The GNA Insider

Where are they now? Alyssa Waugh GNA ’06

I AM STRENGTH! book cover. Credit: Blind Faith Books

I AM STRENGTH! book cover. Credit: Blind Faith Books

Harley LaRue, Student Editor

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Alyssa Waugh has always expressed her passion for writing, even at a young age. Waugh is an established author, editor, publisher, professor, and activist. On April 4, 2018, Waugh announced the start of I AM STRENGTH: True Stories of Everyday Superwomen on her blog, where she received support through Kickstarter to collect funds in order to publish the collection of stories, art, and poetry created by women.

Kristen Mullen from the Citizen’s Voice
Alyssa Waugh speaking at one of her book readings.

Alyssa Waugh graduated from GNA in  2006. Waugh was an accomplished student, having served as the editor for the Trojan Tribune under supervision from Mr. James Carey. On class night, she won awards for her work on the high school newspaper as well as for her writing ability. Mr. Carey wasn’t just a teacher to Waugh, he was a mentor in many ways. “To this day, he is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, including college and grad school, and he was definitely the most influential as far as me taking writing from a hobby to something more serious. I had him for English in my freshman year and he immediately noticed my talent and potential, which meant a lot to me, because I did not have an easy time in middle school or high school. I was a nerd. I was bullied and made to feel bad about my looks. . . so writing made me feel like I had purpose and something to focus on, and it was something that brought me joy and allowed me to utilize my skills and talents. And Mr. Carey’s acknowledgment of that and his encouragement really legitimized those feelings in a meaningful way,” Waugh stated.

The bullying she faced in high school played a significant role in the starting of I AM STRENGTH. Before Mr. Carey’s encouragement and support, Waugh planned on attending school to become a forensic pathologist before deciding that “writing is what I was meant to do.” However, she warns students, “To any kids reading this, please note writing is not a lucrative career. Maybe double major in English and Biology.”

Waugh went on to double major in English and Education at King’s College. She took many classes in writing along the way: creative writing, mass communications, literature, professional writing. She even worked at the college writing center on campus. She graduated with a M.A. and M.F.A. in creative writing from Wilkes with a concentration in fiction. She was introduced to Etruscan Press whom she know edits manuscripts for. Waugh takes up many unsalaried jobs to support herself. She often teaches writing workshops at Wilkes as well as at local libraries. She is also an adjunct professor teaching creative writing and introductory writing courses at King’s College. However, despite the challenges she faces, she states, “I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else for more money.”

I AM STRENGTH: True Stories of Everyday Superwomen is an anthology meant to empower and encourage women for all they go through every day. Throughout her life, Waugh has listened to stories told by dozens of women about their hardships. As a woman, she has also experienced these challenges. “Like many women, I’ve faced sexism. I’ve faced scary and even life-threatening situations due simply to being a woman. I’ve faced crippling insecurity about my looks,” she explained. Many women contributed their stories to the anthology while Waugh did the editing. She dove deep for details in order to truly highlight just what women go through while making sure the women were safe in telling their stories. In Waugh’s own words, “It collects stories of sexism, inequality, abuse, insecurity, and more, and let’s girls and women know they’re not alone in these experiences, and shows how strength and resiliency prevail. And 2/3 of the proceeds from book sales benefit No Means No Worldwide, whose goal is to create a rape-free world, and Girls Inc. who works with at-risk girls to develop their inherent strength and independence early on.” It took five long months before Waugh released the anthology on August 26, 2018 (Women’s Equality Day). Waugh along with some contributors have held meetings with readers where they discuss the anthology and its purpose for women. More than fifty women have contributed to the anthology.

In order to make her vision come to life, Waugh had to create a small press, Blind Faith Books, in which she held many jobs: “manager, editor, promoter, interviewer, interviewee, designer, liaison, etc.” She had little help in putting it all together, but she became an expert in many fields. In her own words, “When we say ‘small press’ we mean small. Some days, most days, it’s a one woman show. There’s often no one to turn over a small job to. I just take the book from one step of the publishing process to the next. But that’s the whole idea of I AM STRENGTH. That women are superheroes.” I AM STRENGTH showcases the strength in women that many turn a blind eye to.

Although I AM STRENGTH has faced backlash, Waugh has also received hundreds of comments filled with positivity.

From alyssawaugh.com

Many women have used the anthology to help cope with their own struggles. It reminds them that they are not alone no matter what their situation might hold. “The haters truly get lost in this wave of positivity and respect and love and strength. When women band together as a sisterhood and support each other, there really is nothing stronger,” Waugh commented.

I AM STRENGTH isn’t Waugh’s first work. She has many published pieces including “Hell’s Laughter,” “Starfall,” “The Stranger in the Glass,” and “The Memory of Me.” “Hell’s Laughter” was Inkitt.com’s 1st Place Winner of Running Scared’s horror writing competition in March of 2015.

When asked if she had any advice for aspiring writers within our community, Waugh encouraged students to take risks in order to gain experience. “Take every opportunity you are given, and seek out opportunities that aren’t presented to you…People won’t always hand you the internship you need to complete your degree or give you nice bullet points to put on your resume. You may have to build from scratch. Make your own opportunities and garner your own experience. It’s hard work but very rewarding.” She also advised students to make time to write, to make sure all of your ideas are down on paper because “the only difference between a successful writer and an unsuccessful one, is a successful writer makes time to write.”

Waugh is currently working on another anthology; however, this one is based on the topic of addiction. Addiction is an issue that plagues this area as well as many others around the country and around the world. This topic hits home for Waugh as “[addiction] has destroyed innumerable families and claimed the lives of members of my GNA graduating class.” A portion of the proceeds will benefit families seeking help regarding addiction. She’s also working on a fantasy novel and screenplay.

About the Writer
Harley LaRue, Student Writer

My name is Harley LaRue, and I am currently a senior. This is my third year working for The GNA Insider. 

I moved to GNA at the end of the 9th grade...

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Where are they now? Alyssa Waugh GNA ’06