The Birth of Mentorship 

The first time I engaged with the inspiriting vulnerability, the transient warmth of Yvette Angelique Hyater-Adams, I was wandering Douglas Anderson’s 2018 Writers’ Festival. It was my sophomore year, and I, a naive and craft-study-suckling, self-proclaimed “poet” had willingly been at the mercy of an artistic puberty that most creatives know all too well— beginning to feel changes, such as my eyes sharpening to find real-world images, metaphors, poems, and noticing more and more often a prick in my heart that felt something like bee teeth: in those moments leaking the sticky, honey-esque sealant that bound me (hostage as a house guest!) to the unconditional love of Writerhood.

Though I’m not particularly sure what inclined me (our shared name? my infatuation with essay writing and all its intrinsic intimacy?) to sit in on her workshop, “Plaits and Weaves: The Braided Personal, Place, and Social Justice Essay”, the experience would prove to be one of the most impactful moments of my creative life. With my pen and journal—an old diary with a small spiral notepad taped outward on the back cover— anchored in hand, some friends and I made our way into the theater where Mrs. Hyater-Adams (who would now likely roll her eyes at that formality!) was presenting her workshop. Beside her, the projector she used was not unlike a fireplace, the glow of front-and-center slides lighting the dim space with words that warmed and thawed us then to our most vulnerable roots. I most distinctly remember Mrs. Hyater-Adams showing us there an excerpt from Claudia Rankine’s essay, Citizen: An American Lyric— a piece about living as a marginalized racial identity that translated this experience through a second person, internal musing and the braided use of prose poetry, descriptive vignettes, lyrics and lyrical essay.

Being the little biracial, lyric-obsessed writer that I was/am, the entire excerpt had me both hungry and fed. At the time too, my inner poet’s puberty had me lusting for the sweet push of my thoughts pressing against boundaries— for personal truth, and making paint from the velvet blood of my deeply cut vulnerability. Afterwards, Mrs. Hayter-Adams gave us a range of different sources to write from— one of which was an early 2000’s song that everybody knew (but I can’t really remember the name of…) that prompted me, for the first time ever, to write about my dad. After sprawling out the now vivid memory of my dad and I speeding late at night to the liquor store, windows down and the car’s music bass boosted, I slowly let myself crawl into using my words to explore our complex relationship: by my senior year, I’ve probably written eight or nine poems about him. I’ve definitely cried twice that in doing so.

Out loud, I shared that image with the workshop group. A year later, Yvette Angelique and I would cross paths again during a therapeutic poetry workshop that I was monitoring and she was invited to teach at. At first, we laughed about our shared name— hers with a Y, mine with an E, but it got us to start talking on a more meaningful level. There, she invited me to her summer writing intensive for women, Narratives for Change, which I participated in over the summer with seven other women whom I developed an unbreakable bond with. In Yvette’s program, I wrote about my sexual assault for the first time in my life. My last day there, Yvette hugged me tight and safe in her arms while I cried… what I’m trying to get at, I think, is that I met Yvette Angelique Hyater-Adams at Writers’ Festival and now I’ve adopted her as a mother. She was the person who sat down with me and helped me make a list of colleges with undergraduate writing programs that would be supportive of my mental health when I was in the midst of convincing myself that I’d never be able to get into, let alone handle college. She told me that I had an undeniable talent for writing, that I had passion, and that she wouldn’t let me let that go to waste.

I would have likely never had the opportunity to develop such a meaningful relationship with her if not for Writers’ Festival, and I am eternally grateful for that. Not only that, but the entire experience of the festival filled me with a general feeling of worthiness as writer: there, I got to choose my own destiny— I was in total control of what I got to engage with (the possibilities of which were many), and so I was able to tailor the experience into what would be most meaningful for me. In having that chance, my creative life was able to jump from that ledge and experience a breathtaking sort of butterfly effect: all of the pieces adding up to span outwards from me into a set of wings, a post-cocoon body grown with memories that would forever remind me that yes— from this high up, it is undeniable now. I am a valid writer, and I don’t ever want to let that go to waste.

Evette Davis, Senior Digital Media Editor