In 2018, I realized that retirement was looming, and I hadn't decided what I wanted to be when I grew up! At that point, I had served over 22 years in the Air Force in the Aircraft Maintenance career field, and I was good at my job. No, I was great at my job.
I always thought that I would follow in the footsteps of many of my former colleagues and go into the same field, working for a civilian company. Quite a few more colleagues had opened up their own companies, and they invited me to join their teams when I finally pushed the retirement button. The closer I got to retirement, working in maintenance for someone else, no longer excited me. I found myself longing to make an impact in a much different way. The feeling wouldn't let me rest, so I tucked it in the back of my mind.
During my Air Force career, starting in my first year, people took note of my ability to write. In addition, many supervisors and senior leaders took note of my ability to clearly articulate thoughts, concepts, and ideas and effectively deliver them to audiences of a few to a few thousand. I was often tasked with developing training programs, creating continuity programs, how-to guides, operations manuals, and Air Force Instructions and Operating Instructions.
Early in my career, I got the opportunity to manage a section. I had only been in the Air Force for five years, so I knew I had to work hard to earn the respect of others in my field. I was up for the challenge. I ran a small shop, but I still had a lot of writing to do. During this time, I learned the art of bullet writing, capturing a person, action, impact, and result on one single line!
From my second assignment on, I was in for a rude awakening! I went from one permanently assigned subordinate to overseeing the maintenance of almost 500 personnel at the height of my career. I was now responsible for writing medals, performance reports, letters of counseling, admonishment, reprimand and recommendation, resumes, bios, scripts, training plans, email correspondence, data analysis, legal documents, curriculum, character statements, witness statements, and more. My writing experience increased exponentially in all areas.
Because of my ability to convey concepts, ideas, and results in a single line, I was dubbed the "wordsmith." I quickly became the standard for other supervisors and leaders to aspire to when it came to writing awards. We created friendly competition amongst units to see if they could beat me or if I would continue to "sweep" the awards ceremonies quarter after quarter.
During one of my assignments, I was gifted a red shirt with the image of a closed hand holding a pencil with the "stop" logo surrounding it. It sported a few very socially inappropriate words (according to today's standards) with an unmistakable message: "When it hits my desk, every "i" better be dotted, every "t" better be crossed, and the grammar and punctuation must be impeccable." While many complained, they got it when the Air Force eventually promoted them to my position.
They understood the messaging: People judge your level of intellect and professionalism by the way you write. The quality of your correspondence is a reflection of you. You should be so proud of your name that you want everything you sign to reflect that. Although you may not have written the piece yourself, you let it pass without correction. That document bears your name; therefore, the reader associates your level of competency with the correctness of your paper.
I genuinely believe that "gift" reflected my mental shift towards becoming a writer. I knew then how much word choice matters and the quality of writing matters more. I wanted my troops to understand that concept as clearly as I did. I became a highly sought-after program creator and curriculum writer in the years following. That translated into an equally sought-after trainer, facilitator, and speaker.
People began to take notice of my writing skills and stage presence. I was selected repeatedly to Chair Wing-level observance months, awards, and promotion ceremonies. My leadership invited me to teach at Senior Leader Summits, be a guest during the Wing Commanders Facebook Live address to the base, and speak at the annual Beta Sigma Phi Sorority Convention. My reputation began traveling nationally and globally, which landed me Keynote Speeches at the Building Wealth Together and GLICC innovative Leadership summits, the 47th Annual Hypnotique Convention in India, Ebookery International English, Africa, and India, and more. I have graced many stages as an emcee and gave speeches at many programs, ceremonies, and even a few funerals.
So many people ask me how I can write speeches and deliver them the way I do. Many factors enable me to be successful in what I do. (1) I love reading, and I read often. (2) I have many years of college courses and writing papers under my belt. (3) My vast and consistent experience with various types of writing coupled with my commitment to sharpening my writing skills help me command the stage. Knowing this, I want to share my gift with others.
I decided to pivot when the opportunity to write presented itself to me. I know how important and personal people's stories are, and I see the impact stories can have when people connect. There is an art to storytelling, but there is also an art to writing. I want to give my clients the best possible shot at introducing themselves to the writing community by helping them develop a manuscript that will connect their readers to their story and open doors for more writing, speaking, or coaching opportunities.
In 2019, someone gave me a chance to make my debut in the world as an author. I jumped at the chance. I was still on active duty and deployed when the opportunity presented itself. My days were 12-15 hours long, but I knew I wanted to do for myself what freely I did for others. That was, put them in the spotlight. My other gift is making people shine, and I do that well. I am an amazing second woman. I decided I was going to bet on myself and put myself first. My first book was part of an anthology, and I received an outstanding response to my piece. So, I jumped and did it again.
Taking a chance on me landed me my first paid client. I had known her through a business partner and a business we were both a part of, and she followed my Facebook page for years. I'd always write daily inspirational posts, post videos of my random thoughts, and I was a co-host of a weekly resilience podcast she watched regularly.
Out of the blue, she messaged me asking if I knew a ghostwriter, a term she had run across as she decided to write a book. I told her I didn't, but I would look, and she suddenly blurted out, "I want you to do it!" I was shocked and speechless if I am honest. After a few seconds, I managed to say, "I'll pray about it." to which she told me, "God told me you can do it."
No pressure, right! She threw God in it, so how could I say no? Well, I took the time and prayed as promised, and my answer was a definitive yes. We conducted a strategy call, decided on a payment plan, and I went to work. I even built her a website, complete with blogs, because I knew her book would change lives. Boy, was I right! News spread like wildfire! People were watching her launch videos with credit cards in hand. The response to the release was phenomenal, and the buzz has not died down one bit!
"I Am My Mother's Wildest Dream," by Nyajuok Tongyik, a retired Army Captain, nurse, and former refugee is in high demand. Heads of State in her home country of Sudan have read it. Politicians are talking about it. It opens dialogue and creates cultural change to outdated traditions amongst her people worldwide. It is just as popular with Americans, CEOs, entrepreneurs, veterans, refugees, and people of all walks of life. Her story was featured on television and in news outlets globally. Sales continue to grow, and she got her book translated into Kiswahili, with plans of adding six more languages soon.
It was like I found my "thing." I want every one of my clients to receive the same response. My goal is for every person to be proud of their contribution to the writing world, and I want their books to be more than a decorative piece on someone's bookshelf. My desire is for their stories to impact and transform all who read my client's words. That is my mission.
I know I am accomplishing my mission because I have clenched several book writing, copywriting, content creator, scriptwriting, and program developer deals. My passion for making others shine through the use of words is showing up in their results. That's is what it is about.
When writing a book, your first impression must be your best impression. The goal is to compel people to write 5-star reviews that signal to others that your book is worth purchasing! As an author, people form impressions about you by how well you convey your message with as few mistakes as possible.
My promise to my clients is to treat their book with the same attention to detail I would give to myself. I will seek to understand your audience and the message you intend to convey, do my very best to choose the appropriate words to capture the attention of your audience, keeping them glued to the pages. As a professional writer, it is my duty to help my clients keep this at the forefront of their minds as we work together to craft their stories carefully.
I know how much courage it takes to share a personal story, and I know how much is at stake for business owners, entrepreneurs, speakers, and coaches to have a published book representing their brand. I commit to doing that to the very best of my abilities.
I am so glad I said yes to me. I had to pivot several times on my journey to becoming a writer, but I am the happiest I have ever been in life. It is not just because I do what I love, but because my clients love what I do and produce. I know now more than ever that I am in alignment with my purpose: to help others tell their stories and sell their services through the written word. It has allowed me to say yes to those who need what I am gifted to do! That makes every word I've ever written worth it.
Kamille Yvonne Thomas