Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Author Interview (Kenya Smith)

Today, we are celebrating a local author who recently published his first book for children based on his own experiences as a father . Meet Kenya Smith, author, poet, father, Renaissance man in general and find out about his childhood in the NewK and his new book.

1. What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Kenya Smith. I'm an author, student, full-time Nursing Assistant (for now), partner and father.

2. Where were you raised and what schools did you attend?

I guess you could say that I was raised in New Kensington. I/we moved here from Brooklyn N.Y. in 1987. I always say that I grew up in Brooklyn, and became a man in New Ken. I attended Valley High School. Of course you have to throw Vo-Tech in there. Back then...(did I say that?), yes back then it was called N.W.A.V.T.S (Northern Westmoreland Area Vocational Technical School). I put that in there because I learned a lot about cooking from my chef's training course. After graduation in 1992 I attended C.C.A.C Allegheny Campus through the Job Corps program. I quit in 1995. I started going to school again in 2007 after the birth of my son, and I'm doing very well. I've recently been accepted to the PTA (Physical Therapy Assistant) program. If all goes well (which it will) I'll graduate in 2014 with a degree.

3. Did you have a mentor or role model growing up in New Kensington?

Not many mentors to follow in New Kensington. You rely on your friendships in which I still have with my best friend (Richard Rose) of 21 years. I looked up to some of the older cats in New Ken like Jimbo...it takes time to figure out why you look up to certain individuals. Sometimes it's to learn what TO do or what NOT to do. I guess I just remember certain times of my life in which an individual made an impact on my life. Mr. Commodore, & Mr. Wilcek were instrumental in guiding my path. Mr. Bitar caught me in the hall one day and asked me why I didn't smile...I told him that I didn't have a reason to. He told me that I should because it brings out my personality. I've been smiling ever since & one day thanked him for the advice.

4. What do you like the most about living in this area?

I like the fact that it is a diverse area. You find all kinds here. I guess I like the fact that it's an area that gives you room to grow. I didn't like moving here when we did. I grew to like the area and most of the people in it.

5. If you left the New Kensington area, what 3 places or businesses would you miss the most?

I would miss Perry di Pizzaman's, I would miss driving past Valley High School, and I would miss....I guess Eat n' Park. Those are the places with many memories. Although I don't eat at Perry's often I could always be taken back to the first time I had a slice of their pizza. It was the closest thing to a N.Y. slice that I could get. It was also a huge hang-out spot for us back in the day. I don't know WHERE the kids go after football games now...we went to Perry's where the music was playing and the food was good. A lifetime of memories at VHS...the football games were great. One could find warmth in the midst of friends on the coldest nights. People would go to Eat n' Park after the games. I only knew that because I used to work there. It was my 2nd "official" job.

6. What do you think is the most common misconception about New Kensington and it's residents?

I think the most common misconception about New Ken is that "everyone is bad." New Ken is a small town, so word gets around fast, which also means many things can be misconstrued once it gets to say...the 5th ear. It's not the people HERE most of the time, it's the people from out of town. Every small town has their good and bad areas. New Kensington has had it's share of bad news and seeds....Only some know what it takes to keep it together, but those are the people who leave.

7. What inspired you to write a children's book?

I drew my inspiration from my love to write. This all began as an idea to write a book of poetry...which at this point is on the back burner. I could have done that. . .it would have been cheaper. My son was born in 2007 and my fiance had a dog at the time. He was 10 years old. When we brought our son home (after 3 months because of his prematurity), I watched how they bonded together. Guiness grew a cancer in his leg & wouldn't last long. In 2010 I decided to write about their bond and to use it as a way to teach children how to take care of a dog. I also decided that it would be a great tribute to him. He (Guiness) had to get used to me too. I titled the book Food Left For Ginny because my son could not say Guiness when he was a toddler. I owe a lot to my illustrator Katherine Brown because she capture the images very well in this way. We sent her actual pictures of Kai, and Guiness. The book has a good back story as well...the fact that Guiness was around before Kai. I wrote it in past AND present tense to show what he used to do, and did once we had Kai.

8. Any plans for another book in the works?

My plan is for a series of childrens books which will teach them how to take care of their "typical family pet." Last summer we all heard about this fad where people were raising exotic animals...in Ohio some escaped. I say typical because people don't typically have a tiger lying around in the yard. Speaking of typical, the next book will be titled (tentatively) Cats Don't Fetch Balls! It will teach children how to take care of cats, but give a lighthearted look at a cats life...what they do and DON'T do. I have two other titles for the series, giving the people 4 in all. I've discussed collaborating about a 5th one about horses. My 6th childrens book will be about a "monster" and how he/she/it awoke a kid from his/her sleep. Then....there is/are my books of poetry. I'm on Fastpencil.com and here on Facebook where my poetry can be found. The first book of poetry will be called Life in this Leather Jacket KonciousLea Written. This book of poetry will be autobiographical so to speak. At this point I probably have enough for 3 books of poetry (once the month of April ends).

9. Please give us the information on how to purchase your book and plug any events you have coming up in the future.

The book can be found on my publishers site authorhouse.com. I've been doing really well on amazon.com so most of the time I refer people there. I'm trying to get in the top 100 in books. Even if it's for ONE day. My book can be found on barnesandnoble.com as well. If one wanted to go to BNB to purchase a book it would be ordered, as my book is considered to be print on demand. I've been posting events on my fan page KonciouSLea. Promoting a book doesn't get the bills paid, therefore work comes first. I've been reading in libraries. My last appearance was at my school at Boyce campus. People can look for a couple of stories that they will do for me. I think this will launch Food Left For Ginny even further. The deans were very impressed and not only have they decided to do a feature story of me in the President's news letter, but they will do another story which will include a press release. My plan is to get Food Left.....in all school libraries that I make appearances in to spread the word that they may place it in the districts libraries. I'm planning a book signing. . .hopefully next month. I'm looking forward to signing my fans books. I'm also considering a fan page on Facebook for Food Left. . . .this will give people a place to go with their children to leave comments directly from them. My fan page isn't always children friendly because of the content of some of my poetry. I'm also deeply considering having a child's audio for the book. These are all thoughts which take time to filter through. If you ask me if I thought I would be a children's author I would have told you no 3 years ago. This is a great accomplishment for me, and I'm proud of it....even if I sold just ONE book.

(Clicking this picture won't allow you to look inside. We stole this
picture from Amazon.)

Thank you very much Kenya for taking the time to talk to us.

We wish you the very best of luck, and look forward to getting a chance
to read your book.


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Thanks for the input. Keep it real.