Justin Williams Pope: A Follow Up To The “From Dream To Reality” Event

We are back with Justin Williams Pope, journalist and writer of the Henry and Matilda’s Adventures children’s book series.

Justin visited us earlier in a live interview in October. We decided to follow up with him here to learn a bit more about his experiences.

Let’s jump back in!

On Education And Success

You have to dare yourself and challenge yourself to grow. If you don’t ask to do it, how will you know if you might get the opportunity? Most people miss out on these things because they are afraid to ask how they can pursue it!

Justin Williams Pope

You spent five years at Wayne Community College, in part, because you didn’t put your best foot forward in your work. What motivated you to take your education seriously? 

My dreams and desires to be successful. I knew that Education was the only route for me to attain success in the area I wanted to be in and I needed to buckle down and get my education.

You struggled with a lot of different career path ideas before you ever left Wayne County. How did you focus enough to pursue a degree in Communications at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington?  

I certainly did struggle. Honestly, I fell into communication studies due to my love for writing as well as my disdain for Math. I knew to be a Communications (Com) major, I could just take statistics and I could still pursue Public Relations or Journalism.

Looking back on the successes you have had so far, how important has college education been to your success as an artist in multiple genres? 

A college education is invaluable because, if anything, classes teach you the best skill of all: time management. It may help teach you something specific to your major, yes. However, the biggest takeaway, in my opinion, of obtaining an undergraduate degree is the ability to manage and balance your time successfully. It is so important. Yes, you may have the skills, but if you don’t know how to manage the time you have, you can never obtain any degree of success.

What advice would you give to students like you that struggle here in their studies today? 

Keep on keeping on. Take advantage of the tools and resources that are on campus: Writing Center, Math Lab, tutors, advisors, etc. to get advice from along the way.  All of those are to your advantage in your educational journey. USE THEM.

You have an amazing gift for pursuing dreams and passions without fear of failure because you believe in yourself and know you can’t fail or succeed without first trying. You have not always felt this way. What helped you take such a positive approach to living your life?  

You have to find that within yourself.  I may not be the smartest person ever, but I have just enough about me to ask the question. For example, I think about how I ended up in the internship at One Tree Hill. I was folding washcloths at Belk one afternoon when I realized I was going to walk into my intern advisor’s office the next day and ask for that internship. Those more daring things have only served to assist in building my confidence. I also credit my yearning to know about things and to dare myself to do it. i.e – dangling nine stories up from the WFD fire tower or wading out into the intracoastal waterway without a lifejacket just to try to help find an endangered species.  You have to dare yourself and challenge yourself to grow and if you don’t ask to do it, how will you know if you might get the opportunity? Most people miss out on these things because they are afraid to ask how they can pursue it!

On Journalism And Acting

There are many different types of writing, but you really fell in love with journalism from the beginning as a student writer and editor for Wayne Community College’s Campus Voice. What made you realize this career was one you really wanted to pursue?  

I have two favorite mediums of writing – the first is that journalism/quasi-editorial of telling a story in a very interpersonal way. I had loved writing since 2nd grade and even when I look back at that now, I was writing very interpersonally then. I thank God for that talent and aim to use it to the best of my ability.  If you can convey a story to a reader, you can change a life! The second type of writing is Public Relations writing. I love writing Press Releases. I excelled at this in college as it was a professional, clear-cut form of writing but if you can make it sound good and clean, it will wow your readers.  It’s also nice to be on both sides: press release writer and then as a journalist, take that press release and create a story out of it. 

Journalists used to take pride in telling well researched, honest stories that were meticulously fact checked and edited for typos. Today, simple typos appear in every article and journalists intentionally report false news as much as real news. What do you think is the cause of this change? 

Sensationalism, unfortunately.  I think Social Media has added to this as many people fancy themselves as journalists when they are not.  Sadly, our world has changed with the advent of social media. We live in a 24 hour a day news, news, news and the need to fill space is there. Unfortunately, journalists are going so fast and there are so few of them for multiple platforms – on cam, on web, print, blog, etc. The medium is no longer just tv or the afternoon newspaper.  
As far as bias in journalism, all stories can be slanted to appeal to a certain audience or persuade a certain group. Or to make someone look bad. If you look back at a broadcast of the news from the 1970’s, Walter Cronkite reported just the facts of what happened.  Today, journalists often insert their own opinion or feelings when they should just report the facts but they want to have their story clicked on so the word sensationalism comes to mind because ultimately, journalism is a business. 

I remember pitching a story to freelance write for a local paper, and the editor took my idea and gave it to his own staff writers to complete. How competitive is journalism today and how can someone new get into it?  

I feel like that was hi-jacking your idea and that’s not nice on that editor’s part to take your idea and give it to a staffer. I have never had that happen to me, yet.  I feel like it is becoming harder and harder to break in as a freelancer in print media at least. There used to be 11 of us and we are now down to 3 in the Wilmington Market. Sadly, the newspapers are shrinking and the need for stringers are not needed like it was in previous years and there is just not the funding for them as advertising dollars are down. 

You have said the landscape of journalism is changing as less and less readers buy print media and the publishers are converting to online subscriptions. How has this changed how writers are managed today?

In my market, I write about happy/community things so it has not affected what I do. I write about church anniversaries, school events, etc.  As we have grown smaller in numbers, my area has increased. Years ago, I was only allowed to write for Pender County but now I cover all three counties. It has been a pro for me because I can cover all three areas but the problem is that if you are looking for immediate news, your phone is the go to. By the time the newspaper comes out, Trump has tweeted something new. The online version is the way to go for instant find out!  I have not been asked to not cover something because I write about things that people will go to the box and pick up a paper.

How has the transition to online readers changed the types of stories you tell? Do you feel you have more or less readers now than you would have had twenty years ago?

No real changes on my story types. But size is much smaller than years ago. I used to write 850 words per story. Today – I cannot go over 350-375 or it will be cut. This is because reader’s attention span is much shorter and they will not take the time to read a longer story.  I feel like 20 years ago – the print subscriptions were much stronger, but online has only increased and the print editions have decreased. 

You were introduced to acting through local theatre here at Wayne Community College and, in the community, through Stage Struck Productions. One of the first things you developed to pursue a career in acting was a professional portfolio of pictures and acting experience. How important was this step towards opening the door in the acting world for you? 

Eh. I never saw myself as an actor. I only developed my portfolio because I needed to as part of my senior seminar at UNCW. It was indeed helpful but it wasn’t the direction I was going in. Whatever you do, however, it is good to have a professional portfolio. 

You had an internship with One Tree Hill in Wilmington. What you expected to be an open door into the world of performance art ended up being a dead end. How did you handle that seeming failure and reshape it into a positive experience?  

I just kind of felt it wasn’t meant to be. There are times in life when you know that it just wasn’t meant to be and that another avenue will open up if you keep pursuing.  I wasn’t going to act. I wanted to write but it didn’t seem to happen and now looking back I wouldn’t want it any other way.  

You have a gap between your two front teeth that is a rather endearing identifying mark, but it hasn’t always been treated that way. What negative comments have you received about your appearance and how have you handled them without letting them derail you?

I find my gap inspiring and I never wanted to change it. I did have it closed in as it was once even larger. It was hurtful when I was told that I would never be on television because it was so large. But there are people with that opinion. I like to think of it as a unique thing because not everyone has it. I’m special!! And again, you just keep going no matter what!!!

You joined a Writers’ Guild to improve your opportunities in the field of writing. There are professional guilds for many artistic careers including acting and writing. What is a guild and how can it be beneficial for an artist to join one?  

I never joined an actors guild, but I joined the Writers Guild. (It is good because) there are tons of resources that benefit a fledgling writer including agent opportunities and writer’s groups. It also gives you a professional standardization that resonates with those in the writing world. 

You transitioned from acting to creating and hosting a show you are pitching to The Discovery Channel now. You proudly claim the show, Sacred Places, will be a lasting legacy of something good you will give back to the world. How difficult has it been for you to take on this role, and what has been your best help in fulfilling it? 

I have had the good fortune to be able to utilize lots of resources to get this off the ground.  My University of North Carolina at Wilmington resources as well as my Wilmington Star News background.  The churches themselves are really the star of the show. They tell the story of our history and our time. I am just like the viewer, along for the ride but I am fortunate to be able to help share these stories with the audience and if picked up, hopefully the world. It has not been a hard task as it is something I love and I am thankful for the opportunity. 

On Creative Writing

You may have the skills, but if you don’t know how to manage the time you have, you can never obtain any degree of success.

Justin Williams Pope

You have explored different types of writing including short stories, screenplays, and children’s literature. How do you determine what genre a story should be in? 

It usually just starts with an idea in my head. It definitely varies as I have lots of ideas. I then use the clustering system to develop the idea and story. For my journalism stories, I use a set formula that makes it easier to write but still compels a reader in.  

You were inspired to tell a travel story as a children’s book that is now a published, ongoing series about a country dog and chicken exploring historic locations in America. How do you determine locations for the series to explore while still making them believable journeys for your characters?  

We have so many great places in America that I want them to travel too.  The first book was a no-brainer. New York is not your average market – it is a global market so I wanted it to be a “larger market” book that would sale lots of books. As we search for new locations, I try to look at what may educate our readers as well as take them to a place of new exploration, somewhere that is fun yet still with great learning opportunity.  Our 4th book that will publish in late 2020 will be in the mid-west and will be the first time we have adventured to that area. 

Some of the best advice given to young writers is to write from what you know. You have done that with the Henry and Matilda’s Adventures series because you grew up on a farm (around farm animals) and used real people to inspire your work. How similar are your literary characters to the real inspiration for Henry and Matilda? 

Henry and Matilda are best friends much like the real Henry (Me) and the real Matilda (my good friend Drucilla) are as we set out on an adventure to New York City. As far as what they are doing, the characters do take on a life of their own.  I like to think of Henry as being very loyal and Matilda as being very sassy but they both certainly love their adventure. 

As simplistic as a children’s story may be to an adult reader, it is actually far more daunting to write. What are the key factors that have to be considered when writing a children’s book?  

A large part is being in harmony with your illustrator. You have to ask ‘can she draw this?’  Henry and Matilda’s illustrations are fantastic painted by a professional artist who met with me in depth over periods at the farm to capture what I wanted. The story is formulated as Henry and Matilda will always go on an adventure together, the artist is the one who brings my story and vision to life. 

The market for children’s literature today is both saturated and competitive. How do you find and create a niche in that genre?  

You follow through and don’t give up.  You keep pushing and develop not only the story but if you want to last, you create a brand. 

In the past, writers wanting to get published would submit work to publishers directly and wait to hear back. Over time, less and less publishers have accepted unsolicited work, and many of them have closed up their doors. You used an agent to help market and get your book published. How did you find an agent, and how has that helped you?   

Any quality presentation would seek out assistance from the Writer’s Guild (yes, it costs money to do so) and their assistance is invaluable.  The Writer’s Guild brings a prestige and professionalism to your work. 

Many writers today are turning away from traditional publishing houses in favor of self-publishing and self-promotion. Presses like Amazon make it possible for writers to do their own layout and print only on demand as copies are sold. How has this made the world of writing better or worse as a whole?  

I don’t think it has made it worse. I think it has actually provided an outlet for people who may just want to see their story come to life. They may have no interest in being a professional writer or a lifetime story teller. I think online has encouraged creativity and has allowed people to see themselves as an author. They may never make tons of money from it but they got their dream of having their book published. 

Some writers feel they are not writers till they can write full-time and live off their writing income, but that is a pressure that often strangles creativity and is unrealistic for most writers. Do you feel writers shame themselves and each other into unrealistic goals?  

The reality is that most writers have another 9-5 job until they can become professional writers in some medium. I don’t know about “shaming themselves”. I can only speak for me, and I look at it as a business just as much as it is a creative passion. Some writers can never discern the two. 

Many writers benefit from the stability of a regular job and write around it. You currently write while working a 40-hour week in Public Relations in the healthcare industry. How has that job enabled you to be a better writer?  

Both are so different – I’m looking at things from two opposite spectrums so I feel l can write from both arenas and it strengthens my writing. 

Many of our readers are aspiring writers too (of all ages). What is your best advice to young, yet unpublished, authors?  

Keep writing. Remember, that there is no plot that has not been done. What can you do to make it unique but sellable? Who is your target audience and follow the correct business steps to get published. 

This concludes our two-part interview with Justin Williams Pope. You can find his Henry and Matilda’s Adventures series available wherever books are sold including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

We hope you were enlightened and encouraged by what was shared. Please leave a comment below and share how we have encouraged you and any questions you may have to continue the discussion.

From Dream To Reality, A Night With Justin Williams Pope

I am here with Justin Williams Pope, Wayne County native and graduate of Charles B. Aycock High School and Wayne Community College. Justin and I went to college together, here at Wayne Community College, and followed each other to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Justin has a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and has made a successful life for himself pursuing his passion for writing and communication. He has come back to Wayne Community College (and this blog) to share a little of his story and knowledge of the writing industry and motivate us to pursue our dreams.  

Justin, tell us a little bit about yourself and who you are.

Source: Wayne Community College

Thank you for joining us!

We hope you found this event to be an encouragement towards your own life goals.

For more about Justin and his writing, don’t miss the follow up blog interview here.


The Flow of Creativity and Why It Moves Through Different Artistic Expressions During Our Lifetime

There is a picture of a pier on a wall where I work. It stretches out over a placid blue sea where grey clouds hover just above the surface in odd shaped boats and hearts. It is dusk and the lights are on. In the distance, yellow lights illuminate life on distant islands. My little pier is empty. It is illuminated just to look out on other shores where richer people than I are living richer lives than mine. It reminds me of The Great Gatsby.

In The Great Gatsby, a poor man fell in love with a rich girl and spent all his efforts to build riches to win her. Though she is married to another man, he still builds a mansion across the bay and looks out across the end of his pier to the green light beaconing from her house to his. It doesn’t end well, but the beauty of his love for her and his willingness to work hard for an impossible dream is an inspiration. It is what I think of when I think of the American dream.

Creativity is like that.

I used to think that words were endless. I would have no shortage of ideas to share or people to listen. Then I discovered new art forms.

When I was exploring painting, I made things up as I went along. I played with paint and glue and ketchup bottles and made my own Jackson Pollack-like painting with embedded words and pictures in the paint. People still stand in awe of that painting and want to buy it.

When I started baking castle cakes, I had a base recipe and experimented from there. I made a castle shaped cake that was split diagonally in half as chocolate and vanilla. I took it to a party and it became all the rage to do again and again in different flavors. I made homemade sorbets to pair with the cakes too. My favorite was a mixed fruit pair that tasted like Juicy Fruit gum.

A friend taught me how to knit and purl, and I was smitten. I took two sticks and started playing with yarn. I figured out how to cable stitch and create different knit textures. I made several scarves freestyling this way before I ever figured out how to read a pattern. It was something my more accomplished friend said she wouldn’t dare to do.

I have been actively exploring a great many creative gifts. It is my passion and my guilty pleasure, but I have learned it may be the reason my writing has gone silent from time to time.

I will let you in on a little secret: I don’t think creativity really leaves us. I think it migrates to other forms of expression. When I was painting and baking and knitting, I wasn’t writing as much. I left the words alone on the pier so I could go party in the greener pastures of my other creative endeavors.

Sometimes creativity in one area takes away from creativity in another. We have a dominant creative voice, for me, it is writing, and when we pull too far from it we start to miss it so much we aren’t whole till it is back in our lives.

Something else about creativity is that it takes discipline and hard work. It is easy to play with different expressions of creativity as an outlet; it is a whole different thing to hone one’s skills into a well-crafted art. We have to make time for ourselves to work on our gifts even when time itself seems to be working against us.

Sometimes creativity migrates; other times it hides. Doubt, stress, and the sheer responsibilities of life keep us from being our best selves.

I have a goal to blog weekly on this blog, seasonally on bairnsbard, and as needed on whitmansacademics. Every week that I got behind on my own deadlines to write made me feel like a failure. The guilt compounded till my words ran dry and over a month of blog posts passed me by. I regret that.

Recently, a local newspaper featured me on a front page story about my blogging and teaching. It reminded me of my responsibility to my writing and to my readers. After some priming, the words returned to the well.

When you think you are in a creative block, have you noticed yourself expressing yourself creatively in other areas of your life? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Transforming an Adult Non-Reader into a Reader

This post is written by Fiona Ingram as part of a blog tour for her latest book, The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper. For more about Fiona or to join her blog tour, check out the information here.


Transforming an adult non-reader into an interested reader might seem, at the outset, to be an insurmountable task. How does one persuade someone who is perhaps now entrenched in their ways, who perhaps has a fixed mindset, that reading is fun and once they start they will discover a new way of thinking?

There are a few reasons an adult is a non-reader.

This could be physical, either poor eyesight or dyslexia that has not been properly diagnosed, and this should be addressed. Perhaps they read as a child, but life, work, busyness, stress, the vagaries of modern living made it impossible to settle down with a book at the end of a hard day, and so they got out of the habit of reading. It could be they were never taught properly during school, were mocked for being ‘slow,’ and did not have either parental or teacher support when they needed it. They may have had to leave school early to go out to work and bring money into the family. The list can go on.

There are easy ways to start a transformation from an adult non-reader to a reader, but it will be slow, depending on the person’s physical abilities and the willingness to learn.

Children may feel embarrassed about not being good readers, but an adult will feel this even more. An adult must rid themselves of any feeling of guilt or shame at not reading. Turn the ‘page,’ so to speak, wipe the slate clean and get ready for a new beginning.
The teacher/tutor or facilitator of the adult reading group can come up with wonderfully creative ideas to get those little grey cells working and to get the group interested.

Start small.

Find out what each person is interested in, what subjects or hobbies they enjoy. Everyone is interested in something. It can be anything from knitting to car maintenance to an interest in whale watching. That is the first and possibly most important step. An excellent task is to invite the group members to bring something – a magazine or newspaper article or a book from the local library – to the group and read an extract to the group for five minutes, outlining something of interest to the other members. The time required is short, most of the meeting will be spent listening to others read their extracts, and suddenly the whole idea is more of a warm and friendly get-together than a cold lesson in the ABCs.

Take the session outdoors.

If the weather permits, and there is a park or an open green space nearby, the tutor can take the students outside, let them relax on rugs (brought for the purpose), and each person reads a short poem. Luckily most modern poems are very short, and a collection won’t be hard to find. Of course, everyone will say they can’t read poetry, they never read poetry, and the last time they read a poem was at school, but soon they’ll all see that no one is a shining star; everyone is in the same boat. Discussion will naturally follow suit.

An adult non-reader will possibly automatically assume that reading always involves books. Not so. Magazines (any kind), the newspaper, journals, publications such as Time Magazine or National Geographic, or collectible part series for hobbyists all have value.

It doesn’t matter what someone reads, as long as they read.

Show and Tell.

Another fun task is to ask the group participants to work on reading something at home, be it an article, newspaper or just a few chapters of a book, and to tell the group about it when they next meet. They can speak for up to two minutes, nothing too long. If this is a topic that piques their interest, you’ll find the person will surprise themselves.
Show and Tell is such a fun way to get people involved. Let the members bring something to show the others while they ‘tell’ them about it. This can be interesting and perhaps even tasty if someone decides to use a recipe for cookies as part of the show, brings cookies, and then gets to tell everyone about the ingredients.

Swop topics.

Everyone writes down on a piece of paper the topic that they are most interested in. Then the members pick the paper slips out of a hat and that’s their topic to research and bring to the next meeting. This can result in some hilarious stuff. Allow people to swop so they don’t feel forced to do a topic but encourage people to rise to the challenge. Keep tasks short, simple and to the point. The facilitator can also do some extra homework and find titles of books – either fiction or non-fiction – on the topics that the group members are interested in. Often people don’t know what they’d like to read after years of not reading.

These suggestions sound like a whole lot of activity and not much reading, but the point is not to sit and watch someone wade painfully through a book. It’s to find the spark that ignites the person’s interest in picking up the printed word for themselves.

Enthusiasm and energy are required to get these non-reading wheels turning, but it can be done. As with youngsters, getting people interested in something is easier when they are having fun!


FionaIngram.jpg (1) (1)

About the Author

Fiona Ingram is a children’s author, but up until a few years ago, she was a journalist and editor. Something rather unexpected sparked her new career as an author—a family trip to Egypt with her mother and two young nephews. They had a great time and she thought she’d write them a short story as a different kind of souvenir…. Well, one book and a planned book series later, she had changed careers. She has now published Book 3 (The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper) in her middle-grade adventure series Chronicles of the Stone, with many awards for the first book,

The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, and a few for Book 2, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, and one already for Book 3! She also teaches online novel writing for aspiring authors and she finds that very satisfying. Relaxation time finds her enjoying something creative or artistic, music, books, theatre or ballet. She loves doing research for her book series. Fiona loves animals and has written two animal rescue stories. She has two adorable (naughty) little dogs called Chloe and Pumpkin, and a beautiful black cat called Bertie.

You can find Fiona at –

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/secretofthesacredscarab/

Website: www.chroniclesofthestone.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/FionaRobyn

Author Site: http://www.FionaIngram.com

Blog: http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2868182.Fiona_Ingram

NASA Television | NASA and the Impact of Andy Weir’s “The Martian”

As I watched the International Space Station receive a resupply shipment from Florida (most likely aided by my brother there) and controlled from the infamous Mission Control Houston this morning, I had to think of how all this is connected to Andy Weir’s “The Martian”.

Sure the astronauts were not in distress and stranded on Mars or anything, but part of the tons of cargo they will unload today is science experiments “for future use”. This led me to think about what future use may mean, and why we would be interested in it at all to begin with. In Weir’s “The Martian”, Mark Watney is a botanist who colonizes Mars by finding a way to create soil and grow his own food on the planet. Sure he still has to wear a pesky space suit because, well, you can’t BREATH on Mars, but he has a series of blow-up tents/greenhouses called Habs that provide enough Earth-like atmosphere for himself and the plants to be able to live outside of suits most of the time. In the book, Mark has a hard time communicating with Earth; in real life, NASA is live-streaming from space! You can watch NASA live here.

Since “The Martian” arrived, there has been a real interest in recreating the science of the book. (It helps that the book became a bestseller and Hollywood made a movie out of it.) There are kids–and adults–all over the US building rockets to go to Mars and reproducing the garden from the book in special labs replicating Martian soil conditions. Some scientists are even trying out different potatoes with soil from Peru because it is most like Martian soil. You can learn more it all here.

What does all this mean?

I believe we may be looking at the dawn of another Space Age. As the public opinion sways the use of the almighty federal dollar, we may see more federal funding return to Space travel. If this happens, our overall knowledge and society will progress. John F. Kennedy felt that way in the 1960s; he had numerous speeches explaining that space exploration could further medical research and so much more. He was a big supporter of space exploration, and it was his bold statement that we would be the first to put a man on the moon that ultimately got us there. In the 1960s, we cared about space enough to put our money where our mouth was. If we do that today, the return could be tremendous.

What “The Martian” taught us was that Mars can be a place for growth and expansion, and space itself can overcome some limitations such as contamination for experiments to learn more. What if we can find cures for diseases? What if we could learn more about the universe and finally figure out time travel? What if we could increase food production by growing in space? What if we could colonize another planet?

Andy Weir and NASA seem to think so.