You need to write, often. This is hard, as you may imagine if you are a working writer. You are pulled multiple ways and may not always find the time (or have the luxury) to carve out time daily. When I was teaching and working multiple jobs I didn’t have the energy to write daily, but I made it a point to write on the weekends. I’d sit at a coffee shop and work for a few hours.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Shante’ (pronounced Shawn-tay).
Angela is a teacher, poet, and author of the new book The Noisy Classroom. The book (which is her debut book) is a story about a non-traditional teacher and a nervous third grader. Angela is currently working on a second picture book titled “When My Cousins Come to Town” which pubs May 2021.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
Iwas a teacher for over ten years and loved teaching. My favorite part of the day was always literacy, I loved reading and writing, and my students did as well. When I left the classroom I knew that I wanted to write for kids and began to pursue a career as an author.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Most of the funny stories that I have are pre-career since I’m still (technically) starting as an author. I pull a lot of inspiration from my time in the classroom, like my debut picture book The Noisy Classroom.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
One of the challenges, as you can imagine, is the lack of diversity in publishing. Most of the big publishing houses and agents weren’t seeking diverse authors or stories like mine. I overcame this by being persistent. I wrote inquiries, and cold-called people, I used social media, and contacts I knew. It was from one of these contacts that I found my agent and publicist who managed to open a few doors for me. I think newer authors, especially authors of color, will undoubtedly face the same issues since most of publishing hasn’t changed in the last five years. A piece of advice is to find your people, find an agent and build a team with people who believe in your voice, and be persistent.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working on my second picture book titled When My Cousins come to Town. It’s a book about a large Black family, cousin-culture, and nicknames. The story follows the smallest cousin as she tries to earn a nickname and carve out an identity for herself.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
I write stories that reflect my life as a Black American but are also universal stories. The Noisy Classroom is about an African American teacher, but really it’s a nod to all teachers who are non-traditional, teachers breaking the molds and advocating for their students in creative and inspiring ways. I want readers to see that. I want them to see these themes from the lens of Black characters and connect to the story with an understanding of the connectedness that we all share.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.
- You need to write, often. This is hard, as you may imagine if you are a working writer. You are pulled multiple ways and may not always find the time (or have the luxury) to carve out time daily. When I was teaching and working multiple jobs I didn’t have the energy to write daily, but I made it a point to write on the weekends. I’d sit at a coffee shop and work for a few hours.
- You need to read, often. This was easy when I was in the classroom because I was always reading to my students or with my student during our reading blocks. I find that by reading I find inspiration to write.
- Editing/redrafting is your friend. I’m a terrible speller. But I learned long ago not to worry about that when writing. I used to tell my students (and live by the rule) that when you are writing your main goal is to let the story flow. You can always go back to redraft or edit once the full story complete.
- Being persistent can open doors. Sometimes being persistent can come in the form of follow up emails or calls. Other times being persistent means to power through a story, even when you have writer’s block. The most important thing in obtaining your goals is never quitting and always seeing things through.
- My favorite tech feature is the Do Not Disturb option on my devices. I’m an avid multi-tasker and am easily distracted. Shutting down the internet and placing my phone on Do Not Disturb limits distractions and really helps keep me in the zone when I am writing.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I draw inspiration from all types of things. For example, I am writing a YA novel at the moment. For this I am reading tons and tons of YA books. I think it helps me get into the mind-frame of the genre.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m ALWAYS going to be an advocate for students and schools. Anything I’d influence would revolve around funding for public schools and resources for educators/students. I’d like to see more art in school, more books, more tech, more options for kids to find their passion during the formative years of their lives.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me on IG @Thenoisyclassroom or on my website at Angelashante.com
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!