It is easy to get discouraged, but don’t let that stop you from rediscovering your inspiration.

The year 2020 was tough, and 2021 is shaping up to be full of its own special challenges. Even under the best of circumstances, it is easy for writing to take a back seat to the tasks and exigencies of everyday life. Who has time to sit down, focus, and get into that creative mindset? Trying to write a masterpiece? Good luck.

Maybe you are trying to craft a sentence, develop a character, or write a lyric poem. Maybe you are writing blog posts, trying to achieve that punchy, pithy balance that makes curators take notice. …

November doesn’t have to be the cruelest month.

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Last year, I got the idea into my head to try NaNoWriMo. I am a student in Antioch University’s MFA program for Creative Writing, and I needed a way to jumpstart my work for the next project period.

For anyone not familiar with the organization, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It is a nonprofit that poses the challenge of writing a new novel — 50,000 words — in thirty days. It is free to participate. Their goal is to foster community through creativity and help writers from all backgrounds achieve their goals. …

We are individuals, not symbols

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You have no doubt seen photos like this on college websites: multiracial groups of students and faculty working together, having a great time. You will find mission statements on these websites avowing values of equity, diversity, and inclusion. To all appearances, discrimination on college campuses has ended, Affirmative Action is a thing of the past, and we work, teach, and learn in environments of multicultural harmony.

This constructed image of diversity could not be further from the truth. I have written elsewhere about the lack of representation of faculty of color. As of 2018, Whites make up 75% of the…

We need to stop making people feel less than for not conforming to expectations

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If you have read my recent article, you know that I have not had an easy time in academia. My thirteen-year career has been fraught with delays, discord, and disappointments.

Along the way, I have wondered what I could have done differently to change the outcome. I have come to accept that whatever errors I have made, the choices that reflect who I am at my core should not be grounds for my exclusion.

1. Studying a non-traditional subject

Russian literature is not a field most people think of when choosing their specialization. …

Our anxiety is only getting worse.

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I sat down to speak with therapist and long-time musician Bill Harrison about the challenges his clients face during this time of police brutality, protests, and reckoning with America’s long history of racism. Bill joined me over Zoom from his home in Chicago, IL.

Sarah Valentine: What motivated you to become a therapist for artists and writers?

Bill Harrison: Having lived and worked among musicians, actors, dancers, and writers for the last few decades — I played upright bass for over forty years — these are the people I know best. …

Let’s ditch the White Savior trope once and for all

Rafa Kalimann in Mozambique. Photo courtesy of Black Brazil Today.

In the summer of 2000, just after I graduated from college, I became an International Rotary Volunteer. I taught English to children, teens, and adults in the far-flung capital of Kamchatka, Russia. The work was fun and challenging. Three months later, I returned to the US with a new perspective on the positive impact international aid can have on struggling communities.

It’s academic job season, and I have mixed feelings about going back on the market

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Thirteen years ago, when I walked on stage to receive my doctorate in Russian literature at Princeton University, I felt like the world was opening before me. I wore my flowing black regalia with its broad orange velvet stripes, my sash from the pan-African graduation ceremony, and my puffy eight-cornered cap with its gold tassel. My doctoral hood hung down my back like a cape, its royal blue trim striking against orange and black satin. It was so heavy that it kept sliding down my back and against my throat. No matter, I was proud that day. …

I grew up in Pittsburgh in a white family who taught me to identify as white. Only at age 27 did I learn that I had a Black biological father.

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As a mixed-race woman who has internalized racism and white privilege, I undertook the journey of integrating an identity that felt “other” but at the same time spoke truth to experiences I had always known but failed to recognize. I have felt shame and guilt for having bought into my family’s lie, for passing, and for distancing myself from the few African Americans in my community.

In middle school, two of my Black classmates approached me and asked if I wanted to join their group. They didn’t say “group of Black students,” but I knew what they meant. I said…

Sarah Valentine

I write about higher ed, race, culture, and creative writing. PhD. Author. @sarahvalentinewriter, @wheniwaswhite.

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