Welcome Children’s Author Stephanie Bridges to my blog today.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello All! Why, yes, of course. I am a mother of four children, all but one is over the age of eighteen. We have four dogs, CRAZY, I know! It’s a long story. I love to support and showcase Black Owned Businesses, and I am passionate about getting my children’s books into the hands of youth starving for positive media representation. I reach out to a lot of organizations, schools, banks, and non-profits to sponsor and host book giveaways to make my books accessible to the community. I am always interested in partnering with groups and individuals wanting to create, curate and contribute content to the community!
What do you do when you are not writing?
I watch a lot, and I do mean a lot of YouTube; make-up tutorials, natural hair guides, try-on hauls, inspirational speakers, publishing and marketing how to– you name it. Oh, and I have a YouTube Channel where you can check out my children’s books, spoken word and music. Search Stephanie R. Bridges, and please like, comment and subscribe!
Do you have a day job as well?
Yes. Many. All of them. I have never had a “good” job to speak of. One that would be difficult to walk away from due to the loss of income, career path or relationship with the organization. So, like my romantic relationships, I am quick to Let It Go (in my best Elsa voice). I have a background that has hindered some employment opportunities, and this is both a blessing and a curse. Of course, it is no fun to be impoverished. But I know myself well enough, that if I did have a great career or wonderful husband that provided abundantly, I probably would not pursue my writing career the way that I do. I also love home décor and styling clothing. I really enjoy the aesthetics of life. But when you are backed in a corner, you cling to your gut instinct for hope and for me that is writing; it goes way deeper than the aesthetic, and it is not usually pretty.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I knew in elementary school that I wanted to be a writer, specifically a novelist; although, the genre has thus far eluded me. So, I guess you could say a lot of my writing is the journey, where novelist is the destination. I had my first book of poetry, “I SPaT”, published in 2006. I didn’t begin self-publishing until 2014. I published a 2nd Edition of “I SPaT” and my first children’s book, “If I Were Part of the Animal Kingdom”, that same year.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I first started writing novels, but I haven’t completed one yet. So, instead of giving up on writing altogether, I decided to write some poems, which turned into my 1st book. After that, I set a goal to write a children’s book. I wrote one book about each of my children, so that turned into a four-part series. I have contributed to, edited and published one compilation, and I am currently working on a book of short stories. Oh, I almost forget, I have written several songs, too. The poems, children’s books, songs and short stories are all efforts to continue in my craft; set accomplishable goals; hone my writing skills; and build my publishing business.
Where do you get your ideas?
Most of my writing is creative non-fiction. So, I am writing about my personal experiences, my children, family member or friends’ experiences.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
As an artist, yes, I experience writer’s block often. But for those who have chosen writing as a career, it should be more habitually driven, than inspirationally driven. Sometimes you don’t feel like going into work, but a sign of a good employee is being dependable, consistent and efficient. It doesn’t sound very romantic, but it gets results.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I’m a pantser, not a plotter. So, thus far I have not done any outlining. But, I “plan” on doing an outline for my 1st novel because flying by the seat of my pants has not worked in my favor.
Is there any author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I love Toni Morrison. I am more into the rhythmic lyrical flow of storytelling than I am into the story itself. She is in a class by herself, when it comes to seamlessly marrying poetic prose. When I first read her work, I was like, now this is writing. Unfortunately, I think in this current era, most writers and readers appreciate the story arc more than the literary art. Because of this, I think I have leaned more into writing poetry, children’s books and songs. I need to allow myself freedom to write my novel in my voice despite any criticism that may come.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
In 2014, I started In Spirit Power and Truth (I SPaT) Publishing, LLC. That same year I published the children’s book, “If I Were Part of the Animal Kingdom”, and the 2nd Edition of “I SPaT”. The biggest challenges that I faced were researching information to find the best platform to publish my book, navigating formatting issues for e-book and paperback versions, and contracting an illustrator for the children’s book.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your book or getting it published that you would change?
Yes and no. I would do a lot of things differently, but they are all contingent on having a bigger budget. I had the choice of putting off book releases until I could do them “right” or publishing the best content I could spending very little money. I have published seven books, and I am planning on having at least three more releases for 2018/2019. Moving forward without resources built my catalog and my confidence. But I am going to continue the movement with a budget and a marketing plan, even if it takes more time to get my work out there. This year I am attending my first Writing Conference – “Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business” with host and Blessed Selling Author, Joylynn M. Ross. I will also be utilizing the assistance of other literary professionals and making more out of pocket purchases that will enhance my marketability and boost my publishing brand.
How do you market your work?
I utilize social media ads, lives, interview opportunities and local and national events to sell books and brand my business. Please follow me on my social media – my Instagram, FB and Twitter are all Stephanie R Bridges. You can also find my catalog on Amazon by searching Stephanie R. Bridges, and I have a website stephanierbridges.com. If you would like to support my artistic journey or learn more about the self-publishing business, you can join my Patreon platform – patreon.com/stephanierbridges.
What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
So far, I have not put in the time and resources necessary to have a sustainable presence and create a successful launch. I spoke earlier about the discipline it takes to write consistently, well the business side of things needs that same energy. That is what I am working on now, and that is why I am attending the “Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business” 2018 Writing Conference. In the words of Joylynn M. Ross, “Stop playing around with your assignment, your mission, your purpose and your destiny, and register for the ‘Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business’ 2018 Conference sponsored by Path to Publishing. Visit http://www.pathtopublishing.com to register. There you can register to join over 200 literary artists and literary entertainers, because after all, we’re not just writers writing books, we’re literary architects building literary empires.” Woohoo! I am ready for the next leg of the journey.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Since I self-publish my own work, this is not an issue that I run into. I did have trouble getting three of my early manuscripts published, when I tried pitching them to agents and major publishing houses.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
“That’s the Story of My Life” is a YA book of short stories, poems and narrative essays. It is primarily creative non-fiction, but there are some completely made up selections. All the stories come from the perspective of young African American men and women. I have children’s books, a compilation great for middle grades and an adult book of poetry. So, “That’s the Story of My Life” is a perfect addition to my catalog. YA is a huge and growing genre intriguing to a large swath of the population.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
The short, “The Stay” is a direct reflection of my life. It is an analogy of what depression feels like. “Dandelion House” is also me, but it is a literary tryptic – more journey than journal for the sake of theatrics.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
One of my least favorite short stories to write was “Birth Days”. This is truly the voice of the ancestors, and I was compelled to do it, even though it is not a subject matter that I would voluntarily choose to write about. My favorites to write were the poems inspired by romantic situations that I was in at the time. It is sort of like writing love letters. So, “The Storyteller” and “Happy Anniversary” were my favorites to write, but if I could only put one of the three pieces in my book, I would choose, “Birth Days”.
How did you come up with the title?
Story of My Life is a popular saying to describe situations that repeat themselves. It is usually said about a negative occurrence. By adding That’s the… to the phrase it puts emphasis on a specific situation showcased in the book. I think everyone will be able to find themselves inside the pages, allowing them to connect with others on a deeper level, I’m not alone. Or creating the ability to look back on some “dire” situation at the time, and now laugh. I think the best laughter comes from that inner growth that creates space between the maturity of now and the devastation of then. But in the end, most of the writing does go deeper than my love for the aesthetic. “That’s the Story of My Life” is not pretty and incites the cursory misfortune of the saying, Story of My Life.
What project are you working on now?
I am actively working, have started or in the mental process of working on the following: “That’s the Story of My Life”, which is the book of short stories; “Keep the Peace II”, which is a companion book to the compilation “Keep the Peace” with selections from young men instead of young women; a journal for people with Sickle Cell and possibly a children’s book of the same subject; and of course, the ever elusive novel (I have some chapters complete, but I’m not ready to name names). I am also super excited about attending and being a guest presenter at the “Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business” 2018 Writing Conference. On Day Three, I will be presenting Seeking and Securing Individual Artist Grants.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Yes, “That’s the Story of My Life” will have an official release date in 2019, but anyone who is in Vegas for the “Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business” 2018 Writing Conference will be able to get a copy. Please go to pathtopublishing.com and to learn more about the conference and stephanierbridges.com to stay informed regarding new releases. I hope to see you in Vegas and around the Internet!