You need to be passionate about your personal mission — My true desire is to educate people and so I set my intention to educate others in everything that I do. This has given me the ability to tell stories that resonate with people, even stories that I didn’t think would spark change. A person who read my acknowledgments in my children’s book reached out to tell me that it motivated her to make a personal change. My goal was to thank the many people who helped make my book possible, but it still reached someone on a personal level.
As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Angela Sadler Williamson.
Angela Sadler Williamson Ph.D. is an independent filmmaker, speaker, educator, and author. A former producer and copywriter for the Orange County NewsChannel, Fox 11 Television, Fox Sports West, and Prime Ticket, Dr. Williamson has over twenty-five years of experience in communications, marketing, and public relations. Dr. Williamson has a doctorate in Human Services from Capella University in Minnesota. In December 2018, she released her award-winning documentary about her cousin, Rosa Parks, “My Life with Rosie”, on Amazon Prime. Her best-selling children’s book, “My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins” was released on June 18, 2020 on Amazon. She also wrote the forward for “Women Who Illuminate”, which is also an International best-seller on Amazon. On September 2, 2020, “Everybody with Angela Williamson” will premiere on PBS-LA. A public affairs show that explores education, the arts, and people with a heavy emphasis on diversity.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
I grew up in Southern California in a small city called Diamond Bar. I am an only child and my mother and father are from the South. They both grew up during segregation and remember how Blacks were treated in their hometowns. This was one of the main reasons they moved to Los Angeles in the late 60s. Growing up in Diamond Bar, which is upper middle-class, allowed me a lot of opportunities my parents did not have growing up and I knew that education would be the key to living a life my parents always struggled to have.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story?
In middle school, I read Lord of the Flies, a 1954 novel by Nobel Prize-winning British author William Golding. The book focuses on a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempt to govern themselves. I learned a valuable lesson when I read the book, if I have an opportunity to be a leader, I must be able to lead people to do things that benefit humanity and not hurt humanity. That is why it is important for me to write documentaries and books that encourage people to make this world a better place.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
In 2015 I was depressed because after almost ten years trying to get a full-time job in education, I was still a part-time adjunct instructor. In fact, in 2014 I left higher education for a job in the private sector and it didn’t work out so by mid-2015 I was jobless, and my father-in-law had just passed away. During the chaos of losing my father-in-law and the planning his memorial service I lost my wedding ring. My husband seeing how distraught I was by everything happening in my life, gave me money to replace my ring, instead of buying a new ring, I used the money to write and produce a documentary about my Aunt Carolyn Williamson Green and her relationship with our Cousin Rosa Parks. Not only did it help me move out of my depression, but it changed my life in so many positive ways.
What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?
My belief is that children are not born to hate, they are taught this characteristic. When I published My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins, I wanted children to learn how to respect everyone’s differences early in life. That’s why I challenge them at the end of the book by inviting them to be part of a special team of activists, Cousin Rosie’s Youth Council.
Did the actual results align with your expectations? Can you explain?
Yes, the book exceeded my expectations. The release of the book was perfect timing because it was released during a time where many parents are asking how they can talk to their children about racism, activism, and human rights.
What moment let you know that your book had started a movement? Please share a story.
When it became a #1 Best Seller on Amazon in 12 categories in one day. This is also during a movement to support Black Authors. I don’t know the people who started this movement, but I want to sincerely thank them because it really helped my book when it was released.
What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?
“It is well written.” “My son or daughter loved learning about Rosa Parks.” “My son said he is going to tell the bully at school that he needs to honor people’s differences.” (This one is my favorite!) “This book should be part of every ethnic studies class.” “This book should be in every library.”
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book? Can you share a story?
I love parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who are sharing photos of their children either reading or holding this book. Please look at my fan page for these adorable photos.
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
No, I have not. Everyone is wanting this type of story right now.
Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
Books have the power to educate people — that is why they can create movements, revolutions, and true change.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
I am tenacious. It is the best characteristic that contributes being a best-selling author. It feeds into my desire to educate others about how to make a positive change in society, so it fuels me to finish projects that support my goal.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lesson(s) that you learned?
I learned to write for my own understanding and enlightenment. When I do this, I also reach others who want the same understanding and enlightenment.
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book? (please include a story or example for each)
- You need to be passionate about your personal mission — My true desire is to educate people and so I set my intention to educate others in everything that I do. This has given me the ability to tell stories that resonate with people, even stories that I didn’t think would spark change. A person who read my acknowledgments in my children’s book reached out to tell me that it motivated her to make a personal change. My goal was to thank the many people who helped make my book possible, but it still reached someone on a personal level.
- Find a small number of people who will be your “personal cheerleaders” — My inner circle gives me strength to move forward, even when I think I can do it. My book publisher encouraged me to write this children’s book when I was afraid to write it because I had never written one before. My best friend encouraged me to use my skills to educate others in a different way when I was discouraged because I couldn’t get a faculty position in higher education. This encouragement helped me produce the documentary, My Life with Rosie, which completely changed my life.
- Ask others to help share your message — If you look at my Instagram and FB fan page for My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins, you will see a lot of photos of children AND adults reading my children’s book. Many of these photos come from friends who have taken time out of their busy schedules to help me promote the message of the book. I want authors to know that it is OK to ask others to help you share your message. You need others to help make a positive change in our society.
- “Tune out” the negative energy — When I started producing the documentary about Rosa Parks, some people asked me if I was ever going to complete it. Not only did I complete it, but guess who were the first of many people to congratulate me and tell me they knew the documentary would do well after the documentary started winning at film festivals? The same people. 😊 I say this because anything that is created to make an impact will also have people who don’t believe in it. I learned that when Rosa Parks started the NAACP Youth Council many parents didn’t want their children to be part of it, but she started it anyway. It took me a long-time to realize that you must tune out the negative energy. If you don’t, it will make your journey harder.
- Expect the Unexpected — I really thought after releasing my documentary in 2017 that I would finally get that full-time, tenured position at the one university I had been teaching at since 2007, unfortunately that never happened and I am still an adjunct professor as of today. What did happen is that this documentary did get me into the Writers Guild of America West in 2016, 18 film festivals, an author of #1 International Bestselling Book Women Who Illuminate, an educational documentary ready to be implemented into primary, secondary and higher education, speaking engagements (which I so love!), screenings at colleges and universities, #1 Bestselling children’s book, My Life with a Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins on Amazon, and a new show starting on PBS-LA in the fall. My desire to educate others is at the heart of all my experiences and I now get to do it beyond the classroom.
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next? Can you explain why that is so important?
A personal goal for me is to change how history is studied in education. I want my educational documentary about Rosa Parks and my children’s book, My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins, to be implemented into every elementary, junior, and high school in the United States. Many states are proposing new legislation to require Ethnic Studies as mandatory curriculum for every student. My desire is that the educational materials I created become part of this mandatory curriculum when learning about the Civil Rights Movement. I am working on making this happen over the next few years, especially since this year marks the 65th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ arrest and the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.