- Posted July 19, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
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Author Joy Simone: The Woman Who is Addressing the Challenges and Finding Solutions
Joy Simone is an author, SEO Analyst, and Adjunct English Lit. Professor at Rowan College. She has a B.A. in Journalism from Howard University and a Master’s of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. Ms. Simone blogs about relationships, dating, family, careers, and current events. She serves as Director of Communications for Women’s EDGE Mentoring Program, and conducts creative writing and self-publishing workshops locally.
She is passionate about writing, history, literature, education and family. The proliferation of single-parent households and the stereotypes of African American women led to her debut work, The Wedding Plan: A Collection of Short Stories. Through these stories, Simone highlights the challenges faced by African American women in relationships, marriage, careers and life, while exposing the diversity within the African American community, including male characters who are unique and offer a different perspective. Ms. Simone has one child, Noelle, and resides in New Jersey.
As you know the literacy industry is an easy network to enter, nowadays, with everyone either writing a book or publishing a book with the help of a ghostwriter. How has your journey been and what tactics do you use in order to make your writing stand out?
My writing is rooted in things that I am passionate about and topics that are relevant today. I also believe that writing is a medium to educate, in a creative way, and touch people at the core so that they begin to see themselves or their circumstances in my stories.
I have been a storyteller all of my life, and I’ve been writing poetry, stories, plays, etc. since I was a child. With so much celebrity and branding surrounding the publishing world these days, it’s a little daunting, but writing is my gift and form of expression. I aspire to have my words and stories affect readers the way my favorite authors have touched and inspired, informed and entertained me. (Two of my favorite writers are Zora Neale Hurston and James Baldwin.) So far, fans of my work have responded positively. I love words and language, and I’m always curious about what makes people tick, who they are behind closed doors -- and at the heart of it, that is why I write.
What inspired you to write “The Wedding Plan: A Collection of Short Stories”?
A few years ago, there was quite a bit of discussion surrounding the book Marriage is for White People. At the time, I was a single 30-something who, according to the data, was a stereotype as an educated, middle class woman with extremely low odds of ever marrying. In addition to that book, written by a man, there were several articles and dating advice books for women written by men that seemed to place the entire responsibility for relationship building or lack of a mate on women. Long story short, I was simply annoyed at the one-sidedness, and I wanted a voice for women, stories of love, of singleness, of independence and vitality, of Black women of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds to be told. I told some of those stories.
I also wrote the book because I wanted to have some fun with characters that are nothing like me and those who may be similar but do things that I would never do… or vice versa. In one of my stories, I take the point of view of the bride-to-be whose man has a child outside of the relationship. How much would you overlook in the name of “putting a ring on it”? In another, you get a glimpse of Philly in the 1970s and the drama that ensues at Big Mama’s house. Who takes care of her? Is there room for love in her life? And what about the sister who’s all about doing it for herself? Does she overlook love when it’s right in front of her?
Your book “The Wedding Plan: A Collection of Short Stories” discusses the challenges faced by African American women in relationships, marriage, careers and life. What challenges do you feel we as African American face the most, and what ideas do you have to help eliminate those challenges.
Some of the challenges African American women face are glass ceilings in the workplace, income disparities, joblessness, being among the “working poor”, and so on. One of the statistics that disturbed me most was the lower average of children born to the most educated women in our population. It seemed that by fighting to defy the “baby mama” stereotype, we were forfeiting motherhood. I know not all women want to be mothers, but there a lot who, rightfully, delay childbirth until marriage, but end up never marrying or marrying past the key childbearing years.
Other issues I see that are prevalent are this outward appearance of strength that we embody but sometimes at the expense of our human-ness. I see African American women often extremely critical of one another and of themselves. Self-esteem issues do not always show up as downtrodden, depressed individuals. Some of my self-esteem issues as a young woman manifested in my being very focused on educational and career goals, and eschewing the concept that I was beautiful and adorable and sexy and pursuable, not just inherently, but physically.
Success: Whether in work life or personal life, I am very solution oriented. As a group, African American women are definitely mothers of invention. We are resourceful, talented, driven, loving – and the list goes on. One thing I’d like to see is more mentoring of one another. Mentoring does not end when you graduate college. (This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about Women’s Edge, Inc. We bring together nontraditional college students and young women in their 20's and sometimes 30's to help them excel and achieve their goals.)
As we gain more knowledge, we should be sharing that with our sisters, talking to one another, sharing what can help us better our current situations or bring us to the next level. In the workplace, I wish there was more support of one another. Surely it exists, but I have yet to see African American women helping one another at the same level exhibited by peers of other cultures and races. I think this is also a way to break the glass ceiling. Maybe a more business-minded approach to life in general would help, too.
I’d like to see us trust one another more, take a chance on one another more. We cannot buy into the stereotypes and let them mar our own perception nor hinder us from helping one another. These are things I’m passionate about. I have always been for the underdog, regardless of race, and I believe in equality and fairness.
In terms of relationships, I think instilling our children with the mantra of going to college should be coupled with getting married and creating a family -- teaching them the principles of being a good wife and the principles of being a good husband also. I think waiting until we reach certain career milestones to get married is probably not the best idea, for men or women. How else will we know who will stick out the tough times, the growth periods, the victories and defeats?
These challenges can all be overcome on individual and group levels.
In addition to being a writer, you also conduct self-publishing workshops. What are some of the myths about self–Publishing and would you recommend self-publishing over traditional?
Self-publishing is not easy. Some of the myths are that you cannot produce quality product through self-publishing and that you need a lot of money to do it.
The first step is knowing your goal for writing and publishing a book. You also need to know your weaknesses and the stages that you need the most help completing.
One set of eyes is never enough for a work of any magnitude. Grammar, spelling and punctuation errors are hard to detect in writing to which you are connected.
I recommend self-publishing over traditional for first novels/books. In today’s industry, branding is a large part of the process. Writing a book is just the start. The same muscle, if not more, must go into marketing the book and getting it seen. Traditional publishers will not take on a project if you do not have a solid niche or following.
In 50 words or less, why should our readers support your book and what lesson can we expect to learn?
The stories in The Wedding Plan will have your mouth falling open one minute and tears flowing the next. My characters are interesting and familiar. Some stories ask, “What would you do?” I hope to inspire and teach, provoke thought and entertain. I invite readers to come and see life from a different perspective.
So what can our readers expect from you, next?
My first novel, based on the story “Beauty”, will come out in October. A relationship book that shares dating tips and realistic approach will follow. My first academic book review will be in Fall edition of the Journal for African American History (JAAH). I will continue to blog about various topics on my site: www.theweddingplanbook.com
Charron Monaye, I want to say thank you for providing a venue for independent authors, women of purpose, and people who live life with passion. Thank you for highlighting my work.
Author site: www.theweddingplanbook.com