Departments July/August 2021

Empowering Women Through Fiction

By Shawneda Crout

I remember sitting in the kitchen with my foster mom and her mother. We looked over my ten-year plan to graduate college and become a forensic psychologist for the FBI. Inspired by the books I’d read in middle school, I wanted to help the world by using my “natural ability to read people” to catch serial criminals. Once the cases were closed, I’d write books about them. Books like the ones I devoured in middle school.

Ten years later, I shipped my first Christian fiction novel and a poetry book to my foster dad. Sans the serial criminals, I’d written books using my “natural ability to read people” and extensive research to write medical fiction. These books helped the faith-based community discuss health issues like how to support believers diagnosed with HIV, obesity, and breast cancer. For five years, I lived beyond my childhood dreams as a full-time author.

The publishing landscape and industry shifted just as my personal life changed. I quickly realized that the social media and marketing skills I honed as an independent author were transferable skills. I’d gone from dreamer to author to marketing professional. What happens to a dream achieved?

For me, the dream achieved led to returning to school to study business, marketing, and technical communication. Learning about business and marketing showed me how to shift from dreaming to defining objectives and setting goals. The concepts and technologies I learned while studying technical communication sparked ideas for expanding my books into audio and visual content. A young bookworm’s dream to become an author metamorphosed into a business-minded bookblerd’s goal to translate her books into more mediums.

More personal life changes interrupted launching a new series in a new genre. Racial tensions and social unrest filled my workday as a social media and community manager for a hosting company. I struggled to find the creative space and energy to work on my books. From Twitter to LinkedIn, I couldn’t escape the stories about the need to resolve problems caused by exclusion and inequities faced by African Americans. I wanted to help, but I know my strengths and weaknesses. I’m not built to dedicate my professional life to traditional corporate DEI work. So, I decided to support those doing the work. Life stepped in again.

Serendipitous events led to a reader showing me how to be a part of the solution as my tech writing, content creating, bookblerd self. The CROWN Act—Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair—made headlines the exact same week my 2011 African American women’s fiction book, My Crowning Glory, was featured on BookBub, a book discovery service. A BookBub reader who was not of African descent stated that she learned a lot by reading the book. Lightbulb moment! My Crowning Glory was written as an African American women’s fiction series focused on natural hair, but it could provide insights for everyone.

Books shaped my empathy as a child. Reading about other ethnicities and cultures gave me an opportunity to choose to see them beyond their stereotypes and decide if they were as human as I am. As human as I hoped to be seen. Throughout my life, my circle has included women of all cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds. So, I intentionally included women of all ethnicities in my Christian fiction series.

Fiction books welcome readers into worlds they may not know how to access. Books can be a safe way to see someone else’s experience. To empathize and understand, we all have more in common than we may think. I’d already included women of all ethnicities in Making Moves in Metropolis, the first book of my new women’s fiction series, the GiG PowHer series.

I write the GIG PowHer series and all the GIG PowHer Press series for readers who want to see beyond stereotypes. My new African American series in a new genre will continue to model new possibilities. Readers will find a fictional world focused on women who empower and celebrate each other. GIG PowHer Press books are how I help make the world a more inclusive and equitable place. My childhood self would be excited to know that future projects may even include a fictional serial criminal or two.

SHAWNEDA CROUT (sc@shawneda.com) is a self-employed technical communicator with a Master of Arts degree in English, Technical Communication. When she’s not creating solutions where technical communication merges with marketing you can find her doing low impact exercises with her daughter or publishing her books.

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