We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Fortenberry and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanessa, why did you pursue a creative career?
Actually, I don’t believe I pursued an artistic/creative career. I’m quite sure it pursued me! When I was a young child, there were two major passions that fascinated me; singing and writing. At the age of six or seven, I remember my family had moved to another neighborhood across town in Atlanta. I would often talk on the phone with my childhood friend whom I missed. But, before we ended our call, she would always ask me to sing. I would break out in a verse of “Jesus Loves Me this I Know.” In addition to singing, I loved writing as a child. I’m sure I wasn’t familiar with the term, genre. But, I wrote poetry, plays, and short stories. To this day, I have a notebook binder of all of my childhood writing projects. When I entered college, I struggled in making a decision regarding my major. Would it be music or writing; I enjoyed both of them equally. When making the final decision, I chose Music with a minor in Voice. People often ask me what instrument I play. My answer: my voice. In all honesty, I was quite horrid in playing instruments, although I wanted to play the flute; but I the embouchure hole of the flute and my lips was not a match, that was not one of my gifts. Many years passed before I would start writing seriously. And, when I did, I hit the road running. God has blessed me with many artistic/creative talents, but I am most thankful for my ministries of singing and writing.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I consider myself to be a diligent, perseverant, and a resourceful worker, wherever or whatever I’m doing. Professionally, I have been a teacher-librarian for 16 years in a public elementary school setting. I have 25 ½ years total under my belt as an educator. My parents and family were a strong influence in my deciding to become a teacher. After working in City Government for many years, I felt a strong urge to pursue teaching and make use of my educational degree. My teaching career began as a middle school and later as an elementary school music teacher and choral director. I was enthusiastic and eager to have earned the opportunity to teach and share my first love with students; music. While I loved my music students, there was talk surfacing about disconnecting the music and art program from the elementary schools. I knew I didn’t want to go back to middle school or high school. So, I decided it was time to create an alternate profession. Determining what I would do next was simple. While my first love is music, my love for books and reading could not be denied. While teaching music at one of my schools, I had the pleasure of observing our teacher-librarian, transform the library media center into a place where students and staff were eager to gather. This lasting memory led me to pursue graduate studies in the field of Media and ultimately a specialist degree. A few years later I also earned a reading endorsement. Working tirelessly with students, staff, and the community to promote literacy has been one of my greatest endeavors. Additional accomplishments include being chosen as Teacher of the Year and also Mentor of the Year. But ultimately, my greatest triumph has been the fruition of observing former students become capable and proficient adults. They have shared with me that my teaching, guidance, patience, and love has been an enormous value to their lives. In my opinion, teaching is not an easy profession. Every day has not been “peaches and crème.” There have been days during my twenty-five year career when I wanted to get my pocketbook and leave. That’s when I sit down and exhale, go home, get a good rest, and come back the next day because after all, it’s a “new day.” Knowing that my presence and service in the teaching profession has been of significance to a child makes me feel that I am accomplishing my life’s mission. As an educator this has been the greatest contribution of all. The many students I have taught throughout my twenty-five years has indeed been an inspiration to me.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
This is a difficult question, in that by nature I am a “homebody.” However, I love to eat seafood, so I would definitely take my friend to one of my favorite restaurants which is Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. Another friend of mine would most likely say I must take my friend to Rays on the River and Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill. And, if our funds started running low, we’d go to Bay Breeze Seafood. To take a walk among nature and to observe natural history, I’d probably take my friend to The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area which is dominated by two granite outcrops and has taken over 400 million years to form. Thereafter, we’d go to the Atlanta History Center and/or the High Museum of Art in mid-town Atlanta. And, I would not allow my friend to leave without going to one of my favorite hangouts, Sights and Sounds Black Cultural Expo Museum; curator Mr. James Horton. It would be of the utmost importance for my friend to accompany me to one of my writing group meetings to get firsthand knowledge of how writers connect and interact with each other. Lastly, I’d take my friend to my church, Antioch AME in Stone Mountain, Ga, where she or he would meet my pastor, Reverend Vandy C. Simmons and some of my most closest friends and members of my church.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I must give recognition to God above any human; for He birthed my unique talents and gifts into me. Thereafter, I give thanks to my parents who loved music and sang themselves. They also encouraged me to write and I know that if they are looking down on me, they would be proud of my accomplishments. There were many nameless people who nurtured me throughout my life as a singer and I am definitely giving them a shout out. Regarding my writing, I am grateful to my family and friends who understood when I had a deadline for a writing project; my publisher, Terri Leidich of BQB; my writing critique groups; my friend, inspirator, accountability partner, and author, Nina Norstrom; my church members and minister, Rev. Vandy C. Simmons, my reading fans, and many other people who have encouraged me along the way.
Youtube: Vanessa Fortenberry
Faith on Every Corner Article Interview-Karen Ruhl, Publisher
Nominate someone: ShoutoutAtlanta is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.