Author Dawn Charleston-Green Opens Up About Her Book “Heeeyy Dandelion” and its Profound Message About Belonging
Growing up, it is natural for children to want to feel like they belong — especially within their family. However, this can sometimes be easier said than done. Families come in all shapes and sizes, each with its unique dynamics. Some children might feel like they don’t quite fit in or like they are always on the outside looking in. This is why author Dawn Charleston-Green was inspired to write her book, Heeeyy Dandelion.
Somewhat a love letter to her daughter, the book gently addresses childhood self-esteem, honesty, and family belonging. In the story, young Ana is an 8-year-old girl who struggles with telling the truth for fear of rejection. Part of this struggle is due to trying to process being adopted. In the story, Ana’s mother shares with her the life cycle and attributes of a dandelion; though beautiful in appearance, they are often considered weeds rather than flowers because many don’t understand the dandelion’s complete value.
In an interview, Dawn shares the intimate details of the inspiration behind her book and her family. Her openness about adoption and sharing her experiences with her readers are one of the things that make her work so special.
Tell me a little about yourself and what inspired you to become a writer.
I am the founder and CEO of Dawn of a New Day 365, LLC. DND365 is a movement for women journeying through everyday life — the good, bad, ugly, and unexpected.
Through the DND365 platform, I provide content and conversations on topics that affect women and families most (i.e., mental health, parenting, grief, miscarriage).
In addition to the Dawn of a New Day 365 platform, I am the author of the 5-Day Morning COFFEE Devotional and the NEW CHILDREN’S BOOK, HEEEYY DANDELION!
I gained a love for writing in 1992, my senior year of high school. I received a degree in writing in 1996. However, I share with others that God gave me stories to tell in 2020; after some of my most challenging life experiences, I haven’t stopped yet.
Apart from my platform and writing, I am a wife, mother, minister, mentor, self-published author, and speaker. I’m also a Veteran U.S. Army Officer with an educational background and experience in English, Counseling, Social Services, and Child Advocacy.
Originally a native of Louisiana, I currently reside in Georgia with my husband, retired Command Sergeant Major, and Pastor Leon J. Green Jr. Together, we have a blended family of 5 adult children and one adopted middle school daughter. My husband and I are co-laborers in ministry as founders of the ROCK at Still Waters Ministries, focusing on biblical teaching, in-reach within the church, outreach to the local community, and efforts in Haiti.
Can you share something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
One of the unique facts Ana’s mother shares about dandelions are that they can grow almost anywhere and in any environment. They can grow in an open field or out of the concrete, proving that all they need to grow is a crack of possibility and not necessarily perfect conditions. Ana’s mother further explains that dandelions are very valuable to the environment, just as young Ana is to her family.
What is the significance of the title?
Though the title references speaking of the attributes of a dandelion, DANDELION was also a nickname that I was referred to as a child because I was fascinated with the plant. When this young woman named Ms. Selita would see me, she would always say, “Heeeyy Dandelion!” I never knew that “Dandelion” would still have life in me all these years later. I was only 4 or 5 years old when Ms. Selita referred to me as Dandelion. It’s 40+ years later at this point, and the name is more relevant than ever.
However, the most important significance to be taken from the title, “Heeeyy Dandelion,” is the reminder that when we have those moments where we doubt our purpose and value, we should be able to look at ourselves and reflect on the dandelion attributes to awaken our beauty and value within us so that we can continue to be our best selves.
Tell us about the process for coming up with the cover.
I’m immensely proud of the Heeeyy Dandelion cover. It is a reflection of my daughter and me in illustrated form. I worked with the company Your Children’s Book.com to bring Heeeyy Dandelion to life. I shared with my assigned illustrator the summation of the story, pictures of my daughter and me, and a picture of my family. I was overwhelmingly shocked by what he created. He took the visions in my thoughts and gave them faces — my family’s faces.
The entire process took about 4 -6 weeks. I was very pleased with how well we worked together on the project and how quickly we completed it. My illustrator was very invested and helped me become more excited about the possibilities of the potential Heeeyy Dandelion. He told me the importance of staying true to a “brand” color for the story and ignited in me the possibility of making Heeeyy Dandelion a series. For that reason, I reworked the original ending of the story. I have some other ideas for where Heeeyy Dandelion will go next.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from actual life experiences. I’m always amazed at the lessons you can see if you stay keenly tuned with God. I find revelation in everything. With my devotion, my lessons are taken literally from lessons I learned during my private devotion time that I decided to share. Likewise, Heeeyy Dandelion is taken from a blog that I had written on the Dawn of a New Day 365 platform but then adapted after a conversation I had with my daughter where I had to remind her of her ability to be beautiful and valuable regardless of where her life may have begun before being adopted into our family. So, Heeeyy Dandelion IS a true story and message.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your books?
The most surprising thing I’ve discovered while writing is just how impactful the message can be to others; how a message within me can transcend to someone else to inspire them or provoke their thoughts further.
I think, even more, one of the greatest surprises for me with Heeeyy Dandelion is how it not only resonates with children, but the deeper message resonates with adults. I’ve had children share that they were adopted or in a non-traditional family setting. I’ve also had adults pull me to the side and share some of their adoption stories or the fact that they, too, had adopted a child and the challenges they faced but were never able to discuss them comfortably.
So now I like to say, “It’s a children’s book because of its colorful illustrations, not because its message is elementary.”
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing, I like to rest and spend quality time with my immediate family (my husband and children) and extended family (my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins). I find rejuvenation in that time.
I also like to educate myself on new endeavors. I spend much time following other authors and experts in publication and marketing. I glean so much from them. Through what others share, I can avoid mistakes that may have hindered them. Still, I can also take some of the tips they share behind their successes and tailor them specifically to me and the Dawn of a New Day 365 platform and now Heeeyy Dandelion.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing?
There are a few writers who inspire me. Most are faith writers like Priscilla Shirer, her father, Dr. Tony Evans, Bishop TD Jakes, and his daughter Sarah Jakes Roberts. But as far as being influenced in my writing style, I’ve always been good at the art of storytelling, which I think I got from my grandmother, the late Anna Connor Morris. She had a way of using her words to draw you in and leave you inspired. She shared with me early on that I had that gift too.
The person I think who pushed me into that gift, though, was my Senior high school English teacher, Maime Strange. I so dreaded the thought of having literature for an entire semester that year. However, Mrs. Strange brought literature to life in a way I had never experienced. I made sure to mention her influence in the acknowledgments of Heeey Dandelion.
How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
Whew! I have a few plot ideas in the works. I’m working on a book for adult readers that deals with the residual effects of unmet expectations and needs from parents in childhood, a subject that continues to come up the more I talk to people. In the book, I won’t agree or disagree with either side of this, but I will share my experience and hopefully offer considerations for conversations and healing.
Then also, Heeeyy Dandelion has more adventures to come and lessons to share. As Heeeyy Dandelion was written for my daughter, I’ve also written a story for my son. His story will address being a highly intelligent black boy who keeps amazing people with his giftedness and his ability to continue creating opportunities for himself, even when others might not expect him to have a seat at the table.
Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
Though stressful and, at times, intimidating, I would tell aspiring writers and authors to be intentional. Don’t just say you have a story to tell…tell the story. Begin by setting goals and deadlines. Always keep a pen and paper or a recorder handy in several places…your bag, nightstand, end table, and bathroom. You never know when inspiration will hit, and you need to be ready. In addition, find an accountability partner and continue to educate yourself on the process (publishing, copywriting, ISBNs), as well as connect and glean from other writers and authors. But NEVER talk yourself out of sharing your story or question whether your story will help someone else. It will.
How can people connect with you, find your books, etc.?
Readers can connect with me on most social media platforms at the handle Dawn of a New Day 365. I have a Dawn of a New Day 365 Facebook Page and a private VIP Group for women. The VIP women’s group is a great space to be encouraged and inspired and engage with other like-minded women on issues women face.
They can also visit my website to find my blogs and conversations about transparent and sometimes vulnerable experiences I’ve had by going to www.dawnofanewday365.com. Other books and merchandise can also be found there.
More specific details about Heeeyy Dandelion can be found on its dedicated site at www.heeeyydandelion.com.