Chanelle Coleman Wesley is a native of Milwaukee Wisconsin. She is the creative powerhouse of CeCi’s Ink, an innovative storytelling company that conveys stories through poetry, books, playwrights, blogs, fashion, and motivational speaking. Chanelle is significantly inspired by her late mother’s, Brenda J. Coleman, penchant for prolific storytelling and developing a strong sense of faith. As a survivor of abuse, Wesley believes in passing on the communication skills she developed to cope in those environments. She is also an accomplished playwright with her latest project, a gospel stage play entitled The Beautiful Truth About an Ugly Lie to be released soon. She strives to empower individuals who have lost their ability to advocate for themselves by challenging them to recognize the power of their voice. Her greatest accomplishment, however, forever remains becoming a mother to her six beautiful children and “GiGi” to her two adorable grandchildren.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
I’d like to begin by thanking you for providing me with this amazing opportunity to connect with you and your audience. Writing is something that has always provided a space of healing for me. I’ve known since I was 7 or 8 years old that this is something that ministers to me, it is my gift and it is something that God has given to me to share with others. It’s the ability to create and tell the story that inspires me to write. Stories express both the problems and solutions of life. Each narrative gives the author a chance to convey an extraordinary account and that’s powerful to me. (Laughs) It’s funny but what inspires me also frustrates me to a degree, at times it can be difficult to communicate a powerful story.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
Yes, I’d love to. In my women’s devotional Naked & Not Ashamed I shared a painful story of the sexual abuse I encountered when I was 4 or 5 years old. Although my life was filled with wonderful moments before this incident happened, it is my earliest memory from my childhood. It happened decades ago, but I can still recall every small detail; the smells, the nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach, the weight of his body on mine, the tears streaming down my face, my clothes being forcibly removed, the fear and desperation I felt and finally the moment of relief I found when I made my escape.
No words can aptly describe the powerful exchange that happens between the teller and receiver when one walks in the truth. Telling my story has been one of the most liberating things I have ever done. It gives me back my power, transforming me from victim into a survivor instantly. Each time I write or tell my story I become more powerful. I realize there are so many people who feel trapped or stunted by various obstacles, I want to encourage these individuals to find their voice. My prayer is that they will become empowered and their stories.
Thanks so much for asking this question. I’d love the opportunity to connect with readers. The simplest ways for someone to reach out to me is by joining my email list at email@example.com or my website www.cecisink.com. I’m always happy to chat.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
Although many people have inspired me through the years, no one has made more of an impact on me than my mother, the late Brenda J. Coleman. She was an avid storyteller. Her strong sense of faith and penchant for storytelling has always motivated and inspired me.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
No. I write when the mood hits me. But a schedule is something I’m working towards. I can go long periods without writing. But once I’ve started it’s easy for me to get so entranced in writing that I can shut everything and everyone out while I’m working on a book or stage play. It would be nice to have a dedicated time frame to provide some parameters so I don’t fall down the writer’s hole (laughs). Every project is different; some can take hours, days, weeks, months, or years. I’m excited to have several projects set to be released this year. A gospel stage play entitled “The Beautiful Truth About an Ugly Lie.” It’s a story about a family (the Warren’s) that are struggling to keep a secret hidden that’s threatening to tear them apart. Two anthologies, Joy comes in the Mourning and an audiobook Best Friends & Besties, an inspirational book for women entitled She said Yes to Herself, and a children’s book Believe. This book is going to help the next generation of readers emerge into their greatness by developing the power of believing in themselves.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
The Bible. God’s love for me demonstrated through various narratives is a compelling account that has kept me continually captivated. The Bible is the living Word of God, it is powerfully trans-formative. What’s truly amazing to me is its ability to provide new inspiration, enlightenment, and encouragement from familiar passages of scripture. (Gasps) I have so many. But if I had to pick one it would be Les Brown. He tells compelling narratives that promote the reader’s ability to transcend any and every obstacle. I’m currently reading Be the Overcomer by Takhia Gaither Stuckey.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
Becoming a self-published author. I’ve been writing since I was 7 or 8 years old, but I didn’t put a book that I’ve written out into the atmosphere until I was 45 years old. (Thinks reflectively) I see myself continuing to explore my journey as an author. Each year I plan to challenge myself to do more than the year before. I’d love to see a play I’ve written performed on Broadway.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?
We’re human. No one likes rejection. But instead of allowing it to consume me, I remind myself that it’s a part of the process. I try to use it as a teaching moment. I look at the spirit of it. Is there anything that was said that can help me better myself, my skills, and my abilities? I willfully accept those points and the rest I leave behind. I choose to be grateful. I would encourage them to do the same.
8) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?
Writing and marketing are two completely different things. Writing for me is one of the purest forms of self-expression. It’s something about it that’s medicinal to me. It gives me unspeakable joy. While marketing is a skill that I’m learning to develop. It takes time, trial and error, education, coaching and consistency to develop. But once you’ve mastered it, the task isn’t as grueling. I’ve gained some valuable lessons (laughs) but I’m still learning.
9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?
Laughs) Honestly, by the time I’ve put something out I’ve read and dissected it so many times, I can’t read it again.
10) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
No, I don’t. Everyone’s idea of success is specific to their desires or goals. Success is not defined by nor is it a respecter of age. The wonderfully complex, both magnificent and hideous experiences of living life can benefit a writer’s perspective. Giving the writer the benefit of wisdom, maturity, and understanding that may help him or her communicate more effectively with their target audience.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
My first encounter with sexual abuse happened at the age of 4 or 5 years old. This incident helped me to acquire a mindset that allowed me to be abused throughout my adolescent years. The abuse made me feel powerless, small, ashamed and it took away my ability to find my voice. But as the abuse stole these things, writing empowered me, creating a world where I could control the narrative and it gave me back my voice. I love writing for its ability to be trans-formative. It’s my goal to encourage others to find their voice and share their stories.