by Wendel Sloan
Camel Press will publish former ENMU student Kathleen M. Rodgers’ third novel, Seven Wings to Glory, on April 1, 2017. The 304-page book will retail for $15.95.
The book, a sequel to Johnnie Come Lately, is available for pre-order from Amazon.com. The following is Amazon’s description.
“Johnnie Kitchen is finally living her dream, attending college and writing a column for the local paper. She adores her husband, Dale, and chocolate Labrador, Brother Dog, and they reside in a comfortable home in the small town of Portion in North Texas.
“Their three children are thriving and nearly grown. But Johnnie is rattled when her youngest boy, Cade, goes to fight in Afghanistan. The less frequent his emails, the more she frets for his safety.
“On the home front, Johnnie learns that Portion is not the forward-thinking town she believed. A boy Cade's age, inflamed by a liberal bumper sticker and the sight of Johnnie's black friend, Whit, attacks them with the N-word and a beer bottle.
“After Johnnie writes about the incident in her column, a man named Roosevelt reaches out with shameful stories from Portion's untold history. More tears and triumphs will follow, as Johnnie's eyes are opened to man's capacity for hate and the power of love and forgiveness. “
After graduating from Clovis High School at 17, Rodgers attended ENMU from 1976-79 as a communications major.
“I used to joke that I was going to be Lois Lane, girl reporter, and I was going to have a Pulitzer Prize by 23,” she said. “But, of course, I had no idea what all was involved in that career. Just because I’d won several writing awards in high school didn’t mean I knew what I was doing once I got to Eastern.”
After living one year on campus and working as a student writer in Information Services, she packed up her portable turquois manual typewriter and moved back home to Clovis. By then, she’d been battling the eating disorder bulimia. But she had to get a job.
After working as a maid for a day at Motel 6, she found the courage to finagle an interview with Bill Southard, managing editor of the Clovis News-Journal. Southard told her he didn’t have any openings, but hired her anyway.
A week into writing headlines and obits, Southard assigned her first feature story.
“I was hooked on feature writing,” Rodgers said, “but I still had to cover the ‘boring stuff’ like school board and city council meetings.”
Southard wrote western novels on the side under the pen name W.W. Southard, and had four novels published by Bantam Books before his untimely death from a brain tumor.
“His novel writing planted a seed in my brain: if a person from Clovis, New Mexico, could write fiction and get a book deal with a traditional publishing house, maybe I could, too,” said Rodgers.
“Of course it would take years to make that happen. And I was always haunted by the fact that I’d ‘dropped out’ of college.”
After marrying a fighter pilot from Cannon Air Force Base, they moved to Tucson, Arizona, where she enrolled in Pima Community College. She attended a couple of semesters, but was still battling bulimia and once again found herself out of school.
Rodgers says some of her best memories from ENMU involved being a student writer in Information Services.
“Every time I approached that beautiful but imposing red brick Administration Building, I felt both terrified and exhilarated,” said Rodgers. “The fear came from the thought I never knew what I was doing. The other student writers seemed to catch on faster, and I never wanted to stick out as the slow learner. But when my boss praised me for doing a good job on a story, my spirit soared. Someone believed in me.
“I was painfully shy, but when I pinned on my ENMU 'press pass’ and headed to an assignment, another person began to emerge,” said Rodgers. “The shy awkward blonde disappeared and a bolder young woman took her place. With camera, pen and notepad in hand, I probably saw the inside of more buildings and talked to more people than most students who attended there for many years.”
She says for a small-town girl from a large family, ENUM felt enormous to her at first. She didn’t have a car so had to walk everywhere. If she couldn’t bum a ride home to Clovis on weekends, she had to figure out how to spend her time and not rely on family but other students–who were in the same boat.
“I learned to take risks,” said Rodgers. “This would come in handy every time I sent a query letter into the world and waited for an acceptance or rejection slip.
“Even though I didn’t graduate from Eastern, I hungered to finish what I started when I was 17. It would take me 30 years and three different colleges to achieve that dream. And then it was only an associate degree. But earning a degree gave me back my confidence.”
Raising two sons with her husband, the couple has lived in Arizona, Alaska, Louisiana and Texas (twice).
In addition to her novels, Rodgers has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines—including Family Circle Magazine, the Air Force, Army and Navy Times, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Albuquerque Journal, and many others.
She is the winner of the 2009 MWSA Silver Medal Award for Fiction and the 2010 William E. Mayer Literary Award. Her first novel, The Final Salute, was featured in USA Today, by The Associated Press, and Military Times. It reached #1 on Amazon’s Top-Rated War Fiction list and was a Book of the Month selection for the Army Wife Network.
Johnnie Come Lately won numerous awards: 2015 Gold Medal for literary fiction from Military Writers Society of America, Bronze Medal for women's fiction from Readers' Favorite 2015 International Book Awards, Finalist for literary fiction in the 2016 Kindle Book Awards, First Place Winner for women's fiction from Texas Association of Authors 2016 Best Book Awards, and 2015 Best Cover Awards from Southern Writers Magazine.
The novel was featured in Family Magazine, Stars & Stripes, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Morning News, Southern Writers Magazine, and on "The Author's Corner" on Public Radio. The audio edition is narrated by Grammy® Award-winning vocalist and Broadway Actress Leslie Ellis.
The Final Salute is in Golden Library at ENMU.
Rodgers' web site is at http://www.kathleenmrodgers.com/.