Book Readers Heaven has been proud to spotlight Karen E. Dabney this month! Now that you've learned more about her book, I've asked Karen to share about herself. and her writing..
Where are you from? Detroit, MI
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
When I was first able to talk, I started drawing pictures and then begin to tell stories through them, making them up as I talked, so, naturally, I have always felt I am a writer. I had no other choice, I think! I always had the desire, but I didn’t really appreciate my ability until I learned to be inner-directed regarding it—didn’t need to feel anyone’s approval to know that I am an excellent writer.
Your first book was a children’s book,
Yes, The Magic Pencil!
do you plan to continue in that area or move into others?
As far as I can remember, my first books were for children. I have one I wrote and illustrated (over and over) when I was 14. I am working on new illustrations for it. It’s taking some time because I don’t want to make them too detailed or too simplistic. It needs approximately 125 illustrations. My first self-published book is called Necessary Roughness. It’s a poetry book for adults. I drew the cover, laid out the type and made photocopies of it. Came out pretty nice. I will do a revision with additional poems I have written. I am trying to turn a short story into a screenplay (or play?). I am envisioning sequels to The Magic Pencil but the next storyline hasn’t revealed itself as yet!
You say you self-published Necessary Roughness. Perhaps you'd be willing to share several of those poems before you leave us and tell us more about it! Where do your ideas and subjects come from?
My observations; from all of my senses. For an example, I wrote The Magic Pencil because I wanted to uplift and guide youth and to spotlight African American Vernacular English (aka Ebonics) with demonstrating code-switching and allowing people to view AAVE as a legitimate language. I can go anywhere in the US (and I’m sure most of the world) and find somebody who’ll know what am talkin bout.
Indeed you would. I think we all use a shorter and/or colloquial language to a great extent and I've enjoyed a number of other books where Ebonics was used as part of the dialogue. To me it lends a reality to the storytelling that I enjoy.
Obviously writing came naturally to you from your childhood storytelling experiences...Yes, it comes naturally to me...
or do you have to work on it? Of course I still work on it! Writing comes from my life, from other people...from everything, so I'm constantly thinking in my head about a story to tell!
Did you go to school for writing?
No. But I always felt that my writing was great! I’ve attended two workshops I had to compete for in 2005 (Voices of Our Nation’s Arts, VONA in 2005 and the Hurston/Wright Foundation in 2009) and before them I worked as a volunteer for my city’s public relations department in order to have some official evidence of my skills when I was in my early twenties. The boss and staff thought highly of my work. I began to do freelance writing then.How many different drafts of a manuscript do you go through before you publish? I don’t go through many drafts but I do an immense amount of editing because I like to write in the stream-of-conciousness style.
How wonderful to have that self-confidence. I know that I can write, but I'm really not a storyteller, and here you are looking for what your next book will be about!
I believe The Magic Pencil will become a successful series!
How many different drafts of a manuscript do you go through before you publish?
I don’t go through many drafts but I do an immense amount of editing because I like to write in the stream-of-conciousness style.
OK, that's the second time you've said "stream-of-conciousness style." For those of us who aren't quite sure what that means...tell us more soon! So...what kind of environment do you prefer when you’re writing?
It depends on how I am feeling. But I like to be able to do it whenever I wish and to be comfortable in front of my computer.
What is your favorite part and least favorite part about being a writer?
My fav is when I am “in the zone” and my least fav is when I lose something I wrote that I felt was excellent. Just last night I didn’t properly save the draft of a nice long passage to publish to my blog and had a fit. One time, I did an all day marathon of poetry (about 50 poems) and accidentally deleted all but one. I was so upset I didn’t even think to click the undo button.
That's happened to me many years ago...once you lose something major like that, you do tend to remember to save, save, save! LOL Does your story/subject change direction after you have begun writing it?
If I allow it to go where it seems to want to go and don’t rein it in to a particular path.
How do you become knowledgeable about the topic you want to write about?
Research it and try to experience what I can about it. Talk it over with knowledgeable folk.
What do you do when you get stuck in writing? Take a break. Usually a short one.
Who were the people or person that inspired you to write?
There are so many I can’t name just a few. I am still inspired by anyone or anything. The writer being famous has nothing to do with my being inspired, nor does it have to be a written item.
What has been your favorite story/subject that you have written about and why?
The Magic Pencil, so far. I like getting into children’s heads and inspiring them. I like making them laugh too!
What tips do you have for aspiring writers? To read as much as they can and to write as much as they can.
Have you ever wanted to quit? What did you do when that thought struck you? It hasn’t.
Somehow I knew you were going to say that! Where do you see yourself and your writing in 10 years?
Living the way I want to with plenty of space and freedom to write and create visual art. I also imagine being a mentor to other creatives.
I think you are already a mentor to many of us online! What are you working on now?
My blog, my illustrations for my (40 year old) children’s book and promoting my children’s novel.
What projects do you have for the future?
Other than what I’ve mentioned above, not much else is concrete. I believe I will have to keep writing poetry and play with ideas about what to write next. I occasionally scribble some down and save them for future projects.
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment to date?
As far as writing is concerned, completing and self-publishing my novel The Magic Pencil.
Do you belong to any interest groups? Presently the National Conference of Artists and the Motown Writers’ Network.
Can we find you anywhere online? Where? http://dabsandcompany.com/ I'm also on Facebook, Gather and several other social sites, getting to know people...
How do you feel about social site marketing, is it beneficial to your present marketing?
I enjoy it but I need to be more subtle with my promotion techniques and become a bit more social because no one wants to see you pushing something on them all the time! It has been great for Internet exposure!
Now, that's not entirely true, even though you may feel that way right now since your book is out. If you'll recall, I met you on Gather.com years ago and we got to know each other there...in fact, you contacted me to give me an important suggestion regarding my book reviews... And I still think of you more as Nyota! (Folks, you'll have to ask her about that name, which has a beautiful interpretation!)
Karen, thanks so much for talking with us today...I hope you don't mind my request for a followup and maybe a few poems, if you're willing...LOL... I'm looking forward to seeing what magic that pencil gets into next time!