Author and teen girls advocate Daralynn Walker is truly passionate about the youth and positively impacting their lives. A native Detroiter, Walker works as a human resources professional and she operates a summer mentoring program, The Urban Rose Foundation, a seven-week, Saturday program that accommodates over 30 girls at the Detroit Public Library and offers health and wellness, education, entrepreneurship and etiquette workshops.
Walker has written five books within the last decade. She recently penned Madison Miles and the Big, Big Move, which has been dubbed the perfect storybook for little Brown girls. Here’s her interview.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was motivated to write my first book because I believed — and still do — that I had a story to tell. I had to get it out on paper. And I’m so glad I did.
Do you have a specific writing style?
No, I don’t think so. I’m a creative so I go with the flow of whatever I’m feeling. Ideas get sparked all the time!
What books have most impacted your life (or life as a writer)?
I would say as an adult Our Kind of People by Lawrence Otis Graham but as a child any babysitter’s club book, Sweet Valley High or R.L. Stine Goosebumps book. I read them all!
What books are you currently reading? Why this writer?
Right now I’m reading Charlemagne’s book Black Privilege: Opportunity comes to those who create it. I chose this book to read because he has a unique point of view on life and I wanted to see this same point of view reflected in his first book. The next book on the list Is Jacqueline Baker’s book Leader by Mistake. I hear it’s amazing.
What new writers have piqued your interest?
Jacqueline Baker and David Chariandy
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about your latest work?
I enjoyed the process, so no. This was my first time writing a book that included illustrations, but being able to pull on my community of fellow authors was awesome. I’ve had so much support and I’m grateful.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing or coming up with a concept for your book?
I think because of the age range for my book, making sure my content is age appropriate was key. I very careful to not introduce mature situations into any book. It’s complicated because those situations could cause positive dialogue within a household, but a parent may not be ready to have those conversations either. It can be a toss-up.
What was the hardest part of completing this project?
Taking control of all the moving parts. I self-published, so making sure that I had a website up, all my social media was together, building an audience, etc. It can be a full-time job. But I loved every moment of it!
What advice would you give other writers?
Join as many authors groups as you can, write as much as possible, Take your time on the rewrite, and write what you feel.
Describe the process of getting published?
I self-published. It was the best way for me because I wanted to create my characters the way I wanted them to look. That was so important to me. I wanted to make sure each of my characters was four different complexions with four different hair types and had four different family backgrounds. I am not opposed to getting formally published, but for my vision, it was best.
What were the literary, psychological and/or logistical challenges in bringing your work to life?
Time. Squeezing out time from raising a family, having a career and spending quality time with your friends was stressing. I really had to prioritize what was important. Sometimes my book was first, sometimes it was last. I would also say understanding the kids market and making everything fit the theme of what I was going for.
Everyone’s writing process is different. Explain yours.
Very go with the flow. The only must-have for me is absolute silence.
What are five of your favorite books and why?
Our Kind of People – Lawrence Otis Graham (For the culture)
Samson – Jaquelin Thomas (The storyline flows so well)
Big Girls Don’t Cry– Connie Briscoe (female independence)
Casting The First Stone – Kimberla Lawson Roby( It’s just really good)
The Coldest Winter Ever – Sister Souljah (Do I really need to explain?!)
Please provide three good to know fact about you. Be creative. Tell us about your first job or the inspiration behind your writing.
I’ve been reading all my life. My mother was a librarian so I practically grew up in the library.
I love to write books for youth that are diverse because that was missing from my childhood. Now there are so many great diverse YA books out, there wasn’t that many when I was coming up. It’s exciting to see.
My children look at Madison as their sister. They love seeing the pictures and books all over the house. She has really become a part of our family.
What is the mission you set out to accomplish with your voice in this book?
To show young African American girls that no matter their complexion, hair type or background, they are beautifully and wonderfully made. And that an education matters.
Who are the writers you reread and why?
Connie Briscoe and Sister Souljah. I feel like I get something new out of it every time I reread.
A great book has what?
Great storyline, great characters, and an amazing ending.
You develop character and ideas by…. Thinking about my childhood and the girls I grew up with. It makes me laugh but I love incorporating my friends and families personalities into my characters. It’s fun to watch it pan out.
Where would you travel if you could to write your next book?
London. I studied abroad there for language and literature arts and I would love to go back.
What is the gift of reading and why does it open up a new world?
Reading is an amazing gift. It gives us the opportunity to step into a different world and experience and feel something totally different from our own little world. It opens us up to things we could never imagine all while improving our speech and language.