Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Unmasking the Woman: Vonda Skelton's When I Was Just a Kid

My mom and dad with me right after I was born. My mom was 17 and my dad was 20.

Vonda Skelton has a different way of looking at the world. When I asked her
Anything you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?, she had this to say:

I remember the day it dawned on me that God could use all these experiences—the love of the stage, drama, music, humor, and an active imagination—for His glory. For so long, I had viewed it all as a frivolous self-indulgence. But then God showed me that He had placed those gifts in me for a reason, and that reason is so I can speak and write and teach others through them. For example, if you’d like a good laugh, I hope you’ll check out my YouTube video, Solomon’s Beloved.

You can see that by watching it here, Solomon's Beloved:

This is just a small vignette from one of her speaking programs.

Vonda says: "Even though it’s funny and makes the women laugh, it helps break down the barriers that often separate 'us' from 'them,' and allows women to be open to hearing the message of grace and mercy through the blood of Jesus Christ. And, as we say here in the south, it just don’t get no better than that!"

Let's see how God designed the writer and speaker for both children and women that Vonda has become:

Childhood Ambition:

When I was a kid, all my friends wanted to be nurses or teachers or secretaries. Sissy jobs, I thought. Me? I was going to be a movie star, an investigative reporter, or an undercover detective. (Of course, once I became an RN, I realized nursing was no job for wimps!)

Fondest Memory (then):

I hate to be indecisive, but I have two favorite memories. One is helping my grandmother in her cloth shop. She allowed me to make price signs, sweep the floor, and make pot holders with my little loom kit. Whenever she sold a potholder, she gave me all the money—all 10 cents! After I finished a day’s work, she’d give me a whole nickel and I’d put it in the Coke machine for a six-ounce “brew.” Sometimes she also gave me a pack of peanuts, which I poured into my bottle of Coke. (I’d actually forgotten all about that until now. Thanks for the memory!)

This is my grandmother with me on my second birthday. I still have the table that’s there beside her chair. ;-) I had the piano, but sold it in my unenlightened 20’s for $90. Oh, what I’d give to have that piano back!

My other favorite memory is helping my daddy in his concession stand. We’d prepare for an event by setting up a production line in the kitchen, making cotton candy and candied apples. Then we’d head out to the fair or the lake or the local swimming hole and set up shop. Daddy and me. As we say in the south, it just don’t get no better than that!

Proudest Moment (then):

All of my proudest moments as a child had to do with entertainment. From the time I can remember, I’ve loved being on stage, whether that meant singing in church or acting in the school play. Although I dreamed of being Darla in The Little Rascals, I knew I’d never be able to because my mother would never, ever allow me to wear those short skirts! But one of the proudest moments was when I won first place in the 4-H Talent Show. I shared the stage with an upside down broom with a construction paper face as we sang “Side by Side” together. That eventually led to my being a guitar-playing, leather-vest-and-cowgirl-hat-wearing, country music-singing member of The Ramblers, a group of 5 old men and me. We were on The Ben Leonard Television Show every Saturday morning at 7AM. I was 12-years-old at the time and hated country music. But sometimes you just have to sacrifice for your art. (Sounds so much better than compromising for your goals!)

Me at 6 years old, wearing my Ruth Original dress that my grandmother bought. If it hadn’t been for her, I would have never had anything so nice. Hand-me-downs were my standard fare!
Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:

My biggest challenge was trying to cover up the fact that we were poor. And I did a pretty good job of it. When I as 10 years old, we moved to another town where I told my new friends that my dad was in the oil business (he was—he drove a heating oil truck) and that we used to live near Paris (we did—we lived at the foot of Paris Mountain in Greenville, SC). As you can see, I’ve been “writing” fiction my whole life!

This is my Uncle Raymond, who was the local sheriff and me. I thought it was so cool to have an uncle who had real handcuffs!

My First Job:

I never remember NOT working. Since my daddy always had two or three sideline businesses in addition to his real job, there was always work to do. So in addition to working the concession stand, I sold dresses in a dress shop when I was 13, carded cheap earrings for a jewelry line called Jewelry by Vonda Marie, and helped daddy with the record-keeping for his bread route. The first job I ever had where Daddy wasn’t my boss was as a cashier at Winn-Dixie grocery store—and he had gotten me the job since it was one of his stops on his bread route!

Childhood Indulgence:

Piling all the kids in the car (I was the oldest of four) and heading down to the Skyland Drive-In Theater. We’d bring our own popcorn and drinks, of course.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:

My Davey Crockett leather jacket and coonskin cap.

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:

My favorite movies were anything with Shirley Temple. I was going to be her when I couldn’t be Darla because of the short skirts. As far as TV, my favorite program was—you guessed it—The Little Rascals.

Any Childhood Pets?

Yes, Teddy was my white spitz. I was heartbroken when he disappeared after we moved. But then a stray mutt miraculously “followed me home” and Lady became mine. A month or so later, Lady and I became the parents of 5 black and brown babies.

Favorite Childhood Book:

Although I didn’t grow up with many books in the house, when I was about 10, my cousin gave me her collection of Trixie Belden Mysteries and I was hooked. That’s when I developed a love of reading.

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:

I never wanted to do little girl things. Instead of being a cheerleader, I played on the boys’ baseball team. Instead of running from the guys who pulled my hair, I chased them, threw them to the ground, and beat them up. Yep, life was good.

Childhood Hero:

My daddy. I couldn’t wait to marry him. It made perfect sense to me, after all, he was already in the family! I was heartbroken when my mother informed me he was already taken.

Can you share some things from your childhood that ended up in your books?

Oh my goodness, lots and lots of stuff ends up in my books. When I decided to start writing children’s mysteries, I took months and made lists of every childhood memory I had. I wrote on the backs of power bill envelopes, on paper plates, on napkins, notebook paper—you name it! Then, when I sat down to write my first book, I took out my notes and plugged scene after scene from my life into the life a Bitsy, a short, curly-headed 12-year-old tomboy from a poor family who loves to sing, wants to be a movie star, and sometimes struggles with the truth. Can you guess where Bitsy came from?

So now, when I visit schools to present my Writing is Fun! writing workshops, I share scenes from my books and the kids vote whether they think it was taken from real life or not. They’re constantly amazed at the scenes from real life that are in my books. For instance, the scene where the bully Ernie VanTache gets his head caught in the porch rail and Bitsy gets him out by smearing his head, neck, chest, and back with mayonnaise and butter. In real life, it happened to my brother! And yes, that’s exactly how I got him out.

Another one: When I was 10, Daddy invented a suntan lotion, mixed it up in a big pot in the kitchen, poured it into baby bottles and we headed to Tybee Island, GA so he could test it against Coppetone. He was going to make us rich! We put his TanTone on the right side of our faces, right arm, and right leg, and put Coppertone on the left side to see which one tanned the darkest. (In case you’re wondering, it was a tie. But we never got rich. He didn’t have the money to buy bottles to put the TanTone in.) And even my new women’s non-fiction book, Seeing Through the Lies, includes many stories from my childhood, like the time I tried to be Peter Pan and almost died dangling from a tree with a rope around my waist. In case you didn’t know it, it doesn’t matter if the rope is around your waist or around your neck, the end result is the same—you die. If my daddy hadn’t found me, I’d have been dead.

Vonda's latest book out for women is called, Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe.

You can read the first chapter here: http://vondaskelton.com/Books.html

WINNER OF THIS BOOK on this blog: MIMI! MIMI will be receiving this book from Vonda. Thank you for all the comments~

"Vonda helps us get a grip and find our footing...and she does it with giggles and grace. Her light touch combined with her deep heart make this worth embracing."
--Patsy Clairmont, author of Dancing Bones...living lively in the valley

Is your study group considering using Vonda's book?She will join in your discussion by phone! Contact her.
Besides writing for women, Vonda has a series of books for girls about a girl named Bitsey. You can order signed copies here.

Children's Fiction:

Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island has arrived!
Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island--the third adventure in the Bitsy Mystery Series--is now available.

In this new adventure, Bitsy (the only girl on her baseball team) heads to Hilton Head Island for a tournament, where Bitsy expects sun, fun, and a first place trophy. But her plans change when she discovers a loggerhead turtle egg thief is on the loose. Could he be hiding right under their noses?

Bitsy and the Mystery at Hilton Head Island (Bitsy Burroughs Mysteries)
Published: April 2008 (Overmountain Press)
Order Now: $8.00 (regularly $8.95)

Bitsy and her baseball team head to Hilton Head Island for a tournament, where Bitsy expects sun, fun, and a first place trophy. But her plans change when she discovers a loggerhead turtle egg thief is on the loose. Could he be hiding right under their noses?

Bitsy and the Mystery at Amelia Island (Bitsy Burroughs Mysteries)
Published: July 2005 (Overmountain Press)
Order Now: $8.00 (regularly $8.95)

Bitsy visits friends on Amelia Island, Florida, where her promise to live at peace with everyone quickly fades when she faces the neighborhood bully. After an abandoned house reveals some deep, dark secrets, the kids team up to help a city resource center. Could evil spirits prevent the center’s success? But Bitsy’s troubles are only beginning. Her new business fails, and she loses all the money she has saved for camp. With a bruised body and deflated ego, Bitsy’s only hope is to win the $100 first-place prize in the July 4th Talent Show. Although circumstances complicate her performance and compromise her chance of winning, her determination to solve the mystery changes the future for those who need help on Amelia Island.

Bitsy and the Mystery at Tybee Island (Bitsy Burroughs Mysteries)
Published: July 2003 (Overmountain Press)
Order Now: $12.00 (regularly $13.95)

Set on Tybee Island, Georgia, the story is told by Bitsy, a twelve-year-old tomboy whose imagination and curiosity repeatedly get her into trouble as she searches for hidden treasure, discovers a skeleton, and faces a kidnapper. This Tybee Island mystery was #5 on the Savannah Morning News Bestseller List August 8, 2003 and is in its second printing.

Vonda's Christian Writer's Den blog is a helpful and hopeful place to be. Be sure to check in on her thoughts and information.

Want to take a cruise with Vonda?

Register NOW!

March 30-April 4, 2009


Please join me as we sail from Jacksonville to the Bahamas. Free writing classes available, if desired. Free Christian entertainers, music groups, comedians, and speakers just for us!

Prices start at less than $600! Take a group and save even more!


Anonymous said...

Vonda is an incredible woman. She's full of life and love. You have captured the heart and soul of this precious lady in your interview. Thank you so much.
Love & Prayers,
Yvonne Ortega

Anonymous said...

Awwww, shucks, thanks for your kind words, Yvonne. ;-) This was one of the most enjoyable interviews I've ever done.

And thank YOU, Crystal!

Mimi N said...

I love your blog. Your questions aren't the average fare! I really enjoyed this interview! Her books for girls looks like what my girls would've read seveal years ago. Thanks for this introduction to Vonda.

Mimi B

mnjesusfreak at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Ahh...the memories that Vonda creates in her books, mine that is. As she shares her life with others, I remember some of mine.
Great interview, filled with humor, I really enjoyed this and getting to know Vonda better.
She is an awesome woman in Jesus.

Paulette Harris

Becky C. said...

Loved the interview and pictures.

Please enter me in the contest!

Thank you,

Becky C.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mimi--it's so good to meet you! I visited your blog and it looks like a great place, too. ;-)

Hope you have a blessed weekend...

Anonymous said...

Hi Becky and Paulette. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comments. It is fun to sit back and enjoy the memories, isn't it?
Blessings, my friends...

Cheryl Barker said...

Thanks for offering the contest. Please enter me!

ckbarker at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your interview with Vonda with us. She is a fantastic woman, writer, and friend. My boys (ages 6 and 10) and I read the first two Bitsy books together. They loved Bitsy and all of her adventures. Her writing style keeps the reader interested and wanting more!

Love, Melony Brown

Anonymous said...

Hi Cheryl and Melony! Thanks for stopping by. ;-)

And thank you, Mel, for your kind words about Bitsy. I just love writing about her...'cause so much of the time it's writing about my adventures as a kid!

Blessings, all...

Crystal Laine said...

I've just notified Mimi B that she has won Vonda's book! Hopefully, she will get back to me soon.(or I'll draw another name...)

I'm always so excited to see comments from everyone, and I enjoy doing these Kid interviews a lot. It is one of my favorite things to do.

Thanks to Vonda and to the readers!