GRAND CAYMAN – It has been a busy couple of months for Catherine Tyson, author of I’m Somebody’s Mama and it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down anytime soon.
Catherine has been promoting her book around Cayman and in US bookstores. She heads to London shortly for speaking engagements and more book parties. Along with her regular work as Manager of Temporary Homes Management for the Cayman Islands Government, now an author on tour, Catherine has added radio talk show host to her resume. You can hear her in the mornings on Talk Today with Sterling Dwayne Ebanks on Radio Cayman. Truly Caribbean.Net caught up with the author to learn more about the book and what she is looking forward to in the future.
TCNet: How big was your sigh or smile when you got the first copy of I’m Somebody’s Mama in your hands?
Catherine: When I got the copy of the book I was actually terrified and showed no one or told anyone about it. I was scared of what people were going to think. I mean it was such a process and I had finally finished so all of the fear and uncertainty just came to the surface and I basically wanted to hide. Then it hit me that I had actually written and published a book and it was in my hands in living color so the first person I showed was my 15-year-old daughter who looked at me and yelped out such a wonderful sound of what I was feeling inside and the look on her face made me know that I had done the right thing and that she was the perfect first person to show it to.
TCNet: What does it mean to you, to see a part of your journey captured in print?
Catherine: Scary but beautiful. I have always maintained that I am not ashamed of my journey and whatever I was ashamed of I kept out of the book. It means everything to me to make a difference in some hurting, doubting and struggling woman’s life!
TCNet: How difficult was it to write about this challenging time of your life?
Catherine: It was actually quite healing and cathartic for me. I had an outlet to express myself and vent without anyone being able to judge me or see what I was struggling with. By the time I got the stuff out, I was over it so it worked wonders to just write my thoughts and about my stuff that I was dealing with. As a counselor we suggest this all of the time. I’m glad I took the advice!
TCNet: What’s been the response from your children who are a central theme of the book, you being their mama and all?
Catherine: My kids were the best part. About four years ago, I sat them down and read the “book” from cover to cover, just so they knew that I was going to be publishing the piece. At the end of it, my daughter said, “it sounds like a real book!” My second son said, “I like it, but it sounds a little preachy don’t you think, I mean it’s good though” (the finished product was changed a lot to reflect his comments). My eldest child said “it is very cleverly written” (who knew he knew this term?), he also said “it sounds like one of those standup comedians on BET, you could probably do that Mommy; it is very funny”. Now those are what I call great reviews!
TCNet: What was the process of writing? Did you write every day? How did you capture so much color and details in your stories as this book happens over a period of time?
Catherine: My process of writing was whenever I felt it. I get inspired at odd times and times of conflict in my life and I make jokes about stuff when I am frustrated. I have a keen ability to be very colorful and imaginative, some thing I’ve noticed that my children share with me. I guess it makes me a storyteller in some way. My brother and I used to imagine and act out scenes as the other directed so I have been doing this sort of thing for a while. Kind of like a “picture this” sort of thing. So even though it happened over a period of time, it was easy to just tell the stories as they came up.
TCNet: Did you have any doubts about releasing the book?
Catherine: I had wonderful doubts, I had terrible doubts. I was seeped in fear that speaking so honestly would have folks thinking differently about me. I wanted to tell more stories about men and dating but being from a very conservative place I was certain folks would be talking about me and taking things out of context so I was very careful. Still I did open myself up quite a bit and that was very scary and I just wanted people to get what I was saying and see the message and relate to it.
TCNet: What has been the response of friends and the general public to the book?
Catherine: Very positive! I must say that I am a little ashamed of myself for not thinking better of my own Caymanians that they would be ready to celebrate my story but they were. Everyone who has read it, abroad or back home, has had nothing but wonderful things to say about the book. Some more eloquent than others, some in more detail, some more colorful but all very positive and wonderful. Of course, being me, I now have doubts about that.
TCNet: How challenging has it been to market it yourself?
Catherine: Crazy! Marketing has been the hardest part I think and very unexpected. I did a lot of research about self publishing before even going into it so I kind of expected that it would be a lot of work but never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the feelings that I have been experiencing. Some days I am excited and gung ho and some days I am just not as excited. Having to be “on” all the time has been a drain at times but it comes with the territory so I try not to complain too much and count it all joy.
TCNet: What is next for you beyond I’m Somebody’s Mama?
Catherine: More books, more stories. They are all swimming around in my head and need to get out and be told. I want to write and do other creative things so hopefully the opportunities will present themselves and I will be able to branch out and do what I love. I had a goal of wanting to retire at 40 from working for other folk and do what makes me happy. I am a tad bit more than 40 now but the goal is alive and kicking and in the horizon so I may not be so far off the mark after all. I am just excited to see how it all pans out!
TCNet: You are a natural story teller Catherine, what other stories would you like to tell?
Catherine: I want to write about women and our issues and our angst and tell stories and say words that are burning deep inside all of us and have not been able to get out, for whatever reasons. We need as many voices as we can get to just speak the words. I want to join the ranks of those women and represent my women; women of my age, era, silent women, Caymanian women, Caribbean women, all women, just women!! I am also considering a series of “Somebody’s Mama’ line which is feeling like it will be more of the same sort of thing as the first book, just told from different angles, voices and dealing with different issues.
TCNet: When the story of your life is released what do you want it to say about what you did in this life and who you are?
Catherine: I want to be remembered as someone who fought for the right, who spoke the truth, who believed in everyone’s ability to be good. I want to be remembered for being a good person with a wonderful heart and who was not afraid to call a spade a spade. I want to be remembered as a mother who loved her children more than life itself and a woman who loved her family and took care of everyone around her and saw nothing wrong with that. And in addition to all that, I want to be remembered as a woman of purpose who loved God and believed that life is a blessed journey that was not to be wasted.
About the book
I’m Somebody’s Mama by Catherine Tyson is a series of conversations by one woman who dares to believe that despite what society says about a single mother with three children, like all women, she is a queen! This is a true journey of daily self discovery, self-acceptance and ultimately of fulfillment. Through Tyson’s life, it shows that no matter where you are … you are going to be just fine… From walking out on faith with three little ones in tow, to attending university against all odds and obtaining a bachelors degree to later undertaking a masters degree in the midst of all the turmoil, it shows tenacity and focus to a fault. In each recollection, she glares her demons in the face while making sacrifices that ultimately result in a fighter that can have no other winners but her and her babies. In every fight against society, men or well meaning friends and family, she emerges victorious with the message that says success doesn’t come easy but it also isn’t as hard as it seems.
(top left): Catherine poses with a copy of her first book, I’m Somebody’s Mama at her first booksigning at Books N Books in Grand Cayman.
(left)Catherine Tyson (right) was all smiles with pal Isabel at one of her Cayman book signings for I’m Somebody’s Mama.
(right): Cover of I’m Somebody’s Mama. It is also available in Barnes & Noble bookstores around the US and on amazon.com.
(bottom right): Catherine has added radio talk show host to her list of credentials. She can be heard on Talk Today with Sterling Dwayne Ebanks on Radio Cayman.