Thursday, December 21, 2017

Interview with writer Michael Gaulden about his memoir

Writer Michael Gaulden joins me today and we’re chatting about his memoir, My Way Home: Growing up Homeless in America.

Michael Gaulden is an American author of the debut memoir entitled: My Way Home: Growing up Homeless in America. He received his bachelors of arts from UCLA. He is also a musician, poet, spoken word artist, public speaker to audiences ranging from 20-2000, homeless activist, and activist for all disadvantaged people. He is the former Director of Business and Community Relations for Reality Changers, a college prep organization with a focus on building first-generation college students. He is currently the Career Exploration Coordinator and Internship Coordinator for the Monarch School Project. Monarch is the only operational school in the United States that exclusively educates K-12 students who are impacted by homelessness; a school Michael also attended in his youth.

Welcome, Michael. Please tell us about your current release.
It’s my debut memoir chronicling growing up homeless in the inner city for 10 years, ages 7 to 17, and how I had to create the light at the end of the tunnel. I focus primarily on my high school years, the horror of my homelessness, having to survive and earn my way to UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles).

What inspired you to write this book?
I do a lot of speaking engagements, activism, and interacting with disadvantaged people. They all felt how I felt growing up, lost in darkness without a voice. One day a lady came up to me after a speech and said I should write a book. It could reach more people than I ever could by speaking venue to venue alone. She said that I could be the voice of millions and show a hidden world invisible to most. I believed she was right. I can’t help people victimize themselves or wallow in self-pity, but I can stand with them as they change their respective realities.

Excerpt from My Way Home: Growing up Homeless in America:
“I was just about to give him some money. He couldn’t have possibly done whatever you’re arresting him for. You’re racial profiling. He’s just a homeless boy. These people have a right to exist too.”
People had stopped, and the officer didn’t want a scene. He eyed me up and down and reluctantly removed the handcuffs. “You wouldn’t lie to me, would you?” he asked me.
“No sir.”
“Of course not,” he said. “Good day ma’am.”
“Good day sir!” she remarked. He returned to the police car and drove away.
“What a jerk.” The woman stuck out the single dollar bill. I stared at it with a lack of enthusiasm. For some reason her previous words repeated over and over in my head. She had my whole life summed up so meaningless in a few short words: “Just a homeless boy.” I mean I existed as a homeless boy… but did that tell you my character? Was my circumstance my entire identity? I took the dollar and politely thanked the woman. I meant it for her heroic contribution to my life. She thought my gratitude was for the dollar. She eagerly acknowledged my gratitude and rubbed me on my head, almost petting me.
“Take care, hun.” She stepped away, leaving me, the homeless boy to his homeless business. Her words had an emptiness about them, which just didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t understand why it bothered me as I had been called so many names, but she spoke of me as if my existence wasn’t equivalent to hers. Most people insulted me on purpose. I had defenses set up for insults. The problem was she didn’t ridicule me on purpose, which was worse.
I headed toward Rudy and his tent, traversing under the night sky. Ray was in real trouble but I couldn’t do anything. He tried to help but he almost caused my arrest too. After all of my effort, I gained nothing. I landed right back where I started. I folded my arms into my shirt to generate warmth.
At least I would be safe with Rudy; he was just a homeless man who didn’t matter. A ghost only police could see. He sat at the bottom of America with no hope of ever progressing. His moral compass lost on the underside of capitalism. I fit well with Rudy: a mundane homeless man and a mundane homeless boy. I had a name—Michael Gaulden—but my name was irrelevant. I clenched the money the woman gave me tightly in my hand until my fingernails cut into my skin. My life was barely worth a dollar.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m not completely positive. It will either be a historical fiction novel to shake up the world, or a fiction series.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Deep down I always considered myself a writer. At that point in my life it was more of a feeling and written material. Anyone who writes is a writer. However, around 17 I wrote my first article published in the local San Diego newspaper, The Union Tribune. When that happened, I felt, maybe I can really do this. Maybe I can publish a story. Being published separates a writer from an author. It is a battle-hardened accolade.

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?
That would be the dream. Right now, I work full time as the College & Career Exploration Coordinator and Internship Coordinator for the Monarch School Project. Monarch is the only operational school in the United States that exclusively educates K-12 students who are impacted by homelessness.

I forge the time to write. Sometimes its late night, sometimes its early morning or whenever else presents itself. I learned that, right now in my career, there will never be a convenient time to write. I have to make it happen.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure. I’m not too quirky. I’ll rewrite the same story front to back about three times on average before anyone else sees it. In some case five.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a writer and an entrepreneur. Being an Entrepreneur was deemed, believe it or not, less risky than writing. Ideally, I want to combine the two.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
This story is my soul on paper. It comes from the heart. Always believe in yourself even when others do not. We all have obstacles and challenges that hinder us. Overcoming your obstacles is your story. Sharing your story gives it purpose. Never be afraid.

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Publisher | Book page

Thanks for chatting with me today, Michael.

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