VERSAFI MAGAZINE: How did your journey as an author began?
LAWANDA LEWIS BURRELL: I was inspired to write my book after being hired as an HR Director for an organization, later noticing unethical behaviors in the workplace. When I got the courage to speak up, I was harassed and terminated. After praying in the closet I reached for a box on the top shelf and out fell a journal that I had written 5 years prior. I was impressed with my writings, so I immediately got my laptop and started typing my first draft, which was therapy for me after losing my job.
VERSAFI: Oh wow! That is crazy the reason you got fired from your job! You would think people want you to speak up! But I”m glad you got writing out of that experience. So was becoming a writer something you always wanted to pursue?
LAWANDA: I’ve always enjoyed journaling and growing up I was often told I was a great storyteller with a broad imagination. As I was writing, I began to quote Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech “I Have A Dream”, because my vision of writing a book started on his birthday, January 15, 2018. It is easy to lose hope when you are faced with life’s challenges, and writing helps me put things into perspective. You find meaning in the nooks and crannies of life that you may be able to share with the world.
VERSAFI: Journaling is great therapy! Just writing down your thoughts is pure relaxation and a stress release. Who or what motivated you?
LAWANDA: After enjoying reading a few snippets of my book, my husband convinced me to submit my book to a publisher. I was fearful of rejection because I had gotten rejected from so many HR positions during that year. It was exhausting and expensive going through the processes of interviewing to get a “No” at the end of the day. After many months of sadness and pain, I asked God to forgive the ones that harassed me in the workplace. After nine months of persuasion from my family, I got the courage to submit my book and the next week I was blessed to receive a publishing book contract with Christian Faith Publishing. I got the “Yes” I had been praying for! I turned my pain into my passion and God revealed my purpose.
VERSAFI: Now that’s definite confirmation! Sometimes in life you will get plenty of no’s until God releases the right ‘yes’ in the atsmosphere. So congrats on getting the publishing contract for your book! So with all that being said, what inspired you to write your first book?
LAWANDA: Everyone has a story to tell and I wanted to bless the world with mine. I wrote my book to encourage others to learn how to have a voice and stand up and speak up for their beliefs. In life our opposition makes us stronger and better equipped to fulfill our intended purposes. It is not easy to stand, especially when you are standing alone, and the fear of the consequences that may take place afterwards. Never worry about the unknown. God is in control and HE will bless you with things that you could never foresee.
VERSAFI: That is very powerful! How does it feel to be a published author?
LAWANDA: It feels absolutely amazing to be a published author, to be able to discover your inner strengths and use your life experiences to inspire others; being able to demonstrate the ability to overcome obstacles and see your hard work come into fruition. My true life stories teaches you that every disappointment is not a letdown, sometimes God is directing you into a new chapter of life. Be open to embrace it even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.
VERSAFI: This is a good preaching moment! LOL. But when God directs us in a new direction, we must be ready to embrace change. Since becoming a published author, what challenges have you faced if any?
LAWANDA: Thankfully I haven’t faced many challenges besides occasional writer’s block and marketing. It may be difficult at times to know what to write, finding a quiet space or just not in the mood to write. I usually take a walk outside, read, or enjoy some family time to engage my thoughts. Sometimes getting clients to believe in your work and willing to pay you what you are worth can be difficult. It takes time, creativity, and effort in knowing how to get connected with the right media outlets to get the exposure you desire.
VERSAFI: I agree about getting your work in front of the read audience and media outlets because a lot of platforms may not be for that particular author. What genre do you write on?
LAWANDA: Stand Up, Speak Up, Because Your Time’s Up is a non-fiction autobiography. It is an inspiring, loving, and enjoyable read for everyone, about speaking your truth in the time of adversity. My book will take you on a journey of specific moments and events that displays my transparency and lays out life lessons along the way.
VERSAFI: Personal memoirs and non-fiction books I enjoy reading. So in your book, what message do you want your readers to take away when reading your books?
LAWANDA: In my autobiography, Stand Up, Speak Up, Because Your Time’s Up, the trajectory of my stories are my challenges and personal struggles where I had to lean to God for understanding and stand up and speak up for my beliefs. My book will motivate you to live a life of purpose, understand your self-worth, and be kind to one another. My powerful testimony will fill you with hope and faith and encourage you to love and forgive. There are several book takeaways: (1) Know your self-worth, when God created you, he put everything in you that you need to fulfill your destiny, (2) Understand that our circumstances won’t hinder us as much as we think, but our attitudes and mindset will, (3) Always DREAM BIG and WORK HARDER!
VERSAFI: I love those three points! Also the way you are selling your book is a great marketing techinque to telling people why they should purchase your book. Well done! Since you are officially published, what does being an author mean to you?
LAWANDA: My gift of writing and becoming an author means that I have the ability to dream while awake. I can use my test as my testimony to help others. My heartfelt stories are relatable, uplifting, insightful and funny. I’m the friend that has overcame relationship issues, hardships, death of love ones, health issues, bullying, and un-forgiveness. I will tell you when you are right or wrong, even if wrong is comfortable for you. Writing allows me to enjoy conversing with people from all walks of life. My reader’s take an emotional journey of real life true stories that will make you laugh, cry, and most of all encourage you.
VERSAFI: The ability to dream while you are awake! I like that. Now, where do you see yourself five years from now?
LAWANDA: My writing journey has blessed me to meet New York Time’s Bestselling Author Mrs. Sharon Draper, who gave me wonderful advice and encouraged me to be the best version of me. In five years I plan to be able to publish many more books, become a New York Time’s Best Selling author, start a book writing and narrating service, and get the attention of a producer/director to turn my books or short stories into a film.
VERSAFI: I can definitely see your book as a movie! Have you ever thought about being an author full-time?
LAWANDA: Writing is my passion and my purpose, and I am prayerfully working towards it becoming my primary source of my livelihood.
VERSAFI: Tell us your marketing strategies as an author. Do you find it challenging at times when promoting your books?
LAWANDA: Some may think that writing a book is the hardest of the writing process, but to me marketing and keeping your book relevant can be challenging. I have dabbled in paid media advertising, email marketing, and social network marketing. Although I wasn’t a big fan of social media for years, it has really helped me with promoting my book. I provide my followers with book snippets, weekly inspirational quotes, participate in author Facebook groups, book announcements and updates. It also helps tremendously when readers write a review of your book. These reviews can be the deciding factor of someone who may be considering purchasing a copy of your book. As an author, reading the reviews will give you effective feedback on your current book and others to come that may contribute to your writing skills.
I have had the opportunity to promote my book on the Big KD 94.1 Roscoe Miller’s radio station in Montgomery, Alabama with DJ Costee, a book signing in December 2019 in my hometown of Greenville, Alabama, where Mayor McLendon was in attendance purchasing a copy of my book to be displayed in the City Hall, and another book signing in Houston, Texas in February 2020. Recently, I’ve been a guest on multiple podcasts, and my book was selected by an independent black owned book store Loving Me Books, LLC. in Los Angeles, California. I’m also very grateful to be a part of Versafi magazine!
VERSAFI: Keep up the good work! Marketing can be very challenging at times, but participating in author groups on social media can really help and networking to be a guest on various media platforms. We definitely enjoyed sitting down and interviewing you for Versafi Magazine! So now, do you have any current book projects that you are working on?
LAWANDA: I’m currently working on children books dedicated to my two daughter’s Neziah, 13, Nylah, 11, and son Nalin, 9. His book is in its early stages but has been submitted to the publisher. This book is about learning how to face your fears and learn new things. A superhero zaps your fears away and gives you the powers to be able to succeed and never give up.
VERSAFI: Those sound really interesting! Writing children books are very fun to write and read!How many books have you published in total?
LAWANDA: I’ve published one book so far, but have several other self-help books, relationship books, and children’s books that I am working on.
VERSAFI: Sounds like a winner! So tell us how can readers connect with you and support you?
LAWANDA: If you are interested in purchasing Stand Up, Speak Up, Because Your Time’s Up by LaWanda Lewis Burrell, please visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apple ITunes. My books are available in e-books, audiobooks, paperback, and hardcover. Please click the link.