Author Spotlight: Kenni York
Kenni York's name doesn't merely emphasize a person; it denotes a living, walking, thriving BRAND. As an author, serial entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Kenni operates under her mantra of 'making a difference and not just a dollar.
In 2008, Kenni published her first book, Ask No Questions, under PublishAmerica, sparking a career that would soon open doors to other opportunities dear to her heart. After releasing three more titles under this same company, inspired by a literary mentor to tackle self-publishing. In 2012, she released her most famous book, The Girls, which later (after several more self-published works) was picked up by the mainstream publishing company, Urban Books. Later in 2012, Kenni founded Kenni Enterprises, a literary firm specializing in ghostwriting, editing, freelance magazine articles, new author consultations, creative writing courses, and more. It was her goal to help other aspiring authors to get their stories in print. Kenni has ghostwritten and edited over forty titles for authors ranging in genre from poetry to urban fiction to Christian fiction. Her literary accolades include 2013 AAMBC Female Author of the Year Award Nominee, 2013 National Association of Professional Women Inductee, 2013 Continental Who's Who Award Recipient, 2014 and 2015 Who's Who in Black Atlanta Entrepreneurial Award, 2015 Literary Jewels Author of the Year Award, 2018 ACHI Magazine Author of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, and Community Leader of the Year Nominee, and The Secret Place Book Club's 2018 Author of the Year.
In 2013, Kenni decided to create a community service component for her rapidly growing literary firm, Kenni Enterprises. As a sexual abuse survivor, Kenni felt obligated to make an opportunity to not only educate her community about the growing epidemic but also to help victims or survivors find their voices and step out of the darkness. Hence the creation of Let Your Voice Be Heard, an annual benefit event that raises funds for organizations providing services and resources to survivors as well as providing talented individuals with a platform to share their artistry for the sake of raising awareness. Since its origins in 2013, Let Your Voice Be Heard has raised nearly $8,000 towards funding resources and operating expenses of nonprofit organizations such as Day League, Voice Today, and The Still Standing Foundation. Most importantly, survivors are provided with a new outlet to seek the assistance and compassion they need. With these accomplishments, Kenni's grassroots initiative is continually building upon its success in increasing community awareness.
Kenni places herself in various and considerably unexpected platforms to reach those who may need to hear her testimony of survivorship and message of making the most out of your trials and tribulations with a clear mission and full of determination. She's been featured on national and local broadcasts such as TBN's In Our Town, WATC TV's Atlanta Live, PEOPLE TV's The Nikhol Jackson Show, and periodicals such as Glamour Magazine, Urban Image Magazine, Luxe Factor Magazine, and the international magazine Emerge. Her spiels of empowerment, overcoming, and creating a legacy while walking in your destiny have been heard over airwaves via shows like Let's Talk America with Shana Thornton, Conversations Live with Cyrus Webb, IBNX's Live Life in the Purple with MLuv, Empowering You Now Radio, Fire 91.8's Indastreets with Tina B, and a plethora of other syndicated, live streaming, and Blogtalk radio programs. Kenni has given formal and informal addresses for various organizations, including Distinctive Reflections, Dream Out Loud 2000, Create Your Dreams Youth Organization, and the Warren Street Boys and Girls Club, to name a few. She's been called upon to speak at conferences and events designed to empower and inspire youth and women while emphasizing the importance of being and loving YOU despite the obstacles and hardships you may endure. Such engagements include the Teen Queen Atlanta Conference, Purple Tie Monologues, The Still Standing Foundation's Purple Affair, Bold and Standing Tall Domestic Abuse Teleconference, The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Beverly Johnson Interfaith Symposium, among others.
For her community work, Kenni has been honored with a plethora of certificates and awards, including, but not limited to, 2015 Who's Who in Black Atlanta Community Service Award and the 2016 Strut Award.
In 2015 Kenni decided to strut a little more while walking in her purpose. She felt the need to take her advocacy to another level, focusing more on helping survivors find
their voices and confidence. She established Teal Stilettos Inc, a shoe company whose purpose is to donate a percentage of each shoe sale to the Let Your Voice Be Heard movement, therefore, financing the efforts of organizations in Atlanta that cater to sexual abuse victims. And what better way to give survivors back their sense of strut other than presenting them with beautiful stilettos to help boost their confidence because, let's face it, what woman doesn't feel phenomenal in her heels and when she's looking and feeling her best? As a tribute to those who inspired this new venture--survivors--Kenni named the first eight pairs of Teal Stiletto heels after various survivors from across the nation, honoring them at the 2016 Let Your Voice Be Heard Benefit Event.
In 2017, Kenni took Let Your Voice be Heard to a new level by officially incorporating the initiative into a full-fledged nonprofit organization; The Let Your Voice Be Heard Foundation, Inc., putting in place additional community initiatives to help take back our communities, protect and encourage our children, as well as directly provide resources to sexual abuse survivors. LYVBH's programming includes:
The operation of a 24 hour hotline EXCLUSIVELY for sexual abuse victims.
Providing materials to various organizations in the education of sexual abuse.
Promoting our TALK BACK program in which facilitators go into different settings to speak to our youth straight-up, on their level(s) about sexual abuse.
We are providing training for organizations about sexual abuse, how to identify it, and how to assist victims.
We are facilitating workshops and counseling sessions for survivors.
In 2017 Kenni created and produced a documentary entitled Teal Voices on behalf of the foundation. It is now a resource used by various organizations in the Atlanta area for training purposes. The goal and primary focus of The Let Your Voice Be Heard Foundation, Inc. is education, prevention, and providing valuable resources. In keeping with this goal, Kenni is refocusing her literary talents and lending them to the purpose of speaking out about sexual abuse. Her novel, Noah's Rights, is an epic tale of child sexual abuse and its lingering effects. The book's purpose is to provoke consideration of the epidemic, spark conversation, and ultimately initiate change.
In 2018 Kenni York celebrated ten years of literary success. This decade of acheivements includes leading stream publication and distribution of several of her titles, a book-to-film project entitled At Least I Didn't Kill him which debuted in 2017 and is now available nationwide on DVD, a host of awards and accolades, as well as a library, The Kenni York Reading Corner, created in 2017 which is funded and maintained by Kenni. The purpose of the Kenni York Reading Corner, located in Atlanta, is to provide reading materials to children within a low-income environment. With over twenty titles in print ranging from self-help, urban fiction, murder mystery, and more, titles resting on shelves across America, a thriving literary firm, advocacy that she lives and breathes, and the shoe line, Kenni York is determined to make the name, the BRAND, Kenni York synonymous with strength, courage, and confidence.
KG: What is one word to best describe your writing style?
KY: Authentic and vivid. I couldn't stick to one word. I feel that both of these complement one another and completely describe the vibe emitted by my work.
KG: Who is the target audience for readers of your work?
KY: Most of my works are for young adults (16) and up to mature adults.
KG: Describe your writing life.
KY: Firstly, my life and everything around me have inspired my writing. I tend to write about hard-hitting topics with the objective of both entertaining and enlightening the reader. Some of my best ideas come to me in my dreams, and I keep a notebook filled with topics, titles, and scenes I would like to fabricate into actual novels. I'm sincere with my writing. I never pen anything that I'm not feeling in my heart. The written word and storytelling (the two are very different) are so much a part of who I am that I'm committed to being true to my artistic voice. That's what my writing life is: a relationship between me and literature. Like any relationship you care about, I nurture and study it (my craft), I'm intentional about devoting time to writing, and of course, I learn and grow from it.
KG: What is your greatest literary accomplishment?
KY: I have two significant accomplishments. The first is achieving longevity. As a traditional and self-published author, I have been in this industry for 13 years. I've learned a lot and done a lot, including releasing over 30 + literary works and two full-length films. Not everyone can be consistent with putting out quality material over a long period. I am grateful for the talent, diligence, and passion that has allowed this to be my reality. The second notable accomplishment is taking my writing to a new level by venturing into film. It is rewarding to be a screenwriter who sees her work go from the page to the screen while being hands-on in the production process. What's even better is that I created my lane and opportunity for this without waiting for permission, validation, or a golden ticket from someone else or some other entity. I hope that my journey reinforces for others that you are the architect of your dreams and the captain of your expedition, and anything is possible when you work for it.
KG: What has been the greatest lesson you've learned since becoming a published author, and what advice would you give an aspiring author?
KY: The lesson is the same as the advice I would give: be true to your creative voice and your career journey. There were times when I worried if I'd be a success in this industry. My work is different from others, and sometimes the criticism I received was discouraging. Someone told me that no one knew me (or read me) because I wasn't mixing with specific entities or being front and center enough. I took heed to constructive criticism and acted accordingly. Still, aside from that, I realized I couldn't compare myself or my work to anyone else's or be inauthentic to gain popularity or sell a book. Over time, my work, passion, and authenticity began to speak for themselves. The truth is, you never know who is watching. I conduct my literary business with integrity and fidelity for who and what I stand for. Be true to yourself and allow your light to shine. Your path is yours alone.
KG: Tell me about your latest release and what made you write it.
KY: My last release was earlier this year. Whatever Lola Wants is a novella and collaboration with my oldest son, Kelvon York. The story highlights coming of age, overcoming racial disparity and injustice, and being true to yourself. Told from a young person's perspective and an adult's perspective, the character's evolution is chronicled in a manner where teenagers and adults alike can appreciate the storyline. I wrote it with my son as a way of helping him share his message and supporting his literary endeavors.
KG: How has Covid19 affected your literary career?
KY: Initially, COVID disrupted my 2020 Noah's Rights Book Tour. Quarantine allowed me to refocus my marketing efforts and find other ways to engage potential readers and continuously promote/market my catalog. I was able to find and take a course specifically about selling online. During the height of COVID, I had plenty of time to complete post-production for my film The Secrets That Bind and complete the process to get it streaming via Amazon Prime. In a sense, COVID forced many to get creative and even more intentional about their marketing efforts.
KG: What are some other projects that you are working on besides being an author?
KY: Aside from book projects and film production, I am also the founder of a nonprofit organization, The Let Your Voice Be Heard Foundation. We provide resources to sexual assault survivors. That is an ongoing passion project for me. COVID also afforded me the time to go back to school to earn my Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, emphasizing trauma. With this additional credential, I will be able to offer trauma counseling to my clients.
KG: Lastly, what book did you read that made you fall in love with reading?
KY: As an adolescent, The Babysitter's Club made me fall in love with reading. I loved becoming invested in the characters. Second, The Coldest Winter Ever kept me up one night as I read the book in a day. It got me excited about urban fiction specifically. But it was eventually Jackie Collins' books about Hollywood (Hollywood Wives, Hollywood Divorces, Hollywood Kids, etc.) that excited me about the art of storytelling. I knew then that I wanted to create worlds and dynamic storylines just like Jackie.