We had the good fortune of connecting with Colette Bennett and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Colette, why did you pursue a creative career?
Most artists will tell you pretty much the same thing: you don’t choose an artistic career, it chooses you. Whatever you’re driven to create hounds you until you let it out. It’s a part of yourself you can choose to have a relationship with or not, but you’re pretty much doomed to restlessness and despair if you don’t. Engaging with the creative spark in your soul can be an exciting and scary process. But once you do it, the feeling is so fulfilling that’s it’s hard to imagine life without it. That’s why I have to write.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Becoming a full-time, paid writer/editor was not only not easy, I never even saw it coming. I spent a decade in non-creative jobs because I believed I needed a college education to become a writer and I did not have one. A few years before I turned 30, the fire of what I really wanted to do started to burn bright again when I discovered the world of video game blogging online. I did it for free at first, but that quickly turned into paid freelance work. I did this for several years until I got an offer to work full time for one of the blogs I admired. A few years later, my writing was passed along to an editor at CNN doing a geek-centric project, and that’s how I entered the breaking news world, someplace I couldn’t have imagined myself before that time. But the ride was great, so I decided to follow it wherever it led me. I learned in my four years working for CNN and HLN that breaking news wasn’t for me. I could do it well, but I didn’t enjoy it–the boundaries of the writing style felt confining to me. I started working on my first novel in my free time, as well as writing short stories when I had ideas. By the time I left CNN in 2016, I knew two things: that I needed to write creatively to feel fulfilled, and that I had fallen in love with editing. I joined writing groups and attended conferences later that year in hopes of pursuing these goals. By 2017 I was starting to send my fiction work out to publications for consideration and take on freelance editing jobs. I continued to work full time at a new news outlet, The Daily Dot, as a geek culture writer. By 2018, my work started getting accepted. I published two short stories in two anthologies, an essay, and a poem. Entering writing competitions was also useful for me as it helped me get great critique and learn what I was doing well and what I needed to work on. 2019 brought my first book deal with Rebellion Publishing, and so I wrote my second novel (which was twice the length of my first)! I was also promoted from writer to editor at The Daily Dot, allowing me to get my first crack at professional editing. I was also starting to see that I had a new dream: editing fiction full-time. I think the key to overcoming the challenges was that I wanted to write so much that I couldn’t imagine my life without it. There were times where I got frustrated and considered giving up. It was tiring working a full-time job and then coming home to write more, but I did it for a long time (and truthfully, I still do it sometimes, even though I write at work as well!). I’ve been writing since I was nine years old, and to me it feels as natural–and crucial–as breathing. So I always keep going. One other crucial lesson I learned was to seek objective criticism wherever I could get it, listen, and use it to make myself better. This is huge for artists of all types. Be willing to learn from others that have traveled the path you’re on. If you take this feedback personally if can cripple your growth. Separate your value from your art. They are not one and the same.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
One of my favorite things to do when a friend is visiting from out of town is to take them to Buford Highway for a homemade Korean dinner on Buford Highway. Yet Tuh is one of its hidden gems, and their mackerel boiled with kimchi in spiced soy sauce is a real treat. I also like to take them to a bakery like Paris Baguette or Sweet Hut as they may get to try some sweets they never have before. If Korean is not on the menu, I also really enjoy bringing friends to Northern China Eatery for their pitch-perfect soup dumplings and Thai Star in Norcross for the best Thai in Atlanta, hands down.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There have been so many people along the way who have helped my journey. But my friend James McCormick, who is an absolutely brilliant writer, has been cheering me on for more than two decades. He saw my creative power long before I could acknowledge it myself. Without his consistent support and love, I do not know if I could have pushed hard enough to find this calling, so I am eternally grateful to him.