Author Atiba Madyun: “Don’t be afraid to take risks”

I want readers to walk away, believing that things are never what they appear to be in politics. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Atiba Madyun. With a long, successful career in politics, he steps up to the plate for his next challenge, becoming an author. Like most other authors, as a child, he […]

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I want readers to walk away, believing that things are never what they appear to be in politics.

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Atiba Madyun. With a long, successful career in politics, he steps up to the plate for his next challenge, becoming an author. Like most other authors, as a child, he read a lot of books, over 400 to be exact, when he lived in Bamako, Mali for two years without a television. Fast forward twenty years, he picked up JK Rowling’s first book in the Harry Potter series and instantly was hooked and decided to try his hand at storytelling. His first novel, “Saving Grace”, is a series following Anthony Grace that ultimately shows, in the world of politics, nothing is as it seems. The novel has been met with nothing but praise from those who have read it, so much so that Atiba is currently working on its sequel.

Today, Atiba is President/CEO of The Madyun Group (TMG), a government relations firm based in Washington, D.C, as well as Party Politics, a data collection firm that not only gathers data from American voters but also engages with young people to educate them on public policy. With almost 20 years of experience, Atiba has built coalitions between corporations, nonprofits, government bodies, labor unions, advocacy groups, and the private sector, with a specialty in knowledge and expertise in legislative strategy, communication, community organizing, outreach, and education.

Throughout his career as a political analyst and public affairs consultant, he has been a part of historic delegations including the first African American delegation of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to Israel in 2007. In 2014, he traveled with a delegation of Muslim business leaders led by former South African Ambassador to the US, Ebrahim Rasoul to South Africa to meet with South African business leaders and to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the first free elections that led to the election of President Nelson Mandela.

From 2002–2009, Atiba was the Division Director for the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL). In this role, he opened relations with the Bush White House, created an annual meeting between NBCSL and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), wrote two award-winning grant proposals to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and worked on what is an ongoing partnership with the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL). In 2009, he left NBCSL to become a contract lobbyist and to consult with Pfizer, Inc. in multicultural affairs.

On top of all of that, Atiba is Associate Producer on the upcoming film Nicole and OJ, starring Boris Kodjoe and Ving Rhames, is a TV commentator for China Global Television Network (CGTN) with reach to more than 100 countries and 140 million homes and contributes articles for the Huffington Post and The Guardian.

His novel, “Saving Grace, is available for purchase on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

Like most other authors, as a child, I read a lot of books. My mom had me reading at four, and my father’s job took us to Bamako, Mali, for two years when I was nine. Reading truly was fundamental in our household. The early years were good preparation for Mali, where we had no television. I spent endless afternoons and nights immersed in books. I read close to over 400 books during that time. Twenty years later, I was waiting for a friend to pick up something in a store, I picked up their copy of JK Rowling’s first book in the Harry Potter series. Instantly, I was hooked and decided to try my hand at writing a story. The rest is history. I embarked on a twenty-year journey to write my first novel, Saving Grace.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

There are too many to narrow it down. I have been incredibly blessed to meet and develop relationships with influential people here and abroad. Whether it’s the President, a celebrity, or a colleague/friend, I’ve learned from these conversations that they are people, just like you and me. What makes them stand out is their courage to do extraordinary things, to take risks and dare to be different. Their stories almost seem unreal, so it felt natural to take that in and reflect it in my work.

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?

The biggest challenge was believing the story was ready for public consumption. Writing Saving Grace was a labor of love. The hardest thing was letting it go. I can’t tell you how many times I reread the story. Or how many times I tweaked it. Even when I read it now, there are things I feel could be better. I say to aspiring writers, trust yourself. You will know when to let it go. For me, it took 20 years. When I finally let it go, I knew the style could be different, but the story couldn’t be better. Once you get past that, you’ll want nothing more than to continue writing. My process made me become a better writer. Aspiring writers should trust that once you get past the first one, you’ll be surprised at what you can create.

Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake was a difficult lesson. My computer crashed and I remember, and this was 20 years ago. I didn’t have a backup and had to start over from scratch. Luckily, I had pages printed out, but it was a hard lesson, and one well learned. I can laugh now, but if ever there was a time to quit, it was then. But the story was supposed to happen, and now, thanks to the cloud, I save my work in multiple locations. A lesson to aspiring writers, save your work in more than one place including a thumb drive.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am excited to have the manuscript written for my second novel, Chasing Spence. Readers of Saving Grace are already asking for it. What’s most exciting is those who’ve read it think it is even better than the first.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

The most interesting story is the one, readers will have to read, but it’s about a hole in the ground. It is the impetus and foundation of the entire story. Readers will want to know how, what, when, where, and why the hole with a full-scale operation is there. The book is filled with fun facts about Washington, D.C. You’ll have to read to find out what it is and how it got there.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

I want readers to walk away, believing that things are never what they appear to be in politics.

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.

1. Tell your story, whether its fiction or nonfiction, in a way that lures the reader in from page one.

2. Enjoy writing it. If you enjoy it, the reader will too.

3. Make sure it flows. The worst thing for a reader is to feel like they’re wasting time reading.

4. Don’t be afraid to take risks. The writing style of other authors may influence you, but you need to take risks to make your book different.

5. Let others read your work. Ask and receive constructive criticism. Some of it will hurt. Trust your instinct as to what to take and what to ignore.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e., perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or an example?

Becoming a great writer is a process. I am not a great writer, as much as I am a great storyteller. Imagination is my greatest gift to my writing. As shared by those who’ve read the second manuscript, I am a much better writer than I was for the first book. That is incredibly exciting, knowing that the stories will also get better as my writing does. A lot of writers have influenced me. JK Rowling, James Patterson, John Grisholm, Ernest Gaines, and Walter Mosely, and as I said before, I read so many books as a kid. The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Bobsey Twins, and I have always liked a good mystery.

In my case, the hardest part about writing is making others close to understanding my need for solitude; to be alone in my thoughts. I can go days writing to have to go back to those same pages to edit and rewrite. The goal isn’t just to finish. It is to create my best work.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

Richard Wright and Toni Morrison were phenomenal writers. As much as I loved their ability to write, at times, I think you had to stop and think about what their words meant. The meaning in between the lines is where I believe true inspiration lies. I take technical things and seek to make the reader enjoy my work, have them stop and think about the words, and think about how their actions and thoughts impact their lives.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Influence is a big word, as we often put our trust in the wrong things. I am not looking so much to be an influence as much as I want people to understand and embrace the possibility of their impact on the world. If I could start a movement, it would be like the Coca Cola commercial many years ago. It’s the words of the chorus that move me most.

“If I could teach the world to sing, In perfect harmony, I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.”

I think of my books in this way. I hope they teach the world to be in harmony, recognizing that we can keep each other company, reading and enjoying each other’s stories.

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