Women of Wednesday: Mya Kay on Saying ‘Yes’ to Stories of Faith and People of Color
WOMEN OF WEDNESDAY is a weekly micro-interview series featuring women of color in various industries and walks of life, focused on highlighting their pursuits and making it easy for readers to support their endeavors. If you would like to be featured, please submit your answers to the below five questions here.
Mya Kay, 32, Warrior of Words (Philadelphia)
1. Tell us about the work you’re doing and why it’s important.
I’m a writer of young adult and Christian fiction. I basically minister through words but in a way that people can relate to. I give people Christ and culture. I believe books have a large place in society and have a way of creating dialogue and change that can last for years. People still argue about the Bible. That should be proof enough of the power of a book. The work I’m doing is important because I believe reading and teens take on a power of it’s own when fused together. I believe teens and young adults are hungry for great literature that they can seem themselves in. It breaks my heart that we have to fight for diversity and fight to see characters like us (blacks and minorities) on bookshelves, on television and at the forefront of other forms of entertainment. I write screenplays as well and all my stories have ethnic characters with unique stories. To be honest, I didn’t see much of my face when I read literature as a child, but I chose stories that I could relate to. If it wasn’t for the Maya Angelous or the Sharon Drapers, I would always have had to imagine. I recently inked a publishing deal with The TMG Firm, a New York publisher, and the series that’s coming will basically blow people’s mind. It’s a young adult family saga. If Empire and 7th Heaven had a baby, my new series The Clover Chronicles is what you would get.
2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in pursuing the work that’s important to you?
The biggest challenge was finding someone to support my vision. Someone who could really take it to the masses. I don’t believe in following trends when it comes to art, and writing is art at its finest, but sometimes, because it’s so subjective, you have to do more legwork than artwork until you get that ‘yes’ you need. And sometimes, you have to give yourself a ‘yes’ and do whatever it takes until the bigger ‘yes’ comes along. I got almost seventy-plus rejections before seeing my first novel in print, which I ultimately self-published. The Barnes & Noble corporate office said ‘no’ to putting it in stores until I went to one store in Atlanta. The manager agreed to do it on consignment. I was elated. My first book signing that was in a store was in Barnes & Noble. I write screenplays as well and the challenge is the same — it’s a subjective industry and you just have to keep writing and working until God opens the right door for you. Once you get your first ‘yes’, the opportunities are limitless. Lastly, the biggest challenge is getting people to understand that stories that showcase people of color are just as, if not more, important than any other story.
3. What do you need in order to continue your work in the way you envision?
Now that I have an amazing publisher behind me, I know that’s half the battle. In order for me to continue to tell the stories I want to tell on the level I want to tell them, I need that ‘yes’ that I’m seeking from a Hollywood manager or agent. It’s not that I’m waiting for anyone to give me a ‘yes’, but the truth is, some stories (whether books or films) are meant for a global audience. I self-published three books and released five under an independent publisher. As an eight-time author, that’s amazing, especially having released five of the eight in just seven months. But there are some pieces of art that can’t be released on their own. Lastly, I need for people to go out and buy The Clover Chronicles when it hits stores. The first book in the series is called Battling Brelyn. My books always focus on themes that affect teens and their families with the core theme being faith. Our youth see enough drugs, crime and violence. I want to give them faith, determination and morale when they read (or see) my work.
4. Where and how can we support you to make #3 happen?
I need support from everyone. I don’t believe just because an author is black that his or her work can only be understood by black people. I guarantee you, when I was reading The Babysitter’s Club I never thought none of those things couldn’t happen to me and my friends just because the main characters were white. My stories always touch on universal themes. We all have more in common than we realize. Support my blog (www.writermya.com) about the book and go back and buy my other releases (http://bit.ly/myakayamazon). Sign up for the email release. Great art gets noticed when great people support it.
5. What is your favorite quote?
I have two.
“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” — Frida Kahlo
“Fight the good fight of faith.” It’s actually a Bible verse (1 Timothy 6:12) but if I had to put it in a quote I would say “Faith is everything. Without it, no dream can come true. You have to do your part and work hard, but even hard work only goes so far. Faith can open up doors and opportunities that you had no idea existed. That’s just how God works.”