“The healing comes when those bitter journal entries turn into prayers to God. I like to think He reads them and keeps my secrets safe.”
Ayana Symone, a published author at 17, shares in this interview how she turned her personal experiences into a platform where she speaks about self-love, homosexuality, ‘religion’ vs. Christianity, betrayal of friends, along with other provocative issues and inspires readers of all ages.
Read more about Ayana and how this young author is pursuing her dreams.
What books have you written?
I finished writing two books so far. One was completed when I was twelve, and the other I finished at fourteen. While the latter was published in 2018, titled, How I Fell in Love with Myself, I’m reworking the 1st completed novel to get it out on bookshelves soon!
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
As an eight-year-old kid, I was obsessed with the idea of growing up and being an adult. So, when I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume – a story of a young girl entering into her womanhood – I became overwhelmed with inspiration, realizing that if I can’t be an adult in reality, I can at least put my imagination on paper and create a story out of it. So, I did. And, from that point on, I kept reading and I kept writing, finding out soon enough that that has always been what I’ve wanted to do.
How old were you when you published your first book?
I was seventeen years old when I published How I Fell in Love with Myself, though the first draft was finished by age fourteen.
Where did you get your idea for your first book?
Interestingly enough, I used to manage a writing blog through Tumblr, in which I followed many other writers and bloggers. One day, I came across a contest that allowed writers to submit pieces of work they never thought they could get published, and I came really close to submitting a piece. Yet, something told me to hold off on submitting to see if my piece could actually be a starting point for a future publication, which, little did I know at that time, was an important quote from How I Fell in Love with Myself. So, while the storyline is mainly based off of struggles I’ve gone through as a young adult, and therefore, my main inspiration for getting ideas, the contest I decided against turned my small idea into an urge, as I asked myself, “Why not try to get this published?”
Where do your ideas for your books come from?
The most valuable book ideas come from experiences I’ve had in my own life. It’s easy for me to write about something I’m all too familiar with. Yet, at the same time, it’s the people I meet, the places I go, and the simple daily routine I complete every day are the little details I need to complete an idea and make a great story.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
Oh, writer’s block…the term alone makes me cringe!!! I get it too often, it feels like!
How do you overcome it?
As someone who is all about overcoming challenges and encouraging others to overcome theirs, writer’s block is my downfall. In other words, I don’t know how to overcome it yet!!!
I’ve tried listening to music, re-reading favorite books, watching a few movies and jump at the little hint of inspiration that may come up, but the truth is that when I would feel a lick of creativity, it all seems to just float away by the time I can find a pen and notepad. Not fun!!! I’ve come to realize that my writer’s block just decays away on its own. When it’s time to write, it’ll simply just be time. My creative juices will flow, I will be ready, and the idea will just be ready for me too.
What is your inspiration for writing?
As a kid, my parents always told me that I was “to be heard.” (It’s what my middle name, Symone, means.) While that was true, I only had one problem: I didn’t like talking in front of people! So, in order “to be heard,” I wrote and still write to get my voice out there. I have so much to say and am so eager to participate in the conversations the world has, so if I can’t say it, I’m comforted to know I can write it. In other words, my own passion and desire to contribute to global discussions are what drives me to write.
What does your typical day look like?
Oh boy. You should see my planner right about now – ha!
No matter what day it is, I’m always doing something for the website, for my writing classes, sending emails, working on the second book, filming vlogs, working part-time, promoting on social media, and/or getting lunch with friends (as a way to finally relax and catch up with them, but deep down, I know what I’m doing – procrastinating. Oops!)
What is your favorite book? Author?
This has and always will be the hardest question. One part of me wants to say the book and author that started it all (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Blume). The other wants to answer with the classic The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which I could read all day and never get tired. There are others, but these two are always the ones that come to mind.
Do you find writing healing?
Absolutely. A lot of my writings are pieces that are simply just for me – journals that I keep. This is when I’m not worrying about having the right vocabulary or the perfect plot. I’m writing to be honest and vulnerable and ugly, if that’s how I’m feeling that day – not to mention how comforted I am knowing I’m the only one allowed to read it. The healing comes when those bitter journal entries turn into prayers to God. I like to think He reads them and keeps my secrets safe.
Do you have any unfinished books?
I have too many to count. I started writing actual books when I was eight, so I have plenty of unfinished works roaming around in random documents dated back to that time. Some are quality material that I may pick up and polish one day. Others are straight, hilarious junk.
What’s the most difficult thing to do with writing?
Being the perfectionist that I am, the most difficult thing to do with writing is to not care about it being perfect. Punctuation and grammar are two things, but even then, those can be used imperfectly to make a good piece of writing too. It drives me nuts. It’s the reason why I hold onto pieces for so long because I feel like they’re not perfect yet. I’m still learning that those flawed pieces – flawed characters, dysfunctional plot, an odd setting, and an unusual climax – are what makes writing good. Weird writing always wins. May I repeat: It drives me nuts.
What would you do differently if you had the chance?
My dad always told me that an artist is never finished with their work, and I agree with that 100%. I read over How I Fell in Love with Myself and can’t get past a single word without wishing I could use a different one. It goes back to my aforementioned comment about being perfect. Sometimes I wish I could rewrite the whole book! I also wish that I would’ve done everything I’m doing now (vlogging, promoting, creating new products) last year when the book was first published. There was a lot of momentum, and I always regret not holding onto it. It’s all the more reason why I’m determined to put twice the effort in now!
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to publish a book?
So, the saying goes: “You have to pay money to make money.”
This is true. You will have to invest a bit of your own money into your publication. However, this is the catch: you don’t have to spend a lot of your money. What I mean is that some corporate editors who offer their service to you may charge you a whole lot where you could get the same, if not more, service from people who see your passion and believe in you.
I’m saying that it’s better to email an old teacher, call a family member, text a trusted friend, attend a local writing workshop, and retrieve some solid editing tips online to get your work completed and help with the editing process before you break your bank trying to get edited by “one of the big guys.”
I’m not saying they’re all a scam, but for a first-time published author, those who know you and want the best for you and your work are the ones you want feedback from. Of course, you and that former teacher, family member, friend, etc. can come up with a price, but it won’t be nearly as much as what “the big guys” would cost you. A lot of successful authors start out with getting feedback from within their circle first because not only do they know they will get quality edits, but they won’t have to declare bankruptcy to get them. So, consider starting there.
As for the writing, I honestly can’t give any personal advice. The more you do it, the better you get. The more you read, the better you get. A lot of the conflict comes with editing and publishing, so that’s the advice you should ask for.
What is your favorite social media platform and why?
I use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to promote the book and website. They all have unique features. Twitter is a quick way to go viral if I use the right strategies and techniques. Instagram allows me to provide a visual of what I’m promoting, which I think most people want to see. And Facebook, of course, gives me to chance to let close friends and family members know what I’m up to, and because of our relationship, they’re more eager to share my post. But, to have a great glimpse of my personal day-to-day life? Snapchat. It’s where all of my look-at-what-I’m-eating-for-lunch, take-a-look-at-this-outfit, I’m-really-feeling-this-filter snapshots go – a place to be the millennial I am!