Recently publishYOUth spoke with Micah Dawanyi, a talented author, coach, producer, and college student from Florida. Last summer Micah self-published his debut novel, “Step Into My Shoes: Memoirs From the Other Side of America", about his experiences as a young black man in American society. Since then Micah has been featured by a multitude of organizations such as NPR, NPR's WLRN, #OneMillionTruths, the Sun-Sentinel, and more! Micah is currently working on his second novel, and he has wonderful advice for writers with multiple passions. Here we spoke with Micah about his experiences with self-publishing, memoir writing, and his upcoming work!
1. Can you tell us about your journey with writing? What drives your passion for the craft?
MD: Well, I’ve liked writing for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school, I really enjoyed writing class over all of my other classes. I liked the storytelling side of writing, because narrative assignments allowed me to paint a picture. This passion/interest for writing followed me into high school, where I eventually became the head writer for my school’s yearbook staff. By the time I’d arrived in college, my passion for writing and experiences I gained in the writing world had well prepared me for the beginnings of my first book.
There are many writing styles and preferences, but personally, I like to write about real life situations, events, and experiences that people from anywhere in the world can relate to. We all experience different seasons of life, and whenever I find myself transitioning out of one season of life into a new one, I find myself doing a lot of reflecting. When I think about my experiences or what I learned from that season of life, I’m inspired to write. That’s why I don’t write everyday; it comes in waves as I take time to reflect on those different seasons.
2. In an article for The Defiant Movement Magazine, you wrote that—due to your passions for sports and coaching—it was “completely left-field of [you] to write a book”. What advice do you have for youth with different interests who may be interested in writing, but may not have fully explored it yet?
MD: My advice would be to use your experiences and interests with other things to develop and form your writing. When I think about my experiences with coaching, I realized that many of the themes I used as coach are similar to the themes in my writing. Who you are as an individual, accompanied by your own personal experiences, hobbies, passions, etcetera, make you unique. That’s what will make your writing unique. If you spend time thinking, you’ll be able to (in some way) connect the dots between your experiences with other interests and your goals as a writer. Everything is connected.
3. Last summer you self-published your first novel, “Step Into My Shoes: Memoirs From the Other Side of America”. What was your experience with self-publishing?
MD: Self-publishing was a very interesting experience. Writing with the intent to publish to the world is much different than, let’s say, writing for an assignment or simply for a hobby. You really have to think about the entire body of work and the way you want your brand (as attached to your writing) to be represented. That’s why I took the liberty of designing my own cover art for my book, as I wanted the illustrated themes to directly tie into everything. Self-publishing also forces you to step into the business/finance world in a sense. You have to pay attention to licensing, contracts, royalties for your book, etc.. For me, this was definitely a learning experience. Self-publishing also required leap of faith, because I decided to write about some pretty heavy topics, including race relations. I knew these topics were going to be “controversial” for some, and would make many feel uncomfortable. However, it’s safe to say that the leap of faith I decided to take paid off. The support of my publication has been much more than I could have ever expected.
4. What is your biggest tip for memoir writing?
MD: Utilize your uniqueness. No one else is going to have the same set of memoirs as you- and that’s the beauty of it. Everyone can write a series of memoirs, but no one can write YOUR series of memoirs- that is, except for you. Take the time to put yourself back in the mind state of each experience you intend to detail when writing a memoir. Reflect, and let everything bleed onto the paper. You can clean everything up (grammar-wise) later.
One my favorite reviews I received on my book stated that “Micah Dawanyi exhibits an impressive ability to structure words in a way that they transform into cinematic encounters in the minds of his readers". That’s the goal when writing a memoir; to make the words come to life.
5. What are your writing hopes and goals for the future?
MD: I’m going to be releasing another book at some point, but I don’t exactly have a date yet. I have the title and concept, but the body of work isn’t finished. My first book has truly worked wonders for me, leading to all sorts of new successes as well as networking and career opportunities. It’s safe to say that I’ve entered into a new season of life, different from even the day my first book was released. I’m sort of living in the moment right now, but eventually, it will be time to reflect again, and that’s when the words for my next book will seamlessly bleed out onto the paper. I want readers to be able to see growth and elevation in my next bodies of work. I want it to be pretty clear that I was in a different mental space when writing my second book, compared to my first. Should I do things as intended, there will be clear and distinct separation between these two bodies of work. But for now, all I can say is stay tuned.
6. Finally, what advice do you have for youth writers looking to get their voices out there—either through publications, competitions, or another avenue?
MD: Take time to find your voice. When you find your voice, you’ll know exactly how to write, and developing your writing style will be much easier. I’d also say just be yourself. When people read your writing, they should be able to tell that it’s you reading. Don’t try to sound how you think people want you to sound. Write in a way that’s true to yourself.
Special thanks to Micah Dawanyi for his participation in this interview and the writing community! Feel free to follow his work on Instagram, and stay tuned for his upcoming novel!