We had the good fortune of connecting with delmetria millener and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi delmetria, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
As an English teacher, I make space for my students to write at least three or four times a class period. Sometimes more. But I noticed that my students, my black and brown students especially, seem to brag about how much they hate reading and writing and how neither would “secure that bag” or make them any money. That stung. So I had to do something about it. First, I made writing personally and culturally relevant in the classroom. Then, outside of class, I gave all kind of incentives like ice cream socials, skating parties, “eat write” lunch and learns, jump rope challenges—anything—to get them to join my afterschool writing club. Once I got them there, I gave them creative freedom to express themselves with words on any topic they chose. They wrote together, discussed their stories, cried, laughed, generated ideas, they supported each other. Then, I collaborated with our graphic design teacher to show them how profitable writing could be. They wrote ads, short stories, poetry, memoirs, songs—whatever and the student designers created artwork to match! We had challenges, contests, graded work and events that showcased their talents. When I saw the success, I discovered this “writing club” should be a thing. The #TeenWritersProject was born.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Teenagers need a platform to tell their stories. The #TeenWritersProject provides that platform. In America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe. It’s that simple. It’s that necessary. When I was a teenager, I knew with unadulterated certainty that I wanted to be a writer. But my generation was steered toward pursuing more traditional 9 to 5 jobs. So, I followed. I didn’t have any resources, teachers, community leaders, camp advisors or “disruptors” who could provide resources or tell me how to pursue writing as my career. I had to feel my way through the dark until I figured it out. I joined book clubs, writing groups, critique groups—but I was already in my early 20s when I did all that—working in law firms as a word processor as the closest thing that I knew of to being a writer. Until then, I had no idea how to become published beyond the poems I wrote and read to my stuffed animals and friends and the local papers where I wrote book reviews and community exposés. I had no mentor, no coach, no nonprofit, no idea how to turn my hobby into my hustle. I was frustrated. My turning point was an intimate writer’s workshop I attended hosted by highly acclaimed author and motivational speaker, Anita R. Bunkley, who asked all attendees to introduce ourselves. Our careers ran the gamut of managers, salespeople, college students, lawyers and housewives. When we finished, without a word, Ms. Bunkley dramatically gathered her things and headed toward the door. When questioned she told us that she was in the wrong workshop because none of us had introduced ourselves as a writer. Her antic was lifechanging. We circled the table again, and everyone, including me, sounded like an alcoholics anonymous ad: My name is delmetria millener and I’m a writer. After that experience, forging a career as a writer was still hard, but my mindset had changed. My attitude changed. My confidence changed. And before long, my direction changed. By my late 20s, I had become a nationally published journalist for ABC News, Dallas Morning News, rolling out and so many others. Then, as a copywriter, I wrote for brands like Coca-Cola, Texas Instruments, Eli Lilly, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, among others. Until I believed I was a writer, no one else was going to. Anything you do will require hard work. You just have to choose how hard you will work and how persistent you will work toward your goal. Eventually, you arrive. Reading and writing became my passport to anywhere I wanted to go, literally and figuratively, in the world. As an educator, it’s been my experience that teenagers are the most overlooked demographic when it comes to providing services, resources, outlets or avenues for anything other than “preventions.” So I wanted to create an organization—a brand—for teenagers that provides a collaborative and engaging space for them to write, be published, and learn how to turn their passion to profit. That strategy is what sets us apart. Not only do we teach teens how to get there, we teach them how to stay there, be dope and prosper. We provide all the same “preventions” that other teen-targeted organizations provide but uniquely, we use storytelling to help them channel their vulnerabilities so that they can tell real stories that matter to them, their world and the entire world.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would rent a bed and breakfast in a high rise in downtown Dallas so that we could be in the middle of everywhere. We would definitely explore Deep Ellum, eat at all the eclectic, little known jazz, arts and vegan clubs and cafes, like Recipe Oak Cliff, restaurants at the Farmer’s Market, Sandaga, Buzz Brews, Starbucks on Olive Street and popcorn from Doc Popcorn at the Dallas Farmers Market. We would walk in the Oak Cliff and Cedar Hill Nature Preserves, meditate on Prayer Mountain, and visit all the hidden bookshop, tea, and art gems and metaphysical shops like SoulTopia and The Labyrinth, “Dallas Oldest Witch Shop.” We would visit the Kalachandji temple to meditate, shop and especially, eat. We’d explore the historical and genealogy sections of the Dallas Public Library to scope out and visit historical landmarked homes and buildings, and visit museums in Fair Park and downtown, and all the cultural centers. We would rent a boat and go out for tea, wine, conversations and massages on the lake, and a few of those nights, we would rent rooms in a historic home or hotel and nag the home keeper with a million questions. We’d see a play or two and get matching tattoos, and shop for candles, tea, books, unique art, silver jewelry, essential oils, incense, wraps, shoes, and find handmade quilts. We would visit health food stores and buy vegan foods to cook wherever we’re staying. Every night would end with candlelit conversations and plans over tea, and every morning would begin with meditation, yoga and a walk.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I worked hard as hell, but could not have built any of it without some solid relationships with my ride-or-die family, friends, volunteers, thought partners, work besties, and team members. Specifically, though, the sweat, collaboration and commitment from Bizz of TheBarbersBrand, Risha Grant of Risha Grant LLC, Jennifer Turner of Jet Mode Media, KB of Livi’s Glam Spa, and Shunta Spencer of Your Content, 24/7 was immeasurable in helping me design my life’s story!