Shermaine Perry-Knights On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Successful Author or Writer
An Interview With Kristin Marquet
Let your passion shine through and share your story. The most engaging interactions are the ones that are impromptu discussions during Q&A sessions with families. This includes the moments where I share feeling scared of dreaming so big but still reaching towards those dreams. People want to connect with a real person, not some version of who you are. Sharing your story is powerful and is the best way to allow others in your world.
Some writers and authors have a knack for using language that can really move people. Some writers and authors have been able to influence millions with their words alone. What does it take to become an effective and successful author or writer?
In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Be A Successful Author or Writer” we are talking to successful authors and writers who can share lessons from their experience.
As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Shermaine Perry-Knights.
Shermaine Perry-Knights is an award-winning facilitator, project manager, speaker, world traveler, and author. She is a proud third-culture kid and a lifelong learner that writes books to make military-connected families “feel heard and seen”. Shermaine also owns a publishing agency, Amazingly Published LLC.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My backstory starts in the U.K. I made an official appearance in California and several countries, schools, experiences and cultures later, I landed in Atlanta, Georgia. My books represent one aspect of my backstory. I simply wrote the books that I wanted as a child that moved a lot. I am a proud world traveler and avid reader that loves to learn new things.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
There are so many interesting stories that happened to me and closeby in the course of my career. The most interesting thing was walking into my first job after college. The week before graduation I flew to Washington D.C. for new hire orientation. Upon entering the room, I quickly noticed that everyone was much older. In a group of nearly 100, I was 1 of 5 seemingly under 50 years old. I smiled and counted myself as blessed to join these professionals. Then someone yells “I have socks and undergarments older than you. What’s your name, kiddo?” The room erupted in laughter and I brushed it off. That gentleman quickly became a close friend and dear colleague. I was eager to prove myself and to shake off the imposter syndrome. This moment stays with me. It is a constant reminder to laugh deeply and to create relationships because they add value.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a writer? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
The biggest challenge I faced on this author journey was getting started. I decided to write about one of my personal experiences. I overcame it by focusing on how much that book would help others. My advice to others is to write from your heart. There is power in simply sharing your story. For me, it was important to write the story that I wish I had as a child.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I started was not numbering post-it notes. I’m creative with an old fashioned soul. My first story, I Move A Lot and That’s Okay, was written on post-it notes spread across the living room floor. While the story was exciting, the ideas were scattered out of order in multi-colored sticky notes. Placing the story in the correct order was like putting a puzzle together without the photo for reference. Needless to say it turned out well.
In your opinion, were you a “natural born writer” or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I am a natural born writer who has developed a deep passion for perfecting her craft. The best investment you can make is to invest in learning knowledge, advanced capabilities and new skills. I desire to grow as a writer and to continually sharpen these skills.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The most exciting project that I’m working on now is a youth writing boot camp. I’m ready to empower tweens and teens with their first stream of income. The goal is to help them publish a book that will generate income for the rest of their lives.
Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Be A Successful Author or Writer”? Please share a story or example for each.
In a short period of time. I was featured in NPR, Stars and Stripes, Military Times and ESPN Radio. It’s a great feeling to know that I am making a positive impact on families! My books make military-connected families feel heard and seen. My 5 things include:
1. Let your passion shine through and share your story. The most engaging interactions are the ones that are impromptu discussions during Q&A sessions with families. This includes the moments where I share feeling scared of dreaming so big but still reaching towards those dreams. People want to connect with a real person, not some version of who you are. Sharing your story is powerful and is the best way to allow others in your world.
2. Create authentic connections with your audience. This means stepping outside of your comfort zone. Publishing during the pandemic forced me outside of my comfort zone. There was no choice but to try new things and to create authentic connections. Without the benefit of face-to-face interactions, I relied heavily on technology to create those connections. This is easier said than done. Video content and podcasting helped a lot. Your audience can feel your passion
3. Partnerships and collaboration are at the heart of success and longevity as an author. Seek partners that align with the book’s vision and your personal standards. Research is the first step to creating partnerships with your target audience. I started with a simple Google search “best organizations for military families”. After reading reviews and exploring their social media pages, then reach out via email. I’ve established partnerships with PCSgrades and countless organizations that serve military-connected families. For me, nurturing these relationships are essential for lasting and positive impact.
4. Get over the fear of trying new things. A fellow author and friend, Ren Lowe, always says “do it scared. Do it anyway.” There is a large poster on the wall of my home office. It is the comfort zone model. This is my daily reminder to leave the comfort zone and enter the growth zone. Every day I stand in front of this poster and whisper “Shermaine, you can do this! You can do this! You can do this!” The morning of my ESPN Radio interview was no different. I was scared and sweating a lot. I was overthinking everything that I wanted to say. I stood in front of the poster and reminded myself that the comfort zone is not enough. After a few deep breaths, a quick prayer and call with mom, I was ready to dive in. Overcoming the fear of trying new things leads to many opportunities. Creativity unlocks endless possibilities with marketing.
5. Invest in yourself. This includes studying the industry, desired genre, creating smart goals and taking business courses. Iron only remains sharp if it is continually sharpened. So fall in love with the process and enjoy the journey. I joined several author groups. The most rewarding, in my opinion, is a private Facebook group called Six Figure Self-Publishing Secrets with Crystal Swain-Bates. This group is a community of practice in every sense of the word. We openly share information, opportunities and provide real-time solutions related to book publishing. I’ve invested in several book publishing and marketing courses. Crystal has become a mentor. Investing in yourself is about seeking out information and learning from successful individuals.
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 example?
Perseverance is one habit that contributed the most in my becoming a great writer. For me, this habit represents a combination of mental toughness, discipline, resilience, and a commitment to lifelong learning. Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as the continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. My first book was birthed during the pandemic and written within five days. This commitment to achieving helped me to push past the harsh realities of the pandemic, different moments of loss, imposter syndrome, negative feelings and to exit survival mode. It was important to achieve this dream of publishing and to thrive during the writing process. I wanted to share with others that it is possible to prosper with a positive impact during the pandemic.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
As an avid reader I draw inspiration from trips to the local public library. Listening to mystery thriller suspense books and poetry on audiobooks fuels my passion for writing. There’s something beautiful and comforting about a good book. I love the feel of the pages and overall experience of reading a picture book. I travel in the pages of each story and that inspires me to create experiences with relatable themes in my books.
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 on a mission to do two things. First, promote the growth mindset. This is about becoming flexible with our thinking. The goal is to keep going and growing as we navigate this new norm. This shift in mindset encourages resilience. The second is starting a movement to create empathy for the military-connected family experience. Let’s call this movement “I Move A Lot and That’s Okay” just like the book title. These books make military-connected children feel “heard and seen”. Remember that one book can change the experience for a single child and create empathy for 100 more. I hope that this idea will trigger a global movement and countless local reading programs.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Please connect with me on www.booksformilitaryfamilies.com
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!