Winona Rasheed was born in Troy Ohio on September 8, 1951. She is a Miami County Trojan and a Virgo according to the stars. Though she lives in the Nation’s Capital of Washington DC, she has a country gal feel to herself. Winona also known by the nicknames of Nona or Nonnie is very creative when it comes to writing and her creativity shows in her books for children.
Her author accomplishments include 10 published books of which, Broken Voices and A New Home for Her Cubs, published by New Line Press are among her list of titles for kids, tweens and teens.
Writing fiction started a long time ago, while in her teens, but success did not emerge until she was in her thirties when she stumbled upon a writing course, which when finished began to open up doors and opportunities in her writing career. Her dedication paid off leading her into the world of freelance writing. She also helps others write, edit and prepare their manuscripts for submission.
“In other words, Once you have the writing bug, there is no cure for it. You just have to let your pencil dance and your thoughts flow if you want to be healed.” Winona Rasheed
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
How do you go about thinking up a character and giving them a name? Most of my characters are female except for a few. I suppose I love writing with female heroic figures because I am a female writer. So most often, my character has a little of me in her and there’s always a little of her in me. Another factor that comes into play is the theme of the story. I have to ask myself would the main character be female or male? Sometimes, these ideas float around in my head before I start writing or working on the first draft.
When it comes to naming my characters, I do a name research and try to find a name befitting to the character. The characters names in my stories also give hint to their nationality and their where abouts, such as Ella Rose in Broken Voices is a black girl from North Carolina. Kumani, is an african name in the story “A New Home for Her Cubs,” since the lioness is from Africa. I usually have a list of names that I go through and then I cancel out the ones that’s not appropriate until I have what I want. The name must roll from my tongue as it did with Ella Rose and Kumani.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
It may sound silly, but before I begin writing anything, thoughts are running through my mind like an eagle in flight. Before it is written, something has to be taking place in my head, such as a theme and what might be taking place. I am in this mode for a while before I put anything down on paper. I always plot and plan in my head first. The next step for me is not running immediately to my keyboard and Microsoft Word, I start off writing my first draft on writing paper, it is there that I get a feel of the characters and what they are about and which direction the story is going to take. But oft times, that changes by the time I make it to my keyboard and computer. I’d rather be doing a lot of X-outs on paper before I start typing; after all, you will do a lot of do overs to a manuscript before it is perfect, but the writing pad/notebook is like a long essay, telling you what to put into the manuscript once you really get going.
As far as a routine is concerned, when the urge to write is flowing through my being, everything else gets put on hold. I hate to get interrupted or distracted. That really irks my nerves, but I managed to get through it, even if it means staying up into the wee hours of the morning writing something down on paper, or typing at my computer. Sometimes I am the last one to bed and the first one up when the writing bug is present.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Of course I sometimes suffer from writer’s block, but that usually happens when my life is chaotic and I am trying to do too many things at once, including writing my story thoughts out. When this happens, you just have to step back or step away from the project so you can breathe and think so that you can get back in the mood. I usually put on some music, watch a little TV, or work in my garden to get out of having writer’s block. I put my mind on other things that I like to do, which also involves cooking.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
You must write something everyday, no matter how short it may be, read all that you can on all aspects of writing, practice your craft like your life is depending on it. Believe in yourself and never say never, or I can’t do that, or that can’t happen for me and above all, never believe that you are not good enough. When it comes to writing and if you have dreams of becoming an author, let me tell you, it will not happen over night, so you have to be patient. Let your desire lead you and keep you on the path of writing, regardless of how long it takes. Because once you give up and say it is over, nothing has a chance of happening when it is suppose to. I say this because I started writing back in the 60’s (oops, giving my age away), I always had the desire to pursue the world of writing. However,though I kept at it here and there over the years because I also dabbled in other things, but I always came back to the writing because that’s what was embedded in me. It took a long time for things to start going in the direction that I wanted it to. But I never gave up. Writing started to pay off in 2008 because that’s when my manuscripts started to turn into published books. I did at last come full circle and accomplished my goal and I must say, it feels pretty darn good being an author. I’m glad I hung in there.
What are your current/future projects?
On March 27, 2014, I had my first novel for young adults published by New Line Press. Out of 11 books for children and teens, this is my latest accomplishment, “Bittersweet Dayz”. It took a while to create this book, so right now, I am working on promoting it, so I am taking a little break from working on a new project. But my writing days are not done. I’m going to keep on writing as long as I can breathe and have something to write about. However, just today, a story idea was dancing around in my head. I guess you can say it was teasing me. I will let it simmer in my head a bit before I pull out my writing pad.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
When I first started writing, I didn’t know the first thing about genre or aiming towards a particular audience. I just wrote, but as I look back, the projects I worked on as a teenager was geared toward young adults. I learned about genres and so much more when I studied writing for children and teens from The Institute of Children’s Literature. This was a home study course which I am so happy and satisfied that I delved in and succeeded with it. It was then that I found out that I loved writing in the genre of children and young adult. I fancy fiction; starting out writing short stories, but it feels good to know that I can do novels and novellas too. I never thought I’d write a novel, but I did. That’s why I say, never say never. Will I ever write beyond children and teens…let’s just say I am not going to say it won’t happen, because one never knows where a story will lead you, especially when characters are coming to life in your head.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
I think the future for independent authors look bright because the world is changing. I used to think I didn’t want anything to do with electronic reading, but it is here, I’ve adapted and loving the idea. It is good that authors have choices and options when it comes to being published; after all you can spend a lifetime trying to find the right traditional publisher for your work and oft times that never pans out, because it is hard to break in the door of a traditional publisher. A person can get tired of rejection slips when they are trying to fulfill their dreams and accomplish their goals. I am happy that the self-publishing option is available. This is a good thing and the sign of the times.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I am happy to say that I have been published by a couple of traditional publishers; New Line Press and Featherweight Publishing House and Writer’s Exchange Publishing. With these three companies, five of the 11 books that I have are published traditionally. I always wanted and looked forward to my manuscript being accepted and getting a letter or an email stating that the publisher liked the story and wants to go forward with it. It made me feel real as an author having that happen. An acceptance letter validated my worthiness as a writer/author. I felt honored that someone wanted my story to publish. However, for the other 6 books, which are directed toward younger children, I had to self publish to get it done and to get the books into the hands of children. I have 3 books published by Lulu.com and 3 published Creative Space. I am proud of all my books regardless of how they were published and all copies are sitting side by side on my bookshelf showing my accomplishment as a writer/author.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
I have never changed a title, book cover or content myself personally. However, one of my books that was done by a traditional publisher, “Wohali and the Little People,” did get a cover make over, but it was done by the publishing house and their illustrator. Of course I had to okay the new look. Both covers were great as far as I could see, but the publisher felt that the old cover needed an update. I was pleased with the transformation.The first cover looked more artsy, while the 2nd cover looks more like professional photography as they were changing all their published books in that manner.
What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc..)
I am from a small town in Ohio, and when my first traditional published book went live, it was picked up by my hometown library. That was awesome. It is amazing to see how many of my old classmates from high school are reading my books and have them in their possession. It was an awesome experience doing an author radio interview, and an online interview as well as being asked to do a book signing at the library and car show here in Washington DC. All of these events and memories warmed my heart, making me feel that I’ve come full circle as a writer/author.
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
I am a big fan of media sites such as Google +. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and so many more that I am involved with. I blog, tweet and post stuff like crazy and most times, I am promoting myself as an author and promoting my books. I keep my website updated to what is happening with me and my books, making sure that if people can’t remember any of my titles, they surely can remember my name and my logo, “Struttin’ My Stuff”. My tip for writers would be…”get a website” Create yourself an author’s page so you can get the word out there about what you do. Showcase yourself as a writer/author. Tweet about it, blog it to help boost your cyberspace profile. Get a blog and keep it updated and maintained.
If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?
I am a huge fan of Amazon.com. Though my books are are also on Barnes and Nobles, the iTunes store, Lulu and Create Space, I am crazy about Amazon because they are fast in getting your book loaded to their site. Plus they have everything under the sun when it comes to shopping online. Amazon is ideal because they offer more for authors, such as an author page on Authorcentral and Amazon Associates. You can even keep up with your sales as an author on Amazon. I check it out everyday.
What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
I love writing fiction for children of all ages. My books are classified under fairy tales, fantasy, true to life, peer pressure, being different, disability and African stories such as with the story of Kumani in the Lioness tale.
Writing for children because I love to see kids smile when reading a good book, especially inner city kids. They get a chance to let their imagination go wild when they read one of my books that they can relate too and understand. It’s fun and at the same time, they walk away learning something different.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
Short and simple…I write it down. But most times, it’s safe in my head until I get to my note pad. Like I said earlier, something is brewing in my head now. The theme is there and it is one word…..I won’t forget it.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
When I am ready to type everything up, I am not sure how many pages I am going to have until I finish typing. However, before I was into short stories, so I know I would have to have at least 32 pages for a kid’s book. My longest book is 163 pages for young adults. I didn’t know I was going to have that many pages until I was done with the story.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
I’ve come a long way as a person/author. For one thing, it gave me more confidence in myself. Being a writer/author helped me to pursue other things in life, like that of being a freelance writer; working for myself. I’ve had opportunities come my way that I never dreamed of happening, like that of being managing editor of an author’s website, a place where writers showcase their works after their manuscripts have come to my desk. Being an author and learning the ropes of writing and publishing, led me to creating my own little writing and editing business. What a thrill it is to have someone call me for help. I always give positive advise to others, always lending a hand because that’s how I am. I love to encourage others to succeed.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
I believe it is the cover, title and a little excerpt on the back of the book that gets a potential buyer/reader interested. The cover pulls them in, regardless of how many pages of content you have.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
I’ve had a press release done twice. For me, it was just exciting to see the announcement go live. A press release makes you feel like a star on a red carpet, or you are making a debut appearance.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
Reviews are very important for an author who has a book published. Reviews entice other potential readers to buy the book. However, getting reviews are not easy. As a matter of fact, that’s what I am working on now, getting people to leave a review when they read the book.
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
I never heard of review swaps until I was doing research the other day. It sounds like a good idea, one author helping another and visa versa. Paying for reviews does not ring well with me. When looking for reviewers, you do have to do your research on them. Authors should also be prepared for critical comments about their book. Not all reviewers will give constructive criticism. I had one that literally squashed me as an author and a person. Unbelievable.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
I have not had this experience to even talk about it.
Have you ever had an interesting, funny, or even bad experience during a live interview, reading, event, or autograph session?
Oh my goodness yes. During the radio interview. I was being recorded and at the end of the interview, (I was so nervous) I couldn’t even spell my name. However, I didn’t realize that until the interview aired and when it came to me spelling out my name for the audience….I misspelled it. But it was too late because it was live. My husband and I both laughed.
With self publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
Oh yes, there are tons and tons of books to delight readers out there today. I am not going to knock it because hopefully mine are in those tons too. For all the hype and copycats, all I can say, people are only going to read what they want to read, whatever grabs their attention when they are book shopping. They have options, just like they have options in purchasing an e-book or a paper back. They have the option of reading whatever on Kindles, Nooks and whatever electronic gadget that is in their possession.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
My biggest fear is people not being interested in my books.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
I do have multiple books and my greatest work, which everyone seems to love is “Broken Voices,” published by New Line Press. This is a Y/A book with a book two “Bittersweet Dayz” as the Ella Rose saga continues. Everyone kept saying bring Ella Rose back, so I did.
What is the intended audience for you book?
Broken Voices and Bittersweet Dayz is for Y/A.
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
Not everyone speaks with their lips.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
Get to know Author Winona Rasheed, see what she has to offer in the way of books for children and young adults.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
I use social media sites for connecting with everyone I come in contact with. It is so easy to tweet, post on Facebook and in one click of the finger, your message goes out to hundreds of people. It is the perfect platform for promoting yourself as an author and showcasing your books.
What makes a good story, why?
To have a good story, you need remarkable characters that people can relate and themes that are universal and for real.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
As I said earlier, I always do a name search. It’s good to have the information on the meaning of the name, the spelling and see how it is pronounced.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Yes I read my reviews and respond to all of them. Try not to let a bad review spoil your day. Ignore those which sound like they are being spiteful and downright mean. When I had a bad one, it threw me for a loop. I didn’t respond to it.
What are some events you have attended or participated in that has been a positive experience/influence on/for your writing?
author interviews, book signings, guest blogging, I love doing these.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
Controversial, because I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and hurt feelings.
I can’t write exotic racy stuff because I write for children and teens. You wouldn’t want to put x-rated stuff in books for them. They see and hear enough as it is.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
Teenager suffering from Bolima or anorexia. That’s what’s been playing around in my head.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
I have not had that happen.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
I have never thought about that, but if I did, it would be Ella Rose Abbott of the Broken Voices series.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
Made it all up. See how powerful the imagination is?
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Being concise. Writing well, using proper grammar and editing your work.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
I used to write for extra credit in school, to increase my grade. The teachers loved my short stories, this is what prompted me to continue my craft.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
I am old fashion, I still love print books the best. However, the rage today is e-books. So, as an author, I go with the flow and I am glad the option is available because this is what readers want; after all, we authors cater to readers.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
My writing is a labor of love, however, I have engaged it to be a career as well as a creative outlet.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
For my last two books, I had to do research on the hearing impaired.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
Oh yes, it is very important to proofread and edit your work before you submit your final copy. I edit my own before it goes through the editing process from the publisher. It is true, four eyes are better than two.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
For self publishing, you are responsible for your own book, you have to work on the layout, making sure everything is just right. Sometimes, that can get complicated if you don’t know what you are doing. It becomes trial and error time when trying to set it up. That’s the biggest disadvantage.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
My believable characters
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
I leave that up to my publisher and the illustrator
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
Submitting your work to publishing houses and then have to wait for a response that could take up to 6 months, and then only to receive a rejection letter. I hate that!
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