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Sunday, May 10, 2020

TAKE TEN with author Chental Song Bembry

by Cyrus Webb

I was first introduced to author and motivational speaker Chental Song Bembry some 8 years ago with her HONEY BUNCH KIDS series. Since then it's been great to watch her grow and shine as well as have her support for Conversations over the years. 

In 2020 she released her newest book DESIREE DAVENPORT: Welcome to Treeless Park. In it she tackles timely issues like bullying, dealing with separation in the family and embracing one's personal power. 

Chental, congratulations to you on the publishing of the new book DESIREE DAVENPORT: Welcome to Treeless Park. What has it been like for you to see the response to the characters and the story?
a. The response has been tremendous. I’ve already heard from readers of diverse age groups and career backgrounds about how much they love the story, especially the characters, because the characters feel so real to them. Those who have already started reading my book feel like they can identify with the characters. I’ve had an educator in New York tell me how much she loves the strong community bond and family dynamics, and although the characters face obstacles, everyone comes together to face their challenges and elevate from them.

In addition, this educator said that the characters are learning how to look at themselves and overcome their own insecurities and doubts. They are going through their own problems and personal dilemmas and eventually learn to deal and interact by building their social skills and self-esteem. Another one of my readers who is a lawyer told me that although she is 29 and my book is geared towards 8 to 14-year-olds, she is still very engaged with it and sees her younger self in my main character, Desiree. She also enjoys how I bring in the culture of today with social media, but I add older culture by highlighting Motown music.

You have been in the public for quite some time, writing books for a younger audience and now this new title. When did you realize that you wanted to tell stories in books?
I’ve been a storyteller since I was little. I used to play with dolls and figurines and make up stories for them. As an only child, I had to do something to keep myself busy. I also loved reading books and watching cartoons. This passion for storytelling and cartooning stayed with me as I grew older, and when I turned 13, I published a children’s book series called “The Honey Bunch Kids,” which followed a group of sixth graders who miss the bus, walk to school in the rain, and work to become friends.

 I spent three years writing “The Honey Bunch Kids” series and even developed a literacy campaign. As time passed, I finished high school and began my collegiate education at Hampton University, where I graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in Leadership Studies. During my time at Hampton, I began writing a more comprehensive middle grade novel, which is now Desiree Davenport: Welcome to Treeless Park. Desiree Davenport was published on March 2, 2020 and tackles bullying using youth football and cheerleading. I chose football, because I really wanted to engage both boys and girls in my story. Additionally, I wrote Desiree Davenport to provide readers with an alternative to mainstream books, which often push negative topics on African-American middle grade children. These topics include guns, drugs, police brutality, and self-hatred. I wanted to write a normal story that highlights the very best of people in a community who care about each other; a story that allows children to see a positive representation of themselves, their families and their friends in each of my characters.

It’s been great to see your support over the years. Who have been some of those who have inspired you along the way?
My biggest inspiration is definitely my mother. She has worked so hard to provide me with unconditional love, support and guidance to build my dreams into a reality. Through my mother, I am learning every day how to be a smart and responsible decision-maker who never gives up.

In the new book we meet Desiree, a young girl who is dealing with issues at home while trying to navigate the rest of her life. How did she come to you?
Desiree is me. Her character is based on many aspects of my life – specifically dealing with divorce at a young age. Although I never lived above a store, I did move from a large house into a smaller apartment for a while. This was definitely an adjustment I had to deal with.

In the book, readers will see that Desiree has a very close relationship with her mother, which is 100 percent true in real life. The du Bois family is based on a particular set of family friends, who have always supported me in real life. While writing Desiree Davenport, I drew on my own childhood memories and experiences. In addition, Desiree’s love for the du Bois family mirrors my current dreams. The du Bois family is the family I wish I had growing up, and the type of family I want to have in the near future.

Bullying is just one of the issues you deal with in the new book, but you come at it in a different way. How important was it for you to get to the reason WHY some become bullies?
When I started writing Desiree Davenport, I knew that I wanted to explore bullying in a unique way. My book tackles bullying by having my main character, Desiree, not only getting to know the bullies, but becoming friends with them and even growing attached to their family. This causes the main conflict in the story – how can Desiree stand up against bullying while maintaining the sense of family she’s gained since her parents’ divorce?

By allowing Desiree to become close to the bullies, I am able to make the readers fall in love with them as characters, too, and really dig into the WHY. What readers will find out is that even though the du Bois twins are bullies, they have good qualities about them and have insecurities, just like the person they bully. Desiree recognizes their good qualities early on, which is why she tries so hard to help them become better people. I believe that the answer to anti-bullying starts with the bully. If we take the time to understand the bully and why he or she behaves a certain way, we can determine the root of the problem and put a stop to it much quicker.

The book is written in first person. What was that like for you to become your characters and experience the world through their eyes?
Throughout this writing process becoming my characters was so much fun. My book is written from the point of views of three characters: Desiree Davenport, Rashad du Bois, and Phil du Bois. They each have their own thought processes and personalities, so it was a bit challenging, yet exciting, to jump between the three to create the most compelling story. As Desiree, I was able to experience a world in which I was welcomed into the family I’d always wanted and had the courage to stand up for what I believed in. As Rashad and Phil, I was able to experience a world in which I was actually part of the family I’d always wanted. I really enjoyed writing their scenes, and I believe that my love for the du Bois family will really come across to readers as they progress through the story.

You did a lot of promotion for this book through social media. Did you know that was going to be an important part of your marketing?
Yes. Prior to my launch, I’d been studying other authors to see the unique and creative ways they promoted their books. I knew that if I wanted to get the word out about Desiree Davenport, I’d have to be my book’s biggest cheerleader! So far, my hard work has definitely paid off. I’ve connected with several youth football organizations, coaches, and young athletes, who have all shown their love and support of Desiree Davenport. I am even more inspired to continue the work I’ve started on social media to promote Desiree Davenport!

What has it been like for you to be recognized as a role model and leader because of the work you have done as an author and speaker?
I am so grateful for all of the recognition I’ve received. To know that so many people and organizations support my platform and my passion for literacy means the world to me. I remain inspired to continue the work I’ve started and serve as an inspiration to children!

Any advice for others about the importance of pursuing their goals and dreams?
Absolutely. My biggest piece of advice is to never give up and to never let anyone silence your voice. Once you start something, don’t stop until you’ve seen it through to the very end. Find a mentor – a parent, relative, teacher, coach, or friend to encourage you and guide you through the hoops. Don’t blend in with the crowd; be different. Be a change-maker. When you recognize something is wrong, come up with a solution to fix it. When you determine this solution, always stand strong in what you believe in.

Thanks again, Chental, for the time. How can our audience stay connected with you and keep up with what’s to come?
Thank you, Cyrus, for this opportunity! Readers can learn more about my background by visiting my website at I am active on Instagram and Twitter @chentalsong, and I’m also active on Facebook and LinkedIn via Chental Song Bembry.

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