Monday, October 29, 2018

Blog Tour / Interview / Daniel Kenner, Co-Author of 'Room for Grace' @alwysroom4grace

Daniel Kenner rocked out to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” while other infants sang “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” A proud member of Actor’s Equity, SAG-AFTRA, and National Players Tour 60, Daniel was a Presidential Arts Scholar at George Washington University and Scholarship recipient at The British American Drama Academy. Directed the Washington D.C. premier of Sarah Kane’s Crave. Author of the manuscript, Roux. Winner of the Rhode Island Playwriting Festival for his World War II letters home drama, Fields of Sacrifice. Adapted Les Misérables for high school stages.
Maureen Kenner’s heart was in the classroom. For thirty-five years she was a Special Education teacher in the Providence Public Schools. Born and raised in Dobbs Ferry, New York, Maureen graduated from Rhode Island College with a degree in education and later earned a Master’s Degree from Providence College. Maureen was a vital influence at the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School at Fox Point, working tirelessly as a mentor for the betterment of all children and their families. Honored with many accolades throughout her career, Maureen was awarded Providence Teacher of the Year in 2003. Living with cancer, as a model patient, Maureen exemplified integrity, courage, grace, and hope. For thirty-one years, through sickness and health, Maureen was the beloved soul mate to the late Jacob “Buddy” Kenner, her intense love recognized in 2016 as a Rhode Island Caregiver of the Year.



About the Book:

Author: Daniel Kenner & Maureen Kenner
Publisher: Silver Boot Imprints
Pages: 200
Genre: Memoir & Biography


Stage 4 cancer for her and a debilitating disease for her husband: life crashed down in an instant. Maureen Kenner found resilience, however, in the lessons she learned from her Special Ed students in Providence, RI. Her students lived with their hearts opened despite struggles of the highest magnitude. Through these students, Maureen gains courage, humor, and the strength of spirit to face her devastating realities, head on. Maureen’s oral history was captured by her son Daniel who tenderly wrought this book out of their recorded conversations. Through anecdotes and hard-earned lessons, Maureen tackles challenge after challenge and reframes daily struggles with a positive outlook allowing her to transcend and conquer mortal fears with dignity and room for grace.


"Maureen Kenner was one of those people who brightened every room she entered. Thanks to Room for Grace, that light is not extinguished. Although her story shares great sadness, Room for Grace is a book of hope and a celebration of life that sheds Maureen’s light on us all."

—Ann Hood, Author of The Obituary Writer and The Red Thread

“In these pages, you will find a story like no other. Maureen’s story is one of courage and love, a story that will move you to your core.”

—David Flink, Chief Empowerment Officer, Eye to Eye

“The piercing light of Maureen’s compassion, love and intelligence, will leave every reader wanting to reach out in the spirit of service and live life to the fullest.”

—Annie Lanzillotto, Author of Hard Candy: Caregiving, Mourning, and Stagelight

“Buddy Kenner was a big-hearted teacher, universally beloved by all, a warrior for the arts and their importance in the curriculum. Amazing and unique guy. Read this book.”

Tom Chandler, Rhode Island Poet Laureate Emeritus



Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

I see a lot of theater. I sit in the sun and squint. I eat cheese. And ice cream. I get depressed sometimes. Or lethargic. I take walks and listen to people and write down fascinating quotes or interact with strangers in parks and subways and busy New York Streets. Sometimes just to get a reaction. I like to take the Staten Island ferry. I play board games. I make fun of my friends. I edit and edit and edit all my sentences and overthink most things. I love to watch movies. Why aren’t there more heist films? I love buying vinyls and thumbing through the racks of old soul and funk records. Sometimes I combine these things and take the ferry when it’s sunny outside and I’m really sweating, eat an ice cream cone after I’ve just seen a movie and eaten spicy noodles and shopped for a record and just read a play while the ferry charges towards the Statue of Liberty.

When did you start writing?

My uncle recently reminded me that I wrote three “books” by the time I was I think eleven. My first book was a memoir. Which is hilarious. The second was about a girl who gets bullied in middle school because she’s adopted and the third, The 3 A.M Huddle, was about a boy who plays with his baseball cards after he’s supposed to be sleeping. My dad was convinced Bob Dylan was part of our family so I grew up listening to a lot of Bob while other kids were singing lullabies. But I started to seriously write in high school. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and writing became an outlet. I wrote my second play, Fields Of Sacrifice, based on an Andrew Carroll book. Unfortunately, when I was on the cusp of further independence, taking my driver’s license permit test, I found out one of my best friends, Nick, was unaccounted for after the fire erupted at the Great White concert at The Station nightclub. Foam sound insulation caught fire after pyrotechnics were set off. I remember watching the news footage, almost paralyzed with fear, which showed that any escape was nearly impossible, and there near the front of the stage, was a boy who looked like Nick. Nick was the youngest of one hundred people who lost their lives in Warwick that night. My friends and I lost a gentle friend in the most horrifying way. For his funeral, his mother and father gave Nick a “Graduation” with the motto, “Do Not Fear To Hope,” a line Nick had written in They Walk Among Us, his play about three guardian angels passing on messages of love and hope. My mom liked to say every time she came into my room after that, I was writing volumes and volumes of stream of consciousness poems and songs. I guess I’ve always channeled my pain and put it on paper. I remember thinking all of a sudden I had to grow up with the absence of one of our best friends. So, I’d sit there after school, just writing and writing and writing. And then I’d come down for dinner when Dad’s meatballs and spaghetti was ready

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

Anytime I experience heartbreak I think I retreat to writing. Or when I was younger and I thought I was special, I wrote a lot. Now, it’s more of a preservation, I think. But the pivotal moment. Going away to college and finding my independence and some semblance of who I was supposed to be was pretty pivotal. Finding my voice and a new group of friends and my meaning in a theater department was monumental. But heartbreak. Yeah. I’ve had two serious breakups. And I’ve had two parents with life altering diseases. Sometimes I write to remember. Sometimes I just can’t quit writing. It’s in flashes and bursts.

Why was writing Room For Grace so important to you?

After dad was diagnosed with dementia and Mom with Stage 4 cancer, I didn’t know how I was going to help or how I was going to keep showing up. I was terrified. I needed this project to keep me close to them. Once I had the idea, I became fixated and never wavered. It was what I had to do. Not only for me. But it became a gift to my mom.

In writing Room For Grace, did you travel anywhere for research?

Room For Grace originated from an oral history I conducted with my mom in Bar Harbor. And the idea arose down in Sarasota, Florida maybe six months earlier. My dad’s communication and storytelling was blocked and being diminished by his dementia. And I wanted to capture the stories of my mom and dad’s lives so for their thirtieth wedding anniversary we went to Bar Harbor, Maine. I had this beautiful notebook that I filled with ideas and questions and conversation starters. And my mom was a talker so, that week went by pretty quickly. We recorded thirty hours. And then six months after they passed I left Brooklyn for two weeks and went out to New Mexico to work on much of the dialogue. It was a gut feeling. I had to go west, along the turquoise trail. Something about the dry heat and long roads and Mars-like feelings. I’m terrified of heights so the first thing I did when I got there was take a hot air balloon trip at sunrise something like 7500 ft above sea level. I needed to work through some fears. Then I went to the hotel, sat down and the voices came back and gave me the oomph to keep writing. To finish Room For Grace. To turn it into a complete project.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

I get my best ideas from deep, meaningful connections. I give all of myself, the good and the bad, and I think it encourages others to interact with me the same way. There are so many powerful stories and I love listening and asking questions. I love investigating the driving force behind people and being present. Like really present. And sometimes you stumble onto something beautiful, sometimes it’s an answer, sometimes it’s an exasperation. But to answer the question, I get ideas outside, definitely. Walking. With no headphones in. Or the moments of hopefully stunning silence as I walk away from the theater.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Oh, nice. I’d definitely rent a moped and ride down by the water, maybe sing “Blessings Reprise” over and over again by Chance The Rapper and eat some spicy cumin hand pulled noodles. Park by a used book shop and go into the crevices of their play section or walk into a record shop, see if they have any early 90’s hip hop bootlegs, then take a drive along the Hudson with my lovebug.

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