MAKE A CHOICE

Make a Choice roughs site article version

Ever feel beaten down by life? Ever been betrayed? Wounded? Bitter? We’ve all been there. I have a new book called MAKE A CHOICE features 7 short stories about ordinary people who fought through extraordinary hardship to find happiness.

The book appeared on Amazon today for people interested in pre-ordering. It goes on sale in stores in June. Later in this post I mention some of the people in the book.

But first, some news.

A couple years ago I wrote Tito Momen’s autobiography My Name Used to be Muhammad. A harrowing firsthand account of growing up under harsh Islamic extremism and later being imprisoned for converting to Christianity, the memoir was a Book of the Year finalist in the category of Religion/Adult Nonfiction. This week a paperback edition and audiobook (narrated by the talented Kirby Heyborne) went on sale. This is another big milestone for Tito, who now resides in the U.S., is married to an American citizen, and is attending college. What a story!

MNUM paperback audiobook

Speaking of autobiographies, yesterday Steve Young’s forthcoming memoir was announced in Publishers Lunch, the publishing industry’s Bible. The announcement read: “Steve Young with NYT bestselling author Jeff Benedict’s autobiography of NFL star quarterback who rose from eighth string at Brigham Young University to become a Hall of Famer with the San Francisco 49ers, revealing never-before-discussed aspects of his life, both on and off the field, to Rick Wolff at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, at auction, for publication in Fall 2016, by Richard Pine at Inkwell Management.”

Last week when we were together in San Francisco I told Steve about a security guard who works the Eagles games at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. His name is Wayne Edwards. I met him while my wife and I were on the sidelines with Steve during a Monday Night Game. It was cold and Wayne offered my wife his gloves. (It pays to be pretty!) Although Wayne works the Eagles game, he’s a Niners fan and a huge Steve Young fan. So last week Steve signed a picture and I sent it to Wayne. He posted the picture below on Facebook today. It’s the little things (gloves on a cold night; a signed picture) that people remember.

wayne steve young

On another front, it’s Oscar season and last year I had the privilege of being part of the critically acclaimed documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which takes a hard look at sexual assault on college campuses. The title song “Til It Happens To You,” (performed by Lady Gaga and written by Diane Warren) has been nominated for an Academy Award.

Lady GagaLady Gaga

Meantime, the movie “Little Pink House” continues to progress and remains on track for a 2016 release.

LPH Movie Graphic

Finally, my wife and I recently held a dinner at our home for LGBT students at Southern Virginia University, where I teach. About 15 students attended, most of whom are supporters. They came because they care about those in attendance who are gay. After a home-cooked meal with my family, the students listened to an inspirational message in our living room. Helpful resources were discussed. New friendships were forged. We decided to make this a monthly occurrence. Two of my all-time favorite students – recently engaged Colin Smith and Lauren Hafen – are our point persons for organizing the dinners.

Colin Smith and Lauren HafenColin Smith and Lauren Hafen

The motivation behind this is simple. I’m personally familiar with three gay students that have contemplated suicide. One went as far as to buy a gun. In two of these cases, loving parents who live far away placed frantic calls in the night in hopes that a friend would intervene in time to prevent the unthinkable. I know these students; have had two of them in my home; and in my travels I have met personally with three of these parents and seen them sob.

Anyone is guilty who watches this happen and pretends it isn’t. So my wife and I opened our home and joined hands with students and some adult friends to form a support group for LGBT students. There is food on the stove. There are seats at our table. Bottom line – there is room in the inn.

All of that is a nice transition to MAKE A CHOICE. I am not the happiness expert. But in my travels I routinely meet people that inspire me to be a better human. For instance, while working in LA on a Sports Illustrated story about the influence of street gangs on high school football players, I spent time in the Compton home of Donyetta and Kitam Hamm. Their son played for Compton High. I slept in their home, ate with them; and basically went everywhere their son went. Along the way I witnessed a remarkably tight-knit family that weathered neighborhood violence and crime. The Hamm family taught me what it really means to be strong, committed parents.

Donyetta Hamm with her son Kitam Hamm, Jr. (Shot for Sports Illustrated by Deanne Fitzmaurice)Donyetta Hamm with her son Kitam Hamm, Jr. (Shot for Sports Illustrated by Deanne Fitzmaurice)

Across the country, in Greenwich, Connecticut, I met Scott and Icy Frantz. Scott is a senator. Icy is beautiful. They live in a nicer home than most. At first glance, they look like a family free of trials. Nobody is free of trials. Scott and Icy lost their baby boy to a rare disease before his second birthday. It’s what they did next that was so remarkable, though. I can’t get into it here, but their actions are a blueprint for peace for families that lose children.

Scott and Icy FrantzScott and Icy Frantz

Those are just two examples of the people in the book. I’d say more. But I want to keep this post under 1,000 words and I’m at my limit.

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Jeff Benedict is a best selling author of 14 books and a television and film producer.  His latest book — QB: My Life Behind the Spiral (written with Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young) was a New York Times bestseller. He is currently writing the biography of Tiger Woods. He is a producer on the forthcoming motion picture “Little Pink House,” starring Oscar-nominated Catherine Keener with music by David Crosby.  To book him for a speech or private event, contact Ellis Trevor at ellis@chartwellspeakers.com

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