Interview with Damon Powell, Ph.D.
Author of When We Pray: 8 Meditations on the Aesthetics of Prayer & the Spiritual Life
Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?
I was born in Kansas City, Missouri. I grew up in Washington D.C. and now live in Oakland, California.
If you currently reside somewhere besides where you were born, what’s the story that lead from there to here?
My mother sought a better life for us and moved us to Washington D.C. Growing up we lived in varying parts of the DC/Maryland metropolitan area. I was accepted to Art school in Kansas City and moved back there for College. I had a brief stint as a T-Shirt Illustrator in Arkansas. Then I moved to Wilberforce, Ohio and completed my Master of Divinity. I relocated to the Bay area of California in 1998 to pursue a Doctoral degree and have spent the last 21 years in this beautiful locale.
What made you decide to write and publish your first book?
Writing, illustrating, and publishing my own book has been a long-time dream from my undergraduate days. I initially assumed it would be a book of poetry. I also have some publications in journals related to my doctoral research. I finally decided to put everything together in a package that I believe to be more accessible to the average reader. My first solo publication, When We Pray: 8 Meditations on the Aesthetics of Prayer & the Spiritual Life was a joy to write and illustrate!
How would you describe your books to first time readers?
When We Pray is a series of brief essays on various topics related to the connections between aesthetic experience, prayer, and what it means to live a spiritual life. It contains insights from my research that have been interwoven into each essay in a way that I hope readers will find illuminating and authentic. Each chapter opens with an illustration I created from a series of images I created in prayer. In this case, the illustrations were the inspiration for the prose.
Who do you feel is most likely to connect with the topics you write about?
Spiritual Seekers. When We Pray is for those who have either committed themselves to a spiritual path, or those who are curious about what it means to lead a spiritually awakened life and crave deeper insights. The book is interfaith oriented in order to speak to a broad range of spiritualities.
What unexpected or surprising thing did you learn during the process of writing and publishing?
I learned a great deal about the process of publishing and now appreciate the effort and time it takes to produce a quality publication. I also gained a stronger sense of clarity around my own beliefs and the ways in which they influence my daily life.
If you could, what advice would you give to your past self before embarking on this journey?
Don’t be afraid to stand up and use your voice. Do it now and don’t wait! You have a worthwhile contribution to make.
How many people would you ideally like to reach with your books?
I realize that my ideas are not going to appeal to everyone and I am perfectly okay with that. But I would like for my book to touch all those who feel an affinity for my ideals and struggles.
What has been the biggest challenge and frustration during the process to date?
Learning to understand how the advertising portion of the business works. Exposure is everything and the online world has been very difficult to understand and navigate. I keep learning and making changes but will eventually put some funds together in order to hire a professional for training and support.
What’s your biggest strengths when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
My greatest strength is definitely writing. The publishing comes a competent second but the marketing needs a lot of support. This too is a part of the learning journey.
What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
Marketing online is my weakest point. I continue to learn more and try new things. The time it itakes combined with my limited knowledge makes the going slow. I plan to hire a professional for help soon.
When do you think you will write your next book?
I have an idea for another book already. One is for a short story and the other is for a longer work that will be written in the first-person. I hope to begin one of these projects by the middle of next year. I am still pondering about the illustrations for the longer book.
Are you self published or did you use a hybrid publisher, or a traditional publisher?
I self-published through Balboa Press Books. I won a proposal contest so almost all of my publishing services were free with my package. However, there are some things I will definitely do differently next time around. The package restrictions were a bit too limiting. Next time I will do everything myself and be able to customize things a lot more.
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