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Detroit Public Library has selected T.L. Criswell to be the feature Author for their 2018 Author day.

The library has obtained 900 books for their students. On May 7, 2018 I will be at the main library, in downtown Detroit, to do a presentation as well as autographs books for the students. May 8, 2018, I will be at a Detroit Public School to do a presentation as well as autograph books for the students.

I am honored and excited to be awarded  this special opportunity to share my passion with these kids. See you all in May.

T. L. Criswell

Wise words from a wise man…


Ben Smith & T. L. Criswell

Who is Ben Smith and why should you care? 

His name is Benjamin C. Smith but most people call him  Ben. He and I have worked together for over two decades. Not only is Ben one of my closest, and dearest friends; he is also my mentor, writing coach, and my advisor.

He has a major in Political science and History and taught inside a classroom for fourteen years. However; he’s been teaching all his life.  Some of his proteges are successful in the fields of politics, law, and the arts.

In 2011, I approached Ben with a manuscript and asked for his help. He was highly impressed. Before he accepted, he asked one simple question. “Why do you want to write a book?”  I spoke from the heart.  “Ben, I’m writing for our youth. I just really want to make a difference.” He nodded his head and smiled, as he offered these few simple words of wisdom.

1. If you write to make a difference, the reward would be so much greater than financial.

Being a writer does not necessarily guarantee financial success. Many famous writers like Zora Neal Hurston, (There eyes were watching God), Herman Melville (Moby Dick), Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry, and countless others all died poor. However, their great works still stand the test of time.

2. Check your Ego at the door.

Ego is part of what made you want to become writer in the first place. That’s good. Learn not to let it get in the way of constructive criticism.

3. Know your audience 

Every reader is not your audience. Once you target your audience, read as many best-seller books as you can in your particular genre and take notes.

4. Study the Greats

“If you want to be like the masters, you must first study the masters.” Writers like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Toni Morrison, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling along with countless others are considered to be the greatest writers in history. Read and study their work. Learn from them.

5. Be prepared to fail

“Failure teaches more than success.” Successful authors like J. K. Rowling, John Grisham, Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, and so many others all failed before they succeeded. Success rarely happens over night, and in most cases, it can take up to five years before your book will take root. Be patient. “Cream always rises to the top.”

6. Focus on Quality

“It is better to sell a thousand books 4 times, than to sell 4 thousand books one time.” Don’t be in a rush to publish. Use as many Beta readers, and test readers as you can and listen to them. Family and friends are not always the best critics. They love you, and they are proud of you; they will not tell you that your work sucks!

7. Book Cover 

Book covers should be centered around the theme and offer clues as to what the book is about. A serious book, should have a serious cover.  It should be enigmatic, ambiguous, and thought-provoking. The reader should have a better understanding of the cover after they’ve read the book.

8. Title

In many cases, the title should come last. The title is usually somewhere inside the book. Once the manuscript is complete, read it over, and look for key words, or phrases, and that’s where you will find your title.

9. Be a great listener 

If you want to grow, you must learn to be a great listener. Try and learn as much as you can, from as many people as you can. “You must also learn to listen to those who you don’t always agree with.” You’d be surprised at what you might learn.

10. Remember to have fun

“All glory is fleeting” Learn to sit back and enjoy the ride.

These few words, metaphors, and phrases, has been such an inspiration to me. They are only a fraction of the wisdom, and knowledge that Ben Smith has continued to feed me throughout the years. If I were to jot them all down, I’d have to write a 500-page book.  Never the less, I am forever grateful. They have helped me on this writing journey, and I can only hope that some; if not all, will help you as well.

 ~T.L. Criswell





“Pressure makes diamonds”

This short story manifested  because of a one day challenge from the book club, EyeCU reading and chatting.  The topic  was “Family Secrets.” It was posted at 12 am and the author had 24 hours  to create an original  story about on the subject.

Here’s my creation. I hope you enjoy!


A short Story by T.L. Criswell

His face was long, drawn out, and withered. The pain of losing his favorite aunt Mary Lou was much too big a burden for him to bear. Kevin stretched his arm across the top of the seat. Stacey, who was eight months pregnant, with his child, rested her head softly on his shoulder. He stared transfixed out the window as the long black luxury Metro car sped along the busy highway.

He gave the driver the address to the hotel located in downtown Detroit. Stacey lifted her head off his shoulder and stared into his deep brown eyes, as she caressed his smooth mahogany skin, which he kept closely shaved. Her eyes began to fill with water. “You’re not taking me to meet your family, are you?” Kevin continued to stare out the window in a daze, never answering her question.

Stacey really loved Kevin and he knew it. However, she was eighteen and he was twenty-one. In his eyes, she was still a baby. Deep down inside, he felt that they were both too young for the big responsibility and commitment that they were about to make, but there was no turning back. The damage was already done. He had planted a seed inside of her and there was no way in hell he would abandon that seed, and risk having another man raise his child.

In less than thirty minutes, they were on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Detroit. This was Stacey’s first time in the city. Kevin could sense her excitement. She leaned in, and tapped the driver on his shoulder asking him to turn the air off, so that she could roll down her window. She wanted to enjoy the full ambiance of the city.

It was the middle of August and the festivals were in full swing at Hart Plaza. Beautiful music filled the streets; the smell of barbecue teased the appetite while vendors selling everything from scented oils, African attire, books, and CD’s spread around the perimeter of the plaza.

Within seconds, they pulled up to the hotel. The driver got out the car and opened the door. Kevin handed Stacey the card with the reservation on it. She pleaded, “Can you please just come up to the room for a second?” He terribly wanted to go up to the room with her but he knew better. She was just too sensitive. She’d sit there and cry making him feel bad, and he’d probably give in. He couldn’t afford for that to happen. He stepped out the car and wrapped his arms around her. He could feel her body shake which meant that she was crying. He rubbed her protruding belly, caressed her skin, and whispered in her ear, “I promise, I won’t be long.”

The driver headed east on Jefferson Avenue toward Aunt Mary Lou’s house. Kevin removed his glasses, loosened his tie, and unbuttoned his shirt as he tried to relax. His palms became sweaty. He really wished that he could have brought Stacey along to meet his family, but he was so afraid of what they might say.

He was the youngest of seven kids. There was a ten-year age difference between he and his parent’s last child Otis. His parents called Kevin their “special gift” because after-all he wasn’t planned.

Kevin was a smart and precocious child. He was different from the other children. He loved to learn and he picked up on things very easily. His pre-school teacher told his parents that he was special because he was advanced for his age. Where other kids loved recess, Kevin loved to learn. He knew how to read, write, and draw, before he entered kindergarten. He only lasted in kindergarten for a few weeks, before the teacher recommended he be advanced to first grade and transferred to a special school for the gifted. She said that he was not being fully challenged. His parents were proud and did not hesitate.

The world as Kevin once knew it would never be the same, when a group of wealthy white teenagers – driving under the influence of alcohol  in a stolen car – ran a stop sign and killed his father on his way home from work. He was ten years old at the time. Kevin’s entire family was devastated. The pain was even worse when the teenagers only received a slap on the wrist.

His mother never recovered from the loss of her husband. Kevin felt cheated. That day it seemed as though he lost a mother and a father.

That’s when Aunt Mary Lou stepped in. She begged her sister to let her take care of Kevin, since she had no children of her own. His mother reluctantly agreed. She genuinely loved her son, however her responsibilities as a mother faltered, because she was emotionally unstable. The pain of losing her husband was just too great. She started taking pain medication to ease the hurt, until one day, she didn’t wake up. The doctor’s said her heart just stopped working.

After the loss of his mother, Kevin was never the same. He fully understood the race talks that his father had with him on a frequent basis, “Son, as a black man life won’t be easy. Education is a must.”

Kevin soon developed a great disdain for white people. They had it too easy. He knew right then that he wanted to go into law. If you committed a crime, then you should pay for that crime. No more lopsided justice, if he could help it.

Aunt Mary Lou, along with all his siblings, rallied around him. They tried to make sure that their love and support would replace the hate they knew he harbored for white people in his heart. Nothing they did seemed to work. Not even gifts, money, clothes or shoes. Kevin never cared about material things. They all believed he was permanently scarred.

Aunt Mary Lou enrolled Kevin in counseling. He no longer liked school, he no longer liked learning, and he didn’t like the teachers; especially the ones that didn’t look like him.

After six months, the counselor recommended Aunt Mary Lou try homeschooling. Since she had tried everything else, she felt that she was left with no choice.

Aunt Mary Lou paid top dollar, and hired some of the best African American teachers she could find, and it worked! Kevin soared. They made learning fun and interesting. He learned science, math, history, and all about African Culture. When it was time to apply for college, it was no surprise that he chose to go to Morehouse College; an HBCU in Atlanta, GA. Kevin was focused. He promised his aunt that he would make her proud. He claimed that he never wanted kids or a relationship until he was well into his thirties and a successful attorney.

The driver pulled in front of Aunt Mary Lou’s huge house in Indian Village; a quiet community not far from downtown. The street was lined with cars. Kevin took a deep breath, before he reached in his back pocket for his wallet. He hated to disappoint his family. Aunt Mary Lou, his older sister Sheila, and brother Harold all had been taking care of him. They sent him money and wrote him almost every week, telling him how proud they were to have a brother that was going to be an attorney. If only they knew the truth, he thought to himself.

He’d been away for three years and was no closer to becoming an attorney than when he first started. He dropped out last year, after he met Stacey working at the pizza parlor close to campus.

He tried talking to many girls that he’d met while off campus but they just didn’t seem to like him. He heard one girl say, “Eww, he sounds like Tiger Woods!” He knew that he wasn’t the average brother. He was too serious. He didn’t go to the campus parties, he didn’t listen to rap music, and he didn’t care about the latest fashions. He was comfortable with who he was.

Stacey approached him first. He sat in the booth all alone, reading his book on a Friday evening, when she came to take his order. After she took his order she asked him what was he reading. He flipped the book over, so that she could see that W.E.B Du Bois was on the cover. She then said, “I love him, we learned about him at my high school. Maybe you could sit and read some of that book to me one day.” She flirted with a beautiful smile.

Kevin was pleasantly surprised. He found her interesting and he could tell that she was different from any other girl that he’d ever met. He then asked her out on a date and they’ve been inseparable ever since. He was her first and she was his; he liked it that way.

He had been going to school, for as long as he could remember, and he felt that he needed a break. When Stacey became pregnant shortly after they met, that all changed. The pregnancy made that change indefinite.

He gave a long sigh, as he put his glasses on his face. He paid the driver and asked him to return in about an hour with Stacey. He missed her and felt bad for leaving.

His mind was made up. He was going to tell his family about his relationship. If they chose to look down on him or cut him off because he wanted a social life then so be it. He was tired of lying and no longer wanted to hurt the woman that he loved. He realized, “Secrets are one of the biggest burdens that a person can carry.” He also realized that, “Secrets can make you a prisoner,” and that’s exactly what he was, a Prisoner.

He slowly walked to the door, so desperately wishing Aunt Mary Lou were here. He wanted her to meet Stacey. Aunt Mary Lou loved him unconditionally, and once she saw how happy he was, she’d understand. He knew what she’d probably say, after he professed his love, “Kevin people and their priorities change. I still love you my son.” Too bad he would never hear it. That evil beast “cancer” stole that opportunity away from him.

The door swung open before he could knock. All six of his siblings screamed, “Heeeeeeey here he is.” Harold, who was the oldest looked at Kevin wearing the biggest grin shouting, “Boy look at you. You are as frail as a rail. They sure not feeding you much up there are they?” It was a rhetorical question and warranted no response. He then wrapped his 250 lb. frame around Kevin, giving him the biggest bear hug in recent memory. They both laughed.

His sister Sheila chimed in, “Harold, that boy is going to be an attorney. Do you know how much stress that is?” Kevin became nervous and felt horrible. She then said, “Well, I guess you wouldn’t know about school stress, since you barely went to class.” Everyone laughed. No one was offended. That’s just how they were. Sheila then said, “Look at your sharp attire. You look like a lawyer already. You were always wise beyond your years. Too bad these young kids won’t take a page out of your book and pull up their pants.”

Lisa then walked up to Kevin with her arms spread wide. “Don’t worry Kevin, we have plenty of food. We are going to make sure we feed that lawyer brain of yours, because Lord knows we need more black attorneys.”

She then introduced Kevin to her boyfriend. “Carl, this is my little brother I’ve been telling you about. His motivation to become an attorney happened after those white kids got off for killing our father. His anger turned into motivation and we all are proud.” Everyone in the house started clapping. “Attorney Kevin Black. We love how that sounds.” Lisa said.

His brother Otis then said, “We’re just glad that he came around. I had never seen a kid so angry with white people, the way he was. I know he still has that anger but at least something positive is coming out of it.”

Valerie, who was the oldest sister said, “Enough talk about the white man and being angry. Let’s celebrate Aunt Mary Lou and our brother being home. They all cheered, as Lisa rolled in two cakes. One said; “Welcome Home Attorney Kevin Black” and the other said, “Remembering Aunt Mary Lou.” They all then had one big group hug.

After conversing for close to an hour Sheila walked over to Kevin and grabbed his hand. “Ok everybody it’s time to bless the food.” She looked over at Kevin and said, “Will you please do the honors? Please feel free to take as long as you’d like. You don’t have to rush to judgment either.” She laughed at herself. “Did you get it? I’m speaking attorney’s language now, Judgement.” There was one big laugh. Kevin began to feel sick. Before he began blessing the food his cellphone beeped. He peeked down at it. The message read, “Hey babe, we’ll be there in five.”

He became nervous and dropped the phone, which fell under the table. As he went to retrieve the phone, he mistakenly knocked over the cake, which was sitting too close to the edge. Everyone scrambled to salvage as much of the cake as they possibly could. When things settled down he tried to speak. His voice began to crack as he said, “I know we’re here for Aunt Mary Lou however, there is something very important that I need to tell the family.” The room fell silent as everyone’s eyes doubled in size.

He swallowed really hard. “I’ve been living a lie.” Once he said that, his brother Otis chimed in, “Awww man, I knew it. This boy is gay!” There was a huge gasp in the room. Otis continued, “He was too perfect. He didn’t talk to girls and he kept his nose in those books too much.”

Kevin let out a huge laugh. “Big brother, you don’t have to worry about that, I’m just the opposite.” Kevin started to speak again, but the doorbell interrupted him. He knew who it was. His heart pulsated like it never had before.

Valerie screamed at the door, “Give us a few minutes, whoever you are.” Kevin began to speak fast. “Well, I’ve met a wonderful woman and I haven’t been to school in about a year.” He bowed his head in shame. The room remained quiet for a few moments, before Lisa broke the ice. “Well it’s not the end of the world. I’m sure you’ll be going back next semester.” She winked. “Besides, it could be worse.” Otis said, “You got that right!”

Kevin then said, “She’s really special. I also must add that she’s much younger than me, she’s not in school, she’s a waitress and we live together.” He then pressed his lips together and closed his eyes. “I didn’t want to tell you that I quit school, because I didn’t want you talking me out of it. Stacey is the first girl that didn’t try and take advantage of me. Every girl that I seemed to meet ridiculed me, because I was too serious. I guess my intellect was too much for them to handle. They thought I was weird, because I didn’t go to the parties, or listen to rap music, and I didn’t like to dress down. They also thought that my car wasn’t cool enough, and they always expected me to pick up the tab, whenever we went out. I know all women are not like that but let’s face it, a brother has needs. I am comfortable with who I am and I don’t want to change.”

“Stacy loves me for me. She accepts my quirky ways. She doesn’t care that I don’t dress cool and she doesn’t mind riding in my beat-up car.

Now, the love of my life is standing right outside that door and when you take a look at her, please don’t sit high and judge low.” After Kevin said that, everyone reached in and gave him a nice warm hug. “We love you Kevin. As long as you’re happy, we’re happy.”

Valerie quickly ran to the door and said, “Oh my! We had no business leaving her out there like this.” She immediately opened the door. Stacey was wearing a beautiful red sundress with a large floppy straw hat. She was looking down massaging her huge belly. Kevin swiftly stepped in front of Valerie to help his woman inside. Everyone’s mouth and eyes were the same size. Wide.

Valerie stuttered to find the words. “She, she, she’s pregnant. Lisa said, “Um She… she’s, about to pop.” Then Otis came right out and said it. He didn’t stutter, hesitate or even stumble over his words, “Well I’ll be damn! She’s white!”

Stacey was stunned. She turned as red as a tomato. Kevin then grabbed his woman’s hand, dropped down on one knee, pulled a ring out his pocket and said, “And I love her.”


The End!!!