That lightbulb moment – when you realize exactly what it is you want to do. That’s just what author Stacy Hawkins Adams experienced when she learned a poem she wrote in fifth grade about police officers was hanging in the lobby of the local police department.
Unbeknownst to Adams, her fifth grade homeroom teacher Alma Jackson had sent her poem to the local police department. A few weeks later she received a letter from the police chief.
“It was a letter thanking me for my poem, one they found meaningful. They framed it,” she says. “For a stranger to say something I wrote was good enough to frame and put in the lobby, that was a lightbulb moment for me. I realized I could write and also that writing in general has power. I could make a difference through my writing.”
Today, Adams is an accomplished author and speaker. To date, she has written nine nationally published novels and two non-fiction books. She is working on her twelfth book. Her novel Watercolored Pearls has been a featured title in college coursework. Coming Home was a Target stores Recommended Read. The Someday List was an Essence magazine bestseller, and Dreams That Won’t Let Go was a Library of Virginia Literary Award finalist.
She is the recipient of the 2021 Motivational Author of the Year award from the National Black Book Festival and was honored with a 2021 Central Virginia Communications & Leadership Award that Toastmasters International gives to non-members.
Stacy Hawkins Adams: From Kindergarten Poems to Published Books
A native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Adams was an anomaly growing up. “I was one of those children who knew early on what I wanted to be – a writer,” she says.
In kindergarten, she was reading and writing poems. Her eldest sister would type up the poems and staple them together like a book and give them to Adams to keep.
Her family, friends, and teachers were always supportive and encouraging. In second grade, her teacher noticed Adams writing above grade level and gave her passes to spend extra time in the library. “The librarian challenged me with books above grade level,” she says.
When she was in the third grade, she started her first novel. Partially finished, she sent it to Harper & Row Junior books when she was ten, in hopes of getting a nod of approval and a commitment to publish.
Instead, she got her first rejection letter in the mail. Ironically, Harper & Row became Harper Collins and twenty-five years after Adams’ childhood rejection letter, Harper Collins became one of her publishers.
In love with creative writing, Adams started researching careers in middle school and started reading about artists and how some were referred to as starving artists. That was not the route she wanted to take, so she began researching a career in journalism, which seemed a steadier career at the time.
“I still loved to write, but I would do it through journalism and make an impact that way,” she says.
Adams served on her high school newspaper and was editor for her college newspaper for two years. She graduated with a degree in mass communications from Jackson State University in Mississippi.
She worked in journalism for several years before moving to Richmond in August 1993 to work for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She was on staff full time for fourteen years, working on the metro desk as the social issues reporter and penning an inspirational column, before leaving in 2006 to focus on her novels.
Stacy Hawkins Adams: Parenting as a Priority
Adams published her first two novels while working at the newspaper. When she left, she was working on her third novel.
After leaving, she wrote a freelance parenting column for the paper until 2018. During her career, she has also worked as a public affairs director and director of communications. She now works full time in strategic communications and continues to teach writing in the community.
“I shaped my career around how to be the best parent I could be,” says Adams whose daughter is now twenty-four and son is twenty-one. “When I left [the newspaper] in 2006, my daughter was six and my son was three. They never knew a world other than the one where mom writes.”
She feels that her kids have been able to chart their own course, in part, because they saw her devotion to her craft and her family.
“They saw me take them on a journey with us in fulfilling our dreams because that helps them know their dreams are possible,” she says.
Everything she has done in life has been in seasons. “I pace myself toward those seasons,” she says, noting she didn’t feel the sadness of empty nest syndrome.“I made sure every stage of their lives I was present for them. When my son was in high school, I made the decision to set aside fiction writing. I stayed engaged, but that time allowed me to be there for him in high school. I am grateful that I have been able to experience a meaningful career while also enjoying my parenting journey.”
Writing Coach and Storyteller Stacy Hawkins Adams
Adams genre is women’s fiction. Her books (three three-book series) focus on elements of women’s friendship, personal growth, self-discovery, journey for faith, and issues in everyday life, from infertility to grief.
“The overarching theme is helping women build self-confidence and empowering them through the fictional characters. I try to tackle everything in fiction in a meaningful way,” she says, adding her non-fiction books tell real-life stories that offer inspiration and that same focus carries over to her fiction. “Fiction is illuminating life’s truth in a way readers can receive it. Fiction really can help people grow.”
About her writing system, Adams says she takes her time. She has a slow process of getting to know her characters and their stories.
“I have been very intentional in my parenting and my life. When I write fiction, I don’t write anyone that I know to honor my relationships,” she says.
Adams started her online writing community, Focused Writers, in 2015. As part of that operation, she took some of the writers she mentors through the process of writing and publishing an anthology of personal essays called On Womanhood. That work was published in 2022.
“It was a yearlong master class that takes you from an idea to a published book,” she says. “They got to see every facet and how much time was invested in publishing a book.”
In addition, Adams teaches her own writing course, Unleash Your Writer Within, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as well as across the country. She will also have a journal writing class at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on April 29.
While Adams enjoys the process of writing and is thriving as an author, it’s the storytelling that she loves the most.
“I am a storyteller at heart,” she says.