Centenary grad publishes unique book
January 10, 2017
SHREVEPORT, LA — Author and Centenary alumna Michelle Junot says the writing of her second book, Notes From My Phone*, occurred “completely by accident” and attributes its publication to “a mistake.” The accident was Junot’s discovery of a rich, forgotten source of literary inspiration.
“I was on a plane back to Louisiana in 2012 or 2013, and I needed to clear some space out of my phone,” explains Junot. “I started flipping through the notes section and realized that I’d inadvertently created some kind of personal diary/time capsule of years of my life. It included mundane things – grocery lists, reminders, lists of restaurants I wanted to try – and really personal things – wondering if God could hear me, wondering why my college boyfriend broke up with me again, list of exercise plans and body measurements.”
Reading through this catalogue of her life was a “humbling and kind of funny” moment that took Junot by surprise and also resonated with a friend.
“I made the mistake (which of course has been a great blessing) of telling a friend about the discovery,” says Junot. “That same friend, several years later, started a small press in Baltimore. They asked me to hold off approaching any other publisher when I talked about pulling the book together. Mason Jar Press has been an absolute champion of the work from the beginning – I owe them so much for their support of the project.”
Notes From My Phone* was released by Mason Jar Press in December 2016, and Junot and the press are planning a small book tour to promote the new work in spring 2017. Junot has several writing projects on the horizon but also keeps busy as an adjunct professor in the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA program at the University of Baltimore and as Director of Alumni Relations and Assistant Director of Communications for the university’s School of Law.
Junot’s Centenary education has made her versatile and adaptable, but it also gave her the specific skills and work ethic to pursue her true passion and calling as a writer. And learning to be a writer “has taught me who I am,” says Junot.
“On the most basic level, I write because I have to. It’s how I process. I often don’t know how I feel until I have a quiet morning to write or type it all out. I write. I edit. I write more. I edit more. And that’s how I figure out what I think about things and who I am.”
Junot knew immediately after graduation that she was grateful for her degree from Centenary, but in the nearly six years since leaving the College she has gained a different and deeper perspective on the value of her Centenary education. Junot points directly to many “stellar” Centenary professors who helped prepare her for graduate school and for a career as a writer.
“When I think about my craft as a writer—a craft that is still growing and developing—I think about professors like Dr. Hendricks and The Allegory of the Cave,” says Junot. “I think about Dr. Havird and his literary journalism class—about the piece I wrote while processing my father’s cancer. That’s the piece that made me think I could be a writer; it’s the piece that got me accepted to graduate school. And I think about Dr. Newtown and The Essay. It’s in his class I discovered the art of a segmented essay—a style that I’ve come to adopt and alter for my own in both my books.”
After graduating from Centenary in 2011, Junot moved to Baltimore and entered the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA program at the University of Baltimore, the same program in which she now teaches. She has worked at the university in various capacities since 2012 and also founded the Writers & Words reading series that has become a staple in the Baltimore writing community and was recently voted as the city’s best reading series. She earned her MFA in May 2014 and published her thesis collection, and the floor was always lava, that same month.