The worst thing happened. All of my research notes, copies of manuscripts, marketing ideas, book proposal, everything in one notebook—lost. I lost it all when I sat my bag down on a street corner in Brooklyn, NY. Never mind why I sat it down in the first place but it was too when I realized it was gone. I mourned the loss of my work for a couple of weeks before I was able to push forward.
The only thing that encouraged me was that I had recently typed out my notes and had kept really good track of my sources so I didn’t have to completely start all over. Although, I prefer writing my notes by hand, this experience showed me that I have to back everything up. Unfortunately this lesson was learned the hard way.
“Here’s the point: God is in the resume’-building business. He is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities. But those God-given opportunities often come disguised as man-eating lions. And how we react when we encounter those lions will determine our destiny. We can cower in fear and run away from our greatest challenges. Or we can chase our God-ordained destiny by seizing the God-ordained opportunity.
But I was stuck and not willing to take the risk. Months had passed since I had a “chance” meeting with children’s author Judith Sierra at her garage sale. Judith was very encouraged about my writing ideas and gave me the contact number to author and senior editor, Andrea Pinkney at Scholastic Inc. Before I was even in the door I had kept myself from knocking.
I was afraid of taking the risk and being rejected. I was doubting whether or not there was an audience for my book. I was doubting whether or not a publishing company would even display interest in my topic. And the truth is, I didn’t really know how to approach her so I did nothing. That is until I took a serious look at regrets.
“In his book If Only, Dr. Neal Roese makes a fascinating distinction between two types of regret: regrets of action and regrets of inaction. A regret of action is ‘wishing you hadn’t done something.’ A regret of inaction is ‘wishing you had done something.’”-Mark Batterson
I knew that if I remained in the state of paralysis I would regret not reaching out to Mrs. Pinkney. So after acknowledging my fear I began to break it apart with knowledge. I began to read tons of books on the writing process, including Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, Guide to Literary Agents, Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, and The African American Writer’s Handbook. After filling up with great information I didn’t stop there. I took the first step and submitted a query letter.
I didn't have any idea if Mrs. Pinkney would respond to my query but within 10 minutes I received a reply! I was elated and although nothing has really panned out from connecting with her, I moved through the door! I overcame one of my first obstacles and let go of the weight of fear. Now I’m carrying less baggage for the journey.
I'm glad you asked! I love Black History but I do have other interest. Currently, I am co-writing an action filled, computer-science themed book with my daughters. We are so excited about this project because we hope to inspire young girls to explore the field of technology. There are so many things that I hope to write about, so stay connected so that I can keep you posted!
My parents grew up during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, while living in the urban cities of Chicago and St. Louis. They often would tell amazing stories about their experiences integrating into white schools and neighborhoods. I was always so intrigued about the African American experience in America, accomplishments and contributions made toward building this great country. It was my parent’s stories that piqued my interest in history because those were things that I wasn’t learning in school.
My parents were avid readers of history and I would often read their history books. This increased my desire to share this knowledge with my peers and I often found myself organizing Black History presentations in school. It became a passion of my entire family to share Black History.
Unfortunately, I did encounter some people who didn’t want to learn our history. I can remember giving a presentation in my AP American history class about the importance of teaching history from a multicultural perspective. My teacher was adamantly opposed and thought history should only be taught by the dominant culture.
It was then that I knew I had to continue to champion the idea that all voices matter. I’m so excited that as a writer I have the opportunity to pass this ideology on to the next generation.
I recently completed a debut children’s historical fiction, picture-story book entitled Uncle Manuel and the Story of New York. It’s an exciting story about the true accounts of Groot Manuel and the colonial slaves of New York City. Written in a story-telling voice, Grandma Jenny passes along the family history of Uncle Manuel to her grandson Christopher who had an incredible journey from slavery to becoming one of the first free black land owners, ultimately living in New York’s “Land of the Blacks,” today’s Washington Square Park. It's written for children between the ages of 8-10 years old and will fascinate young audiences as well as adults.
Well it actually started with reading. As a child I loved to read. I can remember my dad telling me to go outside to play and I would go outside, set up my blanket on the porch and continue reading. Reading was like playing. I could go anywhere and be anyone, it was and still is one of my favorite things to do. Reading provided me with the language needed to become a good writer.
In high school I began expressing my thoughts and feelings through poetry. Not only was I writing my own poems but due to my love of music, I began writing musical lyrics. I combined my passion for singing and love of writing and began composing wedding songs. It was an awesome feeling to know that couples wanted me to write and perform original songs in their wedding.
Once I hit college, my leisure reading took a backseat but I continued writing songs and daily entries into my personal journal. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I knew I wanted to write books. I started a few stories but never finished. It wasn’t until the summer of 2015 that I completed my first manuscript.
Ayanna is a debut author that enjoys writing fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for children. She finished her first manuscript in 2015 and is currently working with a literary agent to represent her work to Publishing houses.