Featured Writer: Keri Black

Keri Black holds up a YWCA shirt

Keri Black is the Rape Crisis Center Director at the YWCA Rape Crisis Center of Northwest Ohio. She generously agreed to an interview about her writing background and professional experiences.

Where you are originally from? What community are you part of? What is your current profession? What is your educational background? What are your hobbies?  

I am originally from Swanton, OH which is a small rural community about 45 minutes outside of Toledo. I currently reside in Sylvania, OH which is an immediate suburb of Toledo. In 2011, I graduated from Adrian College in Adrian, MI with my B.A. in English-Writing and a completed minor in Women's Studies. My final undergraduate research project was on the presence of rape culture in amateur erotic literature. In 2013, I graduated from The University of Toledo with my M.A. in Liberal Studies with a Concentration in Women and Gender Studies. My graduate research project was on the effectiveness of the Duluth Model of Power and Control, when implemented in batterer intervention programming. During graduate school, I worked as a Victim Advocate and Case Manager at AWARE, Inc. which is a dual-service domestic and sexual violence intervention program in Jackson, MI.

Upon obtaining my M.A. in May of 2013, I began work as an Outreach Advocate at the YWCA Rape Crisis Center of Northwest Ohio. In January of 2016, I was promoted to the position of Volunteer Coordinator, and received another promotion to Program Manager in October of 2016. In June 2018, I was promoted to Rape Crisis Center Director, which is my current role.

I have a husband and one daughter, Iris (age 3). I am pregnant with our second daughter, Arbor, who is due to arrive in November 2019. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family and attending craft beer tastings with my husband.

What kind of writing (personally or professionally) do you do?

Professionally, I write grant narratives and reports, as I am a Program Director at a large nonprofit agency. I also write client case notes and data analyses. Personally, I enjoy writing poetry and personal narratives (journaling).

What do you value most in writing (the writing that you do and/or the writing that you read)?

I am a fan of any writing that inspires change and advocacy. This is why I enjoy writing grant narratives. I like feeling as if the words I am crafting have meaning. Being able to utilize my writing skills to justify the work that is being done at my agency in order to ensure future funding is a very powerful feeling.

Can you describe your writing process? What does a typical writing session look like for you?

I have to be alone in a quiet space in order to write. When it comes to writing professionally, I am usually working against a deadline, so it can be very difficult to become motivated to start writing. Once I do start, however, I find that the words usually flow smoothly and fluidly and I am able to finish the project quickly, if allowed to write without interruption. When I am interrupted, as often happens working in a crisis center, I address the interrupting issue and then the whole process must start over again.

Who are your influences in learning how to write and pursuing writing personally and/or professionally?

One of the most influential characters in my writing journey has been my former Creative Writing Professor, Dr. Don Cellini. Dr. Cellini taught my Advanced Creative Writing-Poetry class during my undergraduate education, and I learned more in the few months I had him as a professor than I think I have in all my years of education. His constructive criticism was always pointed and direct. Though this was a frustration for me as an arrogant student, who thought I already knew all there was to know about writing, I quickly realized that I could write so much better when I took his direction. Dr. Cellini is now retired, but continues to write and translate poetry professionally. I recently had the pleasure of seeing him perform at a live poetry reading here in Toledo. I continue to stay in touch with Dr. Cellini and he continues to be one of my greatest inspirations.

What advice would you give to writers in your field and beyond?

For anyone writing at the corporate level, whether it be in the private or nonprofit sector, the best advice I can give you is to not be discouraged. Writing is an art, but when seen through a purely fiscal lens, a lot of times it can feel as if your creativity has been stripped from you and you are only writing to please others. Writing fiscal narratives is persuasive writing on steroids, and it is never forgiving. Sometimes, it can feel like a thankless job, even when you've accomplished your intended purpose. Know that, while others often have the power to make changes to your work, sometimes to the point that you don't even recognize it as your own, their editorial work and critiques should not be taken personally and do not directly reflect on your skills and abilities.

With that being said, you always have a right to differentiate between your work and the work of others, and you should. Make it known to your audience that your work has gone through a rigorous corporate editorial process, and direct questions and concerns regarding the final product to the editor. Although in this field, the final product is oftentimes outside of our control, we can always choose to only take responsibility for our contribution to it. This helps to preserve our voice and also to give credit to the editor for their contribution. For those of you who someday find yourself in this situation, I encourage you to continue writing on your own time, for pleasure. Write something that will remain untouched, so your true creativity and voice can shine through. The writing world still wants to hear your voice, opinions, and ideas, even if it seems as if the corporate world does not.