Inside the Creative Mind

This post is the first in the series, “Inside the Creative Mind.” Let’s kick off this series by interviewing Ms. Shona Bramble, author of Letters to Girls Who Dream of Flying.

Shona, thank you so for taking the time to answer a few questions for my blog readers over at www.allthingsrelax.com and congratulations on publishing such an inspiring book, Letters to Girls Who Dream of Flying.

So, let’s dive (or should I say lift off) into the questions!

Can you tell us about an early experience where you learned that language has power?

When I moved to the U.S {from the Eastern Caribbean Island Saint Vincent and the Grenadines} I had a tough English teacher. She asked our class to write a paper – one of my first papers – and graded me lower than I thought I deserved.

When I asked why my grade was so low, she said, “You wrote your entire paper with British English spelling.” When I replied, “I don’t understand, I think I’m a good writer,” she told me “You’re in America now.”

This teacher had an important influence on my writing and my life.

When I was 17, I participated in a nationwide school essay contest. My English teacher gave me advice on what approach to take when writing about the topic, “Why Are Children Skipping School?”

She didn’t tell me what to write but advised me not to answer the question in a way that people would expect me to answer it.

My essay was selected for publication in the Washington Post, a national newspaper!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Good question! I would have to do with poetry. My quirkiness with {writing} poetry is that I will hear a word or a phrase and will write it down.

Then I will go back late at night — very late at night or in the early morning — when inspiration comes. I write one word and then from there, write the entire piece {poem} without stopping.

Rarely do I go back to fix or edit anything, except maybe a word or two. I find my inspiration in the oddest places – either I hear or see something – it could be in a store where I might see a word on an advertisement. I will note the word(s) and later create something with that.

If it takes too much time to write a poem, then I just leave it. If it doesn’t flow, it isn’t worth writing about.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? Why?

Weird–I thought I knew the answer. My pattern and personality are that of an owl since I stay awake late at night.

But….it would be an animal that is silent yet strong.

I see myself as a zebra – they are mystical and I love black and white stripes.

Spirit Animal: Zebra

Spirit Animal: Zebra (c) 2015 Eos Art

The zebra as an avatar translates to strength. Kin to the horse, but you don’t see them as often. I go into hiding mode since I am an extrovert and introvert blend. So I’d say the zebra for its color and strength–it’s a beautiful animal.

The creative process takes time — I enjoy silence and space.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Editing myself and also trying to think about the audience. For the longest time, I was writing for myself.

Now, with an audience, I have the anxiety of making sure that what I write is not offensive since I like to talk about controversial things.

When editing my work, I don’t want to water things down, but at the same time, don’t want to forget the audience’s needs. I want people to pick up the book and be able to say “That’s me!”

I stay true to myself, the story, the intention, and what I’m trying to say. At my core, I am a communicator.

Which other authors (or other creative people) are you friends with and how do they inspire you to become a better writer?

I have a friend who designs clothing and jewelry. She has always encouraged me. What I’ve learned from her is that you don’t have to have the shop ‘whole.’

I tend to be a perfectionist. {Note: We had a brief side chat about Brené Brown’s book, the GIfts of Imperfection.}

{Note: We had a brief side chat about Brené Brown’s book,  The Gifts of Imperfection.}

Instead, you can do things in bits and pieces and build up to it. With perfection, that holds you back because if everything isn’t done, then you think you’re not ready for prime time. My friend does pop up stuff — both online and in-person events. Somehow she’s motivated to get things done.

You have to be able to say ‘This is good enough.” If you over do it and want to perfect it, it’s too much. I’ve learned you don’t have to do it all. You can do it in chunks. Make it your full-time gig, but don’t always expect perfection. There’s beauty in imperfection.

What is the first book (or other written work) that made you either cry or laugh (or both)?

Possibly something by Shakespeare! I remember reading The Tempest when I was 12 years old and still living in the Caribbean. It was such a heavy story. I loved the beauty and the words. Plays and poems by Shakespeare make me go through the emotions.

I would also have to say Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison–I remember how powerful it was. It filled me with a lot of emotion and took me time to sort out the story. It could be any of us. The commentary made me sad, yet happy. Happy because he was so gifted and talented–Ellison inspired me to write.

Maya Angelou makes me want to laugh and cry too. Her poems are so filled with emotion–she has a knack for doing that!

I’d have to say that if we are talking about the written word, I would pick a song by Nina Simone. My favorite is  Mississippi Goddamn. It’s about political issues from the 1960’s during the civil rights movement. Despite the subject being serious–beating and lying–she still makes you want to laugh. It’s beautiful–so funny yet so serious at the same time. The combination of the seriousness of the message and the beautiful delivery is almost comical.

For what/whom are you most grateful?

I am most grateful for my grandmother — “my best girl“!

She has been like my shadow in life. We have a ritual of eating dinner almost every night together. My grandmother tells me stories about her past, her dreams. She tells me she’s praying for me and is 100% there for me.

Undeniably my number one supporter.

My grandmother raised me when my mom left Saint Vincent’s (when I was between the ages of 8-16 years old).

My grandmother gave me early lessons about how to treat people, how other people will treat you, and how to be a good person. She is and taught me the core of good conduct.

She talked to me about jealousy. She said never be jealous because you never know how someone got where they are. So, I don’t get green-eyed envy.

My grandmother also taught me about waiting and being a patient person, that nothing happens before God’s time. She’s been a guardian–always there for me. She loves to cook and is concerned about my physical and mental health. She is in tune with me and my emotions.

Grandparents often take on bigger roles. My grandmother is a mother, a father, and a grandmother all wrapped up in one.

{Note: I was not at all surprised by Shona’s response. She has ALWAYS spoken highly of her grandmother!!}

What was one of the most surprising things you learned when creating “Letters to Girls Who Dream of Flying?” (about the writing/ publishing process and/or about yourself)

 

The most surprising thing I learned about self-publishing is how much help I got from the company (whose platform) I used to publish my book. I thought I would have to wait for customer service, but they were quick and always available to help me. The process was much easier than I thought it would be. You can create a book cover with their program–or not. If you don’t use their program to create the book cover, they provide a lot of guidance and a template. The final proof

I thought I would have to wait for customer service, but they were quick and always available to help me. The process was much easier than I thought it would be. You can create a book cover with their program–or not. If you don’t use their program to create the book cover, they provide a lot of guidance and a template.

The final proof to publication-ready process was so quick–it took less than 24 hours. It published immediately to CreateSpace and was available on Amazon within a day.

I used everything I learned in my publishing career when creating my book–pagination, what to look for in a proof, etc.

The toughest part was editing the letters. No matter how much you think you’re going through in life, people around you are going through even more.

I had tears in my eyes when reading other people’s stories. I was protective of their words and what they went through.

When selecting an editor to help me with the manuscript, I was mindful in choosing someone who wouldn’t try to change the intent or seriousness of each person’s letter. I was surprised by how emotional I got after reading each letter.

I kept thinking, “They are trusting me with their words and emotions.”

This is why I provide resources for readers at the end of the book. I realized that I needed to be more of an advocate for all of the women around me.

My tenacity surprised me. I finally saw it in myself for the first time. I’m sometimes scared about how people will take to the book.

What common themes emerged from the collection of letters and which ones surprised you the most?

Some of the common themes that surfaced are spirituality, social media’s role in self-perception, self-acceptance, and family.

The theme of spirituality was strong. Many people from different faiths turn to God for healing. Women wrote about social media’s role in how girls/women view themselves and the impact the internet has had on self-esteem.

In the letters, women ask themselves to be braver, take chances, and accept who they are. They tell young girls “Be who you are.”

Women representing countries from around the globe, from different age groups and professions wrote letters. Yet their experiences are very similar.

No matter where you are from:

  • We all want to be OK
  • We all want to be ourselves

These threads run through each letter. Everyone wants to be accepted (for how they are) and be seen in a certain way.

This book is a revelation for me, especially when I read about what people wanted to be when growing up. It was beautiful to read their stories.

But by far the strongest theme that came across what that of spirituality in some form.

Do you have any future plans to have the book translated into other languages?

I would love to do that. I don’t know where to start. I guess I would first have it translated into French, Spanish, and Chinese. Yes, I would be open to having it translated into other languages as long as it is done right.

Next steps for Letters to Girls Who Dream of Flying?

I would love to create a mentoring program. I have been mentoring for a long time in public speaking {through Toastmasters}.

I envision a leadership type camp. Even before the book, it’s been on my mind to help young girls cultivate their gifts and support each other.

A summer camp on leadership for girls where they gain skills and learn how to treat each other in a certain way is what I see. Maybe something where they can learn how to write books and poetry.

This book was born after I had been crying for so long that my voice was gone and my eyes were sore. I was fragile and wondered, “Why am I having such a hard time? Why is this happening to me? I could lose my house if I don’t find a job ”

Then I saw a television show where a woman had gone back to an abusive partner.

As crappy as I felt, I reflected on how I would never go back to an abusive man {as this woman had done}.

I want young women to know that they are more than “this.” If I can help someone else, then I have met my purpose.

I’ve had women tell me how good they felt when they saw their letter published in the book. One woman told me that her daughter saw her (mother’s) name in the book. I have a book idea and need help starting it.

You mention that you used to write poetry. Do you have any plans to share or publish your poetry? If so, could you tell us more?

Yes–I have two poetry books in mind. The first one I’m hoping to publish in early 2018.

It’s a collection of brand new poetry that I started writing in the middle of 2016.

The second book will include the poems I started writing from the beginning.

I can write two to three poems a day, then skip and not write for awhile. I am thinking my poetry books will have about 50+ poems in each book.

One of my poems speaks to mental illness and how you don’t know who amongst us is suffering silently.

What do you do to relax? What are some of your stress management techniques?

I love to exercise – when I come home after a good workout, the endorphins kick in and I feel refreshed.

Some days I chose not to do anything at all. I love to meditate – just me and my thoughts. I also love to read and sometimes just play games on my phone to relax my mind.

My number one way to relax is to take pictures. I love photography.

{Note: Shona founded the photography club and organized exhibits at the U.S. Pharmacopeia.}

One time when I was stressed out, I went to a park to take pictures. Within twenty minutes, a bad headache was gone.

When I do photo shoots, I am so relaxed that the people I am photographing are relaxed too.

Poetry is another way I relax. It allows me to be in my head and free flow.

When you do something you enjoy, it relaxes you!

Wrap up: Thank you so much for spending the time to talk about your book, Letters to Girls Who Dream of Flying.!! It was a pleasure speaking with you!

Readers, you will not want to miss out on this inspiring gem!!

I found a myriad of inspiration when reading about other women’s challenges, fears, passions, and reflections on their values, struggles, and self-perception. I am confident Letters to Girls Who Dream of Flying. will resonate with women of all ages across the globe, from all walks of life.

Namaste!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

One thought on “Interview with Shona Bramble, Author of Letters to Girls Who Dream of Flying

  1. Pingback: The Best Inspirational Summer Reads | AllthingsrelaxAllthingsrelax

I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below: