TENE EDWARDS walked away from her legal career to become a poet. It was a decsiion some told her would be counter productive but she forged ahead all the same.
Her writing journey began during a period of personal heartbreak and as a self confessed ‘introvert’ a notepad became her therapist and she found peace through her prose.
Voice Online: Can you tell me about your childhood. What were you like growing up?
TENE: I was born in London and played the teacher with my dolls a lot in my primary years. My mother is a teacher so I guess I wanted to be just like her. I moved to Luton just before high school. This was a massive culture shock for me at the time as I was thrown into a new school and went from being in a majority black classroom to a minority black classroom. Also, my mum and dad had just broken up so I had to adapt to them both being in new relationships, my home was not the same but I guess this taught me from a very young age how to enjoy my own company.
Another thing I remember doing as a child was writing about my sad days, however I stopped journalling for years and I guess that was the reason why when I picked up the pen to write again it felt like the first time. Never in a million years did I know that writing in this way would creep back up and manifest itself into my adult life. Art was my favourite subject in High School, I put my heart and soul into everything I created in that lesson and my art teacher truly believed in my work. I was shy but unruly. I grew up with a rowdy set of friends in London and that kind of rubbed off on me slightly. Luton helped to calm me down, I did get into a few confrontations but I was more focused in Luton on my education and future than I ever was living in London. I think my new friends in Luton helped me to prioritise my education as they did, and this kind of rubbed off on me too.
Voice Online: What was your favourite book as a kid and why?
TENE: I don’t remember reading much as a child to be honest, I also asked my mum and she can’t remember either haha. I do however remember watching a lot of Spot the Dog and Bambi on videotapes over and over again. I’m a 90s baby, I think these shows were just the in thing at the time.
Voice Online: I understand you were looking to pursue a career in law. What led to you writing Walk With Wings?
TENE: I graduated from Kingston University with a 2:1 Law degree and strived to become a city lawyer back in 2014 till about 2016. I had no interest in becoming an author as a child, but heartbreak led me to picking up a paper and pen. Little did I know that this was the beginning to the discovering of my life purpose. The messages and dm’s I was receiving from people online really opened my eyes to the impact my words were having on others, women especially. I have had so many readers message me to say that I have given them the strength and courage to fight through another day. Many have also reached out to tell me that I have helped them to love themselves again. I walked away from my legal career early last year because this feedback for my writing made me feel alive and meaningful, a feeling legal work did not give me.
I’d say that my inspiration to write Walk With Wings came from a number of different sources, one being from another poet named Najwa Zebian who really inspired me and another being from a few of my followers who had asked me if I had written a book. I really wanted to give the lovers of my work something that they can hold, carry and make their own through marking favourite pieces etc. I have seen a few people colour in the illustrations on some of the pages in the book and it just looks so, very cool. To begin with I had no idea how a book was created, but I told myself that if I get the content written down and organised into pages I could do my research and take it from there, and that is exactly what I did.
Voice Online: You say you write to heal. Can you tell us about that?
TENE: I like to write about the things that we as women find embarrassing to talk about, not just for my own healing but to help aid the healing of others. I think it’s healing for us as people to read about somebody else who is going through or has gone through if not the same, similar struggles; especially if we have not opened up about them yet.
Voice Online: What do you hope readers get from your work?
TENE: Six reasons Why I wrote Walk With Wings:
1. To heal.
2. To empower those suffering in silence.
3. To deliver comfort and hope to those feeling lost and alone.
4. To encourage those who struggle with fear.
5. To help others cultivate a more supportive and loving relationship with themselves.
6. To inspire freeeedom.
Voice Online: What are some of your favourite pieces from your book and why?
TENE: My favourite pieces change all the time through different life challenges, but the pieces which have entirely shifted my mindset and continue to empower me has got to be:
Plus, ‘A Letter to My Natural Hair’ found on page 65 in Walk With Wings
Voice Online: Have you got any tips for other aspiring writers?
TENE: Everyone has a voice worthy of being heard
My story will touch people that your story could never touch and your story will touch people that my story could never touch.
Believe in yourself and write with loveAs DJ Khaled said “If you’re waiting for someone to believe in you, congratulate you or cheer you on through every step of the way, you’ve played yourself.” I believe in me, I congratulate me, I cheer myself on. The love I receive from others is a joyful bonus, my readers are a huge part of my journey; their support means more to me than they will ever know, but I have to make sure that I feed myself the love and support first for the good of my mental health and self-development.
TheRight Mentors Can Help you Elevate
Find mentors who understand, encourage, challenge, support and believe in your dreams and do the same for them. I am truly grateful for the Self-Made Mastermind and Mentoring Community by Bianca and Byron Cole. I think mentors are a very powerful, and often under-utilised source of help, advice and opportunity.
Stay consistent and never give up: It took blood, sweat and tears to get to where I am today. There were times when I was broke and didn’t even have the money to travel to the events I was supposed to be performing and sharing my author journey at. One time in particular, I remember when I was invited to exhibit at Our Naked Truths by the Founder Jocelyn and I had no money for the train that morning so I asked my mum to borrow the fare who was also struggling and although she handed it over to me she was not happy at all and complained about it. I made it to Our Naked Truths and made the money back that my mum borrowed me through book sales plus more. I had money for the week to get to and from work and to eat for the week – I don’t even think the people who supported me that day knew what they did. – the power of passion and perseverance.
Voice Online: How has social media impacted your work and your ability to get your message out there? (e.g. Kardashian).
TENE: Although Khloe bleeds the same colour blood as us all, The Khardashians are if not the most famous, one of the most famous families out there and out of all the billions of quotes and poetry pieces that Khloe would have come across, she chose to share one of mine with her 99.5 million followers – that was big for me and just proves the impact of social media. Khloe, along with the other celebrities Kandi Burruss, Dascha Polanco and Wesley Snipes sharing my work really added to my credibility offline as well as online.
I think people have started to take me more seriously and I am now getting more opportunities to collaborate, perform and share my story literally left, right and centre. I built my brand on social media and this has allowed Walk With Wings to reach people in countries I have never been to or even heard of before. Knowing that Walk With Wings has reached thousands and thousands of people just feels so surreal to me, but yes social media did that. I go to a lot of networking events and when I hear somebody with a business tell me that they are not on social media it brings pain to my ears. The one thing I have learnt from sharing my words on social media is that we all experience the same emotions and we all go through some of the same challenges, regardless of where we are in the world.
Voice Online: What’s next for you?
TENE: I announced on my insta story not too long ago that I am working on a children’s book. This is pretty much done and I have already pitched it to my dream publisher. I hope that everyone will keep their fingers crossed for me. I am also working on a few more projects; I will be opening a store of a limited edition product just before the new year and plan to organise a bigger tour so that I can meet more of my beautiful readers. Also, Maxine Wynter and I are passionate about helping others to cultivate a more supportive and loving relationship with themselves and have therefore decided to collaborate on delivering more self-care workshops. Join the mailing list to be the first to know what’s new and about what I have been up to; events. workshops. books. upcoming projects and more.
Voice Online: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give a younger Tene?
TENE: It would have to be one of my most shared poems:
Your mind is your lead, inject it with positivity. Your feet are your foundation, walk with purpose. And your heart is your stamp, make it beautiful.
Edwards will be speaking and sharing her journey on how she learnt to monetise her passion of writing at: Vision Board & Vegan Lunch by Intuitively Improvised on February 22.
TIME: 11 – 6pm.