Nicole Bailey-Williams was always fascinated by the written word. As a child, she read whenever she could, often huddling beneath the covers to peel through “just one more chapter” long after bedtime. She still remembers the joy that she got from her childhood favorite, Bread & Jam for Frances, and she determined that at some point she, too, would put pen to paper to craft stories that would stay in the hearts and minds of people.
Because she was inherently reserved (read: shy), Nicole didn’t write for public consumption during high school. Recalling those times, she says, “Those kids who wrote for the school newspaper just seemed so confident. I didn’t feel that then.” It wasn’t until she attended Hampton University that she found her writer’s voice. She can recall the exact moment that she felt the surge of confidence in her literary talents. It was at a literary society event, and she was warming up the audience for renowned poet Amiri Baraka with a poem called “Blue Plaid Kilt.” The poem detailed the missteps of a childhood friend who, despite her private school education, succumbed to the complications of her surroundings. When Baraka ascended to the speaker’s rostrum, he tipped his hat to her and the other warm-up poets before he began, and those few words, coupled with the growing assurance she experienced through her work with the college newspaper, made her literary spirit soar.
Upon completing a BA in English from Hampton and an Ed.M. from Temple University, Nicole began writing in earnest while she taught high school English and literature at Penn State’s Abington/Ogontz campus. Working as a freelancer, she wrote book reviews and penned articles for publications like Publishers’ Weekly, Black Issues Book Review, and Quarterly Black Review. A book review that really resonated with her was the Notable Black American Women reference book edited by noted Fisk University librarian Jessie Carney Smith, leading to her writing of three profiles for the subsequent Notable Black American Men book, edited by Smith as well. Her love for literature compelled her to launch a radio show called “The Literary Review,” which aired from 1998-2007 on WDAS-AM in her hometown of Philadelphia. On the show, she interviewed a variety of authors, agents, and other movers and shakers in the literary arena. Working so closely with authors and their literary works regularly, she decided that the time was right to pursue her own creative writing, so in the summer of 1999, she set to work on her own debut novel.
A Little Piece of Sky was self-published in 2000 with the guidance of her friends like E. Lynn Harris, Omar Tyree, and Kimberla Lawson Roby. With 3,000 books in her first print run, she juggled family life, teaching, and 6 book-signings per week in order to move the boxes of books that were stored in her parents’ garage. Of that period, she laughs, “I wanted my Dad to be able to park in the garage again, so I needed to hustle.” With subsequent print runs of 1,000 and 3,000, within 11 months, she caught the eye of an editor at Random House, who offered her a book contract within 3 days of receipt of her press kit. The re-published version of A Little Piece of Sky launched on the inaugural line of a new imprint called Harlem Moon in October of 2002, and it garnered acclaim from organizations including the New York Public Library and the Hurston Wright Foundation, for which it was a finalist for the Debut Fiction Award.
Nicole’s subsequent novels include Floating, The Love Child’s Revenge, and Crush, as well as a children’s book that she wrote and self-published called The Day The Plums Disappeared. Her other writings include short stories penned for anthologies Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing, Proverbs for the People, It's All Love, and On the Line, as well as a biography which she was commissioned to write by former Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor for Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine. Of all of the bright spots in her literary memory, she is proudest of raising two brilliant bibliophiles
As a fourth-generation educator, Nicole says that she is duty-bound to try to keep the spark of curiosity and brilliance alive in the next generation of children. Her father's line includes the distinguished educator Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune Cookman University in Daytona, Beach, FL. On her mother's side, she can look to her great grandmother, who taught in a segregated South Carolina one-room schoolhouse, and a great-aunt who did the same after graduating from South Carolina State before moving to Philadelphia where she taught in Philadelphia's public schools. Nicole's mother, a retired math teacher who also taught in Philadelphia Public Schools for more than three decades, influenced Nicole and her brother Michael to pursue careers in education as well.
Nicole's teaching career has spanned a wide breadth of grades/levels from middle school and high school to undergraduate and even her colleagues in professional development workshops. Her subject areas include English, Journalism, and a course she designed called The African American Experience through Literature.
Since she began teaching in 1993, she has garnered numerous awards including two nominations for Princeton University's Distinguished Teacher's Award, Teacher of the Season, and Governor's Teacher Award. The biggest rewards, however, are the Mother's Day and holiday check-in calls that she receives from former high school students.
Capital Corn & Confections, LLC is the brainchild of Nicole Bailey-Williams. While taking a week off from teaching to do a book tour for her debut novel, Nicole, who had always wanted to open a food enterprise, was told by her publicist, "Make sure you go to ... while you're in the city. I love their popcorn." "Sure," she replied, half-heartedly, only remembering to stop there near the end of her tour. Well, the popcorn didn't even make in on the plane, and in Nicole, a new food concept was born. Using popcorn as a blank canvas, in 2011 Nicole began mixing in some of her favorite flavors, and the end result is a popcorn party for people everywhere! For more information, visit www.trentonpopcorn.com.