|Credit: Kelly Mitchell|
Hi Kelly! Welcome to Kreative Circle. You're a business professional, an author, a podcaster and a proud gamer. Your professional journey references your transition from Fremont, Nebraska to Las Vegas, Nevada. How did this cultural transition materialize in your life? What emotions embodied any cultural shocks that accompanied this move?
Growing up in a small town was difficult for me. My sister had died when I was young, my parents divorced, and as a result my mother kept a firm grip on me. Couple that with a small town that everyone knew your business and an obscenely large family -- I couldn't get away with anything and craved adventure. When you have limited choices, you rebel. This means I was grounded (confined to my room) quite frequently. I would write myself into fantasy worlds and pour my pent up dreams onto pages. It stuck with me. Eventually, I met prince charming who happened to tour several countries and one of his stops in his job was my small town. We dated, things progressed and Sin City with its transient nature, big neon lights, and 24-hour atmosphere seemed an ideal place to start on my adventure.
The whirlwind of emotions I went through--some don't even have words. I was stunned you could move two blocks over and never see the same people again. I felt empowered and inspired by the individuality that I could express without judgment. I was moved by the surprising sense of community that I found lurking outside the Las Vegas Strip. Paulo Coelho had said, "writing is a socially acceptable form of being naked" and that's how I felt. Naked, free, unbridled--the flood gates had opened. Although, I should disclose I was terrified of driving on the freeway till my 5th year of living in Las Vegas.
You pride yourself to be a 'forever learner'. What initially motivated you to pursue a higher education in criminal justice? Based on your academic and professional experiences, is there an aspect of criminal justice that isn't taught or talked about in society that requires attention to improve society as a whole?
I think the day that you stop asking questions is the day you halt personal growth and development. I absolutely love the show Ted Lasso, the sexiest man on earth. He used a Walt Witman quote of "Be curious" and that is relevant. How can you possibly communicate with a diverse population without asking questions? I had originally completed college earning an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies. It didn't quench my thirst for knowledge and wanted to be an attorney. So, I thought a Psychology degree was the way to go. I ended up disliking psychology (too many rules)--except for Forensic Psychology. I transferred my credits from Creighton to UNLV and immersed myself in Criminal Justice with emphasis on Serial Killers and Sexual Predators. I was infatuated with the criminal mind. Yes, I fell in love with Hannibal Lector, who didn't?
For me, it isn't so much what isn't taught in society per subject. It's what isn't taught that is translatable across areas of study. Critical thinking is a must and translates across fields, the rest can be taught in the workplace. This is what helped me the most. When you teach someone how to critically think, a conspiracy theory dies. Relevant education is one of my passions. In my book, Clap If You Can Hear Me, I dedicate a chapter to the relevance of teaching virtues, experience, financial literacy, cultural and emotional intelligence, entrepreneurship--all through service-learning. Connection to the community is huge. These are your employers, your neighbors, and your mentors. A sense of civic duty should be in every one of us to elevate national prosperity. There is no better way to learn leadership and critical thinking than through service-learning and that is what is not being taught. There should be a class from 9th grade to 12th grade with 30 hours of service or hands-on-learning per year. The degrees are nice, but it takes schooling + experience education = wisdom. You won't learn that in a classroom and that is what is needed to improve society. Relevant education.
As a writer and commentator, do you believe true criminal justice reform can occur in a politically correct driven world?
No. It's unrealistic. First, I don't like the word 'correct'. Correct can mean a lot of things depending on who you ask. I think justice needs to be restorative and not just with 'criminals'. For example, truancy is a crime right--but what makes it a crime is the person's age. Now, if it is a girl running away from home because she is being abused and therefore truant--is justice to send her back home? To send her to a detention center with more advanced criminals to learn their behavior? It doesn't sound right does it? Or, let's talk about how victims need to be included in the process. This is especially prominent in the school systems. The victim does not have a say, the perpetrator is not meant to face the victim and have a conversation and amends cannot take place if the victim isn't included. The scope of criminal justice reform doesn't lie with political correctness in my humble opinion. It lies in stopping the student pipeline to prison, ending zero tolerance, having resources available for static (age) offenders and implementing a two-way justice/discipline model.
In my book, I tell the story of a 9-year-old who was labeled a sexual predator for telling his friend that he thought his teacher was cute. A substitute teacher overheard it. So, not only was the victim of the assault not in the room to be assaulted, assault usually takes place by someone of authority to an underling. Slapping this child under the same definition as a boss that was inappropriate with their subordinate minimizes the severity of the act and the action. Puppies are cute, kittens are cute -- the substitute teacher should have kept on walking. This type of nonsense, this is what needs to be reformed first. We need to stop the inflated, catch-all definitions spouted at children as weapons.
Kelly, your blog and platform Musing Around (Wicked Creative Writing), explores all lifestyle topics from social issues to lifestyle topics. The writings are infused with satire, dark comedy and thought provoking opinions. When did you decide it's time to share your musings with the world?
I write mostly to get the madness out of my head. My mind is always going and unless I write it down, the battle is fierce knocking about in my dreams. Sharing my writing and intimate thoughts were not on my radar, at first. It kind of erupted like...you know when you are watching a football game on TV and you feel overwhelmingly compelled to scream at the ref, player, or maybe even the football itself? That's what happened to me in a sense. I wanted to participate, contribute, yell right alongside my peers into the vastness that is the internet. It was shortly after that my fire changed to passion to use game theory and psychology in the workplace as well as initiate conversations on what a relevant education may look like. I would love nothing more than to see the nation prosper as a whole.
How has this experience contributed to your self-development as a person and a writer?
Absolutely. This process in podcasting and writing has introduced me to new people, caused me to research deeper into things, recognize and channel my emotions, organize my thoughts, and find my voice. It is extremely challenging to find your voice when you have so many different ones screaming at you. Your children, your boss, your clients, your spouse, your pets--before you can find your voice, you need to find moments of peace during the day to silence other voices. The silence helps me reflect on what I have heard and seen. I have warned friends and family that every conversation I hear, everything I see -- generally ends up in a blog, book, or podcast. Writing is life and to participate you need to ask why.
Musing Around represents different genres of life topics being explored that encompass human behavior, lifestyle choices and social culture. Are there any particular genres that attract readers to react and welcome a healthy debate?
One of my goals is to provide content that introduces value. I encourage debate because this country has forgotten how to constructively communicate. Debate strengthens arguments and makes ideas live up to their potential. I found that interaction with readers happens more on social media than it does on my web page. I have even been asked to research some topics and do a blog on them. One of which was ADHDs correlation to sexual addiction. I didn't even know this was a thing and was happy to investigate and report on it. It just goes to show that people have different struggles that you may not be aware of and that's where I live. If I can help, I want to. Comedy and laughter are universal languages and I think that is what makes me approachable and welcomes conversation without boundary. So, maybe it's not the genre, maybe it's the approach I take on a topic.
Are there any particular writings that you've shared that delivered a response which surprised you for better or worse?
I would have to say, two of my most read articles are polar opposites. One is the history of sex toys and the other is how we know we are in a narcissistic relationship with our government. I mean, basically the only thing these articles have in common is they are on the taboo list of Thanksgiving dinner conversation. It surprised me, but in such a good way. To me, I was validated in covering the multitude of topics that I do. It means there are people out there, like me, that are interested in a variety of things and not content with anyone niche defining us. We want to know a bit about everything. To me, this knowledge was beneficial and encouraged me to explore varieties of topics.
As a prolific writer, do you believe all topics are a safe bet to discuss in mainstream culture in order for society to evolve and grow?
That is a hard YES. Personal and societal growth mean the exploration of boundaries, the tolerance of topics that you may not enjoy, and the freedom to enjoy them. We seem to constantly scream for more diversity, more culture, more, more more--but then have zero tolerance for any of it. It doesn't make sense. Freedom should not be weaponized. Dr. Seuss is bad, but Grand Theft Auto is good. Nobody should decide that for me. Freedom ensures that you have the choice to read the book or not, play the game or not. Freedom comes with tolerance of the things you don't agree with and temperance to leave the option there for others to decide for themselves. I think people should not be afraid to discuss any topic and navigate situations with cultural and emotional intelligence because there is a time and place for conversations. I can write a book about education reform and still talk about the history of sex toys on my blog. One does not discount the other. The value of information is still there but the audiences are different, or, maybe some are the same. Hiding topics, like not saying Voldemort's name, gives them the power of fear.
When writing an editorial / opinion, what are a few tips that writers can rely on? Were there any lessons learned along the way that helped you refine how you present your opinions?
Research. Examine every argument against your opinion and analyze if they have merit. See if there is a middle ground and address it in your opinion. Once you get your facts and argument, disarm the defense with comedy. Too many people do not actively listen. Instead of listening, they are preparing to 'fire back'. Comedy removes that finger from the trigger and makes an audience more receptive and open to meaningful conversation. It also means, you actively listen too. This is the best advice I can provide writers and dually is the key lesson I learned. I'm not infallible. My arguments sometimes need to go back to the drawing board or come up with a new solution altogether. Writers should be open to that process as a forever learner. The second I realized I was not right about everything and became more diplomatic as an active listener--I started learning.
Kelly, as you tackle many curiosities in your editorials, is there such a thing as a right or wrong opinion?
No. Opinions are like...well, we all know that saying. I like to think of opinions more like a lighted path. As you gather new information, your opinion changes--a light will go off here or there and lead you another way, or you may stay the course. Some people will join you on your path, some won't. Opinions are a participation sport. The experiences in your life, values, and research are what forms opinions. Opinions should never be considered in absolutes. You will carry different opinions from graduation, to parenting, to grand parenting -- as you should.
As the author of 'Clap If You Can Hear Me', the book explores the educational reform model that creates generational wealth and national prosperity. What primary aspects of our education system require an immediate educational reform?
Education is archaic. The most immediate thing that needs to change is relevance. It is a vicious cycle of preparing kids for college and not life. The way to stay relevant is a connection with the community aka the businesses that are looking for the skills being taught. Higher education is sometimes best served in vocational training. Service-learning provides experience and a service to elevate community. Life skills are not learned in classrooms. You can read about critical thinking but not really put it into practice. World Religion is History. Religion influences culture and economies. Ignoring world religion is walking blind attempting to communicate with the world. We should know how religion built other cultures. Higher education quality has diminished but the prices remain steadfast. Students are not financially literate and do not know how to communicate much less debate. We are in a strong gig economy, but no entrepreneurial skills are taught or experienced. This is not the fault of the students. The onus is on us and holds us back from being globally competitive.
Do you believe the higher powers are hindering the progress of educational reform, or are the students and parents not making a concerted effort to demand sensible quality education that delivers a fair return on investment?
I don't necessarily think it is the fault of anyone's efforts. I just think we are focused on the wrong things and spinning wheels of who is right and who's agenda we are fighting for. The truth is agendas shouldn't be pushed on students as an ultimatum. A 7-year-old need not be forced to identify as anything. This is the age of reason and they should be exploring and questioning everything. I think choice has been taken away in the educational system. We are trying to fit the student to education and not fit education to the student. I'm not a fan of several theories being forced on students because they are being forced.
Home economics, shop, and other life skills were defunded to make way for technological pursuits and stay competitive. My book illustrates how this concept has backfired and robbed youth of an affordable, relevant education with financial, mental, and physical well-being. Clap If You Can Hear Me not only guides conversation, it offers solutions and links to resources that parents, teachers, and students can use right now--immediately--to establish control over individual educational goals. My hope is that educational reform happens, but it should not happen overnight or be a knee-jerk reaction that is a band aid rather than a practical solution. Education needs to be fluent with the times to be relevant. The structure put in place, hopefully sparked by some ideas in the book, should encourage discussions on how to do that. I am no expert. I am a parent, student, entrepreneur, and community member - so I do have a vested interest.
'Tour of Insanity: A Manifesto for Better Home Design' is a book co-authored with Matthew Zakutny. What experiences and/or events encouraged the two of you to write a book on entertaining home trivia which answers questions which explain 'why' things are situated the way they are in one's domestic space?
I met Matt through gaming. I often network and build business relationships outside of gaming with gamers. Gamers used to have the stigma of some long-haired dude in the basement, screaming at his mom to bring more meatloaf. That's simply not the case any more. Gamers are professionals, students, executives, managers, white-collar, blue-collar, and gaming is multicultural. You will never find a more diverse, cohesive population of people that collaborate well together like you do in gaming. This is why I believe game theory and game psychology would do well in the workplace and should be used on resumes. There are translatable skills here and we already educate by utilizing these theories--but that's another book.
In our game we talk about life and we vent. Sometimes we do interventions to save us from ourselves. Matt was discussing how things could be improved in homes to make them more relevant for the times. I became intrigued and curious. When I am curious, I am relentless in researching the 'why'. History provides the story for everything in existence. It is the relevance of the thing that is on a sliding scale. That's where the comedy is. As we went back and forth, we discovered we do things because they were always done that way, not necessarily to anything that is applicable now. I'm sure everyone has walked through their home and said 'just why' in frustration. We decided to address these issues and make some suggestions. It is one of the funnest projects I participated in to date. Yes, there will most definitely be a Tour of Insanity 2.
How do you perceive and define the word 'offensive'? In today's society, readers and listeners are easily 'offended' with content that doesn't align with their sentiments, or even the mainstream narrative.
Offended is a serious word and requires more than making someone uncomfortable or disagreeable. The requirements of an offense should be 1) willful and blatant intent to attack a person's beliefs without care; and 2) have no intent to further discuss the issue - therefore the act is to do harm. The problem is several people are offended by what is not a personal attack on them or has anything to do with them. Being offended should not be used as a shield from hard conversations. This type of behavior promotes divides, not honest discussion. It should be mandatory that if someone offends you, you must tell them why what they did or said offended you. Odds are, they probably had no idea they did. I would circle back to education reform. We aren't exactly promoting an investment in each other or society so it is easy to be offended and even easier to justify that with no need for conversation or relationship development.
As a public personality, how do you feel about people engaging in 'offensive' tantrums to demand 'political correctness' in today's society?
I think leadership needs to reflect on their behavior. They weaponize causes and people for their agendas. Leadership includes the media. It has become OK for the media to call their patrons 'idiots' and far worse. My jaw drops at the people that are supposed to be the best we have to offer. If the best of us are acting this way, why would people feel they need to act any different? It certainly isn't encouraging. I don't think people should use being 'offended' as a reason to force what they think 'political correctness' is. To me, a correction in leadership and media behavior to start acting like the best of us is in order. I would love to see a debate without insult, collaboration without social media slanders or media bashing, and focus on the problems. Problems are usually forgotten with misdirection. On my website is a blog for America On Mute and it goes deep into how leadership, no I don't care what party it is, how LEADERSHIP should behave and start being mentors that we could get behind. I can't get behind tantrum throwing, not even for my kids. I don't negotiate with terrorists.
Playing Devil's Advocate is a podcast hosted by you which delivers a cocktail of snarky, informative and humorous banter before audiences. Kelly, audiences may wonder what type of rebel are you and what is your cause?
I am an ordinary girl next door, think it & say it type. I am a realist. I consider myself a rebel with a cause because I don't fit into the mainstream, nor do I care. I am a patriot, a champion for community and education, an advocate to enhance quality of life and prosperity for the nation and can see through the smoke and mirrors to identify what the real problems are. I have the ability to spout comedy that tackles serious subject matter in the hopes people are both entertained and take away something new. I am the voice that amplifies: we can do better, let's talk.
How do you unwind and relax in your leisure?
I love to travel, but that's on hiatus at the moment. I read and of course play games. For a writer, you are really either doing it or thinking about doing it. So, there is seldom down time. I have a post-it note fetish to write down ideas or thoughts that I want to research. They are stuck all around my laptop space. A good gust of wind could make my laptop airborne.
As a gamer, do you recall the first game you played? Are there any games in the present that serve as a guilty pleasure?
The first game I played I think was Oregon Trail. Sad story, I died of dysentery. Then I think I got into the whole Mrs. Pacman, Donkey Kong, Zelda craze. My world changed with Mario Brothers, I was in love--that is until World of Warcraft came along and blew my virtual mind. After that, I had to flip to more mobile casual gaming. I played Metal Gear and God of War at night and War of Thrones during the day on breaks. Now with my writing and podcast--War of Thrones is all I have time for. I am partial to war games that allow you to connect with people. I have been in this one for nearly 6 years and have met people in real life that I met first in the game. It's been an amazing journey.
Is there a particular mantra that you live by which allows you to be the best Kelly to her kids, family, friends and advocates?
I stand by living naked (the Paulo Coelho quote). It has given me the freedom to ride my passion and in return to inspire my kids, family, friends, and advocates. Passion drives ambition, makes dreams tangible, pushes your boundaries, and reaches your potential. I never knew contentment until I was content in being me.
Are there any new projects on the horizon that you'd like to share with audiences?
I am currently authoring my third book (It is Tours 2). I have books being written in my head that I intend to publish in both the Sci-Fi dystopian and nonfiction genres. My podcast will always be rolling out episodes with new authors, innovators, and topics. I am creating an educational game with Matthew Zakutny that will be on Kickstarter soon. A Virtual Book Tour is being scheduled for the near future. There is always something brewing.
Please share with the audience how they can support your work.
I am always flattered by people sharing articles on my site, podcast episodes, or engaging with me on any of my social media. Buying my books is always awesome too! I am also on Patreon where people can be a VIP member and earn free merchandise and signed books. All links and information can be found at www.musingaroundlv.com or www.playingda.com.