While senior year is about scrambling to apply to graduate schools or finding a job for most people, for senior Shaida Escoffery, it meant publishing her historical novel.
Escoffery is a creative writing major. The program is a small, tight-knit group that offers its students a series of workshops and, for some, the option to work on a senior thesis. Those who pursue the thesis dedicate two semesters to producing a full-length work with the help of an adviser. Escoffery’s senior thesis was released this January as a self-published novel.
The Miami Hurricane sat down with Escoffery to talk about her experiences as a writer, the challenges of working on historical fiction and how she went about turning an assignment into a published piece.
The Miami Hurricane: When did you first start writing?
Shaida Escoffery: I’ve been writing since middle school, but I just thought of it as a hobby. When I started at UM I was actually a pre-med major, but I was unhappy as a pre-med major. I randomly decided to switch to creative writing because I wanted to do something that made me happy and I figured I would eventually add on something career-oriented. As I continued through my classes in creative writing, I realized it was exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
TMH: How did you begin writing your book?
SE: I had an assignment in my 404 class to write a beginning. I never used it until about a year later when I was doing my senior thesis. We had to choose what we wanted to write on and I had no clue because, unlike everyone else, I hadn’t really given it much thought before the semester started. I happened to be reading some black history during the time on places that people would go to vacation when segregation was still going on. Idlewild, Mich., really stuck out for me because it was a huge vacation spot for people and I said “OK, let me just start writing on this and I’ll probably change my mind after a month and start writing something else.” But, I got really into it and I ended up falling in love with the place.
TMH: The fact that the book is set in the past must have posed certain challenges for you. What impact did that have on the writing process?
SE: I think it gave me more work than a lot of other people doing senior theses because I had to spend a lot of time making sure I was being historically accurate and not thinking too much the way I would in 2013. The way people thought back then was different than the way people think now. Even trying to put yourself in that mind frame was a challenge, but I thought it was fun.
TMH: What was it like trying to get the book published?
SE: I went with the method of self-publishing. I did that for specific reasons. I had done my research on traditional and self-publishing. Both of them had their pros and cons, but I chose to self-publish because of the creative freedom and for financial reasons. Maybe eventually I’ll segue into traditional publishing and go under the name of a publishing house, but for right now I’m enjoying being a self-published author.
TMH: Do you have any advice for other writers?
SE: Read a lot. You have to read to know good writing. Every time I would have writer’s block, I would read and that would help me. Also, have someone you trust help you peer review. Sometimes they’ll be able to tell you where things are slowing or correct you on grammatical mistakes and challenge you to be a better writer. With publication, don’t get discouraged. If you’re going to go with traditional publishing, you’re going to hear a lot of “no’s,” and that’s okay. You just have to keep going at it.
For more information, check out Escoffery’s website at shaidaescoffery.com.
Escoffery will be conducting a book signing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Friday in the Winston P. Warrior United Black Students Office.