Name: Shae McCoy
Job Title(s): Journalist/ Photographer (freelance)
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore’s own Shae McCoy has been consistently blazing platforms and leaving her media footprint within the DMV ( DC-MD-VA) area and beyond. At the ripe age of 22, she founded Uncommonrealist.com, a media source positively cultivating the minds of the public in not just the realest way but in a “realist” way.
McCoy’s deep passion for pop culture, the arts, and news has enabled her to expand her brand and be in the same room with the greats. Shae has had the honor to interview actors, activists, community leaders, and local politicians. One of the highlights of her career was interviewing the Michael B. Jordan, who starred in the Wire, Fruitvale Station, and Friday Night Lights.
Shae fell in love with words at an early age. She was enamored with its power to move, motivate, and inspire. As a young girl, she wrote personal narratives and short stories. As Shae grew older, she grew fond of journalism and realized that is how she would make her mark on the world.
She recently started Coy-Op Photos, a photography brand that caters to various types of photography.
Sapphire: Though you’re so young, your journey as a photojournalist has been a long one. Can you tell us how you got started? Which came first, your love of writing or love of photography?
Shae: I started this journey as just a blogger/journalist in 2013. Uncommonrealist really was something that was created in the same day that I thought about it. For years before that, I wanted to create a blog, but didn’t know where to start. I literally just had a day off from my retail job and got to work. The name of my blog came as fast as lightning, I didn’t have to put too much thought into it. I wrote my first article about Fruitvale Station and once I started receiving feedback about my article I knew that this was something I was meant to do and to keep it up.
I started doing photography in July of 2016. I originally picked up photography to be able to add photos to my articles so that I wouldn’t have to search for images via google. That plan didn’t stick too long because it was festival season, so I ventured out. I took my first collection of photos at the African American Festival and was pleased with results. That was also where I picked up my first paid gig.
Sapphire: Three years ago, you started your own company, The Uncommon Realist. What inspired you to launch your own brand? What did publishing under your own brand do for you as a journalist?
Shae: I’ve loved to write ever since I was a kid, I started out with creative writing. I always wrote the best stories, narratives and poems in my classes. Writing is something I can do with my eyes closed as long as it isn’t being forced, because no one wants to be forced when it comes to something they love. As I grew older I kind of strayed away from writing for a while because I was going through turmoil at home.
Once I got to college and saw that there were classes dedicated to writing, I picked it back up. I always knew that I would find a place in the media field, I just didn’t know where I would be exactly. News reporting always sparked my interest, but I didn’t think I was fit for TV so I gradually moved into writing in a journalistic style. I started Uncommonrealist in my sophomore year of college and then left school for three years. I didn’t think I was focused enough at the time. Starting Uncomonrealist definitely is shaping me as a professional and developing me as a person. As a journalist, it has presented me with plenty of opportunities.
Sapphire: You’re a contributing writer to the newspaper at the University of Baltimore, The UB Post; How long have you been writing for the publication? What are you majoring in at the University of Baltimore?
Shae: I have been writing for The UB Post since February of this year. My major is Digital Communications.
Sapphire: You recently wrote an article about the state of Baltimore’s inner city communities, focused on generational poverty and gentrification. What made you decide to write the story? What kind of response did you get?
Shae: I wrote that story because I am living that story as we speak. I am in a better space than I was growing up, but I am still in the same neighborhood I wrote about. The way that it is changing before my eyes is mind blowing and I had to express that because I know a lot of inner city residents can relate. The responses I received were mostly in concurrence with what I discussed. People were offering suggestions and trying to help.
Sapphire: There’s a huge LED billboard on Charles Street, a major Baltimore thoroughfare; it’s located practically right outside on Baltimore’s Penn Station which is a central transportation hub for the east coast. What does it feel like to have your work on a billboard with the capacity to reach millions of people daily?
Shae: It was a great feeling, a small success, but a great feeling nonetheless. It was just something on my list that I wanted to do. It was cool to see my work up that high and for people to stop and take pictures. I made sure that I included photos that I took of people I know so that they could see themselves up there as well.
Sapphire: Photographers tend to be shy, quiet thoughtful types. Who is Shae McCoy? How would you describe your personality and personal style?
Shae: I’m someone who appears to be very social, but really likes to be around a small amount of people or alone. I’m always shy in the beginning until I feels like she is comfortable enough to be open and fun around you. I’m outgoing and outspoken, which can appear as a contradiction to my usual laid back self. I just likes to be comfortable when not out working hard, that usually requires a loose outfit and a place with a great view.
Sapphire: Where do you see yourself five years after graduation from UB?
Shae: Working in a newsroom, but if print media is still relevant in 5 years I can see myself in that field as well. I see myself as a photographer for huge companies and both of my brands expanding in a major way. I never really answer this question too well. [lol] The world is forever changing I just hope to be on the good end of things.
Sapphire: I’ve noticed and have been enjoying your summer photo series. What can people expect from you this summer?
Shae: Thank you. I plan on having a book made for 2 of my photography collections, one old and one new. While preparing for that I will be around at some of the local events this summer snapping photos and doing shoots.
Sapphire: Where can people keep up with your work and find more of you?
Shae: People can keep up with brands by:
Visiting and subscribing to Uncommonralist.com
Liking “Uncommonrealist” on facebook
Following “Uncomonrealist” on soundcloud
Following “Uncommonrealist” on Tumblr
Thank you so much for having me!
Essays of reflection on love, life, parenthood, transition, death etc. I am looking for essays that a reader will be able to see your growth from where you were in mindset when the essay started versus where it was when it culminates.
Word length 2,500 to 4,000 (exceptionally good essays of up to 5,000 words will be considered)
Fee $50 add your essay and contact information plus ONE copy of Reflections. $125 add advertisement for your own book or project plus 5 copies of Reflections.
“Reflections: Getting to the Heart of Me” will be available on Amazon, CreateSpace and at Barnes and Nobles June 15, 2017.
Essays due no later than June 20, 2017
Submit your essay to Sapphirethesexyone@gmail.com for consideration
I recently published a book of poems titled “Writing for My Sanity” because honestly, writing has saved my life many times. I’ve kept a journal my whole life, in fact I still have one of my journals left from high school.
As I’ve aged, not only have I continued to journal but I started blogging as well. Through my blogging, I started to notice my writing develop. Eventually, I found that I had become an essayist without even noticing.
No longer was I just pouring out my heart, my feelings and emotions but I was growing through the insight I was getting from my writing. I was able to share my own personal experiences yet have a message that was generally universal.
As I’ve written and shared my life with strangers across the world for the last 10 years, I’ve connected with so many on a personal level. As a person who has dealt with feeling alone and isolated, it’s been encouraging and therapeutic to connect with others who can relate to how I feel.
It feels even better when someone tells me they gained clarity, insight, or peace in their own situations from me sharing my own.
I’ve compiled a series of essays that I can see the growth in myself through such as a letter to my dead mother, pieces on self-esteem, love, motherhood and more. The essays will be put together in a book titled “Reflections: Getting to the Heart of Me”.
With the second book I published, Writing for My Sanity, I allowed two other talented writers to share their poems with my readers inside the book. I am doing the same with “Reflections”, I am opening space up for other writers to share their essays as well. I encourage you to use this opportunity to invest in yourself and increase your reader base. I look forward to reading your submissions.
Name: Caitlin Tabilog
Location: Atlanta, GA
Talents: Photography, soccer, painting, drawing, and piano
Sapphire: You’re a great photographer, your range is awesome. How do you decide what projects to take on or start?
Caitlin: Thank you very much! I appreciate it! Being young, ambitious, and having a love for learning, I’m open to almost any type of project that arises. I want to gain as much experience and knowledge I can with photography and the business side of photography.
Sapphire: I love that you are not stuck in a studio all the time, you seem to have an affinity for nature shots. What so many outdoor shoots?
Caitlin: There is a special beauty and glow with natural lighting that is difficult to replicate with artificial lighting. I also love the bokeh effect (blurred background) that also causes the blending of colors found in nature that happens when you photograph a subject in a nature environment for the background.
Sapphire: I’m pretty impressed in this day and age that you’ve dabbled with actual film. What made you go retro and try it? How did you like the results compared to digital photos?
Caitlin: I took two film photography classes my freshman year of college (2014-2015). We were required to shoot our assignments with film and develop the photos ourselves in the darkroom. Photos taken with film have a particular visual result compared to digital photos and feel more personable. I feel more attached to film photos, because you are responsible for getting the exposure correct without a preview in the camera. Also, it’s important to get the developmental steps in the darkroom correct, because there is no undo, preview, or delete button unlike digital cameras and photo applications. Also, there is a distinctive color effect, sharpness, and grainy look to film photographs that I think many photographers, presets, and filters are often trying to replicate with digital photos.
Sapphire: So many photographers are stuck on models, you capture real people. What made you decide to go against the norm?
Caitlin: Due to not having that much experience yet with photographing portraits, I had to practice with people that I knew who I perceived would enjoy modeling in front of the camera to build my portfolio in the beginning. I also adore bringing out the beauty, or the best in people that many clients are not aware of or who are insecure about the way they look.
Sapphire: Switching gears for a moment I see that you have another talent. You’re a writer as well. Care to share more about that?
Caitlin: I was a writer for The Odyssey for a short period of time, but I enjoy journaling during any free time I have. I believe writing is another art form, and it is a healthy way to express and release your own feelings and personal experiences.
Sapphire: I love that you’ve taken the time to learn the process and not just point and click. How hard was it learning to edit your own photos? Do you offer editing services to others?
Caitlin: Thank you! Learning how to edit my photos took a lot of time, dedication, and trial and error. However, there is a lot of helpful and quality information that is easily accessible through the internet. Creative Live, Phlearn, and Fstoppers are great on-line resources for information. I do offer editing services to others. I have retouched other photographer’s photos before, and I can be requested to teach my culling, editing, and retouching process to anyone who is interested by emailing me at photography@caitlintabilog.
Sapphire: Do you remember the joy and excitement you felt when you first learned that your work had been chosen to be displayed at the Roswell Visual Arts Center?
Caitlin: I was very grateful to learn that my photos had been chosen to be displayed at the Roswell Visual Arts Center, but I was even more excited to learn that my photography professor organized a class field trip to have the class drive to the gallery to view my work.
Sapphire: What’s next for you? What can we expect to see in 2016?
Caitlin: I am currently communicating and working with a non-profit organization to help teach a photography class for children and teens who have loss a loved one to show them how they can use photography to express their emotions. Additionally, in 2016, I plan to learn as much as I can about photography and the business aspect of it through my internship with a local photography studio and work to save as much money as I can to hopefully visit New York City one day. I aspire to visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York someday and view in person the art pieces that I have been studying in college and adore.
Sapphire: Where can people keep up with you and your work?
Caitlin: People can keep up with myself and my work through my website and social media.
I’m the first to say you can find talent in all places but I was shocked to find it flowing from My own womb. I entered My son into this poetry writing/spoken word program for the summer with the Maya Baraka Institute directed and ran by various National poetry slam winners and contestants. The program is for youths age 13-20 and focuses on spoken word and the creative arts with an afro-centric flair.
We were invited to their first performance last week which was in the format of an open mic which was also open to the public sponsored by the Maya Baraka program along with Dew More Baltimore. The open mic was hosted by the youths of the program and many of them blessed us with their talents from singing, to poetry and rapping. I recorded quite a few of the performances but no where near all of them nor did I capture what I think were some of the best performances.
Hopefully you will enjoy a peek into what you missed. These talented teens and young adults blew Me away.
I have a few more videos from the event and will be continuing to upload them to youtube at http://www.tinyurl.com/sapphiresyoutube.com
So it’s no big secret that I love to write, I’ve been writing longer than I remember, blogging for almost 8 years and writing for publications for two years now. I love that My pen gives Me a way to express all the things tumbling around in My head and I never get enough of the fact that people actually enjoy reading it,
It all started with notebook after notebook full of journals, poetry and half finished stories I’ve started. Up until 2008 or so I had never even finished one of the stories or books I’d started. A short story for My website gained Me a little popularity and caused Me to write more to appease the few who requested it.
The next thing you know I took a chance and asked a guy starting a brand new magazine if I could write an erotic story for it and he said sure. My first story published in print was “Facebook Fun” in 86 Blvd and since then I have written for each of the subsequent 10 issues and was recently given the honor of interviewing cover model Nyomi Banxxx for them.
My regular byline in 86 Blvd was the springboard for Me contacting other urban magazines and asking for a chance to write for them. To date My writing has been featured in 27 issues of print publications and that includes My monthly column in BADD Magazine. I get a thrill every time a new magazine or website approaches Me to write for them but it also made Me realize it was time to work on My own project as well. I mean I love creating content for others but we all know its much better to be on the receiving end of the residual income.
Yesterday morning I got my lazy butt to the computer and said it’s time. Honestly, I’m now a month behind the deadline I scheduled last year. My first compilation of erotic stories were supposed to be ready by Valentine’s Day but I took a month to rest. I went through My stories and picked the first twelve I’d like to publish in a book of short stories. I started formatting but it was getting overwhelming so I took a break. Tomorrow I will be right back at it
During this time while I’m focusing on My writing I’ve been checking out all types of websites, writing groups etc that can benefit ANY writer, not just a writer of erotic stories. I’ve found some great articles and websites. One of the websites I’ve fallen in love with is Writers Life. I won’t bog this blog post down with links but I’ve linked some of the most recent articles I’ve read as well as a *FREE writers toolkit below.
I will be sure to add this site to the resource area for writers I have here on this site at http://sapphirespotlightontalent.com/resource-guide/resources-for-poets-writers/
Do you have a true life inspirational story to share? Your original true life stories can get you the opportunity to be published in one of the upcoming “Chicken Soup For The Soul” books. The story has to be 100% true and MUST be inspirational. Writers who stories that are published will be compensated $200. To date, the Chicken Soup For The Soul franchise has sold over 500 MILLION books, don’t miss the opportunity to have your work featured in one.
If they publish your story or poem, you will be paid $200 ($100 for devotionals) one month after publication of the book and you will receive ten free copies of the book your story or poem appears in. You will also become part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul family, you will receive exclusive contributors’ communique and you will be entitled to buy cases of books at a discount.
A few of the guidelines for submissions are
Guidelines for a Chicken Soup for the Soul story
1. Tell an exciting, heartwarming or funny story about something that has happened to you or someone you know. Your story should be written in the first person and should be about yourself or someone close to you.
2. Tell your story in a way that will make the reader cry, laugh, get goose bumps or say “Wow!”
3. The story should start “in the action” and draw in the reader. Do not start your story with an introduction about what you are going to say, or end with a concluding paragraph about what you just said.
4. Don’t be afraid to speak from the heart. Many people tell personal stories for the first time in our books, and they find it to be a cathartic and productive experience. We do let you use a pen name for your story if you do not want to use your real name.
5. Don’t try fancy moves with tenses. Writing in the present tense about something that happened in the past rarely works.
5. Keep your story to 1200 words or less. Tighten, tighten, tighten!
6. Your story must be true. No fiction, no creative writing.
Get the rest of the guidelines and submission info on their website at http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/story-guidelines