Author Penny Duncan Stephens shares stories of surviving childhood trauma

We present to you author Penny Duncan Stephens. Penny is one of the author panelists set to appear at the forthcoming Artists in the Afternoon: Prose, Poetry, & More on Saturday, September 3, at the Metropolitan Library, 1332 Metropolitan Parkway SW, Atlanta, GA, from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM.

Penny is a native of Detroit who relocated to Stone Mountain, Georgia, in 1990. The DeKalb County School District employed her for 22 years before she retired in 2015. Through Penny’s Eyes is her first book, which chronicles her early childhood experiences after being separated from her birth family and adopted by an elderly couple.

“Everyone has a story. Be brave and bold to tell your story and begin your healing,” said Penny when PrideIndex asked about the central message she desired to communicate to her readers.

Below are her responses to our Panelist Questionnaire.

PrideIndex (PI): Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows until now: 

Penny Duncan Stephens (PDS): My husband and I moved to Georgia in 1991, looking for sunshine and peace in the golden age of retirement for my husband. I suffered from the “winter blues” during the many months of grayness each winter in Michigan, with very little sunshine affecting me with heavy depression every year. I was still working with hopes of retirement not too far away.

Six months after moving to Georgia, my husband was diagnosed with Dementia, and in the 4th stage, he had been a boxer right out of high school. The danger of boxing and blows to the head over the years led to this disease and diagnosis. Shortly after his diagnosis, I had an annual physical for myself; I was diagnosed with a condition called Hemochromatosis, a rare blood disorder that, with certain complications, including cirrhosis, can lead to cancer. And even could affect my siblings, who needed to be notified immediately if my parents were both carriers of this disease. I was devastated by this finding. After going to a specialist, and a year of tests, I was miraculously healed, with my blood levels returning to normal and no medication necessary. 

PI: Name of book(s) you plan to sell.

PDS: Through Penny’s Eyes, Childhood Silence & Secrets, and Eyes of the Beholder, an anthology written by twelve African American Women.

PI: Who is your target audience? 

PDS: My target audience includes females and males who have suffered abuse. Some of these abuses; include sexual advances, fondling, mental and physical abuse, guilt, shame, and fear. For some, these abuses happened as a child. For others, the abuses occurred later on in life. I am reaching out through my stories to anyone who has suffered trauma from these adversities, with the feeling that there is no way out of all the secrets of shame, guilt, and embarrassment and feeling alone in the events that happened to them.  

PI: What is the central message you desire to communicate to the reader? 

PDS: You are not alone. There is freedom in Telling Your Story. Everyone has a story. Be brave and bold to tell your story and begin your healing. My healing started when I was in my late 50’s, and I was invited to an “Overcomers’ Ministry Program,” beginning with a class called “Grief Recovery.” Later, while attending the Ministry, I took the 12-Step Program. It was intense and purged deep within me, almost to the point of me wanting to drop out of the class. I persevered with the help and encouragement of others in the class, and so glad I did. Another big issue was learning to “love myself” unconditionally, just as I am, for who I am. It is never too late to fall in love with yourself – At any age and at any stage.

PI: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? 

PDS: I started journaling while attending the “Overcomers’ Ministry” in 1995. I started writing in the 12 Step Program when our task was to write letters and forgive anyone that had ever hurt us, no matter how big or small the issue, even if we were not at fault. This was such a freeing exercise and allowed my healing to begin. Then, not until about five years ago, after retirement, did I get serious about writing. I enrolled in a “Golden Writers” class at a Clayton County Senior Center.

PI: Where do you find your inspiration? 

PDS: My inspiration comes first from God. Even though I had an abusive childhood, my adoptive parent took me to church every Sunday and bible class on Wednesdays. 

The foundation of the word and learning about God’s love gave me hope through the adversities in my life. Another is by helping others by sharing my story, letting them know they are not alone, that others have experienced some of the same adversities, like me, and learned how to be healed, no matter how traumatic their situation was. My last comment of what has inspired me is the messages from my church, the morning service, and the bible class. We even have a Tuesday Morning class that is very good. 

My church is an all-inclusive church, not like traditional churches, only using the bible to study from because the bible contradicts itself sometimes and can be very confusing. My pastor includes other books in our studies, such as “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay, “A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle, “Gifts of Imperfection,” and “Stillness Speaks,” to name a few. These books help to broaden our thinking and understand life in different spectrums. 

We are learning to think for ourselves without someone from the pulpit telling us what we must believe.

PI: Why did you write this book? 

PDS: I hoped that if I could help just one person know that there was still a healthy life they could live on the other side of adversity, using helpful tools, my writing would be worth it. 

PI: How do you nurture ideas from brainstorming until they come to life on paper? 

PDS: I have a close friend called “my hip-sister” we have developed a great bond and relationship through our writing class. We talk pretty frequently. Whenever I write a story, I forward it to her to critique; before my final draft or visa-versa, she will send her writing to me to review with comments. We may not agree on everything, but we respect each other’s words. It truly helps to get feedback before writing your final draft. Also, my publisher, Dr. Derrick Tennial, whom I met at my church, gave his testimony in bible class as he told his story about writing his first book, and I commissioned him to help me write my book, he agreed, and I am working on book number three. Dr. Tennial is a great sounding board that extracts and suggests ideas that bring my stories to life.