My professional background is in business. I’ve done everything from social media to marketing to product development. In any capacity, customer research and feedback is always an integral part of any campaign or product rollout. Naturally, I approached my book the same way. So even though my husband, my mom, a few close friends, and even my niece, McKenzie, had read it, I still needed more feedback from my target audience.
I thought of all the little girls I knew who were ages 8-10. This included McKenzie and her friends, a couple of my cousins, and some of my line sisters’ daughters. While visiting home for Easter, I arranged for McKenzie and five of her friends to have a “roundtable” discussion with me about the book. I mailed them all advance copies and a review sheet with questions about specific details. I spent Good Friday with six fourth-grade girls discussing my book. I had my first little critics, and I was more giddy about it than they will ever know. It took me back to the laughter, chatter, and innocence of my youth.
Since the book isn’t out yet, this post won’t consist of any spoiler alerts with their specific feedback, but there was one thing that did stand out. These girls are very aware of the lack of books with characters who look like them. You can watch a video of the girls speaking about this in my previous post, Representation Matters. They were all so excited to read about McKenzie Mason because they felt like they could identify with her. One participant stated, “I felt like I could be her. I could see myself in her shoes.” Another stated, “We need more black authors to write more black books.” Although I’m about 20 years their senior, they echoed the same sentiments I had as a child. This reinforced the fact that the issue still exists. There was a comfort in knowing that even if my book never goes further than those six girls, I’ve added at least one more black book to their collections.
The girls gave great feedback. Fortunately, mostly all of it was positive. The one big gripe I heard was, “I wish it was longer.” There were also many requests to be written in as characters. And who knows, maybe one day they will make cameos. As we wrapped up, they all said the words every author wants to hear, “When is the next book was coming out?”
As the day came to a close, we ate pizza, took silly pictures (thanks to my husband), and I watched them play outside…just being girls. I truly believe that God sends subtle signs to tell you when you’re on the right path. This day felt like one of those signs. It was a Good Friday in more ways than one.