Yvonne N. Pierre is welcoming happiness through striking posses and a hailing smile.
As a woman that went through some serious things in my younger years, Pierre resonated mostly with me because she reminds me of myself. She’s a survivor as well as an over-comer of child molestation and rape (I did as well). She was perturbed by the horrendous murder of her father (my mother died), and because of the afflictions surrounding her, Pierre began to self-destruct at an early age, much like me.
Another thing that impaired her was the fact that she suffered from dyslexia while in school, and although arduous, she still managed to graduate. Since that time, the determined Pierre earned several degrees, including a degree for Executive Masters of Business Administration.
The Indiana native is an best-selling author. She wrote an inspirational memoir in 2010 called “The Day My Soul Cried,” as well as “Zoey,” which was published March of 2016.
“Zoey” is a compelling story about a woman whom deals with the metamorphic phases of life. Her daughter is diagnosed with Down syndrome, she’s battling demons within her marriage, as well as herself daily, and refuses to come to grips with the realities of her life.
Pierre said she was inspired to write the tale because Will Smith was having a contest back in 2013, and he was looking for inspirational and family oriented stories. “The deadline for the scripts was March 21, which is world Down syndrome day. I’m sure he didn’t realize the significance of the date and how significant the topic was to me-- I started putting "Zoey" together then, and I missed the deadline. I put it to the side, and the story continued to haunt me. I knew I had to be obedient and finish writing the story,” she said.
“There are several reasons of why this story is important, and I kind of want to go backwards a little to add that in. For one, I’m a mom. I have a 14-year-old with Down syndrome, and also, I’ve been an advocate since the end of 2004. I started advocating with Zion initially. Zion was getting ready to transition into public school, and when he got ready to transition, I began to question what was going on in the special needs community—I needed to reach out to parents,” she said.
“I joined YAHOO groups and started reaching out to support groups. I started networking with families, and one of the things that devastated me is that I started to see a lot of parents that had a very negative outlook with having a child with special needs-- they really struggled with coping with having a special needs child. I started seeing all these horror stories, and I was just devastated,” she said.
Aside from publishing her latest narrative, Pierre is a resilient advocate for parents and children with Down syndrome. She’s a proud wife and mother of two sons, Zyair and Zyon. Her youngest son, Zyon, was diagnosed with Down syndrome after birth, which is one of the reasons she’s so enriched and passionate about using her voice and platforms to empower others about Down syndrome.
Pierre began her journey as an activist through various projects starting in 2004.
In 2011, she held an online awards event, “HYH Rise Awards,” honoring individuals who are making a difference in the Down syndrome community. Pierre also executive produced the “2014 Rise Awards,” a sister to the "HYH Ceremony." The observance honored advocates who have Down syndrome that are making a difference in the communities. Because of her own efforts, Pierre was presented with an award for her advocacy at the "2013 STRUT Awards."
In 2012, the pragmatic over-achiever launched Y Pierre Productions, LLC. During the same year, she wrote, produced and directed a fictional stage play, “Then You Stand,” while also writing the short film “Never Alone” as part of the cleverly orchestrated 11Eleven11 Project (11 writer, 11 directors, 11 producers) created by Studio 11 Films. All 11 shorts premiered at the Bronze Lenz Film Festival. “Never Alone” won for Best Short Film at the inaugural 2013 GA Entertainment Gala in Atlanta, GA.
In 2005, she launched “Have Ya Heard.” She produced and hosted her own syndicated talk show, “The Yvonne Pierre Show” from 2007 through 2013, and successfully produced 101 episodes
In February 2015, Yvonne wrote “It Takes Two” a musical dramedy stage play for Riverdale Centre for the Arts, directed by Cycerli Ash and it featured the Riverdale Players.
Pierre is a crusader-- she’s running with an Olympian torch, in hopes of edifying people, in hopes of reassuring parents with children that have Down syndrome—she’s running with the torch for families who simply feel like giving up. Pierre is running like a medalist for all…
Was it emotional for you to write “Zoey?” It was. The core thing that I struggled with is that I was able to tap into Claire, the main character. I was able to tap into her when I thought about my own struggle with love as far as my husband is concerned, how distant, and how my perception of what love was as well as my insecurities. I was able to use that and pour into Claire so that the readers could see the disconnection between her and Zoey. But, yes…it was very emotional. I avoided writing it for a very long time because I didn’t want to tap into Claire.
What made you decide to do not just a memoir, but a story? The memoir deals more with my struggles with being molested and being an overcomer with a lot of childhood challenges. It was more focused on being a survivor—that’s where “The Day My Soul Cried,” came from. I wanted to focus on more fictional stories and not tap into something outside of myself. I wanted to stretch myself as a writer—to be able to go into characters, kind of like an actor—to go into characters outside of who I am. There were so many different stories that needed to be told. But with Zoey, I wanted to tap into the problems that people have with love, and the disconnection that people have with love in general.
How difficult was it to switch from writing novels to screenplays? I think the hardest thing to write is a book. Writing the screen play and writing the stage play was a little easier because you have different layers. You have the story, you have the actors coming in to doing their part. So, it was a little more challenging for me to come in and write the actual book because all you have are the words. You don’t have the benefit of having a visual, or a director, and people contributing to building that story. All you have are those words to create the visual. I think that I was more challenged by it being a challenge. Zoey was initially going to be a film or TV show, but because it was so challenging to write a book, that’s why I decided that I couldn’t avoid it because it was difficult. I wanted to stretch myself and sit down. I actually went back to school. I’m actually in school now—I went back to school to strengthen myself as writer.
What was the significance of releasing the book on March 21? The significance is that it was “Zoey’s birthday too. The significance is that it was World Down syndrome day, and the connection of Will Smiths theme being on Down syndrome day. The deadline being on world Down syndrome day. I have a thing about dates and numbers, so that was the main significance… Zoey had Down syndrome and that date was the national Down syndrome day.
Often we see fathers in a negative light… why was the father the stronger person in this story? A lot of times, I think men get bad reps when it comes down to parenting, period. There are a lot of great men out there who’s taking care of their kids and the homes. It’s almost taboo to talk about mothers who struggle with being a parent--that part was kind of hard because me, and Claire, are like night and day. It was difficult trying to tap into her, to find the disconnection, and the reason she feels that way about her child… I cried writing it cause I felt sorry for "Zoey."
The father gets the bad rep, and no one ever goes into the negative parts of the mother. We hear about a lot of moms that leave because obviously there are a lot of kids that get put in the foster system, but we never talk about that. Even on father’s day, we are asking, “Where are all the good fathers?” We attack men but we don’t address the mothers. I wanted to do it in a way that it didn’t feel like I was attacking her. I wanted it to really show that she’s disconnected and the reason that she’s disconnected. I think there are a lot of good fathers out there so I wanted to show the scenario flipped.
There are a lot of people that want to write books and produce other projects, but fear stops them. How did you overcome the fear? I’ve tried to look at projects as tasks that God has asked me to do. I look at them as assignments. In a sense, I disconnect from it and make it about the children—it’s about the message, and it’s not about me. If I make it about me, I will be terrified because then Im thinking, “What are people going to think about me?” But when I focus on why I’m doing it and who I’m doing it for, and the significance of really getting it out there—once I make it bigger than me, I can push through the fear.
How does being molested, raped, and overcoming the loss of your father, helped you to aide other children that has endured similar circumstances? My life is not about me… of course, I had to go through a healing process and also, I feel like the fact that I’m not on drugs, I’m not a prostitute, and I’m not what statistics said that I would be, that is my duty to show other people that they can heal and live beyond the circumstances. You can overcome… I always pray and ask God to use me so that I can reach the people that he feels I need to reach. So that has been what I’ve devoted myself to.
What words of encouragement can you give parents that might be struggling to cope with having a child with disabilities? I would like to share with parents that their child is significant. This child’s life is significant, and if we can see past our own insecurities in caring about what everyone else is thinking, and really focus on what the child needs; and really commit to giving that child the love they so deserve, then it will be a little easier to cope with their disability when the parents are able to see past the disability.
What encouragment do you have for other authors and writers? I would say, “Just write it.” There is so much information out there. Sit down and really think about why you’re doing it, and what the story is. Really outline what is that you’re trying to convey. Come up with your own process. Everyone has their own process. For me, once I know the story and I kind of marinate on it, the characters start telling me their own stories. It’s almost like a movie in my mind. I can see the characters, what they are doing and where they are, and just writing from that. I would also like to tell them to just write it and go beyond the fear and self-doubt.
I’d like to say this, “When I graduated from high school, I couldn’t read.” When I tried to attend college, I failed the entry exam test because I couldn’t pass the spelling, the comprehension portion or the writing. I was in reading 101 from kindergarten all the way through school. I was banned from public schools in the 10th grade. I couldn’t go to any school within Gary, Indiana. It took wake-up calls. I was drinking, I was fighting, and I was very wounded. I was an alcoholic at 16 because of everything that happened to me and I started to implode and take things out on myself. I didn’t see beyond my struggles or imperfections. I think that it’s important for writers to know if I can do it, they can as well… If you’re called to be a writer, do the work, study and research. Do whatever you need to do. Whatever your struggles or imperfections are with being a writer, focus on improving that and just tell the story. Always be open to do and be better as a writer.
“How did you come up with the title “The Day My Soul Cried” The title came from me wanting to expound on going from broken to unbroken? That was the main thing—telling not what I’ve been through, but how I overcame it as well as the spiritual struggle that I went through and how I started taking things out on myself based on what other people started doing to me. It was really a moment where I felt like my soul was crying out to God, and that’s where that title came from.
Website information and production reels
Then You Stand [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FifZk3XucKI]