Dr. Portia Wayne is multi-dimensional and fascinating individual, with a laser focus on the value of reading and writing.
In addition to authoring several books, Dr. Wayne founded and leads a non-profit to encourage literacy in homes and communities.
In this interview, Dr. Wayne discusses children’s books, her novel, and how childhood reading and experiences led her to touch others with writing…
Portia: I don’t have a preference. It’s kind of awkward to be called Doctor when I’m not in a professional setting. I think it’s easier for kids to call me P. K. So when I do storytelling or anything with younger audiences I definitely go by P. K.
Alternate Arts: When did you know you had an interest in writing?
Portia: I have always enjoyed writing. Even as a young girl, I would enter into writing and oratorical competitions. I wrote in college for the Spelman Spotlight. After I graduated, I wrote a lot of poetry. And then it was when I was studying for my degree and spending time with my little ones that I began writing stories and actually publishing my books.
Alternate Arts: What’s your earliest writing experience?
Portia: Wow. I can remember in the second grade I had a horrible experience. I ended up having an accident at school and all of the other kids in my class called me Portia the Pee Pee Princess. I remember going home and being totally embarrassed. After that, I started making stories with Portia the Pee Pee Princess as the main character. She would go have all types of embarrassing debacles. But it was fun. I think it was my way of releasing whatever it was I feeling. At that time, especially, I didn’t think that I fit in. So writing was a way for me to express my feelings without having to talk to others.
Alternate Arts: What’s the first thing you remember reading?
Portia: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. My mom was very big on reading. I guess that’s why I am such a stickler about reading now. But yeah, I remember being in the first grade and my mom making me read Maya Angelou’s book. I was like five years old with this intense chapter book. Of course, I read picture books before then but that is the first book I can really remember reading.
Alternate Arts: Who has influenced your writing the most?
Portia: I am not sure who has most influenced my writing. I am certain that authors like Toni Morrison, bell hooks, Maya Angelou and poets like Nikki Giovanni really have molded my desire to want to write something special. I really write with women like them in mind hoping that my words will touch someone like their words touched me.
Alternate Arts: Who or what inspires you now?
Portia: I’m actually inspired by younger authors. I love how parents are encouraging young people to write and become authors and entrepreneurs. I think that is just awesome. I am so inspired when I see little ones out selling their books and owning it. I love that. I think that if I had been bold enough to do that, wow, where would I be today? So I am just super proud of these young authors and their gumption.
Alternate Arts: You’ve written a variety of children’s books including, A Bad Hair Day, Booger Bites: A Nose Picker’s Battle with an Icky, Sticky Habit, A Dinosaur in Decatur, and The Color of My Words. Do your children’s books have a common theme? How do you come up with the ideas behind the books?
Portia: I suppose there is a common theme. Most of my books are centered around the family. I think it is important, especially for children to see characters in books that look like them and other people too. I think that one thing that is common in my books is that they all highlight quality time with the family, learning from family, experiences as a family, getting through these emotions that we all have as families. My children are always the inspiration for my children’s books. A Bad Hair Day is all about my daughter who hates to get her hair done. My youngest eats his boogers and Booger Bites was a fun way to try to help him overcome that. My oldest son loves dinosaurs. We would be driving down Covington Highway and he’d be like, “There’s a tyrannosaurus rex following us. So I wrote A Dinosaur in Decatur for him. And The Color of My Words is a fun poetry book that I wrote detailing the different emotions and experiences that we all shared as a family.
Alternate Arts: What do you hope children learn or feel after they’ve read one of your books?
Portia: I want children to feel like there is someone out there that understands them and there are other kids out there that have similar experiences. I hope that children learn about the importance of family and community after they have read one of my books.
Alternate Arts: How does your debut novel Strings Attached differ from the children’s books you’ve written?
Portia: Strings Attached is on a whole other spectrum. It is very much so for a more mature audience. Strings Attached is a historical, romantic fiction novel about the complexities of life, love and greed. It takes place on a sugar plantation in Forsyth, Georgia during the slave era. Much of the novel is centered around the plantation owner, a freed Negro and his headstrong debutante daughter who has just fallen in love with one of the slaves on the sugar plantation. I definitely went in a very different direction with the novel than any of the books I have written for children. But currently, I am working on the sequel to the novel and I am really looking forward to it. Stay tuned.
Alternate Arts: You founded a non-profit called The Write Aide. What is The Write Aide’s mission, and how does The Write Aide accomplish that mission?
Portia: The Write Aide’s mission is to support literacy in every household. As an author, an avid reader, and an educator I know how important literacy is. Unfortunately, the statistics continue to show that African-American and Latino communities struggle with literacy. So The Write Aide is an active community participant. We go into the community and speak to parents, teens and children about the importance of literacy. We discuss the benefits of literacy, the obstacles, and provide at-home reading strategies to families. In addition, we ask parents to pledge to read at least 10 minutes a day at home to their children. Every household that pledges receives free books to add to their in-home libraries.
Alternate Arts: What kind of structure or processes do you have in place for writing?
Portia: Chaos. I am all over the place usually.
Alternate Arts: What are the challenges and opportunities of being a freelancer?
Portia: The challenges for me are definitely name recognition and just getting out there among the masses. One of the great things about being a freelancer is always having a job. Someone, somewhere always needs something written. I am happy that since I have become a freelance writer that I have been fortunate enough to find consistent work.
Alternate Arts: What do you wish people knew more about you?
Portia: I wish people knew that I am an academic editor and research advisor
Alternate Arts: What encourages you to keep writing?
Portia: Great feedback! I love to hear from readers. I find it gratifying that people will come to me and tell me that they really enjoyed a book I wrote. That is the best feeling.
Alternate Arts: What encouragement would you give writers?
Portia: Keep on writing. Sometimes it seems like no one is interested in reading any more. I sometimes feel discouraged because it feels like the world doesn’t value literature or good books anymore. But then I realize there are millions of people who love to read and want to read. It’s up to me to write something they will find interesting. That’s what I want to do; write interesting books.
Alternate Arts: How can we learn more about you?
Portia: You can find out more about me on my Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/pkwayne, The Write Aide website: thewriteaide.com, Facebook: thewriteaide411, and on the Scribblers website: scribblersweb.com.