I started writing against my will when I was twelve years old. My uncle had signed me up for a summer writing camp, and I knew then my status as a dork and a nerve was irrevocably set for the rest of my academic career. Now, at twelve, this would be a horrendous fate; but by the time the camp had ended, I couldn’t wait to return next year. I’d started out with poetry because it was quick bursts of what I was feeling; but the older I got, the more I kicked around whether to actually try my hand in prose. It wasn’t until junior year in high school that I had my epiphany moment—I wanted to be a writer. However, I knew I had to graduate both high school and college before I seriously pursued it.
In college, I continued with my poetry, but I also started writing prose. I took writing classes in both poetry and short stories in college; and I decided to write a creative thesis for my concentrations. Thus, in the summer of 2004, Reconstructing Jada Channing was born. Then, however, it was called A Life to Live. Very soap opera-y. I had Jamaica Kincaid as my advisor and she told me flat-out it needed a new title! Also, it was too long. I think I’d written over 100K words of absolute “what?” that summer! However, not all was lost. I had a story in there somewhere; it just needed to be distilled.
Professor Kincaid was very hands-off; and on the one end it was very frustrating because I really didn’t think I knew what I was doing. In fact, I was so unsure, I began writing Being Plumville as a “backup” thesis (and because of National Novel Writing Month). Working on two stories at once was probably not the wisest thing to do; but it did force Professor Kincaid to tell me, in no uncertain terms, to keep going with my original idea. So, I set Being Plumville to the side and continued Reconstructing Jada Channing.
The most nerve-wracking day of my life was actually not turning in the thesis. In fact, I was so relieved to be done with it, having pulled my very last all-nighter of my college career while freshman performed rituals in the Eliot House courtyard (the sadly misinformed freshman actually thought these rituals would get them in the house of their choice when in actuality…house selection was random. The rituals were, however, very annoying). The most nerve-wracking day was getting my grade back. I’d received the e-mail from the English department telling me my grade was ready, and I spent the rest of the afternoon pretending I hadn’t seen it until it was maybe ten minutes until the department closed. I went and picked up my grade, then ran immediately upstairs to the African and African-American Studies Department to the program officer’s office and sat with her to reveal my grade.
I screamed. Magna plus; a solid A. Both departments eventually graded it so. I received an A writing a romance novella to graduate college. That novella also won the Dorothy Hicks Lee Prize for Outstanding Thesis on African-American Literature, a prize awarded university-wide, not just departmental. These two achievements definitely gave me the boost and confidence I needed to firm up my resolve of making a career out of this writing thing.
It’s now six years since I first started writing Reconstructing Jada Channing and three years since the release of my debut novel Being Plumville. This writing journey has extended far beyond my career; it’s a journey of the self as well. I have nine publications to my name and many more stories completed and in the works.