Interview with Stephanie Rose Bird: 'The Big Book of Soul'

Stephanie Rose Bird graduated with honors from Temple University, Tyler School of Art and received her MFA from the University of California at San Diego, where she was a San Diego Opportunity Fellow. She was Assistant Professor at the School of the Art Institute in painting and drawing; a Fulbright Senior Scholar to Australia in the field of anthropology,and she has taught at the Chicago Botanic Garden as well as the Garfield Conservatory. Bird is a professional member of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (Black Midwives and Healers) and the Herb Research Society of the American Botanical Council. She is also a member of Author’s Guild. Bird is author of Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones: Hoodoo, Mojo and Conjuring with Herbs, Four Seasons of Mojo: an Herbal Guide to Natural Living, and A Healing Grove: African Tree Remedies and Rituals for Body and Spirit. Bird is a practicing magical herbalist and aromatherapist who lives with her husband, family and animal friends in the Chicago area.
You can visit her website at www.stephanierosebird.com.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Stephanie. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I started writing poetry and short stories in high school. I became very serious about artmaking and pretty much abandoned my writing for quite a while. I returned to writing seriously in 1999 and have been typing away ever since.


Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

The Big Book of Soul: the Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit: Legend & Lore, Music and Mysticism, Recipes and Rituals, was released February 5, 2010 and it was published by Hampton Roads Publishers and distributed by Red Wheel Weiser Books. The Big Book of Soul, investigates the phenomena of soul and the development of soulful practices from ancient through contemporary times in the African diaspora. It is a complex book that combines folklore and mythology with alternative spirituality, healing and African American and well as continental African history. I wrote it because I saw a need for a book that explored the heart-felt spirit, so present in African societies, that we call soul.


What kind of research was involved in writing your book?

Many years of research went into The Big Book of Soul and I love research so that wasn’t a problem but more of a pleasure. I researched in books and read academic papers that were from specific countries to find out more about each countries indigenous use of herbs and use of holistic remedies. I had telephone interviews and email interviews with people across the world. I also traveled and I interviewed people from Africa living in the United States in person.


Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

I first tried to get published in the year of 2000 and it took 4 years to find the right publisher after numerous submissions and rejections. I connected with a very caring literary agent and that made the road feel smoother. In the end though she and I were not able to place the work with a big publishing house and instead I went with a smaller, independent niche publisher.


For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

It took about a year and a half to two years.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I work with Marie Brown of Marie Brown and Associates and I have also represented my own work to smaller publishing houses.


Do you plan subsequent books?

Absolutely! I love writing!!


Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

I like sitting in a chair in the front yard, overlooking my garden of herbs and flowers, listening to birds sing, on a bright, sunny, warm day.


If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

I would invest in advertising in magazines and on cable to specialty markets.


How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Self-promotion is a vital link in the success of the book in terms of visibility. I promote my books on my website, on authorsden and on my publisher’s websites. I promote through my yahoo groups and social networks that are both offline and online. I promote through niche groups that I identify with such as African American groups, groups related to women, mothers, Midwesterners, groups concerned with alternative spirituality, mysticism, folklore and holistic health, ectera. I have forged relationships with certain independent booksellers and I always let them know of upcoming titles.


What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

Writing is very solitary and that can be nerve-racking and very lonely. Rejection is a secondary reason—rejections come in buckets it seems—they rain and pour before anything is accepted in my experience.


Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Stick with it; don’t take rejections personally; basically don’t give up. Networking with fellow artists and writers is also very important.


Thank you for your interview, Stephanie. I wish you much success!

You’re welcome. It’s been my pleasure.
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