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Elvis Died At The Florida Barber College
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|Roger Dean Kiser
Roger Dean Kiser's stories tell of his experiences growing up in a Florida orphanage where he was physically and mentally abused. His debut collection, 'Orphan' is available now.
What do you look like?
I am 5'10' tall and weigh about 220 pounds. I live with my wife Judy in Brunswick, Georgia. We have five dogs and two cats that had been abandoned.
What prompted you to start writing your experiences down?
For years I kept record of the abuses that we children suffered in a Jacksonville, Florida orphanage, in the hope that someday I could return and tell the world what happened to us kids.
How do you go about writing?
I make sure that I am totally alone. I have a few mixed drinks and then I begin to write (type). I write the story, as best I can, using only my mind and then I lay it to the side. Then I walk over to the stereo and I put on the saddest music that I can find and then I rewrite the story once again, and then again, and then again. When I feel the tears roll down my cheek then I know that I have pulled the truth out from way down deep inside myself and that I have told the world what it is that they need to know about how much it hurts inside to be abused as a child. When I am done writing I find that I am in somewhat of a deep state of depression. It takes several days for me to get back to normal.
Are there any authors or short stories that have influenced you?
No one that I can think of. I do not read much because I am afraid that it will influence the way in which I think and write my stories. If I read (at all) it is to learn how to make complete sentences. I only have a 6th grade education and writing was very difficult for me.
How do you go about reconstructing your stories from memory?
I remember every detail of my abuses, just as if it happened only yesterday. The smells, the looks and the sounds. What I do not remember is what I was feeling at that time, as a little boy.
What effect has writing your experiences down had on you?
My writing non-fiction short stories has been the most healing thing I have ever done in my entire lifetime. It is like listening to a sad song that can make you cry. If you listen to the song over, and over, and over, sooner or later the song will not make you feel that same sadness any more. That is what writing my stories has done for me.
What sort of responses have you had to your writing?
The orphanage in question is very upset with me. Other orphanages, such as Hershey's and Boys Town have written to me asking for advice so that they might change their system of operation. I now receive more than 100,000 e-mails a year from people who were abused as children. That helped develop "THE SAD ORPHAN WEB SITE" which has become one of the most read child abuse web sites in the world. I also give talks, in the Georgia school system, to young children about child abuse and writing short stories.
So you have found the web useful in this respect?
Placing my stories on a web site is where I was discovered. A famous movie/television star came across my stories, was very moved, and contacted a publisher who, two weeks later, signed me to a two book deal. From that web site I was contacted by Chicken Soup for the Soul, Heartwarmers Book Series I-II and many magazines from all over the world, who wanted to print my stories. That also led to being contacted by a major motion picture company about doing a feature film on my book "Orphan." My stories, posted on several 'story web sites' have led to numerous television appearances.
Do you have a particular favorite story of yours?
"Elvis Died at the Florida Barber College" is my favorite story. It tells how an orphanage, for no reason whatsoever, will even destroy the dreams of a young boy. A boy who had no one and nothing in the entire world and just wanted to be liked by someone, anyone, and was denied even that little bit of hope.
What could you not do without?
My granddaughter CHELSEY who is teaching me how to honestly feel love towards other human beings without being afraid, scared and acting like a phoney.
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