A lecturer at Texas State recently released a self-published book titled And Then This Happened, detailing her life experiences growing up in a fundamentalist environment and eventually creating her own startup company.
Holly Wise, journalism lecturer, hasspent the past four years working on her book while juggling a her full-time job teaching and working as a journalist for Voicebox Media, a company she founded in 2012.
“It’s a little bit unique that on the weekends I can be on a reporting trip and then on Tuesday, I am teaching Editing or News Writing II,” Wise said. “I don’t think once you’re a journalist you (ever) stop being one.”
Wise said she tried to make her story as transparent and honest as she could. What she didn’t expect when writing the book was how much of a journey the process would be.
“It’s a story that needs to be told,” Wise said. “And if for no other reason, then maybe to provide some inspiration for one or two people who might need that level of confidence in themselves.”
In more ways than one, Wise said she had the odds stacked against her in life.
When Wise decided to go to college, she had only been educated until the eighth grade.
Wise was still carrying baggage from her childhood when she was told that women can’t go to college or have a career. She was told women who do have careers are the reason their children are addicted to drugs.
Wise grew up with a religious background—the Christian patriarchy movement. Her family didn’t own a TV growing up, so when her family brought home a CD player, it was a big deal.
“It was this question of ‘Is this right? Is God going to be happy with this?’” Wise said. “Now it’s like ‘What? Yes, it’s fine!’”
Wise said her book idea stemmed from blogging, which she started in 2004 as a sophomore in college.
Wise’s blog consisted of recounting early memories, documenting her life growing up in a fundamental background and rediscovering things such as religion, spirituality and politics.
When she decided to write a book, she went back and sifted through significant moments of her life. One of those significant moments when she took a trip to Romania at the age of 19 and discovered she wanted to be a journalist.
Wise spent a lot of time working at orphanages and giving supplies to people in villages during two weeks in Romania. When she returned from her trip, she didn’t have a platform to tell the stories of the people she met.
“I thought, as a journalist, I could have the platform and the power to give a voice and tell people’s stories,” Wise said. “I am a firm believer that we all are part of the change-making process that happens in our society and in our culture.”
Wise said she always knew she wanted to do international humanitarian work. However, she didn’t have a name for her idea until Oct. 2012, when she thought about creating Voicebox Media. Wise wanted to start something that was going to be different and innovative.
“(Wise) has this real sense of adventure for getting out and pursuing stories,” said Kym Fox, associate professor and head of the journalism sequence. “I think she has talent. She’s just a really good storyteller. She’s a good caretaker of people’s stories.”
Voicebox Media was founded Nov. 30, 2012, and in Feb. 2013, Wise went to Kenya to report on humanitarian work.
Wise said her goal is not for the company to become a huge media corporation, but for a group of people who care about the world to make a difference.
“I read their stories and the things that they produce, but it’s also interesting to hear the backstory,” Fox said.
Wise said Voicebox Media writers try their best to fall under the “niche” of solution journalism by providing analysis of social problems that exist in communities and diving into how people are solving them.
“From the beginning, my philosophy was if even for one day we have told one story that matches our vision and reaches our goal and someone is inspired into some sort of action as a result of that story, then we have been successful,” Wise said.