Award-winning author and filmmaker Tiffany Jackson shared what it was like for her to become the successful creative she is now and gave other UCA writers advice on how to break into the industry, something that she wishes she had when she was coming up.

Tiffany Jackson spoke with creative writing students as part of the Artist in Residence program on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, in Thompson Hall.

Tiffany Jackson, known for her novels, “Allegedly,” and her most recent work, “White Smoke,” grew up always wanting to be an author, but, like many others, her family didn’t support the decision because they didn’t want her to be a starving artist. Jackson encouraged other students to pursue those dreams regardless and opened the floor to the students, so they could ask questions.

“Rejection is nearly redirection in the right direction. I tell people this all the time, whether it's a man, a pair of jeans or a query letter. I truly believe that rejection can sting, but that's why we have to try to start changing the conversations we have with ourselves about rejection,” Jackson said.

Jackson made it known, though, that none of this process is easy and that writers need to be prepared for the trials and tribulations that come along with being an artist. Carving out your own lane in any field is difficult, but Jackson assured students that it would all be worth it once they are the only ones who will be able to write the story like they can, with Jackson using how she is one of three African-American young-adult thriller writers as an example.

She encouraged everyone to never stop pursuing their dreams as an author because there is no timetable for when you can be successful. After citing successful authors like J.K Rowling, who wrote Harry Potter in her 30s, and Laura Ingles Wilder, who wrote Little House on the Prairie in her 60s, Jackson also admitted that she had gotten into the field late since she started her career in film. Having released one book a year since 2017, though, Jackson showed others that it’s always possible to achieve that dream.

With the COVID-19 pandemic having affected everyone’s state of mind, Jackson also found it important for writers to learn how to “write in the rain.”

“The last two years of this pandemic have been rough for everyone, but what I promise you, your rain could be tears. Your rain could be the chaos of everyday life. You need to learn how to write through it because it is your dream. I don’t believe any of you are here for no reason,” Jackson said.

The Artist in Residence program is put together by the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and is funded through an arts fee in every student’s tuition. The next featured artist in the program will be paper textile designer, photographer and sculptor Fabiola Jean-Louis. Jean-Louis will be at UCA from Nov. 15 through Nov. 18.


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