Jaime Openden: Finding Something to Write About

Bio at a Glance

Name: Jaime Openden

Degree and Year: Creative Writing concentration, 2004

Current Position and Employer: Speech-Language Pathologist, Teacher of Students with Speech and Language Disabilities (TSSLD), The McCarton School

Current geographical location: New York City, NY

Field or Fields in which you have worked that relate to your English background: teaching, writing (both creatively and professionally for Huffington Post and her start-up Bignity)

Other degrees or areas of study: MS, Communication Sciences and Disorders 


Jaime Openden

For speech-language pathologist Jaime Openden, being a creative writer is not necessarily about telling your own story, but about telling the stories of others in a way that brings people together.  In addition to teaching, Jaime is a Huffington Post Blogger and founder/CEO of Bignity Ventures, a start-up dedicated to helping to special needs community. Jaime describes Bignity:

Think Facebook meets Huffington Post for the special needs community. We are creating an awesome new social networking site for parents, educators, specialists and individuals with special needs because we believe that everyone has a story to share and that being a part of the world of special needs should be a uniting rather than isolating experience. As John Steinbeck once said, “We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say - and to feel - ‘Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.’ You’re not as alone as you thought.”

Jaime’s background in and passion for creative writing continually informs her vision for Bignity. "I absolutely love that I am now able to showcase my writing style while discussing relevant topics in special needs and special education on Huffington Post and Bignity. It is a fantastic way for me to blend two things that I am passionate about, and it has taught me that I was once far too rigid in my definition of what it means to be a writer.” Bignity allows users to share their stories, resources, lesson plans, and recommendations for local events and establishments.  Bignity is also at work developing speech and language apps for use by young people with special needs.   As if a start-up and teaching career were not enough, Jaime still finds time to work on a novel. Perhaps it is no surprise that an adult capable of blending such diverse interests started out as a student in the English department unafraid of being—and thinking—outside the box.  Jaime tells the story of how she ended up—“in a very un-P.C. way”—in a creative writing course that continues to stand out in her mind today.  Having already taken most of the creative writing classes offered by the department, Jaime sought entrance to a course about creative writing from the African American Perspective.  She explains, “I asked an academic advisor if I was permitted to take this class, because, well, I was a white Jewish girl from Long Island. She said the choice was mine, but to be aware, that I would most likely be the one and only white Jewish girl from Long Island in the class. She was right, but it didn’t matter to me at all. I loved the class, and I loved my professor.”  Jaime’s professor, Brother Yao inspired her to pursue a writing career, but perhaps more importantly conveyed to her that not being the typical student of his class was hardly an obstacle. 

Jaime also recalls, fondly, some unexpected advice from one of UMD’s most prominent creative writers.  Finding herself debating between graduate school in creative writing or in communication sciences, Jaime posed the dilemma to professor and author Howard Norman.  Professor Norman advised her to follow a career path in speech therapy, and his explanation still resonates with Jaime to this day; Jaime recalls, “ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘plenty of people choose to pursue creative writing, but then they have nothing to write about. You have a wonderful opportunity to not only write, but to actually have real life experiences to draw upon.’”  Jaime has been finding things to write about ever since.      

 

Being able to write is an extremely valuable asset, one that is vital no matter what your career path. Focus on continually improving your craft and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to finding a successful career in English or writing that makes you happy and can also support you.  My time in the English Department and UMD as a whole was incredible. I often look back on my college experiences and wish I could be back, even for a day. 

Information on Bignity can be found here.  Bignity is in the process of an update, so be sure to check back if you don't find what you're looking for! You can follow Jaime's Huffington Post articles here.