I had a tough time getting my emails to this lovely lady, but I got it together. Avril Somerville is a woman on a mission- in her community, the book community and hopefully the world! She's a mom, educator and author and educator. Her book, A Journey Of Life On Purpose is more than a sharing of essays and poetry, it's life. Trials and victories for the female sex are pressed into the pages of her book and they create inner-strength and confidence. I'd love to see her speak!
Please enjoy my small set of questions; an opportunity to get to know this talented author and motivator. If you can, grab her book- available everywhere!
Please share a little about yourself: I’m a writer, wife, momma of three beautiful souls, friend, sister to many. I was born in the Caribbean in the Commonwealth of Dominica, grew up in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and have lived in the Northeast and Midwest. I enjoy working out and dancing; they both make me feel capable and strong.
Alyssa: When did you know you were destined to not just write a book but to become active. What set you onto this path?
Avril: I’ve always been a reader! Family members always seem to recall me with a book in my hand as a child, but I think I was more enamored with words and their inherent power early on. When I came to the United States at ten years old, I took to writing my thoughts in a composition book. Eventually, many of these thoughts became free verse and poetry. Composition books, for me, was where I found solace and quietude, where I was alone with my thoughts without the judgment and public sneer that comes with knowing you're different and displaced somehow. So, I’ve been a writer for quite a while; however, it was not until 2010 that I began to share my writing publicly. At my 40th birthday celebration, I declared to my friends that I would pursue a career as a full-time writer and I haven’t looked back since!
There’s always a story to be written, and even more to be read. I use my Life experiences and encounters as my canvas for writing material that help others navigate emotions and experiences that are transcendent such as struggles with vulnerability, feelings of inadequacy and/or other insecurities, tenuous relationships with our parents, and so on. These “issues,” while transcendent, are largely misunderstood and overly simplified. Because I believe that we’re more alike than we are different, my goal as a writer is to underscore these commonalities. If I can do this authentically, then there’s a good chance that what I write will resonate with someone needing the same validation.
Alyssa: How long did it take, from start to finish, your first novel?
Avril: My first book, A Journey Of Life On Purpose, is a memoir of personal essays and poetry, was written over four years. As a woman who had found success in a corporate career with a Fortune 100 company at the time, then later as a classroom teacher, who then chose to stay-at-home to support my husband’s career and raise our children, I questioned my life purpose. What exactly was I put on this earth to do? I mean, really do? Not what paid the bills or what I was trained to do, not what titles or positions I held, but what gave me tremendous passion, what would I do even if I was never paid for it?
As I set out on my journey to find my purpose, I began writing the epiphanies as they were revealed to me. I learned that not only am I a writer, but that I am privileged to be able to document my experiences, when so many cannot, for whatever reason. I came to understand my writing as both gift and responsibility. I learned that I had an empathetic lens on matters that are often politicized, yet are so much more personal and universal than meets the eye—race, identity, the urgency to create, responsibility to our gifts and to community. I shared some of these revealed answers on my blog, Life As An Art; others, I reserved solely for A Journey Of Life On Purpose. My first novel, How Dare You Say Goodbye? has taken me over three years to write. It is currently being edited. Impressive!
Alyssa: Did you set out writing just to women on purpose, knowing her actions could infiltrate & mold those around her- or was this just for her in particular?
Avril: I did not. I set out to write to find my own life purpose, to understand myself better, and to find answers to much more intricate questions that cannot be readily satisfied by someone else’s voice or with simplified answers. A Journey Of Life On Purpose, is for anyone who wrestles to extract meaning and personal fulfillment from their everyday living.
Alyssa: As you wrote A Journey Of Life On Purpose, what reactions were you expecting the readers to experience?
Avril: Good question. One of my expectations was that the reader become empowered by the knowledge that s/he already has gifts that are worth sharing, not just for his or her personal transformation, but for their respective communities, and ultimately, the world. With specific regards to the selections on race and identity, my hope was that the reader connects with the work viscerally as a person who is also deeply affected by loss, displacement, and exclusion. I felt that if readers could recall the feelings associated with these experiences, then they could possibly also develop an empathetic lens, and ultimately, the personal courage to do something differently.
Alyssa: I saw that you're a speaker as well; what do you walk away with when you leave a conference or meeting?
Avril: I am! My hopes are always that I have done justice to the gift of being able to connect with others on an intimate level, and that I am authentic in my sharing. My prayer is always that my words are delivered in truth and spirit, that personal agendas are set aside in order to reach the people where they also walk away with new questions and/or discoveries about themselves.
Alyssa: I think I mentioned before that I saw you as a very serious person- but I see your joy on Instagram. What's the best tv show you've ever seen and did it assist in creating the person you are today?
Avril: Whatever gave you that impression! If you saw me dance, you would definitely change your tune! I can be a lot of fun, actually.
I am embarrassed to say that I have no “favorite” TV shows, though this is probably due to hostile takeovers of the TV by my children. What I would like to watch has too much innuendo to watch while my children are home, hence my first answer! When I do watch TV, however, I enjoy something more lighthearted, or even something more contemplative that might challenge my thinking differently. I grow easily irritated and become angered by shows that showcase stereotypical characterizations of people of color and women, or worse yet, shows in which women and/or children are often the subjects of violence, so I tend to limit my TV viewing. Also, I’m generally late to the viewing of any TV series, whether we’re talking about Scandal, Downton Abbey, How to Get Away with Murder, etc. I still haven’t watched a single full episode, let alone a season. I tell myself that I’ll catch up on all of them one day … maybe:)
I relish independent films. Some of my favorites include The Lunchbox, Wadjda, Dope, I never grow tired of more well-known movies such as Fried Green Tomatoes, Mother and Child, and A Beautiful Mind. The human story never grows old! I am quietly looking forward to enjoying Queen Sugar and Greenleaf, both on OWN TV, this fall.
I’d like to think that all that I see, read, the places I’ve travelled, as well as my day-to-day experiences continue to shape who I am becoming.
I'm going to be looking at your Instagram for the dancing, Avril! :) Thank you so much, Avril and I wish you nothing but the best in your future projects. Thank you for sharing!
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