Friday, June 5, 2015

PERFECTLY LOVED: Knowing Love on God's Terms by RHANA A. GITTENS

Perfectly Loved 
Author: Rhana A. Gittens 
Paperback: 212 pages 
Publisher: NyreePress Publishing (October 22, 2014) 
ISBN-10: 0990666239 
ISBN-13: 978-0990666233 
Genre: Inspirational/Christian Living



Rhana A. Gittens has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Masters of Business Administration from the University of Florida. She has a minor certificate in African-American studies and is an accomplished writing tutor. She was born in Queens, NY, raised in Lauderdale Lakes, FL and currently resides in Atlanta, GA.

When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing after reading “Go Ask Alice” in the 4th grade. I loved that the anonymous writer of this book had kept a diary and because of her diary she was able to build a story that she could share. I have kept a journal since I was in the 4TH grade.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I didn’t consider myself a writer back when I was a young. I just considered myself a girl with a diary. It wasn’t until college that God started really leading me into writing as a purpose, career goal for life. My original major in college was Physiology and Kinesiology. After the first semester, I changed my major to journalism and the rest is history. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. 

What inspired you to write
Perfectly Loved was birthed from a struggle. I was feeling broken by love and asking, begging, and pleading for God to help me understand what real love is. He did. I have always kept a journal. So as I was learning more about God’s love, seeing the love He has given me, and appreciating the relationships of love that I have, I wrote it all down. After about two journal entries I immediately knew I was going to write a book and I finally understood the purpose of my story and my life.

Do you have a specific writing style?
The first thing I ask myself before I write anything, “is who is my audience?” It’s what I teach the students I tutor as well.  The audience is the most important part of your writing. I always make sure to write to the level of detail and clarity necessary for the reader. I think of all the questions that the audience may ask and attempt to put myself into their thoughts and think of where they will be when they read the book. I want my readers to make their own decision and reflect on what I’m writing within the context of their own situation. So I try to attach my personality at all times, remain light hearted, fresh, and non-judgmental or demanding.

How did you come up with the title?
I went through many variations regarding a title for the book. I wanted something simple and catchy that encompassed all of its meaning.  Perfectly Loved came to me after reading a comment someone posted on Facebook regarding God’s love being perfect. I immediately coined it for my book title.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? 
The experiences in this book are based on my own life and others. In fact, after every chapter there is a “My Story” that leads into the next chapter’s topic. The “My Story” is actually a first person testimony regarding an aspect of God’s love from the perspective of people I interviewed from across the country. The “My Story” sections are one of my favorite parts of the book because they bring God’s love to life and allow the readers to connect with someone who may have gone through a situation that they are currently living. Those stories make God real.

What books have most influenced your life most? 
The most influential book in my life, other than the Bible, was The Corner by David Simons and Ed Burns. These writers spent a year in an inner city neighborhood in Baltimore and followed a family. They wrote the stories of the real lives of the people that are victimized by drugs in their neighborhoods and families. I read this book in the 9th grade. It made me fall in love with “the story”. “The story” is the real life testimony of people, not the statistics, stereotypes, and zoo-esc observation of people’s actions that the news media often provides. “The story” provides the context, the heart, the passion, the rationality behind the action. Without “the story” you cannot find the answer to the problem and cannot begin to change the lives of people that are struggling in any form.  The Corner sparked my interest in writing for a purpose beyond myself. In 9th grade I didn’t realize how much that book would change my outlook and passions, but it did.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I would consider my 10th grade European history teacher, Mr. Treadwell, my writing mentor. I haven’t spoken to him since 10th grade, but I never forgot the things he taught me about writing. He was the one who revealed the importance of audience to me. He was an extremely hard grader and I got my first ‘F’ on an assignment in his class. He challenged me to think beyond the surface of what I was writing, and truly ask questions about everything I read. He inspired me to “think” and not just take facts at face value, but to question every element. It’s often the details that aren’t stated, the questions that weren’t asked, that reveal the real story behind the story that you are reading. Ask questions beyond the written lines.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?  
I often find that I am attempting to take a complex idea and create an analogy to help the reader understand the concept. I am a teacher at heart. In the very first chapter of Perfectly Loved I had to explain the three-fold man of Spirit, Soul, and Flesh. This is a hard concept to understand a lot of times so I wanted to make it as simple as possible. I went through a few different ways of explaining it until I finally found a perfect analogy with the Wizard of Oz. You will have to read the book to figure out how the Wizard of Oz has anything to do with the three-fold man. But many readers have told me that it was the best explanation they have heard of the Spirit, Soul, and Flesh.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
If I had to pick an author that inspires me and makes me want to delve deeper into writing it would be Richard Wright. Richard Wright, the author of Native Son, is mesmerizing. He tackles so many issues within the black community in this one novel and he doesn’t mind forcing you into multiple emotions. He takes you into the book and into the life of Bigger Thomas so thoroughly. I am not a fiction writer, but I aspire to intrigue emotion out of readers the way Richard Wright does. 

I also love Carolyn Haywood books.  I learned to read off of her books like “B is for Betsy” and “Here’s a Penny”.  My mom use to take me to the local library every weekend and I would pull a Carolyn Haywood book every time.  I think my love of reading started with those books

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Love is one of the most consumed terms in the human language. It’s probably the most wrongly used word, but the word that is most necessary when used correctly. With an inaccurate definition of love we find ourselves searching for something to fulfill us, but in all of our searching we miss it. We miss it because unfortunately we don’t recognize that we are already perfectly loved. The problem is not the overuse of the word love. If it were up to God, we would use it at all times. The problem is, we say the word but don’t do any of the actions that come with its meaning. The problem is that we don’t know what God wanted it to mean, because we don’t give God the credit for the most amazing thing He ever created—LOVE! Perfectly Loved will bring us back to the understanding of love from the creator and embodiment of love Himself. Each chapter includes “Think About It” questions and a study verse that are perfect for individual study, Bible Study, and small group lessons. As you explore how God loves you, you will also build love in your relationships with other people, and God. When you discover “perfect love” you will be able to relinquish your fears, push through your adversity, and serve others with love.



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