Sunday, June 7, 2009

Kennison's Gifts

I had the privilege of reading an amazing novel this week. The book was one of the most beautiful and poetic pieces of work I've ever read, and it stayed with me long after I finished it. It's like a story within a story and it's absolutely beautiful.

The book is Kennison's Gifts and the author is W. David Tibbs.

The Book
Ken Kennison is not his real name. His drug-addicted parents sell him to an unscrupulous lawyer while he is still an infant. But cruel fate intervenes, and Kenny spends the next seventeen years of his life being shuffled from one foster home to the next. With every new home and family, Kenny seeks the care and love that every child needs-and that most take for granted. But instead, he receives only variations of physical and mental abuse.
Teen-aged Kenny finds a journal, and as he travels in search of his past, he records his observations, mostly in poetic prose. Despite his troubled childhood, Kenny remains a good person, and at the end of his life, he is granted a special gift.
Years later, Will Healy, a successful young author, learns of Kenny's gift and how it has dramatically changed his life. But the best is yet to come.

David has been gracious enough to tell us about himself and his book.

Me: David, tell us a little about yourself.

David: I was born the youngest of twelve in Middletown, a small city between Cincinnati and Dayton, in Southwestern Ohio. I grew up very poor but very happy; my childhood friends and I were like Tom Sawyer, Huck Fin, and the Little Rascals all rolled into one.

Middletown has produced some very successful people, of which I am not one. To name just a few, there is Jerry Lucas, and Butch Carter of pro basketball fame. Then Butch Carter’s brother, Chris who was an all pro wide receiver with the Minnesota Vikings. And though we did not know each other, I went to high school with Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize winner, and nationally syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

We did not know each other because I was a dunce, and Page is quite intelligent. After all, school and I did not fair well together. Especially onerous to my imaginative little brain was math—didn’t get it then—don’t get it now. As embarrassing as it is for me to admit being able to handle little more than rudimentary mathematical calculations, my face turns scarlet as I profess my total failure at learning my native language.

Me: What made you decide to become a writer?

Well, I had just worked twenty years as a maintenance man in a paper mill in Middletown when part of the mill was shutdown and I lost my job. However, without missing a beat, I landed a sales engineer job with a multinational corporation. This job put me into coat and tie and had me on the road five days a week. Being away from my wife and kids, I was lonely and bored most of the time. My wife, I’m sure just to quiet my whining, suggested that since I was always telling our kids stories from my life, why not write a book.

So, I started writing at about the age of forty-two or so. Now, I was a reader of novels, but I hadn’t a clue how to write one myself, so I bought lots of books on the subject. My favorites were the Writer’s Digest, The Elements of Fiction Writing series. And I recommend them to anyone who wants to learn how to write fiction. Anyway, I studied hard, took one class, joined a few writers’ groups, and learned everything I could. Still, I don’t really claim to know much about the craft of fiction writing—guess I’ll just have to let readers decide my fate on that score.

Me: Tell us about Kennison's Gifts. what gave you the idea for the story?

David: I know that what I say first is going to upset some people, but here goes. By that I mean writing is not my passion, I don't feel compelled to do it, and in many ways I don't even enjoy the process. However, that being said, I’ve always been a story teller and came to writing because I was bored, and my wife suggested that since I was always telling stories, I should try writing some.

That being said, writing Kennison’s Gifts was truly something special, and I might even say mystical. Every time I went to research something for the story, I ran in to something else that intrigued me, and fit right into the story. Coincidence, dumb luck, fate? I don’t know, but there was something, or someone guiding me towards these things … at least my wife thinks so.

In the back of the book, in the Author’s Note, I included the story of how I came up with the original idea for Kennison’s Gifts. That’s the truth, but it took me several years to actually begin to write the story, and many more years to finish it. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven”. Or, as we generally say, “There is a time for everything.” So, I guess it was time for Kennison’s story to be told … and I just happened to be the conduit. Lee Stringer, someone that I admire greatly, though I’ve only met him through his book, “Grand Central Winter,” said writing to him was like taking dictation; like shaking hands with God. That’s the way it was for me while writing Kennison’s Gifts; “Like shaking hands with God”. The Lord works in mysterious ways, huh?

Me: Do you have any projects you are working on?

David: I have so many projects going they make my head spin. Now, how many of those are worth talking about … well that’s another question altogether. Actually, I’m over two-thirds finished with my Twin Flames manuscript. This story was inspired by a picture I have of my oldest brother Gene, who was killed in Korea in 1951, when I was only four years old.

In the opening chapter, an army major named, Bran Kavanagh suffers an unsuspected heart attack and has a near death experience. His NDE is similar to the one I had back in 1968, the one where your spirit seems to float above the room, and you can see your dying body below. However, when my character looks down into the face below, it isn’t his face, but is rather the face of a dying soldier in Vietnam. When the major recovers, he has lost some of his earlier memories, and those have been replaced by snippets of this other dying soldier’s memories. He continues to have this other fellows dreams, and sets out to discover who the soldier was. Hopefully I will finish Twin Flames for publication in early 2010.

I am also working on a series novella with an investigator named Ezra Pound (same as the American imagist poet. The first book is titled, “The Obese Connection”. There is more, but I shan’t bore you further.

David is a great guy and I appreciate him allowing us to get to know him better. He's a very gifted writer and his book is one you'll definitely want to read again and again.
Get your copy of Kennison's Gifts from


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JoAnn Arnold said...

Well done. Great blog, as usual. Now I'm going to have to check out "Kennison's Gifts"

alh2012 said...

My name is Alissa. I am David's OTHER daughter. It is my life that was the inspiration for this book. My handicapped son, my young daughter and I have received only pain and heartache from this book. If anyone would like to know about the real story please feel free to contact me. 505-986-1243