Intimate Conversation with Janet Autherine
Janet Autherine was born in St. Thomas, Jamaica, and immigrated to the United States when she was twelve. She grew up in Philadelphia and she went on to study at the Pennsylvania State University and Boston College Law School. After launching her legal career in Washington, D.C., she was eventually drawn back to the sunshine, and she now lives in Florida with her husband and their three sons.
Her juvenile nonfiction book, Growing into Greatness with God: 7 Paths to Greatness for our Sons and Daughters is inspired by her own journey from poverty to a successful legal career. She believes that every obstacle can be a stepping stone to success. The book teaches children and young adults to recognize the greatness they were born with and empowers them to nourish the virtues of love, faith, courage, leadership, happiness, gratitude and confidence within themselves.
Her book conveys the following message: Every child matters. Every child is unique. Every child has been born with greatness. Her personal journey is discussed on the website: www.GrowIntoGreatness.com, in the post, MY STORY.
BPM: Tell us about your passion for writing. Why do you write? What drives you? What impact do you want your book to make on the readers?
I was a shy child who loved reading and music. Books were my best friend and I spent a lot of time with fictional characters from each book that I read. Those stories stayed with me and I began to visualize my own stories. I write because there are many stories in my heart that I would love to share with the world. I know from personal experience that a good book can inspire and empower children and take them on journeys that are greater than their current circumstances. I would love for every reader to feel empowered to “roar to their own beat.”
BPM: Our life experiences, challenges and success help define who we are on a personal and professional level. At what point in your career did you discover your real worth and own it?
Growing up in Jamaica, I was raised by a village of people of great faith. They instilled in me a love for reading, excellence in academics and always doing more than is required. When I moved to Philadelphia, I lost my way because of the criticism of my introverted nature and strong Jamaican accent. I had a difficult time finding my voice. Early in my legal career, I began to listen to my heart and the people close to me to determine my strengths; I identified 3 things - writing, listening and giving meaningful advice. My friends always told me that I was a good listener and that I gave great advice but it came so naturally that I did not value those traits.
I discovered that your voice does not have to be the loudest in the room to have an impact, and in both my writing and my legal career, I have been able to embrace these gifts. It took about 30 years to own my God-given strengths, I hope that the book, Growing into Greatness with God, will empower children and young adults to own their great talents and gifts at a very young age.
BPM: How can one live an authentic life, true to self, personally and professionally?
Search your soul and identify the things that will motivate you to get up every morning and live life boldly. I attended a workshop by life coach, Theresa Watts Campbell that helped me to discover that I am motivated by meaningful relationships, a peaceful existence and the desire to make an impact. I now say yes to the things that fit into those 3 core values and no to the things that are a distraction from my core values.
The key to living an authentic life is to identify what is non-negotiable in your life, focus on those things and rarely stray from that path. The book, Growing into Greatness with God, fits into my desire to make sure that every child is reading, writing their own stories and embracing their gifts; I had to say no to several other opportunities that would have distracted me from that goal.
BPM: How do you balance your personal life with your professional?
I am a wife and mother of 3 young boys. I also have a full time job in the legal field, I write and market my book, Growing into Greatness with God, and I find time to exercise and to spend time with my friends. I learned from Ms. Oprah Winfrey and other successful women that you can have it all but usually not all at once. This means prioritizing yearly (this year I will write my second book), monthly (this month, I will eat well and lose 5lbs), weekly (I will reach out to 2 friends that I love this week), daily (my most important goal today is to teach my son how to play chess).
Spend 3 to 5 minutes before getting out of bed to meditate on your 3 most important priorities for the day. Be realistic with your expectations so that you don’t set yourself up for failure. If you can accomplish the things that are most important to you, every day will be a success.
BPM: What inspired you to sit down and actually start writing this book?
The words of inspiration and empowerment in the book, Growing into Greatness with God has been in my heart for many years but I was not sure how to present the stories. One night, I was reading, of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, by President Barack Obama, which inspires children through stories of great Americans, such as Dr. Martin Luther King and Jackie Robinson and I had my answer. I wanted to inspire children in the same manner but using the beautiful bible stories that empowered me when I was growing up. I started writing and remained focused until the book was published.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters or speakers. What makes each one so special?
The main characters in Growing into Greatness with God are heroes of the Bible. Each character represents a powerful virtue, such as wisdom, courage and loyalty. David stepped forward when everyone else was fearful and bravely fought the bully, Goliath; he was a small boy but he had a brave heart. When faced with pressure from his peers to pray to the King, Daniel stayed true to his own beliefs even though it meant sleeping with a den of lions. Ruth demonstrated loyalty and confidence by refusing to leave her elderly mother-in-law even though it would have been acceptable to do so in her community. Through their stories, as well as “actionable” words of wisdom, children and young adults learn to embrace their unique gifts and “roar to their own beat.
BPM: Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
There are numerous books available to children but certainly not enough that were written to inspire and empower them. Our kids are often told to be average, to fit in with the crowd and to hide their talents. If we can encourage our kids to discover their talents and then embrace them in the spirit of love and gratitude, we will build a generation of confident leaders.
BPM: How does your new book, Growing into Greatness with God: 7 Paths to Greatness for our Sons & Daughters, relate to your spiritual journey?
The book, Growing into Greatness with God, was born from those early bible study groups in church. The stories of young David (the boy who defeated the Giant), Daniel (a man who stood without fear among lions), Solomon (the wise king) and Ruth (the loyal friend), as well as many others, all resonated with me. We were too poor to afford the latest toys and there was no television in our home, so these characters became my heroes. We were poor but it didn't define our lives; we were rich in love, faith and community, and we had big dreams.
BPM: Your book is titled, Growing into Greatness with God. How do you define greatness?
We are all unique beings, so greatness will mean something different to each person. I think greatness is finding your natural talent, fueling it with passion, planting it in well nourished soil, and toiling in the garden until it breaks through the earth and reaches for the stars. You must then use everything that you have achieved to serve others. Service is the heart of greatness; for me, there is no greatness without service.
BPM: What do you think about the culture of bullying in our schools?
It breaks my heart that fear instead of love is consuming some of our children. I say fear because most bullies are acting based on their own fears and insecurities. They seek to feel better about themselves by hurting others. When children feel whole on the inside, there is no need fill that void in their spirit by hurting others. Unfortunately, we cannot always protect our children from mean-spiritedness, but we can empower them with the knowledge that they are unique, their thoughts and feelings are important, that God is with them even when they feel alone and they can overcome any obstacle. I hope that in some small way Growing into Greatness with God can help children shine a positive light on themselves.
BPM: What challenges did you face as a student?
In 1982, I moved from Jamaica to Philadelphia to live with my mother and my brothers. I had to adjust to a new country, a new household and the typical middle school anxieties. I was a shy, introverted child and I struggled to find my voice; it didn't help that my voice had a very strong Jamaican accent. For many years, I didn't speak up as much as I needed to - I feared saying the wrong words and getting into trouble; I feared being teased because of my accent; I wasn't familiar with the sound of my own voice.
Fortunately, my upbringing gave me a quiet confidence; I was raised to believe that I was a good person, a good student and that I could achieve anything if I was willing to work hard. This is why I believe that we should empower kids with the confidence to believe in themselves and their strengths at a very early age so that they can face any challenge.
BPM: How can parents use your book, Growing into Greatness with God, to inspire their children?
As a parent, I know how helpful it is to have a book that sparks discussion with your children. Each chapter of the book offers stories, practical advice that kids can relate to, and actionable wisdom. As an example, the chapter, Growing in Love, teaches kids not to focus on their outward appearance but the love and beauty in their hearts. Kids are encouraged to identify the things that they love and to follow their dreams.
Parents can help their children with the “action” items in the book, such as - perform an act of kindness for a stranger, write 3 things that you love about yourself or establish a pen-pal relationship with a child in another country. The book ends with 24 questions kids and their parents can answer together, or teachers in a classroom setting or bible study group can moderate.
BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
As a mother of 3 boys, I often feel like I am talking to a wall when I shared valuable life lessons with the boys. As I was writing Growing into Greatness with God: 7 Paths to Greatness for our Sons and Daughters, all the advice that my elders gave me came flooding back. I learned that we need to be mindful about what we say to our children because even though they may seem disengaged, they are listening and they are watching our words and deeds.
BPM: Do you feel as if your writing is making a positive impact on readers, women, or the world?
As a new writer, I am a work in progress when it comes to making an impact but I love when kids get excited about reading, Growing into Greatness with God and I love when mothers tell me that they read it every night with their children. I want children to go to bed with positive inspiration and wake up feeling good about themselves and ready to take on any challenge.
BPM: A Legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another period of time. What legacy do you hope to leave with your books?
Every child needs to feel special! I want the legacy of Growing into Greatness with God to be the empowerment of children. After reading this book, every child should walk a little taller, knowing that he or she in uniquely made and molded with only God’s finest ingredients, filled with the virtues of faith, courage and love, and has amazing talents to share with the world.
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
I am working to build a community of authors who seek to inspire our children. I would love to get inspirational books into the hands of every child, especially those who would not be able to afford these books. The first step is to support these authors by sharing their stories on my website - http://www.GrowIntoGreatness.com.
The next step is to create a multicultural author’s event that will benefit the community by exposing under-served communities to those who can inspire a new generation of writers and leaders.
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Growing into Greatness with God is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Growing-Into-Greatness-God-Daughters/dp/0991200004
Additional information about me, additional advice for parents, giveaways and information about upcoming projects is available on my website: http://www.GrowIntoGreatness.com.
Connect with Author Janet Autherine
Growing into Greatness: http://www.GrowIntoGreatness.com
Purchase Growing Into Greatness with God: Seven Paths to Greatness for our Sons and Daughters by Janet Autherine. Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Growing-Into-Greatness-God-Daughters/dp/0991200004