DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Interview with Author Winona Rasheed

Winona Rasheed writes to inspire. And, to that end, she succeeds.
Ms Rasheed writes children's books. From A NEW HOME FOR HER CUBS, the tale of a lioness searching for a peaceful and safe home to raise her family, to the deceptively impressive BROKEN VOICES, she artistically conveys a message of hope and love for children of all ages and, yes, abilities and disabilities.

BROKEN VOICES is a celebration of differences and acceptance. Written for children and young adults, this story deserves to be read by every one of us, regardless of age. It is a story of courage and how the only chains binding us are in our minds, and once we slip those chains, we become victorious.

Though we may believe she is a relative newcomer to novels, Ms Rasheed has been writing what we read for longer than one would expect. She has been a ghostwriter and editor, as well as author of a number of articles for Authorme, Demand Studios and Quality Gal.

Ms Rasheed's voice is powerful, yet with a gentleness that snuggles you next to your child in bed, sharing her marvelous tales and creating lifelong memories and smiles.
http://www.winonarasheed.com/index.html

Q) What were the first books that captured your imagination and gave you the thought you might like to write?

A) As a child, some of the first books that I loved were the old time favorites like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Cat in the Hat, Tom Sawyer and Chicken Little come to mind. I loved stories that made you giggle and those with a happy ending. At thirteen, it seemed to me that reading and writing went together like peanut butter and jelly; you couldn’t have one without the other. Though I always loved reading, it wasn’t until I wrote a short story for extra credit for English class that got me interested in writing. When I saw that big fat A plus on my work, I was hooked. The teacher liked my story and thought I did an excellent job. So, it wasn’t necessarily the books that inspired me to write, it was the first A I received in creating and writing a story. It was like that one particular teacher was telling me that I had talent and she was impressed. Perhaps now that I think about it, she was grading me on my creativity and story idea, because I hadn’t even begun to learn the proper essentials of story writing. That did not come until much later. But, that first A is what lit the fire in me to write. It gave me confidence in myself at the age of thirteen.

Q) Here comes the obvious question. Why children's books? And, given your skill at creating and telling such masterful stories, have you considered other genres?

A) I didn’t always write children stories. That did not occur until after I took a course in writing for children and teens from the Institute of Children’s Literature. Before that, my short stories that I wrote for fun or as a hobby consisted of light romantic situations that were geared toward young adults in relationships. That particular writing venue came from me reading lots of Harlequin Romance books. In my stories that never took off, because they have been long forgotten about, my characters were African American. I love writing short stories for children, because for me they are easier to create and less time consuming. However, I could consider writing in other genres if a particular idea took me by storm the way writing for children has. That has not happened in this stage of my life, not like it did when I was a teen. With the children genre, I feel that I have found my nitch and I am quite comfortable in it. Before, writing was a hobby, but today it is my life.

Q) I want to point out, your love and concern for children is a dominant part of your life. Your startling article "The Diamonds of Africa" includes these lines: "…do you really need to walk in the shoes of the poor, the destitute, the young and helpless before we give a helping hand? Where is the compassion for the human race and its children?"
Usually, when someone is filled with such passion and compassion, someone instrumental in their life planted the seed. For you, who was that person?

A) I really can’t name a particular person who I can say was instrumental in planting that seed of compassion, except for my mother who was a very compassionate and caring person. However, I can remember as teen seeing commercials on TV about the poor and destitute children in other countries. Seeing kids with torn clothes and not enough food to eat, and seeing insects flying around their faces broke my heart. Even then I knew it should not be that way. I was wishing that I could adopt all of them, bringing them home to live with me. However, I was a humanitarian at heart, because little ole me couldn’t do anything in reality to make a difference. The only thing I could do was write about it, but that contribution didn’t occur until much later in my life, when I jotted down my point of view, informing the world that children are still suffering, children too destitute to even have dreams of a better tomorrow. On my website blog, I have other articles on this topic.

Q) You just attended your first book signing in Washington, D.C. How did it feel meeting some of the folks who buy and read your work?

A) Although I am an author with six published books; my latest book “Broken Voices,” which is published by New Line Press, really opened doors for me as an author. I have never attended a book signing, or been interviewed before with the rest of my books. I was in 7th Heaven when invitations started coming in. Actually, I felt like a star at the Academy Awards. It was an awesome feeling standing there shows casing and talking about all of my books at the library event. It took me two weeks to prepare, getting all of my supplies in order so that I could set up my table. It was very exciting. At last, I was making my debut as an author and the library event was my red carpet. At the end of the event, I walked away feeling accomplished, motivated and inventive. I was a bona fide author. To all of those who write, I say hold on to your dreams and don’t let go of them.

Q) The concept of books is evolving. Most of the time, when discussing the advent of Ebooks, the talk overlooks the feel of your child or grandchild on your lap sharing a book together. What is your take on the future of printed books?

A) Even in this modern world of technology, and staying up with the changing times and trends, I must admit that I am a bit old fashion or old school as one would say. There is nothing like having a child sit on your lap listening to a story being read while they turn the pages, or reading a story such as, “The Monster at the End of the Book” to a classroom full of preschoolers, and watching their faces as they anticipate the teacher turning the page. Regardless of our changing times, I believe old fashion paper bound books will never be obsolete. I don’t see anything wrong with e-books; it gives authors and readers options. For myself, I am pleased that all of my books can be bought as either an e-book or a print copy, because it gives potential buyers choices. However, I don’t think that libraries or book stores will ever do away with paper bound books. There would be too many empty shelving units and a lot of Kindle files to upload or download. Where and how would they store all these titles? How would customers browse before they buy? How would you go about checking out an e-book at the library, would you still need a library card? Even in the 21st century, there are some things that just shouldn’t be changed.

Q) What advice or encouragement can you offer those who have a story to tell, but have yet to put pen to paper?

A) My advice to those who have something to say, but has yet to write it all down, I say “get to writing!” A lot of people fear writing because of all of its mechanics. But, the most important factor of writing is getting started. You don’t have to worry about making it perfect the first time. What is important is the fact that you must write your thoughts and ideas down, even though they may be jumbled up and confusing. This is your first draft. It may take 3 and 4 drafts before you have everything down the way you want it to be. You should not be under any pressure because you aren’t working under a deadline. If there are errors, don’t be concern, for you can always go back and correct them later once you have a draft in place. Just remember, all writers, new and old are always tweaking that manuscript before it is sent to a publisher. But, the main thing is to get started on the writing process. A writer turned author has a lot to look forward to, even if the road to success is a difficult one. But, believe me when I say the journey is well worth all your efforts when you go from being a writer to becoming an author. It all begins with that first draft. You have to write it. You have to begin the writing process.

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