wanted to give up, and times I doubted the path I was taking, just as before.

 

But just when you’re at the darkest point of night, you begin to see the dawn.

One Response to “From the Bookshelf to Off-Broadway”

  1. Kiana Battle says:

    What an awesome testimony. Dr. Kiana Battle, Ph.D, LMSW

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