Monday, August 3, 2015

Author Spotlight: Avril Somerville - A Journey Of Life On Purpose

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to someone I know both personally and professionally. She is incredibly inspirational, beautiful inside and out, a gifted writer, and a remarkable woman with a huge heart and kind soul. I'm thrilled to have her on my blog today! Please meet Avril Somerville, author of A JOURNEY OF LIFE ON PURPOSE.

Avril Somerville is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Penn State University. She is also a speaker, and teacher of writing for children grades K - 8. In her memoir, A Journey Of Life On Purpose: Creativity, Love, Womanhood, Community, Race, and Identity, Somerville combines the spiritual and literary in ways that are intelligent and thoughtful, yet accessible. She shares her convictions and empathies on heart matters such as romantic and community love, sisterhood, parenting; on more intimate matters such as mother and daughter love, and yearning; and, on largely political and social constructs such as race, perception, and identity, which are woven seamlessly through expositions in essay and poetry, making the total body of work a universal and transcendent one. A Journey Of Life On Purpose is Somerville’s first book of essays and poetry. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children.

Welcome Avril! What inspired you to write this book?

I wrote this book because I know that many women like myself––intellectually curious and multi-dimensional in their gifts, with a strong commitment to family and community ––struggle with finding meaning beyond their roles. This book helps readers, especially women, to reassign and reclaim value in the intentionality of their actions and words in their relationships and communities through candid conversations in prose and poetry. It delves into the primacy of the creative space, insists on the transparency required for real-ationships with others, including ourselves, and communicates a quiet urgency for more empathy as well as a deliberate understanding of what lies beneath race and identity; that is, the very soul and spirit of a being.

I love the term real-ationships and the fact that you include ourselves when talking about insisting on transparency. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I considered myself a writer shortly after coming to the United States from the Caribbean at the age of ten. I struggled with my own displacement and sense of belonging, and found a safe space in my black and white composition books where I could freely express my thoughts and develop my own sense of self in a newly racialized context.

Is there a writer that you would love to co-write a book with?

I had to really think about that one! There are several authors that I enjoy reading, including Edwidge Danticat, Alice Munro, Toni Morrision, J. California Cooper, James Baldwin, Sue Monk Kidd, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Kahlil Gibran. Still, there are others, but I think I'd have the most fun with Junot Diaz. I really do believe he's kind of a badly behaved writer. His writing is a welcome departure from some of the stiffer canons that I was forced to read as a student––no quotation marks for dialogue, no sanitizing of language, and certainly little concern for offending the reader. Diaz’s fiction is coupled with truthful insight and historical reference to the origins of that insight into the communities he writes so capably about. In my eyes, he is a liberated writer––writing first for himself and truth, and to a lesser degree, for an audience; I admire that freedom of voice. I read his book, This is How You Lose Her, and was drawn in immediately to familiar places and nuances that I hadn’t yet seen, or since, captured in print.

So based on your description, I bought This Is How You Lose Her over the weekend and couldn't put it down. I so admire his ability to write from a place within where there are no walls. I think the two of you would create something amazing together. What are you working on next?

I am currently working on maximizing the potential of this book through personal and speaking engagements and presentations. My debut novel, How Dare You Say Goodbye? is scheduled for late 2015.

That's a great title. I also love the title of your current book as well as the cover. They say people judge a book by its cover. Do you believe that, and who did yours?

Some people do judge a book by its cover. On the other hand, I have several books on my shelf with very uninspiring covers that are delightful or provocative reads, like The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. I think ultimately, it is what resonates with your spirit or creative appetite at any given moment in your life. Also, if I enjoy a particular writer, I am looking for content and not commercial appeal; In those cases, it matters little to me what is on the cover, so long as all the words are spelled correctly! Eric Hutchison at designed the cover of my book, A Journey Of Life On Purpose after much iteration. Bless him!

Now that your book is published, do you have any advice to aspiring writers?

Write daily even when you don't feel like it. Don't self-censor. Keep writing till the story comes forward. Don't compare yourself to other writers. Your story matters! There are as many voices as there are people. Your story might save someone else's life, or simply entertain. The story will find its way to where it belongs, but first you must release it.

I couldn't agree more with all of that. Thank you so much for those inspiring words. Now for some fun questions that might test our friendship ... no I'm kidding ... not really ... PC or Mac?

Definitely Mac. Once you go Mac, you'll never go back. Why would you want to?

YES, YES, and YES. And ... Coffee or Tea?

That’s easy. Coffee. Twice a day. Strong too. Café Bustelo, preferably. Coffee drinkers have a better time; they're like the “cool kids” if there is really such a thing. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it in order to justify the habit of drinking at least one cup a day.

Us coffee drinkers really are the cool kids! I'm so glad you said that … somebody had to. Looks like we can still be friends :D

Back to your amazing book... anything else to share with my readers:

From this book, I want readers to understand that in their intentionality––that is, in their setting out––they have the power to be transformative in even the smallest of ways, in the lives of others, and achieve the outcomes they claim to value––justice, equity, fairness, empathy, personal fulfillment … purpose.

Thank you so much for joining me today Avril!  For more about Avril Somerville and/or her book, find her online at LifeAs An Art Form. Her book, A Journey Of Life On Purpose can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KoboBooks. Autographed copies (for U.S./domestic customers only, while supplies last) can also be ordered directly from Avril’s website.


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