© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Michigan children's book author believes stories are magic: 'And I wanted to perform magic'

Bloomsbury Publishing

The stories we were told as children often resonate with us well into adulthood.

Sherri Winston is a children’s author who was born and raised in Michigan.

Her most recent book is called Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution.

It tells the story of a young Black girl who musters up the courage to fight against a discriminatory dress code—and stand up for herself.

WKAR's Megan Schellong spoke with Winston to discuss the inspiration behind her stories.

Interview Highlights

On how she landed on being a children’s book author instead of an adult book author

When you start writing, you're sort of looking for your voice. Some people are fortunate enough to land right in their sweet spot. I was a young author during the Terry McMillan era, where every Black woman in America wanted to write her own version of the relationship sagas and I just was failing, miserably. And when I was in that program at Michigan, I let myself start to hear the voice that was actually speaking, as opposed to searching for the voice I wanted to hear. I realized that my inner self was only about emotionally 12 years old.

On her favorite book she’s written

I'm very fond of Lotus Bloom. It was, sort of a departure for me in some ways. I've never written a call to action book. I guess that's what you would call it. And there are a lot of things about Lotus that are personal: how she wants to go through life as someone who doesn't poke the bear, as someone who doesn't seek out conflict, and her having to accept that life is sometimes about conflict, and you gotta fight through to get to the other side, you can't just keep going around things and around things, because you'll never get anywhere. That was quite personal to me. She's been out the least amount of time. But she's very important to me, very special.

On the moment she knew she wanted to write stories for a living

I've been trying to write books since I was about two. You know, my mother used to tease me, used to joke about when I was too little to write stories, I would just tell stories. So I come from a family of storytellers. You know, my father's side of the family is from the south. And they are the oral storytellers. You know, people who tell the fishing story or the hunting story and every time is different, but it's so entertaining that you listen every time — that's the kind of family that I come from. And so I just think storytelling is in my blood. And I just found them to be works of magic. And I wanted to perform magic.

Interview Transcript

Megan Schellong: The stories we were told as children often resonate with us well into adulthood.

Today, we’re speaking with a children’s author who was born and raised in Michigan.

Her most recent book is called Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution.

It tells the story of a young Black girl who musters up the courage to fight against a discriminatory dress code—and stand up for herself.

Sherri Winston joins me now to discuss the inspiration behind her stories.

Sherri, how did you get your start in storytelling?

Sherri Winston signs copies of her book, "Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution" at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Nov. 4 , 2022.
Sherri Winston
/
Courtesy Photo
Sherri Winston signs copies of her book, "Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution" at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Nov. 4 , 2022.

Sherri Winston: Well, good morning, Megan. I got my start, believe it or not, at the University of Michigan. it almost pains me to say that as a Michigan State undergraduate. But I attended a journalism fellowship for a year where you could study anything you wanted to, and I wrote this novella and I joined a writer's group, and the woman who ran the Writers Group pitched me to her agent. So through that chain of events, that book became my first full length novel. And that's how my published career got started.

Schellong: What drew you to writing children’s books versus adult books?

Winston: When you start writing, you're sort of looking for your voice. Some people are fortunate enough to land right in their sweet spot. I was a young author during the Terry McMillan era, where every Black woman in America wanted to write her own version of the relationship sagas and I just was failing, miserably. And when I was in that program at Michigan, I let myself start to hear the voice that was actually speaking, as opposed to searching for the voice I wanted to hear. I realized that my inner self was only about emotionally 12 years old (laughs).

Schellong: I love that. Is there a book you’ve written that is your favorite?

Winston: I have to say, I'm very fond of Lotus Bloom. It was sort of a departure for me in some ways. I've never written a call to action book. I guess that's what you would call it. And there are a lot of things about Lotus that are personal: how she wants to go through life as someone who doesn't poke the bear, as someone who doesn't seek out conflict, and her having to accept that life is sometimes about conflict, and you gotta fight through to get to the other side, you can't just keep going around things, because you'll never get anywhere. That was quite personal to me. She's been out the least amount of time. But she's very important to me, (laughs) very special.

Schellong: So, Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution really speaks to you, what was the inspiration behind this story?

Winston: It came to me sort of gift wrapped. I was watching the news, 10 to 12 years ago, about a young Black girl in the Orlando area who was being threatened with suspension for dress code violation after she complained about kids at the school throwing objects into her hair and bullying her because of her large natural hair. And it was just ludicrous to me that she was going to be punished when they were the ones who were misbehaving. But they told her, her hair was a distraction. So just the unfair practices that we are faced with, because of being women of color whose hair is different than mainstream. It was a story that resonated with me.

Schellong: Was there a particular lightbulb moment for you, when you realized that writing is what you wanted to be doing with your life?

Winston: Oh, yeah, yeah, I've been trying to write books since I was about two. You know, my mother used to tease me, used to joke about when I was too little to write stories, I would just tell stories. So I come from a family of storytellers. You know, my father's side of the family is from the South. And they are the oral storytellers. You know, people who tell the fishing story or the hunting story and every time is different, but it's so entertaining that you listen every time — that's the kind of family that I come from. And so I just think storytelling is in my blood. And as a child, I just found them to be works of magic. And I wanted to perform magic.

Schellong: Sherri Winston is a children’s author who was born and raised in Michigan. She is scheduled to be at the Capital Area District Libraries Lansing branch discussing her recent book, Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution tonight from 6 to 7 p.m. Check online at CADL.org for scheduling changes due to the winter storm. Sherri thanks for your time.

Winston: Thank you so much, Megan.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Megan Schellong is the local host and producer for Morning Edition on WKAR.
Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!