Updated: Apr 4
Hello, I am Stephanie Dean. I am a former elementary teacher, a licensed social worker, a dollmaker and happy to add that I am now a children’s book author!
As a child I was a fervent doll lover. My mother went to great lengths to find attractive black dolls and books with non-stereotypical black characters for me, which was no easy feat in the early 1970’s. The only non-black doll that I had was Raggedy Ann. She was reluctant to buy her for me, but I begged so much that she finally relented. I still have that doll.
In 2016, I started sewing Raggedy Ann style dolls for my own personal enjoyment. I named them Cinnamon Annie. I loved my dolls, but I couldn’t imagine that anyone else would be interested in such a vintage style doll, I shared some of my dolls on Instagram and Facebook just for fun. When followers and friends started asking how they could buy one, I was so surprised but happy to have an excuse to make more dolls. As of now, I have made and sold over 900 Cinnamon Annie Dolls through my company, StepStitches.
In early 2020 I got an idea to start writing. I wanted to write a book that would inspire children to play with dolls because doll play encourages social, verbal and motor skills. Author Toni Morrison said, "If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." I did just that. I created the book I wanted to read as a child.
My Best Doll Friend follows the fun activities of a darling little black girl and her best doll friend Annie as they explore playgrounds, tea parties, libraries and more. Children learn best through play, and this sweet story encourages imaginative play in everyday situations.
In My Best Doll Friend, it was important for the main character to be a brown skin girl with natural hair so black girls can see themselves in her. I want them to experience the joy and exuberance of childhood like she does. I used memories of my childhood doll playing days as well as from watching my own children and former students play to write the scenes.
In November 2020, I applied for and won the Buy From A Black Woman Project Grant. The grant was instrumental in me being able to self-publish My Best Doll Friend. With this grant, I was able to hire a black woman illustrator, Avia Schelts-Brown, and take a children’s book writing masterclass from successful Black Woman author, Crystal Swain-Bates. I love being able to pass on the blessing to other Black Women business owners. Being part of the Buy From a Black Woman Community and receive this grant has brought lots of sales and awareness to me and my business and added to my confidence so much so that I started to apply to other grant programs! I recently won a $10,000 grant from another program!
Being the owner of StepStitches is truly a full circle moment. The Cinnamon Annie dolls I create are my ode to the iconic Raggedy Ann doll. I get to make modern pretty brown Raggedy Ann dolls for a new generation of young (and not so young) doll lovers.