The See Jane Write Member of the Month for March is Randi Pink.2016 is sure to be a big year for Randi. On March 12 she will take the stage at this year’s TEDxBirmingham to give a talk on how collective misconceptions can transform the world into a place of fear and prejudice. Then, in September, Randi’s debut young adult novel Into White will hit bookshelves.
Into White tells the story of 16-year-old Latoya Williams. Toya lives in Montgomery, Alabama, attends a mostly white high school and has trouble fitting in. After a run-in with a bully, she wonders if her life would be different if she were different. She prays to a higher power to make her “anything but black” and the prayer is answered.
“Diving into the mind of a complicated sixteen-year-old girl was a challenge, but it was such a joy,” Randi says. “Toya is a multidimensional young lady – she’ll make you laugh and then you’ll turn the page and find yourself in tears. She’ll piss you off, and make you wonder why you cried for her in the first place. That’s my Toya, and I’ve selfishly held onto her for too long. I’m proud and excited to introduce her to the world.”
I had a chat with Randi recently about her upcoming book and TEDxBirmingham talk, about how to get a book deal, and about the writing life.
Congrats again speaking at TEDxBirmingham. That is so exciting! How did this opportunity come about?
I’ve always enjoyed hearing people speak. Even as a small child, I would beg my parents to take me to lectures and speaking engagements instead of playgrounds and birthday parties. I’m in awe of the human experience, and fascinated by someone who’s strong enough to reveal a piece of him or herself to a group of strangers. Standing in the spotlight and articulating an idea, or a perspective, or a deeply personal experience to inspire thought in others is not for the faint-hearted, but I knew my perspective was one that needed to be shared. So when the nomination period opened in the summer of 2015, I nominated myself!
I went for it. I realized my own potential, and instead of waiting for someone else to throw my name into the hat, I did it myself. I’m proud to say that my submission was accepted, but even if it hadn’t been, that nomination represents a moment of independent affirmation. Typing my own name into the blank designated for Birmingham’s brightest was quite liberating. I highly recommend it!
What was the inspiration for your soon-to-be-released novel?
I began writing Into White for a graduate level children’s literature course at UAB. The assignment was to write the first chapter of a young adult novel, and Toya’s story developed from there.
I pulled the initial idea of Into White from my past. I attended a predominantly white high school where I didn’t quite fit. So one night, I prayed for the power to change my race. I’m not proud of it, but it happened. And it absolutely changed me. Not physically, of course, but much more than that. It helped me to recognize just what I was willing to sacrifice for the sake of belonging. I sifted through my past and built Toya’s story from the ashes. In retrospect, Into White has been inside of me for over a decade, but that wonderful literature course gave me the courage to write it.
What advice and encouragement would you give to other writers hoping to secure a book deal?
Most importantly, WRITE FORWARD! My Creative Writing professor, Kerry Madden, who is an incredible author in her own right, spoke those two words early in my career and they stuck. Even when your writing feels ridiculous or downright unreadable, still WRITE FORWARD. Paste this phrase on your computer as a reminder if you have to. When you’re drafting a novel, just sit your butt in the chair and write the thing. You’ll have years to edit, trust me! Years! Get the story on the page.
Secondly, don’t hide your work. I belong to many writing communities, and one common personality trait among authors is a shocking lack of confidence. Many creative minds have sensitive hearts. It makes sense because in order to translate emotion effectively, we must first allow ourselves to feel. That can hurt.
Rejection hurts. Critique hurts. Negative reviews hurt. Still, don’t hide your work. I’ve seen incredible writers hide their work from the world fearing the possibility of pain. For all you know, you’ve written the next great book of the century! Bait the line and cast your lovely words out into the world. For goodness’ sake, don’t bury your brilliant manuscript in the basement for your great-grandchildren to publish after you’re long dead.
Why are you a member of See Jane Write? What do you find valuable about the group and its programs and events?
See Jane Write is one of Birmingham’s best. I learn something new every time I attend a workshop, conference, or an event. The intellect, kindness, and generosity in this group is so refreshing! Not to mention our fearless leader inspires me to explore new platforms and innovations. I feel blessed to be a member of See Jane Write. Besides, it’s just plain fun!
You can pre-order Randi Pink’s book Into White here.
Send your nominations for See Jane Write Member of the Month to firstname.lastname@example.org.