"Zaneta Varnado Johns is a 2X bestselling author. Her 2020 debut book, Poetic Forecast: Reflections on Life's Promises, Storms, and Triumphs, topped Amazon's Bestseller List at #1 in six categories and reached #3 in another. Johns is a contributing author in the #1 international bestseller Voices of the 21st Century: Resilient Women Who Rise and Make a Difference, published in February, 2021. Believing that every word shared is an opportunity to love, Zan's writing will agitate, inspire, and comfort while prompting the reader to celebrate and reach out to others."
1 - What is your relationship with writing and/or books? Do you like to read or write the most?
I have a special love affair with writing, whether it is creative expression or simply sharing my feelings and thoughts in a letter, journal, or quotes. I love to read fiction, autobiographies, and poetry. I mostly read about current events, rather than watching television coverage, so I can manage my intake of negative images and commentary.
I am somewhat intrigued by the question of which do I like most, reading or writing. I am intrigued because I want to pick one over the other, and I cannot. Since publishing Poetic Forecast and connecting with the poetry community, I try to read every poem I encounter online or in books. I have many books in the queue to read and many poems to edit or write. For me, reading and writing are ongoing competing priorities and passions.
2 - If there is one message you want to make sure people understand from your book, what would it be?
If I had to choose one message, it would be that what matters is love, and that kindness and empathy can change the world. I wrote a poem entitled, “What Matters,” which appears in Poetic Forecast. “What Matters” also appears as the Dedication Page in the international bestselling Voices of the 21st Century: Resilient Women Who Rise and Make a Difference, published February 2021.
3 - When did you first fall in love with storytelling and writing?
I fell in love with poetry in the ninth grade when working on an English assignment. As I researched various poets, I was captivated by the beautiful language of poetry. I wrote my first poem while in college after seeing Nikki Giovanni on the University of Colorado’s campus. I was profoundly impacted after seeing firsthand a poet who looked like me.
To let her know the remarkable impact she had on me so many years ago, I sent a copy of Poetic Forecast to Nikki Giovanni. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a handwritten thank you note from her—a full-circle memento that I will forever cherish.
4 - What did you love most about writing “Poetic Forecast”?
Publishing Poetic Forecast was a dream come true. I was honored by God’s instruction to place light into the world during the darkness brought on by the pandemic. Every poem was written with good intentions over a period of forty-five years. I loved the process of selecting which poems to include and creating the book’s interior and cover. I also love that my grandchildren witnessed my joy while opening the box of books.
5 - What does your ideal writing environment look like?
My ideal writing environment is any and everywhere. I must respond to the gift of words whenever and wherever they arise.
6 - Finish the sentence: “Words are most powerful when _____”?
Words are most powerful when believed or shared. Power dwells in the words we believe or say to ourselves. A person who says, “I am worthy,” lives powerfully as though he or she is worthy. A person who believes or says, “I am worthless,” lives powerlessly as though he or she is undeserving of goodness.
Furthermore, a person who believes that skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or social status, etc., determines your value will treat you accordingly. When words—good or bad—are shared, the impact is powerfully good or bad. My favorite quotes about words from my own collection are:
- Every word shared is an opportunity to love.
- Words can give, uplift, enhance, celebrate, destroy, or end a life . . . Let's manage our intentions before opening our mouths!
- Always remember that words do not have a reverse gear. Once they're out, there's no bringing them back!
As a spiritual person, I also passionately believe that words are divinely powerful when they are prayed.
7 - What’s the best book you have read this year so far?
The book that I most enjoyed reading so far this year is Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad by Eric Heard. It showcases an African American dad’s effort to reconcile the pain of his past and make corrections to better prepare and raise his own children. In addition, I am mostly enjoying poetry books and anthologies including Nikki Giovanni’s Make Me Rain, of course!
8 - What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?
The best advice on happiness came from my parents. I was raised to believe that I am personally responsible for my happiness. I welcome and thrive on joyful interactions with others, but I know that my happiness comes from within.
9 - Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
I am currently writing a chapter for the upcoming Voices of the 21st Century: Conscious Caring Women Who Make a Difference, scheduled for release by the Women Speakers Association in February 2022. My second book of poetry will be published within the next year.
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