Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Writers on Wednesday: Please Welcome Deshae Lott, Ph.D.

At least twice in recent interviews, I've been asked about my mentors.  I've mentioned a few, but the first person to come to mind is always my friend and spiritual mentor of almost twenty years, Deshae Lott.  While Deshae does not write fiction, I can say without qualification that no single person has had a greater influence on my personal philosophy.  Since my fiction, though never religious, is heavily informed by my spiritual beliefs, I do consider Deshae an important mentor to my creative work.

I first met Deshae Lott when we were graduate students together at Texas A&M University's Department of English.  Deshae received her Ph.D. in English from Texas A&M in 1999 and has been a faculty member at Louisiana State University in Shreveport since 2001.  I smiled to read Deshae's answer to my question about her inspiration, since she mentions a mutual influence, Professor John. J. McDermott.  Deshae and I had the pleasure of sharing many evenings in Dr. McDermott's philosophy seminars, and I remember well his warning to convert experience to nutrition.  I just remember it a little differently, something like, "You won't know anything until life has knocked you on your ass a time or two, and even then you won't know a damn thing unless you learn to eat your experiences before they eat you!"  Life did knock me on my ass a time or two in the twenty years since, and I did my best to remember Dr. McDermott's warning.  Below, I've linked to Dr. McDermott's list of works available on amazon, in case you want to check that out.  You should.

Deshae with her husband, Jeffrey D. Sadow, Ph.D.

Deshae sent me two statements in response to my question, What inspires you as a writer?  The first details her scholarly interests and is quoted from the LSUS website:

"Deshae Lott's primary research interest involves the intersections of literary works, social practices, and American religious cultures, especially those which are mystical and syncretic in nature.

Deshae Lott sees her scholarship and civic service in the field of disability studies as akin to her studies of American religion and literature. A mixture of syncretism and individualism appears in mysticism, and the mystics whom she prefers to study strive to avoid allowing their difference to prevent their engagement in a larger community; instead, they endeavor to contribute constructively to their communities. Through her contributions to disability studies, Deshae Lott also demonstrates ways that difference can strengthen both the individual and the community and proposes approaches for understanding and responding to such differences."

Deshae's garden in spring

Deshae's second statement describes what she most enjoys reading:

"I gravitate toward narratives, fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose, of amelioration born from both increasing understanding and personal fortitude.  That is, I prefer writings that showcase beautiful individual choices -- particularly when facing complex challenges.  Such narratives do not depict flawless personas or circumstances but rather a character's or mind's receptivity and commitment to expressing as a spiritual being (and to learning more about what that means as one goes) as one undergoes experiences.  In John J. McDermott's language, I value the mind that "converts experience into nutrition."  And while that is largely an internal process, one's inner life influences the lives of others.  So it becomes not just about one person's inner landscape but also her outer legacy." 

Here is a brief article in Signature about how meditation informs Deshae's writing and her favorite books on creative writing.

You can reach Deshae Lott at her website, the website of her charity, A Path to Higher Consciousness, CMMS Deshae Lott Ministries, on Facebook at her personal page and her charity page.  You can also find Deshae on LinkedIn

Deshae is an award-winning essayist.  You can learn more about Deshae's philosophy and work by purchasing her book of essays, Lemonade for Sale.  

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