Award-winning writer Lynette Norris Wilkinson was born to write. From the time she won her first writing contest at the age of 11, she has always sought self-expression through writing that inspires, influences, and informs. Job titles may have changed over the years, but she considers herself first and foremost a writer. She feels she did not arrive at this point in her life by accident. Her journey has been filled with peaks and lows, roundabouts and sidetracks. Each new job, location, challenge, and experience was perfectly orchestrated to bring her to the exact spot where she is today.
Born and raised in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, she attended Macarty School (kindergarten), McDonogh #19 Elementary School, Lawless Junior High School, and McDonogh #35 Senior High School. At her elementary school in New Orleans, her sixth grade teacher encouraged her to write poems and essays. She entered contests in the local paper and won. For her efforts, she received a stuffed animal and a little cash. From that, she learned the value of the written word.
After graduating cum laude from Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, with a major in journalism and a minor in marketing, she took a job with Dun & Bradstreet as a business reporter. She gathered financial information from business owners and talked to them about the structure of their businesses. Some welcomed her visit. Many did not. Regardless, she picked up the phone or drove to the next business and moved on to the next company on her list. She learned about business, and balance sheets, and budgets—and perseverance.
After marrying and moving to Dallas and working in customer service for a publishing company for a few years, she decided she wanted to get back into writing. Lynette volunteered with the Dallas Public Library and other nonprofit agencies and wrote articles, brochures, and manuals to build her portfolio. She had learned how to reinvent herself.
This really worked in her favor because she was later hired as a technical writer. When Lynette found herself without a job in the aftermath of 9/11, she applied with a major health system in Dallas for a job as a public relations coordinator. The director at that time was not looking for someone with public relations experience; she just wanted a strong writer. That fit Lynette perfectly because she saw where she could use her technical, creative, and business background. She learned it was possible to have a job that fits her personal style and talents, plus work with wonderful people.
In August 2005, Lynette found herself with 16 family members and friends on her doorstep when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. They had nothing but the clothes on their backs and the few possessions they had in their cars. But they had their lives, and they had each other. Through this experience, Lynette learned what really matters.
Seeing the devastated Lower Ninth Ward, she had the God-inspired idea to write a book that celebrated hurricane survivors from that area and donate the proceeds to organizations that are helping residents recover. She says, “You see me as I am now, but there was where it all began. These are my roots and my people. How could I not use my gift to do what is within my power to help?”
And so the book, UNTOLD: The New Orleans 9th Ward You Never Knew, was born. The author says, “If this is the best and biggest thing I ever do in my life, I will be happy.”