Savvy Sistah Deanna Burrell is writing her way into the hearts of women everywhere with her new novel, ‘Single Girl Summer’. Inspired by the classic movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and the sassy TV series ‘Sex in the City’, Deanna created a story with characters that, embody the same spirit as Holly Gollightly and Carrie Bradshaw, but add yet another, all so important element – how their parents helped shape them into the women they are today. Instead of just sitting on the sideline, Deanna got in the game after realizing the void in the market for books with African-American characters. That determination lead her to take a leap of faith to pen her first novel and move her one step closer to her destiny.
What motivated you to write your first book, Voted “Most Creative”- Perspectives on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness”?
When I was in college, I was very creative. I double majored in Radio/Television/Film and African-American studies and I was actively involved in the theater. In fact, I was voted “Most Creative” senior as a class notable. In 2008, After working in Corporate America and with my 10-year college reunion looming, I realized I had lost touch with my creative side. To combat this loss, I began writing poems and essay, and before long, I had enough material for a book. I organized the material to reflect on what matters most: life, love, and the pursuit of happiness and I entitled it Voted “Most Creative.” It’s a wonderful book that inspires creativity, growth, and self-expression.
You self-published your first book, do you suggest new authors take this route as well?
I did a lot of research and I came to the conclusion that poems and essays don’t have a huge demand unless you’re a well-known, established author like Nikki Giovanni or Maya Angelou. A good friend of mine had just self-published a book so I decided to follow her footsteps. I wanted to see what the publishing process and nuisances entailed. I learned that writing the book is only a piece of the battle. After the book is produced, you have to get distribution and do lots of marketing. I’m glad I self-published VMC because that was an invaluable learning experience that helped me to create a great marketing campaign and strong momentum for Single Girl Summer.
Did you know in your heart that one day you would become an author? Did you write a lot as a child?
I didn’t write a lot as a child. I was a terrible speller and I wasn’t good at phonics so writing was very frustrating for me. But I had a very active imagination and was always making up stories. When I was in high school, I finally started writing my stories down and I had some amazing English teachers who encouraged me to find and develop my “writer’s voice.” I actively worked on my spelling and phonetics. Once I improved significantly in those areas, I began to truly enjoy writing. But it wasn’t until four years ago that I decided to write seriously.
‘Single Girl Summer’ is your first novel, what and who inspired you to write this new book?
There aren’t enough quality books with African-American female and male characters in their late 20’s and 30’s. There’s a definite void. I read a lot and sometimes I read novels that are terrible. That got me thinking that if they can get this crap published, then I can definitely create something much better. One day Spirit said stop talking about it and do it. Fill the void, so I did.
I love my girls. Button Jackson is the ultimate single girl, but her inability to commit stems from a fear of commitment triggered by her dysfunctional family. Meghan Cherry is newly divorced and her story represents the journey from heartache to healing. Her family is wonderfully supportive so Meghan and Button are dichotomous characters that play off each other. Dawn Martin is ready to get married, but her long-term boyfriend is dragging his feet. Dawn represents the woman at the crossroads deciding if she should stay or go. The three women meet and exchange relationship perspectives and advice. With and through a rich cast of supporting characters, Single Girl Summer isn’t just about dating, it explores female friendships and family interaction. Single Girl Summer presents balance relationships and characters in a fun, easy-to-read story.
Definitely. That’s the second thing everyone says after they read the book. First they say, “I loved it.” Then they say, “You have to make this into a movie.” I would love to see Single Girl Summer on the big screen. I would love to see Black actors and actresses speaking life into my words and my vision. I remember when the first Sex in City came out, me and all my friends rented a limo and planned a whole event around seeing the movie. I can totally see that for Single Girl Summer…the movie. Get your girls and your champagne and LET’S GO!
By the grace of God. God has always been so good to me, but only in the last couple of years have I truly been obedient to the direction and guidance of Spirit and that has made all the difference. When Spirit whispers in my ear to move, I try to move instantly. Sometimes, I don’t move fast enough and Spirit has to whisper to me again. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m getting closer to my divine inheritance everyday.
So my book, Single Girl Summer, released in June 2011 and I worked every media and PR angle I could. Zondra Hughes’ name kept coming up as someone I needed to meet. In the fall, the Six Brown Chicks, which was founded by Zondra, were looking to fill a vacancy. My really good friend Keisha emailed the web application to me and told me to apply. I had so much going on that I forgot about it. Weeks later, Keisha and I saw Zondra at a Six Brown Chicksevent. Keisha told me again to apply and this time I was obedient. Then I ran into Zondra at the World’s Largest Steppers Contest and I made an in-person pitch to be the Sixth Brown Chick. I’ve been in advertising sales for over ten years so if I can get an in-person meeting, I’m going to close. I always “ask for the order”. Zondra had me meet with the rest of the chicks and we clicked. The women in my life are so amazing. I’m grateful Keisha kept after me to apply and that Yanni, Zondra, Shoya, Dawj, and Gina have accepted me into their sisterhood.
In 2011, Single Girl Summer received rave reviews in Jet Magazine, the Chicago Defender, N’Digo, the Chicago Tribune Redeye, goodreads and many other blogs. My 2012 goals are for Single Girl Summer to receive glowing reviews in Essence Magazine and many other publications, debut on the New York Times Best Seller list, and secure national retail distribution. I’m re-editing and releasing my first book, Voted “Most Creative”. I plan to write and publish at least three new books this year. I want to be a renowned, highly sought-after public speaker who motivates and encourages women to find their passion and pursue their dreams.
One of the taglines for Single Girl Summer is that “For every girl, There’s a season.” Spirit has told me that 2012 is my year and I fully intend to keep planting seeds of opportunity, watering and tilling the fields, and reaping my harvest. I continue to tithe to the places that provide my spiritual fulfillment and help others succeed. In every moment and with every action, I aspire to thank the Lord for every blessing.
What would you say to the Savvy Sistah who has a dream or desire to become a published author?
Write…just write. Tell your story. Read other people’s stories for inspiration and research. But stop talking about writing a book and write it. Outline your chapters and then put the words on a page. Join a writer’s group to get feedback on your work. Find your voice and use it.
Why are you a Savvy Sistah?
The definition of savvy is to know; understand. I know my purpose is to write stories that give women and people of color a voice. I understand that’s my gift and I accept the responsibility to share that gift with the world. If that doesn’t make me a Savvy Sistah, I don’t know what does. LOL.
Deanna Burrell is a passionate & creative writer and the Savvy Sistah in the Spotlight!
Purchase your copy of Single Girl Summer here