Sunday, September 13, 2015


Here is an author with a story (and a half) to tell, the likes of which I have never heard before. Except perhaps in novels, or the movies or something where the story has been so amazing, almost to the point of being truly surreal. So I was quite stunned when I 'met' Phyllis Lawson and read about her - one of the above stories actually coming to life. It truly is unique - but I will let her tell you about it in her words. Please enjoy.

1                    Please tell us a little bit about your background;

I joined the United States Air Force at the age of nineteen - I served for five years.  During that time, I had the opportunity to spend over half of this period overseas. After I was discharged, I attended the University of Maryland, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. After graduating, I worked as a Juvenile Counsellor and Substance Abuse Specialist for twenty years. In January 2001, I decided that I wanted to join the District of Columbia National Guard in order to try and pursue a twenty year career in the military. Shortly after joining the National Guard I was deployed. I completed my military career in 2013. Since then, I have spent the last two and a half years writing and marketing my new memoir Quilt of Souls.

                     You are an author, one of your books being the ‘Quilt of Souls’ which is based on a true story. Can you please tell us a little bit about this;

My memoir 'Quilt of Souls' was released March 2015. 'Quilt of Souls' is a book the world needs to have. It is more than my personal memoir; it is an historical unveiling of hushed bloodlines and stories of a time and place that got swept under the carpet - powerful, intense, poignant stories that need to be heard.

At the age of four years old, I was plucked off my front porch, from the only family I knew and delivered sixteen hours away to land on the doorstep of Grandmother Lula, whom I never met before. I was abandoned by my mother, pure and simple. I needed a miracle and that miracle took the form of an old tattered quilt (a family heirloom) that my grandmother made out of the clothing of long lost loved ones who died in the face of extreme bigotry, racism and ugliness that was pervasive to that time.

Lula Horn (1883-1986), was born in Sandersville, Mississippi. Through oral tradition and through the weaving of ripped up pieces of clothes transformed into quilts, she told me the tragic stories of my ancestors' lives and deaths. Each piece of cloth woven into the quilt had the blood, sweat and tears of black people living and dying at the hands of unconscionable injustices. The weaving of their clothing into a quilt mended each broken life back together with each pull of the thread. 

No matter your ethnicity, this book will transport you back in time and will break your heart wide open. It will make you laugh, cry and swell with hope and resilience. Out of the grave agony of despair comes healing for many generations. 'Quilt of Souls' is about the strength of black women who prevailed before and after the turn of the century, a demographic that has gone unrecognized, with no celebration of the lives they endured and upheld. The untold stories of these women who were quilt makers, laundresses and butter churners are revealed in this book. It tells of how they survived and provided for their children and the grandchildren they raised.

Seamlessly written, 'Quilt of Souls' is a book that needs to be brought to the forefront. It is a rare story not only due to the complexities and intricacies of the quilt as a physical object, but also what it stands for metaphorically. It speaks about and unearths, the taboo subjects that were only heard in whispers during that era.

        Have you written any other books?

The first book that I wrote was 'Josh Horn and Ruby Pickens Tartt: An Unlikely Alliance''.  It is the story of my Great Grandfather Josh Horn and the writer, Ruby Pickens Tartt who interviewed him during the 1930’s  as part of the historical ''Slave Narratives''.  Josh was a story teller.  Ms. Tartt travelled throughout rural Alabama, capturing stories of ex-slaves.  My plan is to professionally re-publish this book in the future.

4.                              Are you traditionally or self published?

I am currently self-published through the CreateSpace platform.

5.                             Have you always wanted to be an author or what did you want to do          when you were growing up?

I always loved to stand before large crowds and tell stories. As a teenager I would write poetry until my hand hurt. I would write about my sorrows and difficulty adjusting to life. Writing was a way for me to escape the harsh times that I was experiencing.  I always knew that one day I would pen Grandmother’s story because I wanted the world to recognize the beauty of her quilts. I also wanted to bring exposure to the grandmothers of her era that raised their grandchildren.These “Grandmas' other Babies” were plentiful in the south during the reconstruction period. This is a part of our history that have been overlooked, particularly the role that these old women played and how and what they did to survive during this tragic period in America.

6.                             Who and/or what are your inspirations?

My inspiration has always been my grandmother. She was the most loving, spiritual and giving person I have ever met.  She was my rock and provided me with the spiritual gifts that I needed in order for me to survive some of the most difficult periods in my life.  I realize the word role models maybe too clichĂ©, but she was mine in every sense of the word. 

7.                             Do you work from home or do you rent an office?

I work from my home.

9.                             You also do some public speaking.

     Yes, I spent my last four years in the military as a Diversity Trainer                    /Instructor.  I have travelled extensively holding lectures and workshops             on diversity in the workplace and equal opportunity issues. 

           Do you tour the nation doing this and what do you actually talk about       and to whom? What other positions have you held in the past?

My ''Quilt of Souls Author Tour and Quilt Presentation'' begin on October 21st in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. My schedule is pretty extensive for the remainder of 2015 in which I will be making stops in Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland.  My 2016 schedule is currently being formulated and promises to be very, very busy.

1                              What are your short and long term goals for your writing?

I would like to write a sequel to ''Quilt of Souls'' in order to cover more stories of my grandmother that I omitted in the first book.  In addition, my plans are to complete a rewrite on my first book about my great-grandfather Josh Horn and the ''Slave Narratives''.

1                Do you have an agent or do you manage yourself?

I currently am self-managed which is often hectic, particularly with the notoriety that ''Quilt of Souls'' is now receiving.

1LINKS:      Website - a great site for learning more about ''Quilt of Souls'' and the life of Lula Horn.

1 comment:

  1. Phyllistene is a wonderful and very knowledgable speaker. We learned so much when she spoke to us at the Baldwin county Genealogical Society in FOLEY, AL earlier this year!