Cija Jefferson, M.F.A.’16
Writer, and Author, Sonic Memories/and other essays
October 16, 2020
When asked what inspired her to be a writer, Cija Jefferson, M.F.A.’16, chuckled. “This is an interesting question because I don’t know if there was one thing I can think of that inspired me, specifically, to be a writer. I do know my mother was very instrumental in making sure all of us read,” she noted. One of seven children, Cija says she and her siblings were always read to as children, and surrounded by books. She recalls always receiving a book for Christmas, “and once we learned to read, we always read voraciously,” she said. Befittingly, Cija pronounced “Kia”, was named after a literary character chosen by her mother.
Author of Sonic Memories/and other essays, Cija believes writing was filtered into her life through osmosis, something she’s developed over the years. She recalls looking through old entries in her post- college journals where she stated she wanted to write, and at the time, not even realizing she had found her calling.
Cija attended undergrad at Sarah Lawrence College, where her concentrations of study were African American Literature and Sociology. She didn’t do much creative writing during this time; however she was consumed with literature, which tied into her love of reading. It wasn’t until after school where she picked up writing and journaling again. She started a Tumblr, Cija’s Quips, and used that platform to write about observations she’d seen in and around Baltimore, general thoughts on how she was feeling, and messages of inspiration and encouragement. It was in this space where she organically gained followers who “vibed with the writing.”
Next step for Cija was graduate school, a place where she could better hone her writing skills. She was working full time, but says she knew she wanted to take her time with graduate studies and immerse herself in the experience. She chose to enroll as a part time student in the University of Baltimore’s M.F.A. program and make the most of her degree. “I was really drawn to the mission, Knowledge That Works,” she explained. “When I read more about what that meant and looked into the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts program I thought, ‘I’m going to leave this program with a product. Not only am I going to enhance my writing skills and learn new things, I’m also going to have something tangible that I can take with me beyond my diploma’.”
Through her time at UBalt, Cija also gained a network of other writers, and artists who are leading an artistic movement in Baltimore. She is currently the host of Writers & Words , a Baltimore reading series founded by two UBalt alums, Michael Tager, M.F.A. ’15 , and Michelle Junot, M.F.A. ’14 , who tapped Cija to co-host. She is also part of an online community of Black women writers, Zora’s Den, founded by Victoria Adams-Kennedy, B.A. ’11, M.F.A. ’16 . Another UBalt alum who went through the Creative Writing program the same time as Cija. “The people I’ve met in the program are my gains. Through whatever networks we had prior to this, we’ve expanded. These things might have been started by UBalt people, but Writers & Words and Zora’s Den have become groups that are impacting the larger artistic and writing community,” says Cija.
For those aspiring to be writers, Cija shares advice that was given to her early on, “Don’t talk about it, be about it! Sit in that chair with your pen and paper, or your computer, and just write! Try not to self-censor along the way, just put your thoughts on the page.” Cija explains it’s not always easy to just sit down and write without judging yourself, but this is what she’s found works for her.