Orphan Survival Stories Index |
ROGER DEAN KISER
Roger Dean Kiser is an orphan who beat a brutal and dehumanizing system to become an award-winning writer. His theme revolves around his experiences in a Jacksonville, Florida orphanage where he was physically, mentally and sexually abused. His messages are always sharp, often sad, sometimes humorous and always honest and heartfelt. His audience is international in scope after being published in books and magazines around the world.
Question: What got you started? Why did you begin to write?
ANSWER: I began to write because of this overpowering feeling of loneliness that I have always felt inside myself. I felt that it was necessary for me to explain to my family and friends why I have always been incapable of hugging then or showing them affection.
Question: What do you most want to achieve through your writing? (What effect do you want your writing to have on your readers)?
ANSWER: My main purpose for writing is to let the world know that abusing a child lasts an entire lifetime. In many cases, that abuse is transferred to your children and possibly even on to your grandchildren. It is a cycle that is very difficult to break.
Question: What is the difference, from a writer's point of view in publishing stories on the Internet vs. traditional publishing?
ANSWER: I really do not see much of a difference. I think that every writer wants to reach as large an audience as possible, whether it is to market their books or to make a public statement. This is what I try to do.
Question: Do you have any favorite writers who you could claim as influencing your approach (Truman Capote? [In Cold Blood])
ANSWER: Actually, I read very little. I guess that is because I find that reading another author’s work affects the style in which I write; that being, writing in a “child’s voice.” However, when I do read I look to new authors who will inspire me. Authors like Charles Nichols who wrote the book "Orphan Boy".
Question: How do you do your work? Describe your creative process.
ANSWER: When I write a story I start with a feeling. I take that feeling and I incorporate it into a meaning. Then I take the meaning and transfer it into words. I continue to write over, and over until the words can actually make me feel the pain that I am trying to express.
Question: How would you describe your work? What is the genre?
ANSWER: I am not sure what category my work would fall under. I am a man who writes in a child's voice. I suppose I write in that manner because I want the reader to know exactly how a child feels, and what they are thinking, at the very moment that they are being abused. I have no ideas how one would classify that type of writing.
Question: Let us back up a minute, Roger. Please tell us, in thumbnail form, your story. Why did you go to the orphanage in the first place and what happened after you got out?
ANSWER: By the time the police arrived, I was almost been beaten to death by my step-grandparents. My mother had deserted me several years earlier; I became a "ward of the court" and placed in a Florida orphanage, where I spent my entire childhood. While in the orphanage, there was no "love", no "trust" and no "nurturing. There was absolutely nothing, except brutality shown to us kids. I sat there for nine, long years being clothed, housed, fed and educated. After released from that “prison”, and becoming an adult, there was absolutely nothing inside of me. I had become an empty vacuum walking around with no emotional core. I did not even know who I was as a person. I had no identity of my own. I was nothing more than a body walking around in a strange world. I have always said, “Even the best orphanage is nothing more than a good prison for kids.” That is the truest statement that I have ever written in my life.
Question: When did you know you would be a writer? Was it a lifelong dream or a sudden realization?
ANSWER: About five years ago, I told myself that it was time for me to stop being afraid of the past. To stop being afraid of what the orphanage might do to me should I expose the evil things that they did to us kids. I sat down at my computer and I started writing. I wrote for 30 hours, nonstop. The more I wrote the more I cried. The more I cried the better I felt inside. I did not know that there were any tears left in me to cry. I think I wept until I healed myself. By the time I stopped, I had become a published author.
Question: Did you ever write as a child?
ANSWER: At the orphanage, no child was permitted to be creative. We were not allowed to read or write other than to do our homework. There was very little time for reading or witting. The few minutes we were not clean, raking or scrubbing we used those few minutes to play. Every day in an orphanage is identical to the next. I lived in that orphanage for many years. Had I been able to write I could have only written one type of short story. A story expressing loneliness, depression, desperation and totally despair. Slowly days turned in weeks, weeks into months and the months became years. We kids were nothing more than a swarm of “worker bees.” Our only purpose for living was to take care of the hive. A hive that we were made to feel we were lucky to have.
Question: What kinds of feedback have you had from your writing ? Especially from "The System", or the orphanages themselves?
ANSWER: Most orphanages forbid me to step foot on their property. On the other hand, I have received several letters from the Vatican, which praise my work, as well as my stories on child abuse, especially the manner in which I write them.
Question: Through my website, I have met hundreds of abused orphans, who suffered the same abuses while living in an orphanage. The one thing that has surprised me is the magnitude of the orphanage abuse issue. It is an issue than society's is unwilling to accept, nor deal with. An issue that is easier to ignore, than to confront.
Question: When you were being abused, as a child and as an orphan did you think your situation was unique? Did you know there were other children who were not being treated the same way?
ANSWER: They told us that all children, even those living outside the gates of the orphanage, were treated in the same manner that we orphans were being treated. Of course, those were our caretakers talking. There was no reason to doubt them.
Question: What are the consequences of not helping kids who are being abused by the system?
ANSWER: It is a sure and guaranteed way to keep our prisons and mental health clinics at full capacity.
Question: Which of the ways people abuse children is the most damaging? The physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
ANSWER: In my case it was a combination of all three. However, if I had to choose one for myself I would have to say the emotional abuse.
Question: What can we do to change the system?
ANSWER: I am afraid I have some bad news. The system will never change. It has become a monster unto itself. It is a monster that no one can stop or wants to stop.
Question: How did you find the confidence to start a new life after all the shattering of your self -esteem you suffered as a child?
ANSWER: One day I woke up and I looked in the mirror. I saw an wrinkled little boy staring back at me. I told him that I was not going to let him be afraid anymore. That was the day that I decided to tell the world my secret. The day I decided to talk about my anger and to express my feelings to the world. To try, as best I could to shed that feelings of emptiness before it passed down to children and grandchildren.
Question: Do you ever have flashbacks or post traumatic stress episodes now?
ANSWER: I would not say that I have flashbacks. I have been left with a never-ending feeling of loneliness. That over-powering feeling is who I have become as an adult person. That feeling is whom I am when I wake up each, and every morning. I suppose I look at that orphanage prison and I see that there is nothing to flashback to.
Question:Would you describe yourself as happy or at peace today?
ANSWER: I would have to answer that question like this: I now live in a state of “peaceful loneliness”.
Question: Can someone ever get over being abused, as a child?
ANSWER: That depends. Any child can make a life for themselves after being abused. However, that can only be accomplished by making (all) decisions in their life with their brain, rather than their emotional abilities. Making those adjustments is not an easy task. It is a battle that one must fight their entire lifetime.
Question: What is your favorite story of everything you have written?
ANSWER: “A "D" Minus.” That was a very special story to me. It involved my seventh grade teacher, his name was Mr. Young. It was a good feeling for me to know that somebody in the world finally understood that I had a learning disability. That someone finally realized that I was not “a stupid bastard,” as the orphanage liked to call me. That was a very happy day in my life.
QUESTION: What was the hardest story for you to write?
ANSWER: “The horrors in the White House” is the most difficult story that I ever wrote. It is a story telling of a beating I took while in the custody of the State of Florida. Beaten so badly that my underwear had to be surgically, removed from my buttock. What makes the story even more horrible is that the beating was legal. I suppose the only healing I got from that incident was when I received a letter of apology from the Governor of Florida, several years ago.
QUESTION: What is in the future for Roger Dean Kiser?
ANSWER: I do not really know. I hope to one day live on a houseboat in the California Delta. That has to be one of the most beautiful areas that I have ever seen. Of course, that is never going to happen, mainly because I keep giving my stories away free. I have hundreds of stories printed in 30 school textbooks in five countries. Therefore, I suppose I will sit here in my mobile home and continue to write about child abuse issues and its affects on our society.
QUESTION: Do you have any advice for people who want to write or are just beginning to write?
ANSWER: Always write from the heart. Be honest and do not be discouraged by your critics. Believe me there are going be many who think that you are just wasting your time. Many want to see you fail, especially your relatives. Watch out for them evil critters.
QUESTION: Do you think that orphanages have changed since the 1950s-60s?
ANSWER: Many orphanages in the United States have changed their policies. Much of the physical and mental abuse has ceased mainly because of out-cries from the public. However, the orphan children are still being treated as though they are prisoners. Years of incarceration in these institutions do not prepare these children for life in the outside world. When these children head out into ‘the real world’, they have been raised to think in an “institutionalized” manner. They do not have the slightest idea how to function in a normal family setting. Most go from relationship to relationship, year after year not having the slightest idea that something is wrong with them. Children living in these facilities must be afforded the freedoms given to children who do have parents. They must, during the informative years be subjected to at least friends who have families. They must learn that a prison style, incarcerated environment is not a correct and proper life-style. Common sense tells us that children raised in this type of a prison setting are headed for a lifetime of disaster and that they are going to drag their families down with them.
QUESTION: Can you offer any advice to those who might be abusing their children?
ANSWER: Maybe people who are abusing their children do not feel that they are honestly abusing them. Much of the minor abuse that they are doing they considered only to be a necessary corrective measure and will be forgotten by the child in a day or two.
The day is going to come when the abuser will get old. They will sit in a nursing home waiting for their weekly visit from their children and grandchildren. When they arrive, they will see the ‘look of abuse’ in the eyes of their visitors. They will die remembering that look.
Question: Asner is credited as a factor in the publishing of your first book “Orphan”, how did you two meet?
ANSWER: I received an e-mail from Mr. Asner in January of 2000. He told me that he had read many of my stories and wanted to know if I would like to have a few of my stories published. I agreed, and two weeks later, I was under contract for two books. Two years later Ed made a short movie based on my short story “The Bully.”
We are presently discussing a thirteen-week television series based on my book “Orphan, A True Story.”
Question: How many stories have you authored?
ANSWER: I have written about 500 stories in the last five years.
Question: What is the title of your latest work?
ANSWER: I am working on a book titled “RUNAWAY.” A collection of sixty short stories telling about my life and experiences while living on the streets of Jacksonville, Florida. Some stories tell of the many dangers while others tell of the kindness shown to me as well as the lessons that I learned.
Question: Can you share with us some of your past?
ANSWER: I spent my entire childhood living in an orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida. My memory cannot recall one split-second of what it is like to experience the love, kisses or embarrass of a mother, or a father.
At age fourteen, the juvenile court committed me to eighteen months at the Florida School for Boys (Reform School) at Marianna, Florida. After my early release, I refused to return to the orphanage and returned to the reform school. From there I made my way to jail and then onto prison. I walked out of prison on February 6, 1969. That was the first day in my life I had ever been free. A time I had prayed for many times. All I ever wanted out of life was to be able to go to the bathroom, and get a drink of water without asking permission. I have never been in trouble again.
I have been married six times; have four children and eleven grandchildren.
I have always been a responsible, hardworking adult. However, not being able to show love or express affection has become my downfall.
Presently, much of my time I spend writing short stories, giving speeches and talking with schoolchildren about abuse. I love to fish, boat and camp. The joy of my life is my grandchildren, for they are the ones who taught their “Papa” how to love, without being afraid.
Question: When you considered coming out with the story of your abuse did you have support?
ANSWER: I had no support at all, not from my family or my friends. The very people who I thought would support me (My former orphan brothers and sisters) turned their backs on me. They did not want to hear about, read or think about the horrors that took place in that orphanage. They did not want their wives, husbands or children to know that they had suffered such abuses.
Question: Through your pain, do you feel that you have some form of solace?
ANSWER: No, before I realized that I was not the “bad guy” it is too late to find any comfort. I find comfort in trying to save those children whose hearts, love and trust is not yet destroyed, by adults.
Question: Can you use one word to describe your works?
Question: Do you have any children now?
ANSWER: Four children and eleven grandchildren.
Question: What do you wish would happen in terms of the care provided to Orphans?
ANSWER: The children in these orphanages need to have some of the freedoms allotted to children who do have parents. These orphan children need to spend as much time as possible with their friends who live in a normal family setting. When the children leave the orphanage they have become accustom to living in an “institutionalized” environment. How can they go out into a ‘normal world’, start a family, and build a ‘normal life’ for themselves based a lifestyle they have never seen or experienced before?
Question: Do you feel that all great talents have experienced some sort of pain?
ANSWER: I feel that most great talents have experienced pain. That pain drives someone to do great things.
Question: What is your motto?
ANSWER: “If you see the wonder in a fairly tale. You can take the future even if you fail”.
Roger’s stories can be read (free) on his web site located at: http://www.rogerdeankiser.com.
Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.
100 Northridge Drive
Brunswick, Georgia 31525
"Orphan" is also available on the internet at Amazon.com and at most local book stores in the U.S.
NOTE: I have worked on this book for more than 25 years. I have kept these stories hidden away because I was afraid to speak out about what happened to us in that Jacksonville, Florida orphanage.
I feel that it is very important that the world needs to know what happened, and what might still be happening in many American orphanages.
I hope that you will support me by buying a copy, or two of my book. I have worked many years in hopes that I could help others by building, and maintaining my "free to all" child abuse short story web site.
It sure would make me feel good to know that I have made my country aware of what has happened to hundreds (if not thousands) of innocent little children. It is important that this type of thing never happen again to another child born in this country.
Some of my stories are now available on CD and may be purchased at: CLICK HERE FOR CD
Thank you so very much,
Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.