Writing works. Take it from Girls Write Now mentee alum Kat Jagai, who used their writing skills to land a paid internship at top publishing house Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—that led to their dream job at Alloy Entertainment/Warner Media. This is just one of the many success stories coming out of our new workforce development program, Writing Works.
“Girls Write Now works,” mentee alum Kat says about their journey in the program, “It really works. With some charities, you don’t know where your money is going. You don’t know if it’s worth it. I promise you, it’s working. It’s changing lives. Girls Write Now cares about the mentees, and they are making a difference. This is how you slay the creature. This is how you break the cycle. You give underprivileged girls and gender-nonconforming kids the tools and connections that other people get at the beginning, pre-prepped in their starter pack for life. That’s what equity means. That’s what activism is.”
Your donation to Girls Write Now directly supports mentees like Kat, both during their time in the program and beyond. Through Writing Works, mentees get support with college essays, scholarships, internships, and professional writing across a broad range of industries, while gaining access to experiences with companies including HBO, Forbes, Penguin Random House, the Royal Bank of Canada, NBC, Fresh, and many more. As we expand Writing Works, we’re bringing even more opportunities to mentees to get into a top college, get their work published, and land their dream jobs.
Our programs demonstrate a clear record of success, but we can’t do it without your help. Support Girls Write Now with a tax-deductible donation today.
Kat’s Full Speech
One of my fellow mentee-alums from the Class of 2012, Danni Green, is working on a horror story collection. In it, poverty is alive: a hungry creature that stalks its prey. The data supports this. Even if one makes it out, a few generations in, the wealth disappears again. It’s like a magic trick. No one knows where the money goes.
My father made it out. Caribbean man makes good. He made it mostly by erasing all the parts of him that were not white, which is to say, everything. And because that was what brought him success, that was what he tried to pass on to me. Intensely abusive in all forms, he went so far as to physically destroy my writing whenever he caught me at it. Writing was not a ladder to safety. It was a pitfall for the foolish.
All this is to say, Girls Write Now was very much a program I did not know I needed. On paper, I was alright. My immigrant family was on the up and up. I had made it into a prestigious school. But the data shows that it is not enough. It is not enough to make it into the gilded house of the middle class. You have to learn how to walk. You have to learn how to carry yourself.
The first reading I ever did for Girls Write Now, I tripped on my way up the stairs and fell onto the stage. It was not, in the words of my Bak Bak, an auspicious omen. In many ways, though, this was the greatest gift that Girls Write Now gave to me. I learned how to hold myself still, and not rock in place with nervousness. I learned how important it was to believe that you deserved to be heard, so that others would believe it too. I learned that how I spoke was just as important as how well I wrote.
But there are other lessons. After I graduated, both from high school and Girls Write Now, I found myself moving through a totally new world. When it came time to find an internship, my wealthy, white classmates already knew people at The Public Theatre and Random House: friends of their parents, aunts, wealthy godmothers. I cold-called over forty organizations and only received five responses: all rejections. One place replied after the internship period had already passed. Desperate, I emailed Girls Write Now again. Did they have any internship leads for winter?
So I worked for Girls Write Now that winter as an office intern. And after college, I found that the same connections that had bought other students their internships had led to real jobs. This time I was not surprised. I understood how the game worked. For two years, I worked three jobs at once. I barely made rent. I struggled with depression. I sent out over a hundred applications to publishing houses and did not receive a single email in reply.
I am standing here now with a full time, well-paying, benefits-included job at Alloy Entertainment, under Warners Bros., because of a pilot internship Girls Write Now set up with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this year. One of the editors at HMH set me up with an interview for my current position. I started last month. When people ask me what it’s like, I tell them it’s my dream job. I have wanted to work in publishing since I was in elementary school, when I first found out that creating books could be a job. And here I am, on my way to doing it.
Girls Write Now works. It really works. So many charities, you don’t know where your money is going. You don’t know if it’s worth it. I promise you, it’s working. It’s changing lives. These women care about the mentees, and they are making a difference. This is how you slay the creature. This is how you break the cycle. You are giving underprivileged girls and gender-nonconforming kids the tools and connections that other people get at the beginning, pre-prepped in their starter pack for life. That’s what equity means. That’s what activism is.
My mentor and I still talk all the time. Our relationship has become a beautiful, reciprocal friendship. I helped her with her PhD applications, and now she is almost done with her PhD from Columbia University. We’re getting coffee next Tuesday. I’m thinking next year, once I’m settled in at my new job, I might apply to the program again. As a mentor this time, of course.
MEET THE AUTHOR
K. A. Jagai is a writer, artist, and editor from Brooklyn, New York. They work in IP for Alloy Entertainment, a creative think tank and full-service editorial partner that develops and produces original books, television series, and feature films. Jagai’s own writing has appeared in Frontier Poetry, Electric Literature, Publishers Weekly, and elsewhere. They were awarded Summer Literary Seminars’ 2018 Poetry Fellowship and have taken classes at Cave Canem. They received their B.A. from Bennington College in 2016, where they studied literature, printmaking, and critical race theory. In both art and writing, they are seeking that light within themselves and others that can only be seen when one is forced into the dark.