Today we’d like to introduce you to Janelle Gray.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve been a writer since I was 11. I always knew that communication and storytelling was my comfort zone. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a focus in Journalism and Spanish from Stephen F. Austin State University. Then, like almost everyone else, I entered the workforce — working in corporate for roughly 10 years. But I never felt truly fulfilled or happy. So, I quit. And then, I moved to Bogotá, Colombia without a job, place to stay, or anyone I knew.
My only intention was to live there for 6-8 months in order to write my first novel about a woman who goes on a civil rights pilgrimage to learn about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Turns out, I loved Colombia enough to stay for three years. During that time, I built a career teaching English at various corporations, a university, and private lessons to independent students.
Completing my novel, Echoes of the Struggle, started a conversation about our collective knowledge of and interaction with history. This conversation turned into a blog accepting articles from people all over the world sharing their experiences with discrimination and inequity. That blog later turned into a podcast, and is now Echoes Media. We seek to eradicate discrimination and promote inclusion by providing platforms to share experiences of communities that often go unseen.
Because social justice is something I’m super passionate about and writing is pretty much who I am, I decided to further my education. I am currently a degree candidate at Harvard Extension School, pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts in Creative Writing and Literature as well as a Graduate Certificate in Social Justice. This program has encouraged and inspired me to create works of art in media such as plays, short films, short stories, and feature-length films.
While creating various art is my passion, I still derive great joy from my students in both Colombia and the U.S. as well as providing editing services for independent projects. Long story short, if it has to do with words, I’m in.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Of course, it hasn’t been easy. It still isn’t easy. In truth, few things truly are easy. As an artist, self-doubt has been my greatest obstacle. It’s the hardest thing to fight. But wanting to be better and do better is what keeps me going.
My advice is when you get down (and you will get down, and it will be okay) lean on your village. And if you don’t have one, create one. My village — my parents (and pretty much all of their friends), my siblings, my family, my friends — has encouraged me in times they didn’t even know were dark for me.
My second piece of advice is this: embrace the words “I don’t know.” That phrase doesn’t show ignorance; it shows great wisdom. Say “I don’t know,” and then say, “Let’s find out.”
Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I’m a playwright, screenwriter, and fiction writer. I often refer to myself as a storyteller or creative. While a lot of my work does deal with social justice movements, I also create stories simply about people we know, we love, we love to hate, and sometimes the people we hate to love.
People can follow me on Instagram @writer_janelle, Facebook @writer.janelle, Twitter @writer_janelle.
I am the founder of Echoes Media. As the editor of The Echoes Blog, I receive many messages from people who want to share but are afraid to because they aren’t writers. My job as an editor is to help you say what you need to say. But Echoes is not about the perfection of the word; it’s about the relief of sharing the story. It’s about changing, diversifying, and clarifying the narratives that are out there in the world.
As the co-producer and co-host of the podcast, Echoes on air!, I am lucky to share space and the mic with not only my awesome co-producer, Jack Piland, and co-host, Chris Silverberg, I get to hear the experiences of people all over the Dallas metroplex as well as voices abroad and share them with others in the hope of creating a more supportive and united community.
I suppose, in this respect, I am not only a storyteller but also a story collector and story sharer.
People can follow Echoes Media on Instagram @echoesmedia1, Facebook @echoesonair, and Twitter @echoesmedia1.
Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
My motto is: Create hope. Forge a path. Change the world.
Debbie Ruegsegger of Debbie Ruegsegger Creative, Joseph Brewster, Brad Holt