Category Archives: Inspirational

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Welcome, Robert Uttaro!

We’re excited to welcome Robert Uttaro to the Highlighted Author. After many years working as a rape crisis counselor, he was inspired to write about his journey — the countless horrors, the endless battles, and the priceless victories. This is not a book for the faint of heart, but one for those who believe in triumph over the toughest obstacles and redemption from the deepest, darkest places. Enjoy the feature!

—Jo Grafford, Highlighted Author Co-Hostess

To the Survivors

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One Man’s Journey as Rape Crisis Counselor with True Stories of Sexual Violence. 


Here is a list, God, of everything I’m never forgetting.

Burns on her legs.

Impressions of his hands around her neck.

The all over purple-ly skin.

She can not

will not

can not

will not

can not

will not do the internal part of that effing kit, no.

(I hang back in the waiting room as they implore her for hours and pray they will…oh-my-god…stop raping.)

She can not

will not

can not

will not

can not

will not

can not

will not say his name, no. 

(She gives up, writes alphabet letters only kind of true; no matter love, I understand you.)

A 72-hour psych hold.

Cops and detectives.

My brother-in-law in rare tears the morning not-one-of-us-slept after.

Silence all these years.

And the prize for speaking? A brand new horror show.

Doesn’t seem worth it now or ever.

She never feels clean.

She’ll never.

Not after a hundred hospital showers.

Her fear of the past.

Her fear of today.

Her fear of tomorrow and every hour before and after this moment.

The questions.

The shaking.

The stares of strangers and remembering when.

(I’m struggling not to vomit. We’re trying not to live this.)

“Can they see it on me?” She wonders like before.

“Why can’t they see it, the secret I can’t say?”

She says prayers, but not like the ones she prays when he comes home to decide, “I miss your mother” and “You know, you’re so pretty.”

Try again. I see a light in the sky.

Your heart is broken.

My heart is broken.

Our heart is bro-ken. 

(But… try them again.)

-A poem Jenee wrote in response to visiting her friend in the hospital who was beaten, choked, burned, and raped.

I never thought I would volunteer at a rape crisis center. I always knew rape and sexual assault existed, but for most of my life I did not seriously consider ways in which I could help those affected by sexual violence. I could not imagine that a large number of people actually experience such an evil and detrimental horror as rape is, but unfortunately many do. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would help play a positive role in the healing process of rape and sexual assault survivors, educate people, and be active in the fight against sexual violence, but often times our lives go in different directions than we plan or expect.

Sexual violence is very complex. Given that, I will not speak for every human being who has been affected by this crime. This book is by no means a blue print of how all rapes and sexual assaults occur, nor will I tell you how to feel. I do not have all of the answers to the many difficult questions that arise when discussing sexual violence, and I obviously do not know everyone who has experienced sexual violence. This book is about my experiences as a rape crisis counselor and the survivors I have met who felt strong enough and comfortable enough to share their stories with me and you. I have my opinions and ideas about different aspects of sexual violence, but neither I nor the people you will soon meet speak for humanity. Everyone’s story is his or her own. Everyone’s story is different. Growth and healing is different for everyone.

Sexual violence is not only a violent crime, but it is also a serious health issue. It affects people’s bodies, minds, hearts, and souls. I do not wish to name anyone’s experiences or claim knowledge of all the effects people may feel as a result of sexual violence, but I do know some things. I have learned that many survivors of sexual violence feel shame. Shame directly causes a variety of negative health issues, including mentalities about one’s self and behaviors. I hope to attempt to alleviate some of that shame through this book.

I have always cared about people and the world we all live in. As long as I can remember, I have been intrigued by the complexities of the human experience and questioned what it means to be human. It is fascinating to me that some people are happy, fulfilled, or loving, while others are unhappy, unfulfilled, or hateful. Even as a young boy, I questioned, Why is there so much hatred and violence in the world? Why do some people hate other people? Why do some people hurt other people? Why do some people rape other people? Why do some people kill other people? I have come to understand that I may never know the answers to these questions and many of the other difficult life questions that people contemplate, but one thing I do know is this: There are far too many men, women, and children who are sexually violated. It is my opinion that we are foolish if we do not take the issue of sexual violence seriously and help play a positive role in the healing process of individuals who experience it, as well as those indirectly impacted by it.

This book is not about statistics. The statistics are certainly out there; you can research and read them for yourself if you want to. I, however, will not share or focus on statistics because I do not want to treat people as numbers. Also, I believe rape and sexual assault are the least reported violent crimes. If it is true that these are the least reported crimes, then that means most of the people who experience these crimes are not represented in those statistics. To me, giving flawed and inaccurate statistics of rape and sexual assault is a disservice to those who do not report.

I believe there are many justified reasons why most people do not report, but I will mention two major reasons: First, many survivors do not report because they fear they will not be believed. Many have an image in their head about what a victim should look like because of the media and therefore will not report. Second, it is extremely difficult to report a violent crime against someone that is known to the person. Most survivors know their perpetrators, and the relationship between them makes reporting even harder than it might have been if the crime were perpetrated by a stranger. The bottom line is none of us will be able to understand the full extent of how common sexual violence is based on statistics because the statistics are only a fraction of what really occurs.

Order now on Amazon.

Radio Interview: Donna Seebo Show

Click here to listen to the interview.

About the Author

picI currently reside in Boston, Massachusetts and am in my eighth year of working as a rape crisis counselor, public speaker and community educator. Inspired by my undergraduate studies in Criminal Justice, I continue to embrace a life-long commitment to activism and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence. I support rape survivors and their significant others through various health, legal, and case management issues. I also facilitate workshops aimed at education, prevention and exposure of the realities of sexual violence.

I did not consider myself a writer and never once tried to write a book until one experience changed my life. This experience was a dream I had. I woke up from this dream and said, “I have to write a book”. I interpreted this dream as a vision from God. I prayed to God, moved from the bed to the computer, opened up Microsoft Word, and continued to pray. This is how the book To the Survivors began.

Connect with Robert

Website     Facebook     Twitter


“A moving series of survivor stories… This book is both informative for the general public and supportive for those who have suffered sexual abuse. It is hard to imagine that members of either group will not gain from reading it.” – Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

To the Survivors weaves together many candid accounts to form a brave and alarming exposé of assault. It is a worthwhile, eye-opening project.” – Foreword Clarion Reviews

“An engaging examination of a painful subject, with a focus on healing and forgiveness.” – Kirkus Reviews

To the Survivors is quite a read. It’s informative.  It is very compassionate. It is insightful. I think you have presented more than one perspective. And you haven’t done it from a positioning of one-sidedness. You really have covered quite a few different perspectives, both of those that have been the victims of this horrific act and those that want to help. So I really think it’s quite a powerfully packed book. To the Survivors is a very powerful one.”     – Donna Seebo, The Donna Seebo Show

Welcome Lisa C. Miller

Join me in welcoming Lisa C. Miller to Highlighted Author.


Lisa C. Miller is an author of inspirational poetry. Through her writing she seeks to uplift others. She’s with us this week sharing her latest title, Inspirations from Heaven’s Gate.

IMG_0693Welcome, Lisa. Please tell use about yourself .


I live in the beautiful state of Alaska with my family where the spirits of animals and men roam free. I am married to a wonderful man and we have three children and foster girls who bring us joy. I am currently a full-time college student and I write inspirational poetry.

I enjoy reading, writing, blogging, walking, family, social networking, scrap booking and photography.

I started out in a military family. My dad joined the Air Force when I was little so the world has been my playground. It is where I learned to get along with other people and accept myself.


What books do you have out?

I have published two books so far, Godly Inspirations for the Troubled Soul and Inspirations  from Heaven’s Gate. Both are books of poetry with bible verses sprinkled within. They can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


What do you hope to accomplish through writing?

I am able, through the help of The Holy Spirit, to write about the beauty and simplicity of life. Through words I want to reveal the beauty of Christ to the broken and lost spirits of humanity. Through pouring out my heart and tears and trying to be transparent I want to encourage people to see we are in this together.


When did you decide to be a writer and why?

I am very comfortable with books and pens and paper. I sometimes feel like I was born with a pencil in my hand and I started writing at six years old and it has just expanded from there. I have never passed a library or used bookstore that I haven’t liked. As you can tell I am very chatty about my life, books and writing.


Go right ahead and be as chatty as you like. *smile*

I am a Christian lady who comes from a Christian background and family. I came to know the Lord on a personal level when I was 17 years old. Since then I have been on a quest to learn more about Him and myself. On my journey I have come to realize my purpose in life is to write what is on God’s heart and encourage the broken and lost souls of humanity with it.

Here are two quotes I think sum up my writing life: “I am a little pencil in the hand of writing God who is sending out a love letter to the world” by Mother Teresa and “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart” by William Wordsworth.


Inspirations from Heaven’s Gate


This is book of poetry with bible verses sprinkled throughout the book. Written with the help of the whispered power of the Holy Spirit and daily guidance of the Lord. I do my best to listen to for the Lord’s instructions on a daily basis and write what is put on my heart to share with the broken and lost souls of humanity to help them with their daily struggles.



coverPrayer is a pathway to a rich & meaningful life in which time has no meaning.

Once someone starts a life of prayer they are changed forever.

There is no going back.

The insights gained from the world around them are so powerful it is consuming.

When you have a life of prayer you have a huge responsibility for those around you.

Prayer is the first line of defense for the heart and soul.

Otherwise they are left bruised and bleeding on the side of life’s highway.

Prayer is to the soul what oxygen is to the heart life.

Whether we realize it or not we are actually comforted in the knowledge that someone

We hold dear those who hold us up to the throne of heaven.

They care for us so deeply that they will seek daily solitude to strengthen their own relationship with the Lord.

In doing so they touch heaven for us.

Our lives become more clear and focused.

Throughout their lives they have learned to slip their hands into the Fathers hand.

They help us to not drown in our daily struggles.

Our family, friends, and neighbors uplift our concerns as much as possible.

Prayer will bring healing & strength to those who are weary.

God’s love will flow from your heart to theirs to show that they are highly treasured.

His love has supernatural power and will bring life to those who honor Him.

Knowing the Father is always available.

It is a beautiful gift He bestows upon us.

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved & those who are perishing.”                                                                      2 cor. 2:15 (niv)

LCM 3/2009


Get your copy of Inspirations from Heaven’s Gate here:

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Outskirts Press


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Welcome Pamela Bitterman

Join me in welcoming Pamela Sisman Bitterman to Highlighted Author.


Pamela caught my attention when I was introduced to her novel, Muzungu, then my heart with, When This Is Over, I Will Go To School and I Will Learn To Read, and my breath with, Sailing to the Far Horizon. All true stories, they prove to me that his woman is amazing. 

She has been a guest speaker at Sierra Club, Palomar College, Southern California’s Writers conference, American Association of University Women, was guest of honor at Asteres Annual Event, Aboard The Star Of India Tall Ship, Arts That Splash, 39th Annual Local Authors Exhibit, and held Book Tour events and signings nationwide and abroad.

But it doesn’t stop there.  The list continues with her radio interviews and television appearances on The Michael Dresser Show, Radio New Zealand National Radio, Nine to Noon Program, KPBS Public Radio, These Days Program, Discovery Channel, Investigation Discovery Program, series Escaped, Share the Candy Radio Webcast, Cruise With Bruce Radio, Travel Wise, Let’s Talk About Books with The1essence, and January Jones BTR. 

I’ll let her tell you more in her own words.  She’s much more exciting to read. *wink* Pamela, it’s all yours…


Today I am a mom, a wife, a writer, and an explorer who has tried to travel her world with her eyes, arms, heart and mind wide open. I am a youthful 6o years old; strong, wise, weathered and seasoned. I hope to be able to proudly proclaim myself to still be all the aforementioned and more, in the years ahead. I have worn many hats along the road thus far; teacher, student, counselor, naturalist, sailor, mediator and more. I have been on quite a journey, with tremendous love and laughter, sadness and loss, beauty and wonder, struggle and survival. Great joy, and great heartache. Life. I would want very few do-overs. I am grateful for everything. I have been fortunate!  My life continues to be an ever evolving work in progress, as do I.  My first book, Sailing To the Far Horizon,  is graphically biographical. It encapsulates me as product of the first thirty years of my rather unconventional life.

Muzungu, the story of my unlikely escapade throughout Kenya, picks up on that journey a couple decades later. I also wrote a children’s book about this experience titled “When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read; A Story of Hope and Friendship For One Young Kenyan Orphan“. It was illustrated by the orphans I worked with in Africa. Both are the personal accounts of my work and travel through Kenya as the epitome of Muzungu, the Swahili word for white man.  Literally translated, Muzungu means “confused person wandering about.” Fit me to a tee! In between the adventures that were the subjects of my first and my later books were my marriage and children, my persona as wife and mother – the heart of me; me as my best self. As I explain in Muzungu, during those intervening years, the “yee-hah!” exhilaration of climbing out onto life’s edge had never entirely died out in me. It had merely been lying dormant beneath a meticulously constructed, implied housewife persona, a twenty-five year stint of nurturing-mother prioritizing for which I had absolutely no regrets. Everything had turned with the seasons, as they should. And a bygone time had finally come back around, although to what purpose under heaven remained to be seen.  My future also remains to be seen, and to be told.  Can’t hardly wait!


Sailing to the Far Horizon


One woman’s true story of life, loss, and survival at sea.

“I keep reminding myself that I have seen the pictures, heard the stories, read countless books. There is an exotic world out there comprised of brilliant wonders and fascinating cultures, promising endless horizons and illuminating adventures, inducing me with wholly unique challenges, and daring me to accomplish awesome leaps of faith. The Sofia is my ticket.”


Book trailer



Sinking; The Life Rafts

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one, that never otherwise would have occurred. — GOETHE

Click Image To Purchase . . .

On this fifth day [hopelessly adrift in life rafts following the sudden and violent sinking of our tall ship, the Schooner Sofia] we realize that we are no longer seeing distant ships off on the horizon or the occasional plane soaring overhead. And we hear far fewer heralding cries or have welcome visits from curious shorebirds venturing out to examine our unnatural presence. Already well outside the shipping lanes, we have been carried steadily out to sea, on our way to nowhere. When incurably wide-eyed and ever-hopeful Chris asks Evan [our skipper] if we still have a good chance of being saved, Evan fixes on his imploring stare and answers with accuracy and uncharacteristic gentleness. “No Chris, not much,” he replies. Evan then lays his head on my shoulder and sleeps. In nearly four years of countless highs and lows across half the planet, this simple gesture is the most sincere and spontaneous intimacy that my captain and I have ever exchanged.

We need to patch the raft yet again, a prospect now both futile and horrific. We are being barraged by a family of sharks. They rub their sandpapery bodies along the thin, grainy raft floor, bumping us about like we are on a carnival ride. By the second day in the rafts, I was forced to announce to my captive audience that, whether we liked it or not, I was menstruating. Amid a chorus of alarmed male sighs, the other women raise their hands in a reluctant but resigned “me too” acknowledgement of undeniable feminine unity. As is so often the case when women live together, our cycles had synchronized. Nature delivered us yet one more cruel jab: There would be blood in the water. The sharks are now our nearly constant companions, a patient and persistent entourage. Patching the leaks is no longer an option. Besides, our raft is almost beyond repair. Our having to go into the ocean for good is imminent, and we all know it.


Get your copy of Sailing To the Far Horizon here:




About the book:

Muzungu, the Swahili word for white folk, translated literally means “confused person wandering about.” During the author’s months working and traveling through Kenya, this description fits her to a tee. Her audacious Kenyan adventure makes for a bucket load of anecdotes and impressions born of heart and hands-on experience–enough to knock your socks off.


Book trailer




Click Image To Purchase . . .

“Order this phone today” some sweet confection-nicknamed, neon-colored, ultra sleek mobile “and help wipe out AIDS in Africa!” the television commanded me within minutes of my collapsing for the first time in my Southern California living room after spending nearly two months in Africa. Now, what does that mean? I pondered. The next morning, a headline in the fat newspaper on my doorstep informed me that a tiny band of rebel fighters trapped somewhere in the African jungle were caught killing mountain gorillas. They were eating them to survive. Some American animal activist group was positively outraged. “Yes, outrageous,” I sighed.

Since returning home, reflecting on the time I spent in Kenya has proved to be a frustrating exercise. Throughout my journey I toted my copy of National Geographic, the issue on which the title page flashed, Africa: Whatever you thought, think again. I was hoping that somewhere in this illustrious expose I would find validation for the conflicting messages I was receiving. To make matters more confounding, from the moment my plane touched down back on U.S. soil I was buried in an avalanche of material insidiously designed to debunk my own eyewitness accounts. As a result I began to question my perceptions, which in turn caused my intention to commit the experience to print to stutter and then stall out completely. I feared that if I wrote an honest appraisal of my adventure I would be vilified. Even worse, I was afraid that what I wrote would have a deleterious effect on the people of Kenya, the people I went there to help. Then later on, while leafing through the stack of magazines that had piled up in my absence, I stumbled upon an article that casually discarded the term hunger, substituting in its place the new PC term, low food security, when describing the unpardonable state of the starving multitudes on the planet. It was at that moment that I pledged to tell my story.

Curious as to how the media’s tone when dealing with current issues jived with my personal impressions, I collected every Dark Continent news tidbit that cycled down the pike. Culling information from a variety of sources and comparing it with anecdotes from my own journey, I ferreted out what I hoped amounted to the litmus test for a Kenyan reality check. Materials from newspapers to newsmagazines, adventure journals to journals on health, and nonprofit charitable organizations to profiteering political organizations, were referenced and offset against my own experiences. As a result I began to suspect that the media’s Africa had taken on a life of its own and that tragically that life had precious little to do with improving the lives of Africans. It became increasingly apparent that although my story was certain to be a great many things, one thing it would never be was representative of the norm. I am changed as a result of my trip to Kenya though not in any way formerly anticipated. In addition to acknowledging the existence of the established abominations at work in Kenya, I expose some lesser-known evils. In the end I wrestle a few slippery demons of my own.

David arrived home to San Diego six months after I did. I called him immediately and we got together to catch up. He seemed like the same old David, ”happy, kind, helpful, manic, and refreshingly clear-eyed and unsentimental about the situation in Maseno. I was thrilled to have him back, had dozens of ideas to run past him, and felt such a profound sense of comradeship that I became cautiously optimistic about completing the book. My Kenyan cohort confirmed everything I remembered, sensed, questioned, and concluded about our shared experience at St. Philip’s. I am not crazy . . . I consoled myself. Then David stepped off the front porch of his and Michael’s sweet little cottage, strolled down his lovely tree-lined street, settled beneath a blossoming willow on a soft green lawn, and calmly sent a bullet through his brain.

Get your copy of Muzungu here:



When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read 

Proceeds go directly to the Kenya orphans.


From the author:

No one knows the story of Kenya better than the children who live it.

I had the opportunity to travel to this country and become immersed with the families there. The result is a 1500-word nonfiction children’s picture book containing over 70 unique and original color images, titled, “When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read: A Story of Hope and Friendship for One Young Kenyan Orphan.”

This true story of one little boy is told in his own words.

While there are many books about Africa on the market, none are told from a child’s point of view like this one.

The children from the village created the book’s illustrations. I asked these students to draw what represented family, love, happiness, sadness, fear and hope for them. I have also included powerful photographs of the children, the school, the village and the countryside, the hospital, the mobile clinic and orphan program.

It is this truth that is certain to nudge the hearts and minds of parents, teachers and children everywhere.

I have promised all proceeds from the sale of this book to the children of the tiny village school where the illustrations were created. They trust me. And they wait.

Book trailer




Click Image To Purchase . . .

My name is Julius. I am six years old and I have never been to school. I live in Kenya, Africa, with my bibi(grandmother), my dada (sister) Sarah and my kaka (brother) Hezron. Hezron is only three years old, but he is much bigger than I am.

We live in a mud hut on our little shamba (farm) in the forest.

Baba (father) and mama (mother) are gone. They were very sick and they could not get better. Our bibi cares for us but she is old and she cannot see. Sarah protects us. Sarah is eleven years old.

Professor Nancy is a kind bibi with skin and hair the color of cornflowers who comes to our village. She sees the hands and feet of my jamii (family) and says, “You have jiggers. Jiggers are bugs that crawl under the skin and lay eggs. You must come to my mobile clinic and orphan feeding program this weekend.”

I tell her, “When this is over, I will go to school, and I will learn to read.”



Get your copy of When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read here: 


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