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This blog was featured on 06/18/2019
An Exclusive Interview with 2018 STEP Scholarship Winner Bobi Gentry Goodwin
Written by
She Writes
June 2019
Written by
She Writes
June 2019

STEP contest winner Bobi Gentry Goodwin: “The more engaged we are with one another, as women, the more we realize, hold, and embrace our power.”

Now more than ever we’re seeing a surge of campaigns, like We Need Diverse Books, that advocate for changes in the publishing industry so that all lives of people are reflected in the books they read—but there’s still a long way to go. At She Writes Press and SparkPress, we know there is a need for more and broader representation of writers of color on our lists. By publishing more books by diverse authors with diverse characters or themes, more readers, especially children, will be able to identify with characters and feel as though their voice is being represented.

In 2018, She Writes Press and SparkPress took a step towards inclusion by offering a publishing contest to women of color. After reading through 29 phenomenal manuscript submissions, the judges selected a winner to have her book published by She Writes Press in Fall 2019: Bobi Gentry Goodwin and her winning book Revelation, a story about a social worker’s life-changing realization and the events that transpire because of it.

With the submissions of the second annual STEP contest coming to a close on July 1, we wanted to highlight this amazing woman and her writing and publishing journey.

How did you come across the STEP Scholarship, and why did you decide to submit?

I’d like to think it was fate. I happened upon the STEP scholarship one day while surfing the internet. I was not intentionally looking for the scholarship or the SheWrites.com website. I just came across it. I read about the details of the STEP scholarship on the web and decided to jump in. After all, I had nothing to lose. I feel, looking back, I did take pause prior to submission due to the level of vulnerability of submitting my work for evaluation, but it was so worth it. It was one of those times in life where I ended up at the right place at the correct time.

Tell us about the moment you found out you’d won.

The moment I found out I’d won was one of the highlights of my writing journey. I was in my office and received the news. I was so happy I answered the call to submit my work; so overjoyed that I took the risk. I could hardly believe it. I was so elated it was difficult to perform in my work atmosphere. For the rest of the workday I am sure I had a sway in my hip, bounce in my step, and tap in my toe. It took several days for me to ground. I was, and still am, floating.

As the first winner, how has STEP made publishing your debut novel possible?

STEP has made the dream of publishing my debut novel a reality, in a more significant way than I could imagine. Winning this contest has afforded me the birthing of my book, plus sisters laboring alongside me. This has been invaluable, along with the coaches encouraging me along the way, and midwives guiding me through the process.

And as the first winner, I do feel a sense of honor and responsibility. My goal is to be a good representative of the STEP contest and its mission. As an African American, the concept of ‘the first’ is weighted with many things, and in my experience, it is a banner of hope. My hope is that their will be many other STEP women of color after me that will bring stories that inspire, educate, and elevate.

What has been one of the most exciting moments of your publishing journey?

By far the most exciting moment of my publication journey was opening the email to view my final book cover. It took my breath away. After spending so many years in front of the computer screen typing, editing, and revising, to finally come face to face with the banner that is a representation of my world of words was overwhelming. I sat with that email for over a week before sharing it with anyone else.

Another thrilling moment in my publication journey was spending an invaluable weekend with the She Writes and SparkPress team and its authors. The sense of community among the women still resonates with me today. The writing process for me has been such a solitary experience and fellowshipping among the sea of women writers that were present was not only refreshing, but nourishing as well. And it even had a donut wall!

What has been surprising about the publishing process?

The STEP publication process has not only made tangible getting my book, Revelation, into the world, it has also enhanced my knowledge base. It has allowed me to gather essential information about the publication process. I am astounded about how much I did not know about publishing and the business of publishing.

The biggest surprise was discovering that writing is only part of the process. It is the meat of the sandwich, but it takes more than meat to make a sandwich. Getting the book out into the world and into the hands of the readers takes a lot more ingredients. The distance from final draft to book blurbs was filled with new information for me.

How do you think that promoting the voices of diverse women helps on both a micro and macro scale?

I believe promoting diversity in the world, communities, and in personal experiences is essential for growth in all people. Diversity colors the landscape and allows for more beautiful, richer, and broader experiences on all levels. I recently read a wonderfully illustrated children book, Mixed by Arree Chung, that captured the importance of seeing diverse communities in a broader context and how that can impact both micro and macro environments.

Promoting the voices of all women not only opens the door to understanding and embracing differences, but similarities as well. We don’t all speak the same language, but we all have a voice and the more we are exposed to different dialects, the richer we become. The more engaged we are with one another, as women, the more we realize, hold, and embrace our power.

Have you started thinking about your next book? If so, what’s it about?

I have plotted, titled, and written chapters for my next novel and it’s been a blast. It was daunting at first staring at a blank computer screen but once I put words on the page the spark and energy of creativity took hold. The book is a prequel to the current novel, Revelation, being released this November. The prologue in Revelation speaks directly to the content of the new novel. The new manuscript dives right into the adolescence years of the adult parents from my current novel. It chronicles the mother’s experience as a biracial child and the fathers living with a mentally ill addict.

Which other SparkPress/She Writes Press books coming out in Fall 2019 are you looking forward to reading?

I have already loaded some SWP books to my Kindle from past publication seasons that I have been enjoying, but I cannot wait to read Test of Faith by Bonnie Hirst. The story of test and triumph grabbed me from the synopsis. I have many others on my list, The Nine by Jeanne Blasberg and as a mother to adolescent girls, of course, We Got This by Marika Lindholm. Although I am not a single parent, the collective wisdom of mothers in general is a pool that I plan to drink from.

In your opinion, is writing outside one's ethnicity promoting diversity or cultural appropriation. Why?

What a tough question! It reminds me of a question that was posed many years ago in the foster care system. Should Caucasian parents be allowed to adopt children of color? Both of which speaks to how there is no right answer to a broken system. I don’t believe a writer has to be in the war to write about it. However, I do believe that those actively on the battlefield should also be given an opportunity to write their stories. Each genre should be broad enough to create space for all types of stories and all types of authors. In my opinion, when we limit voices, only certain stories have the opportunity to be told.

How have you been embraced by our author community?

The She Writes community has been wonderfully open and supportive. The collective has not only grown my knowledge, but inspired me as well. I have historically and purposely not engaged in social networking, but this community has opened my eyes to its many benefits. I have reached out to the collective and to individuals within the author community and have been received not only warmly, but with great enthusiasm.

What inspired your book, Revelation?

I have penned stories since childhood and writing Revelation was just another step in my writing process. I originally started writing the story for me, and like a budding fire the flames took over and soon I was lost in the lives of my cast of characters. As the manuscript took shape, so did my goals and faith in the story and its message. The manuscript warmed me from the inside and it is my prayer that the embers from that fire will find its way to readers to spark new fires of compassion, understanding, and hope for those suffering from familial trauma and mental illness.

Read more about Bobi and Revelatio

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