It’s Friday. It’s a good Friday. And it’s actually Good Friday! Of course, every Friday we hungrily delve into a Proser's life in our Friday Feature. This week is no exception, yet is exceptional, as we are finding out all about a Proser that many of us know and love, but want to know more about. He actually answered our questions a while ago, but silly me (Paul), didn't post it for some reason! Please be upstanding for JamesMByers!
P: What is your given name and your Proser username?
J: Greetings Prose. I'm James Matthew Byers. You guys know me as @JamesMByers.
P: Where do you live?
J: I reside in Wellington, AL. What's special about that? Wellington, New Zealand happens to be where Peter Jackson filmed much of The Lord of the Rings films. I'd like to think of my home as a displaced component of the Shire. After all, our dog is named Arwen … My wife and two of my four children live with me in our above ground “Hobbit hole.”
P: What is your occupation?
J: By day, I'm a mild mannered middle school teacher. But when the sun sets, the mask appears. Then I am James Matthew Byers, writer, poet, and illustrator. Outside of my day job, I'm on the crew at Stitched Smile Publications, LLC as their resident illustrator.
P: What is your relationship with writing and how has it evolved?
J: Writing has been an essential element for most of my life. I've been crafting stories and illustrating them since, believe it or not, age three. In sixth grade I had the pleasure of being introduced to poetry via Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” It altered the course of my life forever. I began writing songs and poems. I wrote novellas. I illustrated everything. Through education and practice, I have evolved into a focused poet who utilizes rhyming mechanisms to primarily express what's in my soul. I've grown leaps and bounds with the use of meter. I wrote my first rhyming tale my senior year in high school. We had to construct a story similar to Chaucer’s style in “The Canterbury Tales.” I fell in love with combing story telling and rhyming. The rest, as they say, is history.
P: What value does reading add to both your personal and professional life?
J: Reading is why I'm here. I've been an avid reader my whole life. I taught middle school English and reading for ten years. Staying in books increases your vocabulary. It also teaches how plot devices are applied and how characters grow and change in their development. I've read nearly every DragonLance novel out there. Lewis and Tolkien are influences. There are so many! I'm an advocate for people to visit the classics, like “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” “Dracula,” “A Princess of Mars,” and so many other wonderful maps we all need to follow. I read to relax, and professionally, I read to stay relevant. As a writer, you must possess “withitness.”
P: Can you describe your current and future literary ventures?
J: Currently I'm working on several projects for Stitched Smile Publications. I've got a rhyming story called “The Secrets That We Keep” in their latest anthology. It's called Unleashed: Monsters Vs. Zombies. I've also got anther mini epic called “Killer Jelly Beans from Outer Space” in a collection of Easter themed horror tales called Collected Easter Horror Shorts. It's something that a wonderful fellow named Kevin J. Kennedy put together. And there will be sequels to my current release, Beowulf: The Midgard Epic. In May, my poem, “The Dinner Fly,” will be in Weirdbook Magazine issue #35. I'm also going to be in an upcoming issue of Grievous Angel. (http://www.urbanfantasist.com/grievous-angel) The poem is titled “Conundrum of the Irish Sea.” As far as posts here at Prose, the skies the limit. I'll be crafting some nifty story poems, entering challenges, and offering a few surprises.
P: What do you love about Prose?
J: Prose has risen to the top of my favorite social media outlets. This is where I've found my tribe. I enjoy encouraging other writers and poets. I enjoy sharing my work with a community who get it; get me. I'm plugging it like crazy on all my social media venues. I wake up excited every day to see new faces and old friends publish their works. You can't get that kind of excitement just any where. I'm still I awe that I've won three of the weekly challenges. What do I love about Prose? EVERYTHING!!!
P: Is there one book that you would recommend everybody should read before they die?
J: There are so many great books! The classics would be an easy go to, but I'm going to plug a literary hero of mine. J. Robert Kings “Hellmaw: The Incubus Tweets” is my sacrificial lamb. It's out now from The Ed Greenwood Group. (Onder Librum) It's hip, relevant, and quite humorous. This generation would get it, and for reading to be relatable conquers many battles in the most simplistic of fashions. The protagonist/antagonist, Frank Demonkowski keeps you in stitches. I'd like everyone to laugh hardly as they go gently into that good night …
P: Do you have an unsung hero who got you into reading and/or writing?
J: My senior English teacher, Marie Duncan, definitely played a critical role in who I am today. She's my friend on Facebook. Recently she celebrated her eightieth birthday. I'm so happy she's getting to see me break into this wonderful industry!
P: Describe yourself in three words!
J: Enthusiastic, poetic, unique
P: Is there one quote, from a writer or otherwise, that sums you up?
J: “To a young heart everything is fun.” – Charles Dickens
P: Favourite music to write and/or read to?
J: I'm into so many facets of music. If I'm reading or writing, I primarily stick with soundtrack scores. Conan the Barbarian is a fave. I also love The Last of the Mohicans. Anything John Williams will do. When I illustrate, I alternate between classical, symphonic metal, and Garbage. I've created many entries into the art world while thumping along to “Version 2.0.”
P: You climb out of a time machine into a dystopian future with no books. What do you tell them?
Once upon a time we had to write our stories down.
Now you have no books that I have noticed in your town.
What's a book? I'm glad you asked- I'll fill you in right here.
Paper bound containing words, they filled the mind with cheer.
Some expressed a broken heart, and some expressed its joy.
Some related grown adults, and some a girl or boy.
Some expressed adventure and some told a tragic tale.
Some invoked emotion and some helped us to prevail.
Some taught lessons granted and some talked about the past.
Books were lovely in design; I'm sad they didn't last.
My idea birthing new- you have to make this right.
Grab some paper and a pen, and watch me shed some light.
Do you all tell stories? Yes, I thought you surely did.
Even if they come from someone who is just a kid-
Write them down and share their worth- bring back the written word!
This is what I leave with you; I hope I'm being heard.
I must go back to my home, but spread these newfound strengths.
Reading will evolve your kind and take you to great lengths.
Put it all together and have others take a look.
Now you know what you have missed; I've given back the book …
P: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
J: In 2010 I graduate from Jacksonville State University with my Master's in Secondary English/ Language Arts Education. My bachelor’s degree is in liberal arts with a concentration in English/Lit. Having a solid background in poetry has molded me into a more prolific and precise writer. Before attending JSU, I took art courses from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, or better known as U. A. B. I've written several poetry compilations and have been published through JSU as well. I do have an unpublished novel that doesn't rhyme. I'm saving it. I just love telling tales that use verse to explore the situation at hand. I reworked “Beowulf” into rhyming iambic tetrameter. I mentioned the title earlier- Beowulf: The Midgard Epic. It stays true to the original in every way. The only difference is it rhymes. It also contains “The Wanderer” as an epilogue. I've always felt that classic tale was none other than Wiglaf, the young hero who aided Beowulf against the dragon. I did the cover and interior illustrations. I'm signed with a wonderful indie press called Stitched Smile Publications, LLC. I believe I mentioned I'm their resident illustrator earlier. They have many talented authors on board. In fact, several of them are here at Prose! If you're a fan of horror and dark fantasy, they've got what you need. I'm including the link to their website below. I'm a poet first, but I'm also a story teller and an artist. I want to share, motivate, and inspire the literary community abroad. I want to make rhyming hip again. I've always wanted to be a combination of Dr. Seuss and J. R. R. Tolkien. More than anything, I want to encourage everyone out there to follow their dreams. If you believe you can, you will. Thanks for having me, Prose!
Here are a few ways to find me:
Well thank you very much, James. It may have been a while coming, but it was worth it.
You know what to do now – follow, like, comment, love and do all those things that make us as a community unique.
As ever, if you want to feature, or you want someone to feature, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org