We had the good fortune of connecting with Zaneta Varnado Johns and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Zaneta Varnado, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?

I am spiritually guided and nurtured. Because I love creative writing and sharing words to uplift others, giving up is not an option. I am passionate about making a difference with inspiring words that meet people where they are. During difficult times, it brings me joy to offer hope and encouragement.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

I am a poet and author. Through creative expressions, including quotes, I allow God’s light to shine through me. I am proud to be a #1 bestselling author on Amazon. Poetic Forecast was a Hot New Release in December 2020 and topped Amazon’s Bestseller List at #1 in six categories. I am a co-author in WSA’s Voices of the 21st Century: Resilient Women Who Rise and Make a Difference (2021). My chapter is entitled “Invisible No More.” A #1 international bestseller, this collaborative book features my poem, “What Matters,” as the Dedication page. In addition to being relatable, what sets me apart is my authenticity and humility. My bestseller ratings suggest that many readers need or crave inspiration, especially during uncertain times.

I am very excited to have two new books launching on 2/22/22: After the Rainbow: Golden Poems (Prolific Pulse Press LLC) and Voices of the 21st Century: Conscious Caring Women Who Make a Difference (WSA Publishing). In Voices of the 21st Century, I am featured among fifty co-authors from around the world. My chapter is entitled, “Dear Zan: A Letter to My Younger Self.” My poem, “Caring Exchange,” appears as the Dedication page in the book.

I have learned that I must share myself along with my writing, something that I did not anticipate. I learned that personal vulnerability is essential to engagement. Like the twisted tree, gnarly knots form when I stretch myself by saying “yes” to open mics, poetry recitations, book signing events, and calls for submissions. The more I stretch, the more comfortable and rewarding it becomes.

• My poems were featured in over twenty anthologies and literary publications this past year
• I hosted an international poetry recitation and regularly appear on podcasts and live recitals
• I recited poems at book signing events and Book Clubs, both live and online. My local Road Runner Sports store hosted a Westminster community event called “Walk a Mile in Poet Zan Johns’ Shoes”
• A poem written with poet Pratibha Savani of the United Kingdom, “New Wonderland,” was awarded Best
Collaborative Poem by the Passion of Poetry in October 2021
• I served as the keynote speaker for the annual Africa Agenda Summit in November 2021
• I was invited to join the Passion of Poetry Admin Team as Moderator in November 2021
With these and other efforts, I want the world to know that for me, silence is not an option. I intend to touch the world line by line.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?

I love to entertain guests, especially after the restrictions brought on by the pandemic. Our beautiful state has so much to offer; it is indeed a privilege to live in Colorado. I regularly search for activities online and read the Denver Urban Spectrum to stay abreast of what is happening in and around Denver. My itinerary typically includes a visit to Boulder, whether to share the beautiful University of Colorado campus, Chautauqua Park, Pearl St. Mall, NCAR, or a drive through Boulder canyon. Estes Park and Blackhawk are also favored destinations.

Raised in Hammond, Louisiana, I still crave seafood and Cajun food, and I love Asian food. Places I enjoy eating and sharing with guests are Pappadeaux, Lost Cajun, Lucile’s, Hook and Reel, Sushi Den, and East Moon, among others. For entertainment, I am always thrilled to attend performances by Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and CU-Boulder’s Artist Series. I enjoy local artists Nelson Rangell, Gerald Albright, Mary Louise Lee, Jofoke, and jazz concerts at The Soiled Dove and Dazzle. I entertained my brothers during the MLK Jr. weekend. We attended the National Western Stock Show and Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, an annual favorite.

Consignment shopping at Olde Town Exchange in Arvada and Treasures Upscale Consignment in Lafayette is a must when my sisters and girlfriends visit. We will also stop by Road Runner Sports for a fit analysis, custom insoles, and running shoes. I live in Westminster and look forward to taking guests to the new Tattered Cover Bookstore located in the budding Westminster Downtown. In addition to my own books, I encourage your readers to learn about another local gem, Patricia Raybon, whose new book, All That is Secret, is set in Colorado.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?

I wrote a poem entitled, “Steppingstones,” which appears in my upcoming book, After the Rainbow: Golden Poems. It pays homage to my parents (the late Frank E. and Benice L. Varnado), my older brother (Darryl Varnado), and to University of Colorado’s Black Education Program (BEP) leaders and mentors who paved my way. I applaud CU alum James Michael Brodie, founder of the Black and Gold Foundation, for hosting a recent celebration for the former BEP director and counselor.

I stand on the shoulders of giants—
first my parents, then my big brother,
plus gallant leaders Bill Pitts, Dan Raybon,
and the Nilons, among others.

I’m one of many whose path you set
with hopeful expectations
Your selfless impact made a difference
throughout the world and nation.
~ Excerpt from “Steppingstones” ~

When I published Poetic Forecast in 2020, I was motivated by the book, Mirroring Your Vision, by Dr. Janet J. Sawyer. This workbook was instrumental in aligning my goals, focus and vision. Further, Dr. Sawyer urged me to join the Women Speakers Association (WSA), a global organization that empowers and supports women speakers and leaders in over one-hundred twenty countries. WSA’s Founder and CEO Gail Watson and Raise a Dream’s Charmaine Hammond have been instrumental in my success. In addition to Sawyer, Watson and Hammond, I dedicate my shoutout to the entire poetry community. As creative writers, every word we share is an opportunity to love. We are ambassadors of hope and inspiration. Over the past year and a half, I have received steady encouragement from Prolific Pulse Poetry, Fine Lines Literary Journal, The Garden of Neuro Institute, and the Passion of Poetry, a nineteen-thousand-member—and growing—Facebook platform for emerging and esteemed poets. India’s Sargam for Literary Interactions and the Progressive Literary and Culture Society (PLCS) of India have also been instrumental to my success. Their incessant support and accolades fuel me to continuously create and widely share.

Website: www.zanexpressions.com

Instagram: @authorzanjohns

Linkedin: LinkedIn.com/in/ZanetaVJohns

Twitter: @ZanJohns1

Facebook: zan.johns.1

Image Credits
NiShetta’s Photography Dr. Paul S. Docktor, courtesy of the Africa Agenda Prolific Pulse Press LLC Kelli R. Jackson

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.