Deanna Burrell, author of the runaway hit book, Single Girl Summer, tells rolling out that writing helped her to overcome the bitterness of divorce.
Without getting too personal, were there warning signs that your marriage would end, or were you blindsided that the divorce was imminent?
There were warning signs, but I went into the marriage blinded by love which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. I really loved my ex-husband so that was a good thing. I thought the love we had for each other would be enough to overcome the shortcomings in other aspects of our relationship. But once I was in the marriage and thinking about adding children to our family, it became clear that the love wasn’t going to be enough to make me feel the relationship was solid. That was a painful realization.
How were you able to heal after the divorce? Did you throw yourself into your career?
I wasn’t happy with my job, so I didn’t want to throw myself into more of that.
I decided to rekindle an old passion — which is writing.
I’ve always been a great writer with an active imagination and creative nature. I hadn’t written anything substantial or produced any great creative projects since college when I was heavily involved in theater. My predominant thought was how happy I was in that time of growth and expression.
I decided to give creative fiction a try. I started writing poems and essays about a variety of topics. As I wrote and continued to reflect, I remembered that my senior year at Northwestern, I was voted the “most creative” graduating senior at our end of the year dinner hosted by the African American Student Union. I decided that would be the name of my first book: Voted “Most Creative”: Perspectives on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It’s a collection of poems and essays that encourage self-expression, growth, and creativity divided into those three topics. Writing that book unlocked my passion and now I’m moving full-steam ahead with purpose and full of praise.
Has penning a fun novel (Single Girl Summer) been therapeutic for you?
Like me, Single Girl Summer has been on a journey and gone through a full evolution. It started as a memoir from my divorce which was way too painful and raw to share with the world. Plus I realized what I was going through was essentially a love and loss story and there are so many versions and so many stories and so many perspectives. I decided to take some of my experiences, my friends’ stories, things I’ve heard, and tales I made up. I wove them together and out came Single Girl Summer.
My writing process vacillated between exhilarating to therapeutic and sometimes it was very painful. I remember there was one chapter I was trying to write about my Meghan character who is a recent divorcee in the book. Meghan’s divorce chapter really hit home for me. It was tough to share it and then get so heavily criticized on it.
I had to finish that chapter. I took a couple of days to pray, meditate, and center myself. After that, I was able to pull back the darkness and work on Meghan’s chapter objectively and gracefully. I finally got it to work like the rest of my book.
The feedback I often receive from divorcees who read Single Girl Summer is that the book is cathartic and hearing that word is literally music to my ears.
What are your thoughts about returning to the dating scene?
It’s a mixed bag. I love dating. It’s so fun to me. I like meeting new people, flirting, and hanging out. But I also like the constant companionship of being in a healthy, invigorating, and productive relationship. So when I settle into a commitment, I need the relationship to remain fresh and fun.
What are you looking for in a mate?
I’m looking for an ambitious and helpful partner. I have aggressive goals and dreams to actualize and I’m looking for someone on the same level. I don’t want to be in competition with my mate. I also don’t want a mate who is threatened by my success. We’re a team and the goal is to help each other achieve greatness individually and together.
For you, is the grass greener as a single person now?
The grass is always greener on the other side. I prefer to be in a stable, committed relationship, but if I haven’t met the right person then I’m definitely playing the field, kissing frogs, and loving the game.
What’s your advice for the suddenly single sister who fears that she is trapped in a bad union?
I’m going to answer this question with two quotes from the book that are advice Button Jackson and Meghan Cherry give to Dawn Martin.
“I’d rather be divorced then unhappily married,” a quote from Meghan Cherry, and, “The three of us are beautiful, smart, and wonderful. We bring a lot to the table. Men who lie, cheat, flake, annoy, and issue ultimatums are ordinary. We’re looking for extraordinary. Do. Not. Settle,” wisdom from Button Jackson.