Hopkins’ Innovation, Design, and Learning Specialist Keenan Jones was recently awarded the Mirrors and Windows Fellowship, a prestigious writing fellowship. The Mirrors and Windows Fellowship through The Loft Literary Center is a program dedicated to mentoring indigenous writers and writers of color to write picture books, middle grade, and young adult literature. Jones is one of one of twelve fellows in the 2021-22 cohort.
Jones has had an interest in books for as long as he can remember. He began reading chapter books in first grade. He would spend lots of time at the library down the street from his house in the south suburbs of Chicago. The librarian began to remember him and would tell his mom that he would be a scientist one day. Maybe he didn’t become a scientist in the sense that the librarian meant, but he became an expert in the science of putting words together.
Jones realized that he could write at an early age when he won a school-wide essay contest in third grade. He has since taught writing courses for seventh- and eighth-graders, and he has written an unpublished middle grade novel about an African American boy who is trying to find his way through life. He also wrote a children’s book that sheds light on the barbershop experience for Black males and the positive impact the barbershop has on the Black community.
“I have a few other projects that I have started and both of those are children’s books as well, all centering around Black culture and the Black experience in America,” Jones said.
The fellowship will begin in January and last about six months. It will include full day meetings once a month on Saturdays, mentor meetings, and other support throughout the length of the fellowship.
“I’m looking forward to learning from some of the best in the business and understanding the craft behind writing books, as there are so many pieces to it outside of just writing,” Jones said.
Jones has found that believing in yourself, working hard and dreaming big are recipes for success. It isn’t always easy and there are certainly times of defeat and rejection along the way, but he said it should not stop you from believing in yourself. He hopes to share this philosophy by empowering Hopkins students to write and tell stories.
“Writing is such a beautiful and therapeutic process, and it belongs in every classroom,” Jones said. “There is so much potential and we have incredible student writers in Hopkins. We must inspire our students and staff to write, write, write!”