Local author on empowering young ladies
Dionda Fugitt is still humbled and in awe that she can add “published author” to her list of accomplishments. Her book Adjust Your Crown: The Little Ladies’ Secret Handbook was listed on Amazon’s top 100 children’s books list for the first six months after she self-published and released it in 2016. A lifelong Virginian, Fugitt is a relatively new resident of Haymarket, along with her husband/best friend Victor and their two daughters Sa’Niyah and Ja’Sai. Although writing was something she has held dear to her heart since middle school when she began journaling, her relationship with her daughters was the inspiration for writing this motivational book.
When Fugitt became a mom, she began to approach the many difficult situations that arise in parenting. Thinking about her younger self, she began to direct her focus on how she would want to be spoken to and have life explained in a positive way. She parented in a way that empowered her girls to want to have manners and self-control, not just because they were told they had to. Fugitt had hoped that her unique parenting style was producing the result she and her husband were striving for — for her girls to grow up to be better women than she was. Her hopes were validated when other parents began commenting that her daughters’ manners and behavior stood out. Fugitt realized she could pass on this outlook on to other little ladies.
Beginning in January of 2016, every spare moment was spent writing down whatever came to mind that she wanted to include in the book. She took notes after every conversation with her girls, some of them on the back of receipts or bills or whatever she could find to save her thoughts for later. She laughs as she recalls telling her husband not to throw any loose papers away because it might contain a tidbit of her work on it somewhere. Fugitt also made use of the time she spent taking her daughters to and from school by recording affirmations they recited together in the car. At the dinner table, Fugitt and her husband would ask their daughters to share details of their day and how certain occurrences made them feel. Fugitt would take notes and review them as her research. As she did this, she says her feelings that this was going to materialize into something became stronger and stronger and “everything started coming together.”
Oftentimes, she would print out pages she had written and read them to the girls at night for bedtime stories. Both of her daughters had an active role in the creation of this book and they enjoyed it. “If they didn’t like it, I scrapped it or revised it. If they liked it, it stayed,” says Fugitt of the girls’ involvement. One particular time, she left a few pages in their room while she went to make her evening tea. When she returned, her husband was reading an insert from her pages without realizing his wife was the author. He glanced up at her and said “Babe, you should read this; it’s really good!” Fugitt says she and Sa’Niyah and Ja’Sai laughed until tears ran down their face when the girls told them “it’s mommy’s book!”
From June until September of 2016, she spent every extra second creating the book. She would find herself reading it over and over again until she was certain it was exactly what she wanted it to be. A self-described “researchaholic,” Fugitt read books, listened to podcasts, attended webinars, and joined social media groups to learn about the publishing world. She made the decision to self-publish so that she could have complete authority over every part of this project she had put her heart and soul into. This decision also made her feel that she was following through on her own advice she gave in the book, to make your own decisions and be strong and powerful. With the help of an editor and graphic designer, the book took shape. But even the cover was something Fugitt didn’t take lightly. The girl depicted on the cover had to have brown hair with gold streaks like she and both her daughters have. The cover girl had to have her hair parted down the middle – not a perfect part though – and in buns, a nod to her youngest daughter who hates buns. Fugitt didn’t want her cover girl to have eyes showing, but she should have a skin tone that could correspond to any race. She wanted every little girl who picked up this book to see the cover and think that it could be her.
“This book is for the mother who wants nothing but the best for her daughter(s), who wants to raise a young lady that holds her head high while walking in a crowd of naysayers. This book is for the mother who wants her daughter to be a hundred times better than she was as a young girl, who wants to infuse confidence, honor, and integrity in her young lady.”
“It was a such a rush,” Fugitt says when the five copies of her book that she ordered came in the mail. Her emotions spilled over when she saw how pretty it was and was able to actually see it in print and touch the pages. “I did it; this is mine even if nobody buys it,” she remembers thinking. The next step was creating a fan page and promoting the book on social media. She and the girls made a Facebook live video announcing that Adjust Your Crown was available for pre-order. Her secret was finally revealed. To her amazement, 40 books were preordered the first week, then 40 more, and then more. She saw that her video had been shared more than 1,500 times and the book made it to Amazon’s top 100 list. “It was beyond me,” she says. Adjust Your Crown was officially published in October of 2016.
The book’s popularity inspired her to reach out to Barnes and Noble who offered her a reading at an ‘Indie author day’ event. She did so well that she was offered to speak at more events, including one at Tyson’s Corner whose organizers considered her one of the top best-selling local authors. This was a major confidence boost for this humble new author. That year, Fugitt went on a small book tour, reaching families in Texas and Louisiana, including one area known for high illiteracy rates.
Now not only was Fugitt living the dream of a successful author, but her book was taking on a life of its own. She learned from her readers that her words were opening up lines of communication between mothers and daughters. It has inspired families to put down their phones and have open, honest conversations with their kids. After seeing the impact Adjust Your Crown has had on families, Fugitt has spoken at various mentoring organizations and and is pursuing ways to give back even more, including writing more books. She has her sights set on a version for a younger audience and also one for boys. And even though Fugitt expresses that she has the same fears as in the beginning of creating her first book, there is no doubt she will be successful again.
To learn more about the author Dionda Fugitt, go to diondafugitt.com.
Photos by Kara Thorpe