It brings breaking tears to my eyes thinking about my progress. I constantly reflect on where I have been and where I am going. Humility is the lesson I hold on to with my letter being in The New York Times. Do you remember the kid growing up who just stuck out in the crowd? This kid would be a bully’s biggest target. I am the person who always stood out. I still do as an adult.

With writing being my gift, since the age of five, I never fit in with my peers. I am told a lot of negative things growing up from adults and people my age. To them, I would never be good enough, pretty enough, or curvy enough. Their words hurt me, but I let it fuel me forward. I refuse to let their actions shape me.

When I first start my brand, Traci Neal Speaker Poet, I have no idea what I am doing. This was only a year ago. I step out on faith after working jobs where I am constantly having to clean and serve. Those jobs teach me the value of humility. It then stays with me on my journey to The New York Times.

Last year, COVID-19 came to America. I am a new business owner. No one wants to hire a public speaker unheard of! I went with what I do well. I perform poetry on the radio. I have no agent or a team, but I learn as I go. I take classes, watch YouTube videos, and learn from people who are where I want to be. I am able to get on 22 radio shows including iHeart and VoiceAmerica Empowerment.

I do not stop there. I write two books. One is a children’s book series to share the life lessons, which mold me toward my purpose in poetry. The other is a poetry book collection of my favorite poems I write in middle school and high school. I also manage to be in publications for newspapers and magazines. I keep telling myself if I did that, I can do this.

That is when I decide to submit my work to The New York Times. I try two times and I am not chosen. The third submission is about a reflection of my life. I simply wish to encourage people to not give up. I think the message came across well. Your story is not over. This could be the beginning. Stay the course. Always trust the process. That is how you win.


This feature was submitted by Traci Neal


Traci Neal is a Youth Author, Professional Christian Poet, and Certified Youth Speaker. She has been featured in the New York Times for her letter to the editor. She is the 2nd place winner of the 2021 Taking It Global Poetry Slam (virtually in Toronto, Canada). Her book, “Lynn Learns Lessons: Courage To Forgive has been nominated for 2021 Readers Choice with TCK Publishing. She has been a radio guest for 22 radio shows including iHeart and VoiceAmerica Empowerment.