Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Interview with writer Leona Evans

My special guest today is writer Leona Evans. We are talking about the non-fiction self-help book, The Evolving Peacemaker: A Commitment to Nonviolence she co-wrote with her son Matthew J. Evans.

Let me introduce them:
Leona Evans is the author of The Evolving Peacemaker: A Commitment to Nonviolence. She holds a Master of Arts in Religious Studies and is an ordained Unity Minister, spiritual counselor, and former Chair of the Metaphysics Department at Unity School for Religious Studies. She is the co-author, with Carol Keefer, of two books: Nothing Is Too Good to Be True! which was also translated and published in Russia, and Spirituality & Self-Esteem. In addition, she co-authored and narrated a two-CD set, Meditations for Transformation: Awakening the Soul through the Enneagram.

Ordained in 1985, Evans has been the minister at Unity of San Luis Obispo, California, for the past twenty-two years, during which time she has taught numerous classes on the power of the mind to shape our destiny. Leona is an accomplished speaker and teacher, and her positive messages have been heard on radio and television stations throughout the world.

She is a former Broadway actress, recording artist, and cabaret performer, whose theatrical career of more than thirty years began when she was a small child. Eventually she was guided to study world religions and chose the ministry as a way of helping people understand that nonviolence among religions begins with the realization that the same God of love indwells all people.

Evans is the proud mother of musician, filmmaker, and actor Matthew J. Evans, whose rich contributions to this volume have added “author” to his considerable list of accomplishments.

Leona is available to present her workshops and seminars at business conferences, spiritual centers, and educational venues.

An accomplished actor, musician, and award-winning young filmmaker, Matthew J. Evans was born in 1996 and is a native of San Luis Obispo, California. He played a feature role in Columbia Pictures’ comedy Bad Teacher, for which he received a 2012 Young Artist Award in Los Angeles. A frequent guest star on a number of network television shows, Matthew appeared on the Disney XD series Lab Rats in 2014, for which he won another Young Artist Award. In 2015, he played a dramatic role in the feature film Dismissed.

A professional musician, Matthew sings and plays double bass, acoustic guitar, and bass guitar. He is also a documentary filmmaker whose mission is to produce movies and videos that entertain, educate, and inspire audiences to find value and meaning in their lives and in the world.

In 2010, Matthew produced and directed a short film called A War Story, A Love Story, which won Best Documentary and Best in Festival at Interlochen Future of Cinema International Film Festival.

In 2011, Matthew produced and directed a documentary short film called Poetic Justice Project, which won Best Student Documentary at the Spirit Quest Film Festival in Pennsylvania, Best Young Filmmaker Documentary Short at the Red Rock Film Festival in Utah, and, in 2014, the Gold Jury Prize at the Social Justice Film Festival, Youth Visions Competition in Seattle.

In 2012, Matthew produced and directed a documentary short film called A Quest for Peace: Nonviolence Among Religions, featuring interviews with Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. During 2013–14, the film won awards at nineteen film festivals throughout the country.

A highlight of Matthew’s filmmaking career was receiving the first Teen Art of Making Peace Award in September 2014 from the Peace in the Streets Global Film Festival, presented to him at the United Nations third High Level Forum on a Culture of Peace by Former Under- Secretary-General Anwarul Chowdhury.

Welcome, Leona. Please tell us about your current release.
The Evolving Peacemaker, based on the Gandhi philosophy of nonviolence, contains a set of principles and practices designed to guide the reader on a powerful journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. It opens with the premise that peace is not a one-time achievement but a lifelong practice that starts with our willingness to “be the change we wish to see in our world,” one thought and one action at a time.

What inspired you to write this book?
In these troubled times people are seeking hope for our future – ways to communicate with one another in healthier, more effective ways. As a Unity Minister for the past 30 years, I have taught that real peace begins within our own consciousness. Recently, I began to question how I could frame this message in a way that would make a powerful and positive impact on a wider audience.

Four years ago my son, Matthew J. Evans and I had the honor of spending time with Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. We engaged in several meaningful discussions on the Gandhi teachings of nonviolence. These meetings resulted in Arun’s participation in an award-winning documentary short film which Matthew produced called “A Quest for Peace: Nonviolence Among Religions.” After earning numerous awards at film festivals throughout the country, Matthew received the Teen Art of Making Peace Award at the United Nations third High Level Forum on a Culture of Peace. Inspired by this event I began studying the Gandhi teachings in greater depth and concluded that his philosophy of nonviolent action is more relevant today than ever. With valuable contributions from Matthew and a foreword by Arun Gandhi, I wrote this book hoping to help people understand that nonviolence is more than a method of conflict resolution – it is a way of life. There is hope for our future.

Excerpt from The Evolving Peacemaker: A Commitment to Nonviolence:
“From the great pyramids to walking on the moon to finding cures for diseases using advanced technology, humanity has proven, time and again, to possess an unwavering tenacity and a potential for greatness that goes beyond anything we could possibly imagine. No matter how hopeless the circumstances might seem, humanity has always prevailed and risen above adversity.

Yes, I believe the human race can and will make the necessary choices to create a safer, more compassionate world for our future generations. The blueprints for success exist in every soul and are written in every scripture. They have been voiced by great visionaries whose lives and teachings are powerful examples of how high humanity can soar when we choose to value the best in ourselves and others.”

Chapter 2, page 10

What exciting story are you working on next?
Before I make that decision I would like to hear feedback from readers and see which concepts from The Evolving Peacemaker could benefit from further discussion. The topic of nonviolence is a passion for both Matthew and me. As peace activists we plan on delving deeper into these ideas.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve been writing since 1986. My first book, co-authored with the late Carol Keefer, is called Nothing Is Too Good To Be True! It was translated and published in Russia, where I spent several months teaching these ideas of personal transformation in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

My second book, called Spirituality and Self-Esteem, was published in 2000. A chapter was published in the new millennium edition of Unity Magazine and I taught workshops and classes using concepts from the book.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am not a full-time writer. I have served as minister at Unity of San Luis Obispo for the past 22 years. I am motivated to write a book only when I feel passionate about the subject matter. For the most part I teach classes, conduct Sunday services, and recently have become an Action Team Leader for the Peace Alliance, a national organization which promotes nonviolence.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My best hours for writing are between midnight and 4am. I have always felt more focused and productive during those times. I would love to be more creative during daylight hours, but so far that has not been the case.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a child I wanted to be an actress. I began working in the theater when I was four years old and continued to work in musical theater and cabarets for the next 25 years. My son, Matthew, also began working in the theater when he was four years old and switched to television and film at the age of nine.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
The Evolving Peacemaker is not only the title of a book, it is a state of mind – a way of life. The cover of our book shows a person planting a seed in a wheat field. Every great idea begins as a seed. Moving from a culture of violence to a culture of peace is not something that is accomplished overnight or even in a lifetime. However, as Gandhi has stated, each act of compassion, no matter how small, plants a seed that blesses the planet. May the words in this book plant seeds that inspire all who read it.


Thank you for stopping by today, Leona.

No comments: