I’ve been writing since…well, since I learned how to write! It’s one of the few things that has been with me since I was little, and I love that it’s still a part of me! I remember spending many a summer day in my parents’ room with an open window and the cool breeze of the fan, pecking away on an old typewriter. Writing gave me the power to go anywhere and experience anything I wanted to.
The first things I wrote were letters to my family members. I could be pretty curious, and sometimes had a smart mouth, so a lot of times, I wrote “I’m Sorry” letters. From there, I branched into writing short stories and poems. At first, a lot of what I wrote was strangely similar to other things I’d read or seen. For example, an important moment in my life was when my mother took my sister and me to see the play, A Raisin in The Sun. I absolutely loved the performance, went home, and wrote my first play. While cleaning out some boxes recently, I found that first play and had to laugh because it was basically a copycat of A Raisin in The Sun.
As I got older, I began to find my own voice. I went to an AMAZING school—Calvin Center SDA Elementary—where I was empowered to use my gift. I recited my poems during school programs, and even got to write multiple plays with my best friend for our school’s Christmas programs. I am definitely thankful for the opportunity I had to be a playwright, director, and actor during my middle school years!
Another important moment in my life came when I watched the movie Finding Forrester. This film inspired me to start writing in notebooks, and I’ve been buying them ever since. I took a high school Creative Writing class in eighth grade and wrote one of my first “official” short stories—a tale of a young kid who stole a gold watch, only to have it stolen from him later!
Once I got to high school and beyond, I entered every story contest I heard about. Here are some writing awards I’ve received over the years:
Winner of the 2012 Go On Girl Book Club Unpublished Writer Award
2009 Scholarship winner of the Black Writer’s Reunion and Workshop Story Contest
2008 Winner of the Ezra Jack Keats/Kerlan Memorial Fellowship
Finalist and Scholarship recipient for the 2006 Ain’t No Valley/Get Lifted Essay Contest
Finalist in the Hear Me Project’s Positively Negative HIV/AIDS 2005 Story Writing Contest
Winner of Insight Magazine’s 2003 Student Poetry Contest
Each of these awards has helped me grow as a writer, but doors were truly opened for me once I won the 2015 We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest. Winning the contest has literally changed my life, and has given me the opportunity to be published in the same book as authors I’ve grown up reading and loving! As I continue on this exciting writing journey, my advice to all young writers is to KEEP WRITING! Perfect your skills even now while you’re young, look for mentors to guide you, and always be open to learn more. Write the way Kobe Bryant practiced for and played basketball! One thing I learned about him was that he was able to perform at such a high level because of the intense amount of work he put in behind the scenes. My goal is to do the same with my writing!