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Author’s Spotlight: Ken Gordon


Hey folks! We’re back at it! For this issue of Author’s Spotlight, I’d like to introduce veteran author Ken Gordon!

1.   What is your favorite genre to write and why?

Philosophers Dante and Oscar Wilde had opposing points when it came to art. Dante felt art imitates life, while Oscar Wilde felt life imitates art far more than art imitates life. I tend to subscribe to the Dante view of art, as, for me, art certainly imitates life. As a result, my favorite genre is non-fiction. I have written books in the fiction, non-fiction, and children’s categories and have found writing in non-fiction gives me the greatest release and satisfaction. In this genre, I am able to step out of who I am, view life and its challenges, and provide perspectives and answers, which are otherwise much more difficult to provide, while living life on the fly.

2.   What influenced you to become a writer?

I have always loved to write, however, I understood that loving to write does not make one a writer. What influenced me to take my passion for writing beyond a passive love and into an active endeavor was a search for topics relevant to my circumstance. At one point, I suffered through a very difficult situation and sought books to help manage the state in which I found myself. Unfortunately, I found no books relevant, or specific, to my circumstance. Hence, I found Plato’s saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention”, a truism. I found myself in need and there existed a gap. Out of necessity, I filled the gap with my own musings and experiences. I found catharsis by stepping into that gap. That experience made me believe there are others who could benefit from my journey and this realization was the genesis of my transition from one who loved to write into one who is a writer.

3.   Do you have any tips or suggestions for up-and-coming writers?

Absolutely. Just start! There is a proverb that, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This is so true as it relates to up-and-coming writers. So many people want to write a book, intend to write a book, and promise themselves one day they will write a book. Unfortunately, that is as far as it ever gets – intentions. The time is never right. You will never have enough time. You will never have enough to say, in the beginning. You will never have the entire thing thought out. However, as the African proverb states, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. In writing, the first step is to just do it. Just start. Do not worry about how it will end. Just start. Do not worry about having it all sorted out in your mind. Just start. Do not try to finish before you start. Just start. I convinced myself I did not have enough time. I convinced myself I did not have enough to say. I convinced myself I was not enough of a subject matter expert. I convinced myself no one would find value in my experiences or expressions. So, I sat idle. But a close friend encouraged me to just start, so I did. Once I did, it was like turning on the spigot to my soul. The information flowed out of me. I am that close friend encouraging you to just start. Once you do, you will find it will flow and when it does, you will bless countless people. And you will likely never know you did. So, for the sake of all those strangers who will benefit from your expressions and experiences – Just start!


Check out Ken’s latest works on his website:

www.dadsoffaith.com

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Why You Should NEVER Let Non-Writers Tell You Your Writing Profession Isn’t “Practical”

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Here’s a list of things I would buy if I received a dollar for every time I was told my creative writing degree wasn’t practical:

  • A large island in the South Pacific. I would name it Black Magic Isle and would declare myself the sultan.
  • The Empire State Building. I would turn it into a mall and various other entities, like the Burj Khalifa, speaking of which…
  • The Burj Khalifa. Because why not? After all, I’d be quite wealthy, and I’ve always wanted to go to Dubai.

“Oh good. You have a business minor to back you up.”

Random chick I met in an Uber


It’s a stigma as old as the sands on your favorite beach: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life…because that profession probably isn’t hiring.” Every creative, especially writers, know this feeling all too well. The perceived notion that if it’s not vocational, then it doesn’t pay. What non-believers fail to realize time and again is that writing isn’t just a hobby- it’s a necessity to keep businesses booming, economies thriving, and people educated, informed, and entertained. How isn’t that practical?


“Why would you listen to a twenty-something- year- old ‘kid’ with no medical background?”Overheard from a former co-worker


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, industries with the highest published employment and wages for the writers and authors include (but certainly aren’t limited to):

  • Advertising + PR
  • Newspaper, Periodicals
  • Independent/Freelance writers
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting
  • Motion Picture/Video Industries

And let’s not forget various other niches, such as social media copy, web copy, content writing, blogging, article writing, editing, etc. Don’t customers typically read product descriptions before they make a buying decision? Don’t salespersons take marketing documents to close deals? Don’t you read reviews about restaurants before deciding to spend your money there? Don’t you have a favorite show on Netflix? These things aren’t auto-generated by a bot embedded in the processor of some supercomputer. They are planned, written, and edited by professional, talented, and gifted writers.  A world of opportunity exists for us.


“Why would you change to an English degree? That’s not what we hired you for.”CEO, Past employer


The reason why you should never let a non-writer tell you writing isn’t practical is simple: they haven’t and probably never could do it. These are the same people that will be forced to sit through a mandatory “The Art of Storytelling” workshop, mandated by their employer. A workshop that’ll likely be facilitated by that English professor whose degree they said wasn’t “practical.”

The best thing you can do, writer, is bet on yourself.

  • Find a community that supports you.  Join Wattpad, Medium, or WordPress to connect with other writers like you. Put your work out there for the world to see. Create a portfolio showcasing your best work.
  • Read. Read. Read. Explore how other writers use craft and storytelling elements to resonate with their audience.
  • Give and take constructive criticism. Your goal is to be a better writer, an incredible editor and active literary citizen.

Most importantly, never stop writing.

P.S. Everything you know, someone taught you. Special shout out to every teacher I’ve ever had.

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Why All Writing Is (Essentially) The Same

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As I meander my way through the writing community, I have come to discover that the discourse around fiction writing mirrors that of religion vs. spirituality – “spirituality”, in this case, being the craft and storytelling elements that make up fiction, such as tone or dialogue, while religion, or interpretation of spirituality, mirrors genre (ex. most monotheistic religions believe in a God, but a Christian’s interpretation of God may be different from someone who is Muslim.) Though two works of fiction may differ in genre, fundamentally they share the same elements.

For example, take conflict. In Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End, the characters are presented with a conflict of character vs. fate. Given less than twenty-four hours to live, both find themselves trying to navigate the five stages of grief, all while trying to determine how to leave a legacy in the hours they have left. Rufus questions his fate in a phone call with Death – Cast: “How do you know? The End Days. How do you know? Some list? Crystal ball? Calendar from the future? (19)” Conflict plays out differently in Roselle Lim’s Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune. The antagonist’s battle to find herself outside Chinese cultural norms comes to pass once she required to return home after her mother’s untimely death. I argue that the title character’s conflict is character vs. society – she wants to live out her dreams but is tasked with to do this within the confines of a community she resents.

In both works, the parallelisms to reality, whether that be the looming thought of our own demise or deviating from what we are taught is “normal”,  are what make the premises not only relatable, but perfect foundations for world-building. In They Both Die, their world is centered around death. From Death Cast phone operators unsympathetically informing “deckers” they are living their final twenty-four hours. To television commercials using the dreaded ringtone in their advertisements. To social media streams of people documenting their last days. Unfortunately, this is not too far off from current events. In a time where is not uncommon to see someone’s demise on Facebook Live or YouTube, the Death Cast world is becoming less fictitious. In Luck and Fortune, Natalie escapes the grasp of her traditionalist mother, but must return to her siloed culture to truly thrive.

The environments we are born into shape us. This is ever present in the way we communicate, aka dialogue/dialect. Originally being from a small town nestled in coastal Georgia, home of the Geechee people, and being of Caribbean heritage (Barbados), I can relate. Regional shortened language, coupled with dialects spoken within a certain community (ex. African American Vernacular English) make for a plethora of “nations within nations.” I have recently started working with domestic fiction, so dialogue is an important factor. Given my cultural background, I do like to incorporate different dialects in my work. I tend to stick with dialects I am familiar with, as I do not want to stereotype or misinterpret ones that are foreign to me.  Natalie use of words like “paifang”, “calligraphy”, and “Sono andati?”, are indicative of her Chinese heritage.

Still, Natalie’s reluctance to return home did not surprise me – her tone displayed an ethos of resentment coupled with regret from the first few pages. Lim’s bird symbolism (symbolic of human life), the rain that followed its departure, and the description of the turbulent relationship between Natalie and her mother confirmed the melancholy nature. Tone, though sometimes hard to detect, I believe is important to establish. Admittedly, my works tend to be “dark”, so I use diction that is a little more formal, but I do like to incorporate voice to add variety. Silvera does a great job of mixing tone and voice in They Both Die. While both Mateo and Rufus exhibit tones of distress (ex. “I’m freaking out already, a hundred thoughts immediately drowning out everything around me. (3)”), Silvera does add some comic relief, while also giving insight into some of the flatter characters. Take the scene when Rufus learns he has less than twenty-four hours to live and his friends will not leave him:

“You two are straight up shadows,” [Rufus] says.

“That because we’re Black?” Malcolm asks.

The situation, though serious in nature, has a moment of normalcy, and reminds the reader that the characters are still young adults.

Although they have varying degrees of importance, based on genre, mastery of craft and storytelling elements prove imperative for any type of writing. This requirement supersedes type: genre, literary, creative, or professional writing alike. Just as a building requires the support of a solid structure, or doctors need fundamental knowledge of the human body, all writers would take pleasure in being privy to the elements that form the discipline that’s afforded them so much joy.

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Writers, Here’s How to Give Constructive Criticism (How Not to be A Literary A**hole)

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Writers, you know the kind of feedback you would want to receive, yeah? So, make sure you are giving it.

It is no secret that we writers tend to be sensitive about the perception of our work. Audiences only see the finished product – not the late nights, pounding of the backspace key, countless drafts, and the various experiences that influence the births of our literary brainchildren.

Since we know how it feels to be the subject of criticism, let’s practice the highest degree of professionalism and tactfulness when the shoe is on the other foot.

Here are a few best practices for giving constructive criticism:

DO: Focus on the craft elements, not the content. Every story is comprised of basic craft elements. These include character, setting, plot, point-of-view, etc. When drafting your critique, focus on the author’s use of the elements. What traits made the character stand out? Did the narrator effectively describe the work’s setting? How did the POV contribute to the tone of the work?

AVOID personal opinions! Your personal opinion does not matter here – your professional one does! You do not have to the like the character’s name. You do not have to like romance novels. You do not have to like stories set in the 1900s. Remember, you are critiquing the effectiveness of various craft and writing elements. Don’t like detective fiction? Doesn’t matter. Try this – analyze the work as if you are the intended audience – what would they look for?

DO: Include examples from the text. Use quotes from the text to support whatever observations you make. For example, if you get a sense that a character has strong, domineering personality, perhaps cite examples of dialogue or visual imagery that helped you come to that conclusion.

DO: List the things that worked well FIRST, then include improvements. People tend to want the good news first. When structuring you critique, try separating your feedback into two sections: What’s Working and What’s Not Yet Working. Under the second heading, be sure to include suggestions for improvements (remember, these are just suggestions – the author has the autonomy to use them or not.)

AVOID Overcomplimenting or Over criticizing. Constructive criticism is a balancing act. The goal is to ensure the writer produces the most effective and engaging work for their audience.  Try to find at least three elements that worked well and two areas for improvements.

Great writers need even better editors. Follow these tips to make sure you’re both!

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Author's Spotlight Blogs

Author’s Spotlight: Justine Torres


For this week’s Author’s Spotlight , meet the incredible Justine Torres, an up-and-coming novelist:

1. What’s your favorite genre to write and why?

Currently, my favorite genre to write is epic fantasy. I have so much fun with it. I absolutely love this genre because we are world builders. And growing up those were my favorite kind of stories to get lost in for hours on end. It was a place where I could escape from day-to-day life; still do to this day! And for anyone who knows me, I have a slightly overactive imagination and can be a little bit dramatic, so the sky is the limit for me!

2. What influenced you to become a writer?

My reading teacher in the third grade Miss Terrino. She made me fall in love with reading, and she always told me my imagination was going to take me far. Even though I started out struggling with reading and writing, she made me feel like I could do anything I set my mind to. She passed away the year she started teaching me; I never forgot her or her words of encouragement. I owe her everything when it comes to my writing. Every time I feel like giving up, I think of her and keep pushing forward.

3. Do you have any tips or suggestions for up – and – coming writers?

This one took me a while to think of, not going to lie because I am still going through the ups and downs of what it takes to be a writer. So I will share with you what I have learned so far. Don’t give up. Even when it feels like everything is going against you, hold on. I am sure this is something many people have heard before, but every mistake you make, every failure you experience is a lesson learned, so learn it. And don’t let the rejection you receive hold you back, because unfortunately, in this industry, you will receive rejection. Not everyone is going to see your story the way you see it. Find the people who see your vision, and want you to succeed. Keep fighting, and always remember why you fell in love with writing. Hold on to that why and never lose sight of it.

Check out Justine’s first book, Imperium!

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Craft Elements: What We Can Learn About Characterization From Prince Zuko

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Most of my favorite characters tend to hail from the world of anime. When I was younger, I was captivated by their expressive features, high intellect, and passion to overcome whatever plight they were given. As I aged, however, I found myself paying more attention to the backstories of said characters. This gave me a deeper understanding of the human experience- instilling in me the power of perspective, while showing me just how much your environment can influence the person you become. These parallelisms are what I believe makes characterization so important. Sure, I watch these shows for entertainment, but I can appreciate the Aesop-esque nature of them as well. These qualities were best personified in a character named Prince Zuko, a gifted fire bender from Avatar: The Last Airbender. The show (it was adapted to film, but real fans don’t speak of it) follows the story of Aang, the long-lost Avatar, on a journey to master all four elements – fire, water, earth and air (he is already an air-bending prodigy).

The Avatar world is divided into four nations – the Fire Nation, The Water Tribe, The Earth Kingdom, and the Air Kingdom. “Benders” from each nation can control and manipulate the element from their nation. Zuko, the banished Fire Nation Prince, has but one goal: capture the Avatar. He believes this will restore his honor and his father, Fire Lord Ozai, will accept him once again. After Fire Lord Ozai discovered that Zuko (a child at the time) spoke against the Fire Nation, he challenged Zuko to an ‘agni kai’, or a duel in front of the entire Fire Nation. Zuko pleaded for this father’s forgiveness, but it was too late. Zuko is not only banished from the Fire Nation, but his father severely burned Zuko’s left eye (this is known as the ‘mark of the banished prince.’)

As the show progresses, however, Zuko learns that true strength does not manifest itself from rage, rather inner peace. This is largely due to the help of his tea-loving, peaceful Uncle Iroh, aka “The Dragon of the West”, who we learn lost his only son to war. According to Zuko, in his showdown with Fire Lord Ozai, “He’s [Uncle Iroh] the one that’s been a real father to me.” Zuko eventually teams up with Aang and his friends and together they save the world from the Fire Nation’s wrath. Fire Lord Ozai is defeated and Zuko ascends the throne.

I think Zuko’s character is a mix of “The Rebel” and the “The Explorer” archetypes, balanced out by Iroh’s “Sage” archetype. Unlike many “villians”, Prince Zuko is not one-dimensional. He is a well-rounded, complex character that makes you root for him, and (arguably) has the best character development in the series.

What makes Prince Zuko an effective character:

  • His Gradual Maturity – Zuko’s development mirrors that of the average human. We certainly do not mature overnight. This process takes years of grit, triumphs, and pitfalls.
  • Complexity of Emotions – As mentioned before, Zuko is far from one-dimensional. As the series progresses, we are given insight in to how his upbringing and environment influenced the person he was. We see Zuko filled with hatred and rage, but also depressed and defeated.

What traits do you think make for a memorable character?

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The Importance of A Writers’​ Community

I think I have always had a passport to explore the writing community. Still, it was not until middle school that I flirted with getting my official literary citizenship. My eighth-grade literature teacher, Mrs. Miller, would give us a random prompt at the start of class each morning. I can recall yanking out my 49-cent composition notebook, taking the first fifteen minutes or so to jot down any narrative I could stir up quickly. At that moment, my classmates and I were one and the same. Even if it were only for the first thirty minutes of this class, we had come together for a common goal – catharsis and the exchange of ideas, emotions, and the genesis of a support system. For a long time, I thought I was an anomaly. Being an author, or being a writer, even, was worlds away. This shaped my understanding of the need to feel connected, wanted, and heard. We see this narrative quite often nowadays with the advent of various social justice organizations. The commonality is community. 

In the article Do Writers Need To Be Alone to Thrive?  , Katherine Towler calls her writing community “very rewarding and enriching.” I, too, find my writing community rewarding. As we live amid the digital age, we have access to hundreds of communities at our fingertips. Whether it be a specific genre, like the Horror Writers Association, or something more general like PEN America, there’s seemingly something for every writer. Presently, I’ve taken note of a few writing communities that I see myself joining. The SNHU Writer’s Community is reminiscent of Twitter (with its micro-blogging structure) and Facebook (the “like,” “share” features), making it rather easy to navigate. This proves intuitive for me, as I am an advocate for social media both personally and professionally. The community demonstrates usefulness, in that it is alive and well – we can ask questions, get advice, and feedback about our work in real-time.

The Authors Guild and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs too, resonated with me. Though their missions differ, I was impressed with what I saw. The Authors Guild, for example, stands for fair payment, distribution rights, and the right to retain ownership of their copyrights. The Authors Guild found a void in the writer’s journey and is successfully seeking to fill it. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs takes a more academic approach in their mission, and the perks to membership reflect that. I especially took note of the Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, which pairs new writers with established ones. Imagine being able to meet up for coffee (post-pandemic) with an established writer? It would be like looking into the mirror, conversing with your future self. These are the type of support mechanisms I would want to receive from a writer’s org -they guide every step of the writer’s journey.

A disadvantage to this, currently, is the physical connection. In The Spooky Art, Norman Mailer said, “If you write a piece and everyone in the room listens as if there is nourishment for one ear…then it will not matter afterward if you hear a dozen separate reactions, for you will at last have the certainty that you are a writer” (10). Sure, we have video chat, but it does not quite compare to seeing your audience in the flesh, feeding off their energy and undeniable presence. But even before 2020 happened, life did. Kids, workplace obligations, and other various externalities kept us from maintaining the connections we made in these writing communities. So how do we retain these connections when life is such an uncontrollable variable?

I think the keys here are empathy and accountability. Just like with our writing processes, managing relationships in the writing community takes work. Could we intermingle an accountability partner in our writing processes? This isn’t a final solution, but I believe leveraging the writing communities we have access to can and will make us better writers. Have you answered the call to your literary citizenship?

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Three Things You Should Know When Crafting A Writing Process

Whether you’re just starting out or returning to the game, keep these three things in mind for an easy transition.

 No journey is more mystifying than that of the creative writer, and it would be silly of me to deny myself of its magic. 

I wanted nothing more than to immerse myself in the world of creative writing, in all “its perils, joys, [and] vicissitudes (Norman Mailer, The Spooky Art)”. Aside from the tangibles (the degree, the certificate), I wanted to acquire the skills to call myself a writer confidently. Also, I needed a writer’s community. Receiving constructive feedback from other creatives was critical for me, as I always wanted to be mindful of my audience’s perception of my work. I trusted that my writer’s community would have the insight I needed to make my work better. 

Above all, I needed a writing routine. I understood a routine wasn’t “one size fits all,” so I customized one that would work for me! The Daily Habits of 12 Famous Writers outlines three overarching themes that I have found useful in developing a writing strategy. 

• Pushing yourself physically prepares you to work hard mentally. My former cross-country coach used to say, “Your body will give out ten times faster than your mind.” I like to do light exercises to get my blood flowing in the morning, even if it is just for fifteen minutes. As a former dancer, I am no stranger to discipline – it is just a matter of reintroducing that level of physicality to my body. The mental strength will come naturally. 

• Do the most important thing first. I will admit that I am not a morning person, but I am not opposed to becoming one. Perhaps after my morning workout, I can start by jotting down a few ideas. That way, even if the rest of my day does not go as planned, at least I got some writing done. 

• Embrace the struggle and do hard work. I heard that it takes fifteen days to form a new habit. And old habits die hard. However, I have never been more excited to struggle! There have already been days (like today) that I have deviated away from the goals I set for myself. I recognized this, learned my lesson, and am ready to try again tomorrow. 

Making writing my primary focus always sounded like a fairytale to me. The fact that is it now becoming a reality both excites and scares me. I feel like I must be just as afraid as I am excited to keep myself somewhat balanced. Maintain chaos and order. I am sure my concerns mirror those of any writer. Is it a case of the what-ifs? What if I cannot get a job? What if I lose my inspiration again? What if I cannot find a set routine? What if personal obligations do not allow me to write? I ask myself these things often, only to realize that nothing worth having comes easily. If it is something you are passionate about, then it should be worth the fight.

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The Quarter (Life Crisis)

Admittedly, I never took the time to see how things could come full circle. I viewed moments as balloons – I’d breathe life into them, entertain them, then watch them float away. Foolishly, I allowed my passion for writing to become one of those balloons, when it should have been a boomerang – always coming back to me, reciprocating the effort I gave it. But here’s the kicker: if you don’t catch that boomerang, it’ll eventually hit you, and it will hurt.

Kala: Childhood

Last night, I sat, legs crossed, on the hard, yet comfortable floor in my mother’s bedroom. I’d come to visit, and we sifted through faded pictures of my former self, wrinkled homemade Mother’s Day cards, and yellowing short stories I’d written in years passed. “Jayde Spooner wrote this in the second grade” (engraved in my then “boxy” calligraphy), concluded a few of my finished “novels.” Alongside that? A hand-drawn caricature of myself (which I now call a “gourmet stick figure.”) Although rough and crispy in nature, my makeshift stories held up well over ten years of tumult. Queue the reminiscence.

Little Jayde would find the nearest corner to curl up in (a 49 cent notebook and BIC pen in hand) and let her imagination run wild. Writing to her was as instinctive as breathing – everything inspired a story. From Sara to Evaneg to Mona and Gustame, Little Jayde’s characters were an ode to the vast array of personalities she’d encountered throughout her girlhood. Her demure demeanor diminished when she was under the influence of the pen. She was in control, the autonomy all hers. And she was magical.

Tukulu: Adulthood

I’m a few weeks shy of my 25th birthday, and I can already tell you how I’ll be celebrating: (one global pandemic + quarantine + racial tensions on tilt + pursuing my Master’s degree) = I’ll be in my damn house with a cold glass of Stella Rosa. Quarantined or not, this is probably how I would have celebrated “The Quarter” anyway. The time inside (and my untimely exit from the corporate world) has given me a chance to redirect my energy. Though I worked in Marketing, I hadn’t written anything of substance in almost two years. Every attempt I made to write a short story or draft an article became overshadowed by the demands of a full-time position, personal matters, the works. I told myself if I really loved creative writing, I would make time for it – but no matter how magical this Black woman was, I couldn’t add a twenty-fifth hour to my day. By the time I would get home from the office (usually around eight p.m.), I just wanted to shower, eat, and hit the hay.

Insert the boomerang. No, I didn’t catch it. Yes, it hit me and hurt…at first.

With pandemics come job losses, and I was no exception. I logged into my laptop for my weekly one-on-one; by the time it was over, my account had been deactivated. I took that weekend to say my goodbyes and unpack almost two years’ worth of triumphs and traumas. Truth be told, I’m still unpacking. The following week, however, I finished my application for grad school. I had already been planning to go back, and this “hit” motivated me to complete the process. While my passion for marketing has definitely taken a backseat, my love for writing propels me forward. Life’s brief and unpredictable- but your legacy? Your legacy bellows from generation to generation, seeping into the minds and hearts of many. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on mine – don’t forget to work on yours.

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Yes, I have an English degree. Please don’t faint.

I’ll never forget the moment that made me proud to be a writer.

While sitting in the back of an Uber driver’s 2005 four-door sedan, I’d begun to nod off as we made our way north of Atlanta to drop me off for a work event.

It was 7:30 a.m., yet the Sun had barely crept up over the horizon. Though still a bit lethargic from last night’s lack of sleep, due to studying for my dreaded accounting exam, and my tumultuous love affair with procrastination in studying for that accounting exam, I didn’t mind the early rising.

There was something mysterious, yet pure about the darkness of that crisp Atlanta morning that sent my mind into creative overdrive. Maybe it was the way the frost from the cold appeared as bright slivers on my window. Or perhaps how the lights that glistened out of the windows of the buildings we passed, mimicked the menagerie of golden plaques hanging on the walls of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

But, it wasn’t this magic that made me proud to be a writer.

No, no. It’s what had occurred right before this moment.

Enter the other Uber passenger we picked up before heading to drop me off.

Let’s call her Volta.

She struck up a casual conversation with the Uber driver and myself. She was new to Atlanta, Nigerian, and majored in Biology at the same university I attended.

“So, what’s your major?” she asked, seeming genuinely curious.

I smiled, “I’m an English major, with a concentration in Creative Writing.”

Suddenly, her gaze of genuine curiosity turned to that of disgust and disappointment. You know that look you have after you watch a terrible cinematic portrayal of your favorite book? Yes, that was the one. It’s a look nearly anyone who studies any liberal art is more than likely familiar with.

Sensing the turn in her demeanor, I quickly mentioned that I was also a Marketing minor. Her expression, still somewhat twisted, showed some signs of relief.

“Oh, good. You have a business minor,” she replied.

I shook my head.

There were so many ways I could have replied to this:

Like how a liberal arts major probably edited that expensive microbiology book sitting on her lap.

Or how a liberal arts major is probably facilitating that mandatory company workshop she had been going on about.

Or how majoring in English taught me how to think, not what to think.

Or that the very art she was condemning was the same one she had to understand so that could study Biology. My art is the gateway to your art: have some loyalty.

Or how of course, Business was important, but it wasn’t something I was passionate about.

But at that moment, unfortunately, this “Master of English” was speechless.

We’d dropped her off, and I knew I’d never see her again, but I did know it wouldn’t be the last time my major of choice would be called into question.

From that day forth, a few things changed:

  • I dropped the minor. It was nothing more than a flotation device that saved me when I found myself drowning in the condescending remarks from “The Vocationals.” I’d had some experience in Marketing already, and there was (and still is) a wealth of free/inexpensive resources, including workshops and courses I could utilize if it were a skill I wanted to grow (I was in the FinTech capital of the South, after all)!
  • I started to surround myself with mentors. I couldn’t be told it was “impossible” if there were people who’d done it (I had a whole department of them, for crying out loud)!
  • I found my niche. I started to put my creative mind to work. As English majors, we’re taught to be detailed-oriented, to think critically, to edit, and always be willing to grow – these are all valuable, transferable skills that you’re learning while doing what you love.
  • I started to believe in myself. It is imperative that you’re confident in what you know and vocal about what you don’t. You will always be a student to something or someone. Take the opportunity to acquire knowledge and perfect your craft seriously. You’ve got this!