VERSAFI MAGAZINE: How did your journey as an author begin?
NATALIE PERKINS: In the summer of 2019, I thought it would be great to propose the idea of writing a book with some of my old college friends. Unfortunately, our schedules and circumstances didn’t align for us to collaborate, so I started my book journey solo. I didn’t realize how much work it was going to be.
VERSAFI: Wow! Yeah that would have been good if you and your college friends could write a book together, but God had other plans for you and that was to write your own story and book! So was being a writer something you always wanted to pursue?
NATALIE: I would have to say that I discovered my true love for writing my junior year in college. I have always owned a journal in which I write a lot of poetry; however, I have been very selective on who I share my poetry with. Furthermore, I still have several unfinished manuscripts. Ironically, some are in the fiction romance genre that my then fiancé (now husband) helped me work on over 10 years ago.
VERSAFI: That sounds awesome! It sounds like me because I’ve started on several stories, but with me I never finished them! LOL Hopefully one day I will finish them. I have purchased so many book covers over the years that I don’t want going to waste, so eventually I will write the story to them. The fiction romance one sounds really interesting. Can’t wait to read that! Now what inspired you to write your first book and who or what motivated you?
NATALIE: My family, students, and my own experiences are what motivated and inspired me. I grew up in the suburbs in an affluent, Caucasian community in the Bay Area( peninsula) of California. I was always 1 out of 5 African American students at my school. My classmates would continuously asked questions about my hair and skin color. Oftentimes, I would downplay my identity to fit in. I remember in first grade I wanted to be a part of this “all girl” group. I had been wearing pink to join this group; and luckily for me I was able to find a very small hint of pink in my shirt. Sadly, one girl pointed out that I wasn’t White which meant I was banned from the group. I was only 6 years old, and this broke my heart into pieces. It was one of my first encounters with racism.
I was moved to include my daughter, Justice, in the book to show her that she is perfect just the way she is, an agent of social change, and very much loved by me. One day when I’m not physically here any more, “Best in Me” will serve as a constant reminder for her. Similar stories like my own, inspired me to develop the characters Ciara, Jacquelyn, and Sharonda in “Best in Me.” My cousin Sharonda who lives with Cerebral Palsy also inspired me to write this book. She’s highly educated, an accomplished business woman, and mother. Like many students, being a victim of bullying made her school experience very challenging. I strongly believe that enhancing students’ school belonging is of paramount importance for students’ overall success and self-efficacy. To truly grow, we have to be willing to accept and tolerate the differences in one another. As a teacher, I challenge my students to learn about and build positive relationships with others who don’t look like them. With great intention, I have dedicated my entire teaching career to serving the underprivileged and marginalized Black and Brown communities because the little Black girl in me still cries inside.
VERSAFI: That story and testimony is very inspiring and empowering! Especially for little girls and boys as you described in your book. Each character has it’s own story and the one thing I love most is that your book is so diverse. That’s the beauty of it! This is a great teaching moment! So now that you published your first book, how does it feel to be a published author?
NATALIE: It’s an absolute honor to be a published author! It felt wonderful when I was out with my family one day and someone asked me, “Are you Natalie, the author of “Best in Me?” My mom looked at me and said, “I can’t believe it! My daughter is famous!” I smiled from ear to ear. The funny thing about this is that the person that noticed me was visiting from out of town and learned about me through Facebook. It’s also liberating to be able to share the stories of each character in the book that reflect the experiences of my family, students, and my own. Based on the current events regarding racism of Black and Brown people, the publication of this book was timely, relevant, and very much needed.
VERSAFI: The best feeling is when someone comes up to you and asked are you the author of such and such and you are definitely happy because now you are famous! Since becoming a published author, what challenges have you faced if any?
NATALIE: Because the cover of my book is multicultural, some people assume that it doesn’t affirm Black racial identity and culture. In actuality, “Best in Me” does a very great job of both. My book can initiate several lessons ,including research projects, as one of the illustrations pays homage to an important African American female pioneer, Madame C. J Walker.
VERSAFI: I just love the cover Natalie! The illustrator did an amazing job of capturing your vision! People do like to judge a book by it’s cover, but when they actually read it, they are shocked because it’s that good! LOL. What genre do you write on?
NATALIE: I write children’s realistic fiction.
VERSAFI: What message do you want your readers to take away when reading your books?
NATALIE: I want readers to be able to accept, tolerate, and educate themselves about the differences of others as well as delve deeper to find the BEST in themselves. My wish is that these processes will contribute to dismantling racism, increasing self-efficacy, and spreading kindness around the world.
VERSAFI: Now that is a powerful message! Often if we don’t accept who we are and how God made us, it can eventually affect us mentally in the long-run. I had to learn to embrace my petite frame because I always wanted to be a little bit bigger and not people thinking I was this skinny person. I’ve had that low self-esteem issue since high school. Now what does being an author mean to you?
NATALIE: An author is an important stakeholder that has a true impact on societal changes. It is important that writers gift the world with meaningful, inspiring, relevant, and life changing content. This might include a book that draws attention to broader social topics that promotes justice, or a simple fiction book that leaves a reader with new knowledge or strong emotions.
VERSAFI: This is very important. As an author, we have to find our niche to what we want to write about or good at writing on and tell the story in a way the readers can gravitate to it and finish the book thinking and leaving them in shock. LOL. So where do you see yourself five years from now?
NATALIE: In five years, I see myself in educational leadership which might be at the elementary school or at the university level. I enjoy coaching and mentoring teachers in the areas of routines, rituals, curriculum, and instruction. I understand my impact and the need to be in leadership to make necessary changes to close the school to prison pipeline and reinforce 21st century skills in a very cruel and competitive world that we live in.
VERSAFI: Sounds like a plan! And yes leadership is definitely important, especially in the times we live in. You would make a great leader. Have you ever thought about being an author full-time?
NATALIE: I definitely have thought about it. Writing and publishing a book is not only very time consuming, but it’s also very costly. By the time I consider being a full-time author, I would need to have strong fellow genre aficionados both nationally and globally. This will take a lot of hard work and support.
VERSAFI: I totally agree with you on that! Being an author full-time is very time consuming and costly. I still wonder how some authors write book full time. Marketing can be very difficult for a lot of authors. So tell us about your marketing strategies as an author .Do you find it to be challenging at times when promoting your books?
NATALIE: Social media is my best friend in terms of marketing. I have joined several author and parent groups. Facebook ads are also very beneficial. More than anything, I’m very blessed with a great following of family, friends, my former teachers, fellow educators, former parents, students, church community, school counselors, and avid readers. And the word spreads fast. As mentioned earlier, it’s challenging to promote my book as many people are currently seeking books that solely include black characters and experiences. As a mother to an African- American child, I totally understand.
VERSAFI: Wow! You have a very strong support system then! A lot of authors aren’t as lucky and blessed as you to have the support they need in order to push their books to #1 or make the Best-Sellers list. But like you mentioned, Facebook ads, promotions and joining different group does help at times. Do you have any current book projects that you are working on?
NATALIE: My next book is called “Proud to Be…” which also covers the themes of race, cultural understanding, tolerance, and acceptance. It focuses on the significance of one’s name, family history, and self-love.
VERSAFI: Sounds interesting! I’m here for it! How many books have you published in total?
NATALIE: “Best in Me” is the only book that I have published.
VERSAFI: How can readers connect with you and support you?
NATALIE: My book is free on Amazon through Kindle Unlimited. To support me, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Also, follow me on social media, engage with my posts, and share my posts and book within your social networks. I will continue to do book giveaways and schedule free days on Amazon to make my book accessible to everyone. I’m also open to doing virtual school visits (and physical school visits once this pandemic is over). Please continue to help me spread the word on dismantling racism! Website: https://www.natalieperkins.org/ Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/bestinmelikepage Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/bestinmebook/