Why This Matters: Charlotte writer Angela Haigler is one of the four inaugural recipients of ASC’s Emerging Creators Fellowship, which supports emerging creatives with evolving practices that are at pivotal moments in launching sustainable careers in the creative sector.
By Bernie Petit
Angela Haigler is finally living her childhood dream.
After comfortable careers in education and marketing, she left her nine to five behind in 2018 to become a fulltime writer.
“I’m doing it in my fifties, which a lot of people might look at me and go, ‘Oh my God, you should be retiring,’” she said. “But I’m branching out into exploring my creativity on a fuller level.”
In explaining what convinced her to follow her dream, she starts at the beginning – like any good storyteller.
“I like to say I’ve been writing since stick figures were all I could spell,” said Haigler, raised in Florence, SC by a Civil Rights activist mother and a military father.
After her parents read to her, “I would take the books and put my own little picture stories, my own little stick figure stories in the blank pages and I can distinctly remember thinking to myself, ‘I’ve published a book.’”
While the proclivity to write was always present, she decided in high school to pursue a profession with regular hours and benefits. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a journalism degree and went to work at her hometown television station.
She arrived in Charlotte after graduate school in Iowa and took a job at UNC Charlotte. She nurtured her creative passion by taking classes at the university and Central Piedmont Community College. A professor encouraged her to apply for the creative writing graduate program offered by Queens University. Haigler became one of the program’s first graduates in 2003.
“You know, if you’re a writer, you wonder,” she said, “is this a pipe dream or am I good at this?”
Haigler set out to discover how good she was by pitching to write book reviews for Pride Magazine, a Charlotte publication that features and celebrates Blacks in the community. That opportunity led her to interviewing author and essayist Jamaica Kincaid when she was in town for a Charlotte Mecklenburg Library event. That led to a job at the library. Haigler continued to feed her artistic side by teaching creative writing on the side.
But, after 10 years, she needed a different challenge. And her childhood dream was as present and vivid as ever.
“I decided that I could not go back to a traditional job if I didn’t take the opportunity then to move on my creative dreams and goals and plans,” she said. She said that if she passed up that chance “I would never get to do it.”
A contract job to help fund her writing turned her on to the Wildacres Retreat, which offers artist residencies in the North Carolina mountains. Haigler went and focused on writing coming of age stories in the vein of books that inspired her as a young person – those by authors like Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume.
Her essays were well received at the retreat and she kept writing. Further encouragement came from the Charlotte Writers’ Club and Charlotte author Patrice Gopo. Haigler’s essay have since been published in literary magazines and an independent anthology.
In May, Haigler was named one of the four inaugural recipients of ASC’s Emerging Creators Fellowship, which supports emerging creatives with evolving practices that are at pivotal moments in launching sustainable careers in the creative sector.
She used her award to make significant progress on an essay collection during a solo writing retreat this fall in Highlands, NC.
“I was able to dispense those two weeks and really think about the stories that I want to tell,” she said. “And, unless I want to go back to some type of office or traditional job, I have to figure out how to earn a living through my business as a writer, as a teaching artist, as a writer for hire, and so it helped me gain clarity around all of that as well as helping me with my writing.”