Kirk Blackard is the author of Face to Face:
Eighteen-year-old Keith Blackburn was trying to steal Misty Wright’s car. In the process, he shot her through the head and left her for dead. Keith was apprehended and charged with attempted murder. He denied everything, but was convicted and sentenced to twenty-one years in prison.
Misty survived the shooting, but was consumed by fear, hate, and vengeance. Keith turned his life around and was released after nine years behind bars. Eighteen years after the shooting, Misty contacted Keith and forgave him.
Keith has earned a Master of Divinity degree, is a Chaplain in the Indiana prison system, and is pastor of a church with an outreach to ex-cons. Misty is Indiana Regional Coordinator of a large restorative justice ministry that works with people who are incarcerated. The two of them have become friends and travel together around the country speaking about their downfall and redemption.
Read on for a special interview with Kirk.
S.R.: What inspired you to write Face to Face? What is it about Misty and Keith’s story that drew you to it?
K.B.: For a number of years I have been interested in conflict, and its causes, management, and resolution. The story behind Face to Face is one of conflict run amuck: Keith shot Misty in the face and tried to kill her. It’s also the story of two people doing exactly the right things to deal with a most heinous situation. Misty overcame the consequences of the shooting, forgave Keith, and became his colleague and friend. Keith confessed what he had done, transformed his life, and accepted Misty’s forgiveness. Together they provide a perfect model of peacemaking and peace that most people can learn from. I was inspired by the opportunity to share this model with others.
S.R.: How did you first learn about Misty and Keith’s story?
K.B.: I am Chairman of the Board of Bridges To Life, a large restorative justice program that works in prisons with offenders and victims to help individuals in both groups deal with what they have done or what has been done to them. Misty and Keith were invited to tell their story to a group of prison inmates and then the following day to a large group of the organization’s supporters. I heard them on both occasions, and was shocked by the way they captivated and affected those very different audiences.
S.R.: What was the process like for writing this story?
K.B.: The process was largely listening, asking, organizing, and writing. Misty and Keith had thought about their story and told it on a number of occasions before we started work on the book, so much of the information needed was readily available. My role was to listen carefully to the story as they told it, help them fill the gaps by asking the right questions, organize what they revealed, and put it in words on paper. Integrating their two stories covering two different and largely unrelated lives over a period of roughly twenty-five years into one story of redemption was the greatest challenge.
S.R.: Did Keith and Misty’s story evolve through the process of writing the book? Did they each learn new things?
K.B.: Their story did not change or evolve through the process, but I believe their understanding of what had happened to them did grow and develop. For example, as Misty looked back, she began to see more clearly that forgiveness is a journey and not an event, and that the forgiveness she now endorses is much more mature and complete than her forgiveness was in the early stages. Keith came to understand that although he had transformed his life before he learned of Misty’s forgiveness, his life was not full and complete until Misty forgave him and he accepted her forgiveness.
S.R.: What do you hope readers get out of Face to Face?
K.B.: I hope readers learn that no life is so bad it cannot be transformed, and no problem or conflict is so big that it cannot be forgiven. Both transformation and forgiveness can start small and tentative, and grow toward fullness over time.
S.R.: How did you become a writer and publisher?
K.B.: I am a retired corporate executive. In corporate life I led an innovative effort involving managing certain areas of conflict, and felt others could benefit from learning about it. After retirement I wrote a book describing that effort. I enjoyed the work on the book, “caught the bug,” and began writing on other topics of interest. Face to Face is my ninth published book.
S.R.: What are you working on next?
K.B.: I am working on a book tentatively titled Transformative Incarceration, which describes a systemic approach to helping prison inmates change their lives and return to free society as law abiding, productive citizens.
You can purchase your copy of Face to Face here.
Kirk Blackard is a retired lawyer and corporate executive with extensive experience in conflict management. He is Chairman of the Board of the faith-based restorative justice ministry, Bridges to Life. He has written six books on subjects related to Face to Face. Kirk and his wife, Marcia, live in Houston.