Kia Addison ’20 wrote her first book at the tender age of 12.
She had read a novel and was unsatisfied with the way it ended.
“I was going to write an alternate [story] and ended up creating my own characters and my own world,” she said.
“I still have not stopped writing. That’s my passion; that’s what I love to do.” said Addison, an English literature major at Pacific University.
Over the years, Addison has written poetry, fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, novels and short stories. Like many writers, she is also voracious reader.
While many of her peers are still sound asleep, Addison rises early each morning to write and reflect. It’s a habit she developed in high school, and her drive is paying off in more ways than one.
In May 2017, she won the inaugural Mitchell S. Jackson Scholarship for Writers of Color for her essay Downward.
The $1,500 scholarship is awarded to an incoming freshman student of color planning to earn a degree in writing, journalism, English, communication or a related field. Addison applied for the scholarship in late 2016, prior to starting at Pacific, where she is majoring in English literature and minoring in editing and publishing.
The scholarship is underwritten by the NW Injury Law Center, a personal injury firm in Vancouver, Wash., and Mitchell Jackson, an award-winning author from Portland, Ore.
In addition to receiving financial support from the scholarship, Addison will also receive mentorship from Jackson, whose latest novel, The Residue Years, won the 2016 Whiting Award and other honors.
In her winning essay, Addison reflects on how language shaped her self-image growing up. In preschool, she was the only African American in her class — a point of difference that she didn’t notice much until other students made an issue of it.
“When you are a kid, you don’t really notice” racial differences, Addison said. But “all the other kids used to [ask], ‘Why are you that color?’”
Addison responded with humor, although not knowingly at the time.
“My grandmother told me that it was because I drank too much chocolate milk,” Addison said.
“That’s what I told them. I think I messed with a lot of people’s minds.”
In her essay, Addison also reflects on how the language often used to describe her hometown, Tacoma, Wash., negatively influenced her own self-image. A port city south of Seattle, Tacoma has made strides in recent years but has long struggled with deep poverty and violence.
“You always say, ‘I’m going down to Tacoma’ if you are from there, mainly because of the [negative] stereotype about Tacoma,” Addison said.
“I became associated with those downward cities, places that aren’t necessarily at the top of the world, yet have the greatest people in them,” she added. “They have incredible infrastructures of charity. There are people building on top of the gunk that may exist in a place” like Tacoma.
Addison’s experiences as a child not only had a profound influence on her early self-image, but eventually her approach to writing too.
“It is still important [to me] to get out the stories of people who may not be heard, but, more importantly, may only be heard in a certain light,” Addison said.
As a writer, she also strives to shine a light on “the incredible work that is being done in some of these ‘downward’ cities.”
At Pacific, Addison has immersed herself in academic and extracurricular activities that have helped her grow as a writer. She has participated in the Speech & Debate Team and the English Club. She is also a member of the Black Student Union.
“I love new experiences because they mean more stories,” she said.
After graduation, she plans to pursue a career as an editor. By mentoring other writers someday, Addison believes she will continue to hone her writing skills.
“I want to create a career out of [reading and writing] so that I can actually do what I love, as opposed to just doing a job for the sake of getting money.”