About Me

My storytelling journey began when I was around seven years old, though the habit of writing my stories down didn’t come until later. I have fond memories of making up stories for my little sister and acting them out with our toys.

I was a very avid reader by this point (no surprise there) but somehow I hadn’t made the connection that somebody needed to write down these stories that I loved so much. And then Fateful Day #1 came, aka, The Day My Fourth Grade Teacher Said That Our Next Assignment Was To Make A Book. We had to write an original story, design a cover for it, include an author bio…the whole nine yards. I chose the most recent story I’d told my sister at that point, which I titled “Chris and the Six Bears.” Admittedly, it was (heavily) based on a tale about a certain girl named Goldilocks. Hey I was about ten years old by this time so please cut me some slack….

That was probably the most fun I’d had with a school assignment at this point. When it was over and submitted, I thought: why not keep the party going? I grabbed a pencil and an unused notebook and things took off from there!

Despite reading a wide range of fiction (contemporary, romance, fantasy, mystery, etc.), my early written stories were largely based on events on my life (again, no surprise there). Strict substitute teacher in class? The Mean Substitute by Cassandra Jane Laural (my pen name at the time–I legit used to practice signing that for hours) was written. One of my best friends gets unofficially kicked out of our four-person group? Boom, catch the story on the playground (sadly, I’ve forgotten the title to that one). I have a crush on a certain boy with the initials EO? Here came Andrea and Eric plus their large group of friends that may or may not have been based on real people. That last one was my foray into writing a series and if I recall correctly, I wrote about two more books for it. I then began another completely unrelated series titled Erica and Andrew. Yes, I did in fact take all the characters from Andrea and Eric and then switch their genders (followed the same formula with every single name by the way. I know…creative…).

As I said before, my writing was very much influenced by situations in my life. That is, until Fateful Day #2 or The Day I Realized That I Could Actually Make A Career Out Of My Passion For Writing. Somehow up until that moment, the thought never crossed my mind that: “hey, not only do people write these books I enjoy so much but they make money off of them.” I wrote just for the sake of it (although I did have an avid reader in my little sister so I suppose I write for her too) and never thought about doing more with it. I think my latest career choice at that time (I went through so many of those) was dentist and vet. Was never that huge a fan of animals so I don’t even know where that last one came from. Anyway, I was stepping off of the school bus on one random day in the seventh grade and I quite literally had a eureka moment that consisted of I will be a writer for a living. To this day, I don’t know where the thought came from because it’s not like I was thinking about writing or even reading at the time (at least, not that I remember).

Alright, I’d finally arrived at the perfect career for me. My next stop was to do a lot of research, right? Wrong. I went on with my life just as it’d been before that oh so important thought. I didn’t even start thinking of my audience as the entire world. In my mind, my audience was still my sister, my friends, and one or two teachers. I still had no clue what the publishing process was or what it entailed. I was still writing stories straight from The Life of Me.

Then I arrived at Fateful Day #4: The Day (or in this case, night) That I Completed The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale. It was a dark and stormy summer night…okay I don’t think it was stormy, but it was night time during the summer after seventh grade and all was quiet throughout my house (my baby sister and baby brother hadn’t been born yet so it was just my mother, grandmother, little sister, and I). The others were already upstairs and in bed but I was in our study racing through that first book in the Pendragon series because I just had to know how it ended. Finally, I reached the end of the last page. Battered but feeling like I was on the verge of something life-changing, I picked up a brand new notebook and a pen…and began to write. Of course, this was something I’d done countless times before. But what made this time different was the thought I had just before I wrote the first word of that story: this will be my debut novel. This will be what the world knows me for.

This was the first time I started writing a story directly following the completion of a book that I was reading. I honestly don’t know what was so special about this book for me. Remember, I’d read many fantasy books before this point. Perhaps it was how amazing fantastic phenomenal the world-building  (probably the biggest reason sci-fi/fantasy is my favorite genre and a topic I talk about whenever possible) in that book was, especially with the added time-traveling element. All I know is that I kept thinking to myself: I want to write a story that impacts people as much as Bobby Pendragon’s story impacted me. I want to have that affect too. Around that same time, I was reading the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz and so The Agency was born, a story about a girl named Marie Arkadian who discovers on her 16th birthday that she possesses magical powers and is recruited by the teen division of the CIA.

That was a project that took eight months and two hundred fifty pages (about two composition books because every single one of my stories was handwritten), the longest story I’d ever written. I then wrote it’s sequel Agents of Destruction (two hundred sixty pages) and began writing the third book in that series…sadly, that volume remains unfinished to this day. Rereading the story many years later, I knew it wouldn’t be my debut novel after all, though it had some outstanding elements like the characters and the plot/conflict. Perhaps some day, I’ll revise and release it.

Switching topics, poetry was initially a format I only used when called to for class assignments. Some time during my senior year of high school though, I began writing it in my spare time whenever I was experiencing intense emotions, always with the thought in mind that it was FMEO…for my eyes only. As much as I enjoyed writing poetry, I never planned on releasing it publicly. It was simply something I did and that was that.

I entered college some years later–a certain Long Island Uni that shall remain nameless for now–as an English major (concentration in Creative Writing of course) and still had no plans for poetry. I joined my school’s English society which had a writing workshop component. I badly wanted to have my work critiqued by them but I hadn’t worked on any stories in a long while so on a whim, I brought copies of a random poem I’d written. They gave positive feedback but it wasn’t until months into attending the club (and bringing in poem after poem but no prose because I hadn’t written any) that I realized that’s what I was associated with, as far as my writing. Poetry. Something I wrote just because.

And that followed me throughout undergrad. I wrote some short stories for a prose writing class I took during my junior year but my heart just wasn’t in any of them. I don’t even know what caused me to take such a hiatus from prose (started sometime during my sophomore year of high school). It came to be that my senior honors thesis was a collection of poetry even, instead of a novel or short story collection.

Sometime in mid-January of my senior year of undergrad, I finally had a story idea that I was very enthusiastic about (after a million billion others that I never made much progress on). I had my first graduate level fiction writing class that semester (I’d been accepted into my school’s five year BA/MFA program for Creative Writing by this point and I’m so glad because Professor JM + that class was wonderful) so that was the story I worked on. I remember one particular class when I made clear how much I adored the excellent use of the English language in a classmate’s story. My professor said something along the lines of: I had a poetry background so it was no surprise that I enjoyed it so much but a good story needed more than great words. I don’t recall her exact words but I felt shook for a second. I wanted badly to exclaim that I was an avid fiction reader and actually I began my life as a writer with a prose background so I had a good idea of what I was talking about. Of course, she had no way of knowing I got my start in prose and I’m sure she didn’t mean it to sound like I didn’t know what I was talking about. But still.

All this is not to say that you can only focus on one of these fields. Today, I consider myself both a poet and a prose writer, as they serve different purposes for me. Writing fiction allows me to explore the limits of my imagination, while poetry allows me to release my thoughts and emotions into the world in a way that feels safe and comfortable.

Well that’s a summary of my journey as a writer and some of the days that really impacted that. I’m currently working on a YA fantasy/sci-fiction manuscript. By God’s grace, I’ll be able to add The Day I Secured A Literary Agent, The Day I Received My First Publishing Contract, and The Day My Debut Novel Was Released to the list.

It seems we’ve reached the end, dear reader. This was longer than I imagined so thank you so much for making it this far. I look forward to learning your own stories too. Let our words, sweet and necessary, be the bridge that connects us.

 

You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @ OyinAtiOmi

 

 

 

 

 

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