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How I Won an Image Award

Sheri Booker won the NAACP Image Award this year for her first novel Nine Years Under. It is a coming of age story about the nine years she spent working in a funeral home in West Baltimore after the passing of her Aunt Mary. She felt working in the funeral home would give her closure and answers.

Sheri carved time out of her schedule to share her journey with DOT and the DOT-Nistas. Let’s take a deeper look at the life, business and journey of this inspiring 31 year old NAACP Image Award Winning author Sheri Booker. Be inspired DOT-Nistas.

A Deeper Look with Sheri with Sheri Booker

DOT: Who is the woman behind Sheri Booker, the author? What inspires you? Makes you happy? What contributed to who you are today?

Sheri: I aspire to inspire. I am most happy when I am giving to others. The one thing that makes me truly happy is putting a smile on someone’s face. I think the old folks say, “It’s a blessing to be a blessing.” My life is about giving back. I learned this from my parents at an early age. So whether I’m serving the grieving people of Baltimore, or African women, or teaching young women to love themselves, I know the importance of service. And like my parents, I’ve dedicated my life to it.

 DOT: What was a memorable or ‘aha’ experience teaching journalism in South Africa?

 Sheri: My friend, Maggie Messitt, started the Amazwi School of Media Arts in rural South Africa to give native Africans the opportunity to tell their own stories. It was in Africa that I learned the importance of finding your voice and telling your story. At the end of the day there’s always two sides to a story, many different perspectives, but you have the right to share your own. More of us need to do this.

 DOT: What is most rewarding about teaching?

  Sheri: The most rewarding thing about teaching is watching the light bulb go off in your students’ head.  I come from a family of educators, my mom and sister are both principals, and so I’ve always believed that every child is capable of learning. But when you see them confidently take the initiative to dig deeper and when they actually get it, it’s the best feeling ever. Also when they start thinking outside of your classroom and apply their knowledge in other contents and at home. Yeah, it’s the best feeling ever.

 DOT: What is one goal you’ve set for yourself but haven’t achieved? 

 Sheri: Believe it or not I’d like to own my own funeral home one day. I actually have to go back to school and get licensed to become a funeral director before I can own my own but it’s definitely a part of my plan.

Her Journey

DOT: Since losing your grandmother, your journey has been a dynamic one. You put it all together in print. Describe the experience.

 Sheri: Here’s the thing, if my Aunt Mary, who was like my live-in grandmother, hadn’t died I would have NEVER ended up working up in a funeral home. Her death opened up a curiosity in me and it also equipped me with an overwhelming level of compassion. Because of that I was drawn to the funeral business. It was important to me to be supportive to grieving people during the time that they entrusted their loved ones to the funeral home. I had an amazing boss who recognized my gifts early on and taught me the entire business and essentially handed me the reigns to run his business when I was ready. Working in the funeral home made the woman I am to death. Everything that I learned about life, I learned through death.

DOT: Your accomplishments have been significant with your new book, including winning an NAACP image award. Was this all part of the plan?

 Sheri: Honestly, I just wanted to tell a story. I knew I had a very unique coming of age tale and much of it was funny. I just wanted to be a book on the shelf. The NAACP nomination came as a complete shock to me. It was an honor to be nominated amongst some of the greatest African-American talents. It has certainly awakened something in me and I’m writing a whole new plan.

DOT: You’ve said that you want to get as close to Oprah as possible, what’s next for you on your path to the “Oprah Life”?

 Sheri: Ha! I’m hoping to get a copy of Nine Years Under into Oprah’s hands one day soon (fingers crossed). I think we need to have an episode of Super Soul Sunday about death and loss. No one ever wants to talk about it but we must all face it. I also have an idea for a television show that I’d like to pitch to the OWN network.

DOT: Your first book is inspired by your experience working in the funeral home for nine years. Do you think your next book will take as long or longer to create? Any ideas for the DOT-Nistas of what your next book will be?

 Sheri: I’m working on my next book as we speak. I’ve been really eager to share my experience living in South Africa. If I learned everything about life working in the funeral business, then I learned everything about life after death in South Africa.

Her Daily

DOT: What do you do to empower yourself day-to-day?

 Sheri: I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on these days. My house has become a walk-in library. I’ve been so hungry for books I’ve even been downloading them on my iPad, and I’m not really into e-books. I like to meditate. And I’ve actually been taking an hour a day to disconnect. So for at least one hour, I turn off my phone, no internet, no instagram, no twitter, no emails, just an hour without any distractions. It feels so good.

DOT: Who were your favorite authors when you were in school

 Sheri: I’m a poet at heart. Growing up I loved Shel Silverstein. And then of course, I fell in love with Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni.

DOT: What other arts inspire your creative spirit? (Music, dance, painting, etc).

 Sheri: Though I’m rhythmically challenged, I love to dance. I love to vibe out to all kinds of music. And when I’m stressed out I draw or painat. But people watching and enjoying the outdoors also inspire me to create. The idea of love inspires me to write poetry. I can find beauty in almost anything and that leads me to my pen and pad. 

Life is a journey that has many unexpected twists and turns. This is one woman’s journey on her road to success. Where has your journey taken you? Leave a comment below!

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