Representation REALLY matters to me. When a black child sees someone that looks like them doing something great, they are inspired and empowered to achieve more. When I stumbled upon the beautiful black characters that Crystal Swain Bates put into her children's books, I knew she had to be a FlyyGirl. Turns out, I was right!
Q: Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview! Tell the FlyyFam a little about yourself. Who are you? A: I'm a children's book author with a passion for empowering black children through literacy. My key life shaping events include the semester I lived in France at the age of 14, the two years I lived in Germany as an adult, and every moment with my mother, who taught me to believe in myself and follow my dreams fearlessly.
Q: Wow, France at 14? That's major! Tell me, what is your life like on a day to day basis? A: Organized chaos! I literally feel like I wear about 15 different hats on any given day. I still work a 9 to 5 that I threaten to resign from every week (in my mind, anyway!) and when I'm not working that job, I'm running my multiple businesses full-time.
On any given day, I'm an Author, Publisher, Web Designer, Publishing Coach, Store Owner, Cyber Analyst (my day job!), Accountant, Shipper, Publicist, Social Media Manager, and Wife, just to name a few. In order to get everything done, I keep vampire hours. I work best between 11pm and 5am because it's quiet and I'm not usually interrupted by all of the calls, emails, texts, and dms I get during the day.
A typical day for me consists of getting about 4 hours of sleep, going to work, taking wholesale orders from bookstores, shipping products on my lunch break, taking calls from my book publishing clients after work, and updating my website at night.
Q: Sounds like you are one busy woman! Working on any new projects? A: I'm currently working on two new children's books that I hope to finish writing this summer. I'm also working on my master plan to finally leave my day job so that I have time to run my businesses without running myself into the ground. The plan primarily consists of paying off debt and launching new products that bring in enough passive income to replace my current salary.
Q: I like a woman with a plan! What prep work did you have to put in to get to where you are now? I wrote. Every book I had inside of me, I wrote and published. People say content is king and in my case, it really is. Having a collection of high-quality, visually appealing children's books helped me gain a lot of visibility and established me as one of the most successful authors of black children's books, which is something I'm incredibly proud of.
It wasn't my Master's degree, my international travel experience, or any accolades I personally achieved throughout my life that got me here. It was me putting pen to paper, writing, and having the courage to share my work with the world.
Q: Very Inspirational Crystal! Sometimes we have to just take that leap of faith! Now this might be hard for you since you are so accomplished but can you tell us what has been your most proud moment in your career thus far? A: This is a tough one because I take pride in the little things. For example, my books have been in Essence magazine (both in print and online), used as props for top television shows, and selected for recognition by NBA player Dwight Howard as a great read for kids. I'm proud of those things but I'm also proud of the interviews I've read of other authors who reference me as their inspiration for writing children's books of their own.
I'm proud of the 700+ 5 star reviews one of my books has on Amazon and maybe, I'm most proud of the countless times someone has told me that my books have boosted the confidence in their little girls who initially hated their hair but now that pride in it.
Q: Yes! REPRESENTATION MATTERS and giving little black kids the chance to see themselves in the pages of a book is ABSOLUTELY something to be proud of! Is think what you saw yourself doing as a child? A: Yep. I'm an author. My dream job in elementary school was to be a writer and here I am now, doing it!
Q: What advice would you give someone who aspires to follow in your footsteps, but is afraid to take that first step? Stop googling, start writing. If you want to write a book, stop saying you want to do it and actually put the pen to paper. Write the first sentence. Then write the next one. Take it bit by bit until it's done. Read as many children's books as possible to get familiar with the genre and just write the story you think kids want or need to hear.
Don't get caught up in the hows. How will I get this illustrated? How do I make an e-book? How do I choose a good price? How will this get on Amazon? All of those questions are ONLY relevant if you have a book to publish and you can spend the next 5 years online googling those questions trying to find an answer that makes sense to you. Save yourself the time and just get the book done, then simply ask someone else who has done it, how they did it. I'm working on a teaching series to make the publishing process simple, feel free to use it as a resource.
Q: Another stated objective of this segment is to encourage travel. As this is a travel blog and I love traveling- my goal with with #FlyyGirlFriday is to show that everyone can travel. Whether it be in the states or abroad, black women are out here DOING IT! What are some of the places you have been?
A: Travel is my passion so my list of places I've been is long but here are a few: Morocco, Egypt, Cote D'Ivoire, Djibouti, South Africa, Namibia, Most of Western Europe including France, Spain, Greece, Germany, Croatia, Montenegro, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, UK, UAE, Turkey, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico, just to name a few!
Q: YESSSS FLYYGIRL!! You have been almost everywhere! What has been your favorite trip so far and why? A: My honeymoon trip to Cape Town South Africa, hands down. It's absolutely stunning, the history is rich, the views are gorgeous, the city is diverse, and the cost of living is reasonable. I've spent the past two New Year's there and for my honeymoon, we made it a group trip with our closest friends and we had an absolute blast!
Q: What was your experience like as a black woman abroad? How were you treated? What was their perception of black people? A: It's interesting. I don't look like what many people around the world naturally perceive as a black woman. Many people around the world don't understand our history of slavery and don't realize that black people in the US come in all different gorgeous shades, not just the chocolate brown they automatically expect a black person to be.
As a result, I get a lot of stares from people trying to figure out where I'm from. Men in Germany kept trying to speak Spanish to me (they thought I was Dominican or Brazilian) while men in France thought I was a prostitute because many of the women of African-descent in the town I lived in were prostitutes. I've never really had any crazy experiences as a black woman abroad.
If anything, I get a lot of love wherever I go because in a lot of places, I seem to blend in. People see what they want to see in me, I'm like a chameleon when I travel. Even when I went to Djibouti, many of the people actually thought I was from there, but that I had left and been living in the US (because of the way I dressed). A guy in the airport during one of my many travels to Africa was convinced that I was from the Congo, his home.
Q: What an amazing perspective! It's obvious that you actually take time to experience these places instead of just staying at the resort. I know you have been just about everywhere, but what would be your dream destination and why? I would love to spend more time in Francophone Africa. I speak French and I've been to France numerous times so I want to move on to West Africa now. I spent about 3 months living in Cote d'Ivoire and I loved it. The specific destination is Senegal because I want to visit Goree Island, where African men, women and children were traded and loaded onto slave ships.
Q: What are your upcoming travel plans?
New Orleans this week, Puerto Rico a week from now, Baltimore, a week in Vegas, a cruise to the Bahamas in August, I'm trying to squeeze in a Paris trip early September, then back to South Africa in December.
Q: The final goal of this segment is to raise support and awareness about black businesses, black creators and black issues. Statistics have shown that black women and our dollar are the trendsetters of popular culture thus I really think that it is important that we support one another every chance we get. Tell the FlyyFam more about your business! A: I have written over 11 books for black children and I started a publishing company in order to address the lack of diversity in children’s literature. In addition, I created BrownGirlsClub.com, an online store featuring books, t-shirts, party supplies, wall art, and other children's gifts featuring black characters.
Q: Why is this important to you? Five years ago, I walked into a bookstore and noticed that there simply were not books with images of little brown girls that resembled me. I knew there had to be an option for black children to see themselves in the books that lined bookstore shelves so, fed up with the lack of black children’s books on the market.
I founded Goldest Karat Publishing in order to address the lack of diversity in children’s literature. I take pride in knowing that my work helps decrease the racial diversity gap in children's literature, one book at a time.
Q: Wow Crystal, you truly are an inspiration. How can we support you and where can we find your products? A: I would love help spreading the word about my children's books and my online store BrownGirlsClub.com. Information about my books, my publishing services, and my upcoming projects can be found at my website crystalswainbates.com.