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B&H children’s author writes from experience about inner-city living

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–For Cynthia Williams, the journey from her beginnings in a poor neighborhood in Mobile, Ala., to her current status as an author of Broadman & Holman children’s books was long, hard and sometimes painful.
Detours presented themselves, she said, and she took a lot of them.
The 41-year-old news anchor and reporter at WSMV-TV, Channel 4, the NBC affiliate in Nashville, Tenn., recently reflected on her life as she prepared for a public appearance to discuss a series of four books she has written for B&H depicting life among inner-city youth. Broadman & Holman is the trade publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The stirring within Williams to write a book for children began several years ago, but she easily dismissed it because her job kept her so busy. Besides, she had no idea what she’d write about.
Then, five years ago, Williams got an unexpected and unanticipated break in her schedule when she noticed a problem with her voice. A trip to the doctor meant surgery. And the surgery meant not talking for weeks.
“I had to be quiet. The feeling about the book came back, much stronger this time. It wasn’t a burning bush,” Williams says. “It was a notion from God — a suggestion from God.”
So she began to write.
The first book was done in less than an hour. The words and thoughts just kept coming, which to her was an indication the book and the series were more God’s work than hers. “When you know there’s something you’re to do, especially if it’s something God wants you to do, the reaction is, ‘I’ve got to do it.'”
The series centers around Enid, a curious and sensitive inner-city youth with a sense of responsibility and a love for those around her and for God.
The first two books, “Enid and the Church Fire” and “Enid and the Dangerous Discovery,” are now available in bookstores. Two more books are currently being edited.
Williams said her books, written for 4- to 10-year olds, involve situations that youngsters face every day.
Williams says Enid is a fictional character and does not portray her own life. “This isn’t my story, but I think I brought some of my experiences to this series.”
A consuming sense of responsibility is one of those.
After all, one of the events on that journey from an Alabama childhood to Tennessee author was the death of her brother, Frank Aaron, who was just 14 years old when their father decided to take his boys on a weekend trip.
But their father was drinking, and Frank did not survive the accident brought on by his drunken driving. After this, their father began to drink more and died three years later at the age of 45.
That sense of responsibility in Williams, the child, made her try to right the wrongs her father had committed. When she grew up and saw that she couldn’t, she began to blot them out with alcohol and other drugs.
Having been raised going to church, Williams sought refuge in a small congregation just outside of Mobile when she saw she could not handle her problems on her own.
“I sat in the back of that church, and I prayed. I earnestly asked God to take all of that away from me,” Williams recalls.
After years of abusing alcohol and other drugs, Williams scored a partial victory and a chance for a new start. It was at about this time that the Nashville television station began wooing her.
So she packed up and moved to Nashville. Unfortunately, she brought her alcohol problem with her. She was drinking heavily, and her friends and co-workers knew it.
Eventually, a caring station executive sat her down for a long talk. He gave her two options — seek treatment or find another job. Even then, Williams says, she had to think about it.
“I was just that sick.”
She entered treatment. Her plan was to get help just to please the station executive and then move to another city.
But something happened in treatment. Williams came face to face with herself and realized there were problems that went deeper than the alcohol and the drugs. After the month in treatment, she was really ready to try to change her life — one day at a time.
“I’ve been sober for eight years now. But I still work hard to stay clean through prayer, meditation and fellowshipping with others.”
The same sense of responsibility Cynthia felt as a child has returned — but it is different. She said she’s finally learned to do only what she can do. What she can’t do, she lets God handle.
Currently, Williams says she is trying to allow God to use her life for his purposes. And that includes writing children’s books for Christian audiences.
“I hope my books can make life a little better, a little easier, for the young person who is struggling. God has used me as a vessel to tell these stories in such a way that they have value and sensitivity, and I’m grateful to him for that.”
Gordon is a freelance writer and director of programs for the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn. (BP) photos to accompany this story to be posted in the BP Photos Library of the SBC website, www.sbc.net.

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  • Tam Gordon