by Cyrus Webb for Conversations Magazine (www.conversationsmag.com)
If you are looking for a book that is sure to be a discussion piece, I would suggest you take a look at Monroe, LA native Mikki Zimmerman's "CAN I GET A WITNESS? 21 Frustrations of Black Women (Including Me)". Packed with issues that people around the world are dealing with, Zimmerman takes her conversations with black women from across the United States and addresses issues that she feels need to be addressed.
In this conversation she talks about her direct approach, why she singled out black women for her subject matter and how the internet is helping her to spread the word and reach a new audience.
Mikki, thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations Magazine. First, when did you realize that you had an interest in writing?
I would have to say my freshman year in college - Fall '91. My professors always complimented me on my writing skills and a few even suggested that I pursue writing as a career. The interest was there but I eventually took the business route. Even though I stumbled back to writing a few years ago.
Have you always been a person who didn't mind sharing their opinions on issues?
Always! I have never been shy about giving my opinion. I've been called "judgmental" quite a few times in my life; but my family and real friends know that I am a very passionate person. Not judgmental at all. Just real passionate about my beliefs.
Of all the things you could have written about, why the issues of frustrations for women of color?
Great question Cyrus! Keep in mind, I conducted the research for the book in 2006. This was one year after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. Talk about frustrations! You could see it in the faces of African-American women everywhere. Even through my online research. They vented to anyone who would listen. Basically, the need was far too great for me to ignore the subject. And I had a few frustrations of my own, so I threw those in the book as well.
Mikki, you and I had the opportunity to talk on Conversations LIVE about your book and the topics you address. I mentioned to you that I thought men and women of any race could appreciate what you had to say. Have you heard similar things from others?
Actually, I've heard it from a few people. My mom's physician, who is white, was intrigued after a 30 minute conversation about the book and he stated, "You could have deleted the word 'Black' because white women have the same frustrations too". I chatted with a few of my white readers as well. And they echoed the same setiments.
Now that the book is out and people are talking about it, what would be success for you in the way the book is received?
Being recognized as an author and getting lots of attention from readers is great but that is not the reason I wrote the book. Success for me is getting people to really understand black women. I mean fully understand us. Like I said in the book, everyone is so quick to talk about angry black women. But no one is willing to take the time to find out why many of us (not all) are so frustrated. Getting readers - men and women of all races - to see black women in a different light after reading my book would definetly fullfill the purpose of my writing this book.
Outside the traditional booksignings and literary events, do you see yourself doing speaking engagements about the topics in the book or hosting panels to create some real dialoge about the topic?
Defintely. I have already spoken to administators with public libraries throughtout Northeast Louisiana to do workshops on this topic as well as others. I've also been asked to do a workshop at my church for our Annual Women's Day Conference. I've spoken to a few radio personalities about appearances. So yeah, I have a few speaking engagements lined up in the near future.
I want to talk about your promotional campaign for the book for moment. How effective have social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter been in getting the word out about your book as well as just meeting new people, whether its readers or fellow authors?
For me, social networking has been great! I don't have a Twitter account but I live on Facebook! My book sales have increased dramatically since advertising on Facebook. And I have connected with so many authors and old friends and classmates. I just love it!
There were many topics you didn't get a chance to address in your first book, Mikki, so is that your setup for the second one or do you plan on going in another direction?
Actually, I am working on my second book. This one is geared toward teens and young adults. It's more a manual than a book and it addresses conflict resolution. I am so tired of seeing young black men waste their lives behind bars or buried six feet under prematurely. I am a single mother to a young black male so this subject is near and dear to my heart. So again, I will pour all of my passion and emotions into this one as well. Stay tuned!
Any advice for aspiring writers that you would like to share based on your own experience with publishing?
Wow, where do I began? I would start by saying this publishing business is RUTHLESS! If you cannot handle rejection, you are in the wrong business. You must learn to take rejection first. . .because you will receive it. And it may come from family members or even friends. So be prepared to face it. Secondly, never give up! I don't care if no one else believes in your project except you. Never give up! Your dream of becoming a published author will come true. Keep believing and continue to move forward.
Thanks again, Mikki for this opportunity. How can our readers keep in touch with you online?
Thank you Cyrus for everything you have done in helping promote my book. May God continue to bless you! I can be found on Facebook, of course. My book is available at Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com. It can also be purchased at the publisher website which is Xlibris.com or by calling 888-795-4274. And you can catch my bi-monthly column - Back and Forth with Mikki - on ForHarriet.com. Thanks again!