Women of Interest

By Caitlin Giddens

Four women share their success — and their style

Waco is full of talented, hardworking women. This month we introduce four of them whose creativity and commitment caught our attention. You’ll meet a children’s book writer (and attorney), a vegan blogger, a community organizer and a dance and theater teacher. Each of these women has turned passion into success. Read their encouraging stories to find your own inspiration.

ameliaThe Ambitious Author
Amelia Beck

Q: What inspired you to write the children’s book, ‘A Family for Franny’?

A: In my second year of law school at the University of Alabama I went through a slump. I was burned out, and I needed a creative outlet, so I convinced the law school to let me take a course in the University of Alabama’s [master’s of fine arts] program in creative writing. I had gotten [my dog] Franny about six or seven months before I enrolled in the course. The storyline pretty much wrote itself: a dog with an identity crisis.

Q: After you wrote the book, were you nervous to put it out there?

A: My biggest fear was writing for children when I didn’t have a whole lot of experience being around young children. But I received the best bit of advice early on. Someone told me not to focus on writing for children, but instead to find the child within myself and write for her.

Q: What was the publishing process like?

A: It was very much a grassroots project. I had a distinct vision of the book’s aesthetic from the beginning, and I wanted to have a lot of control and input in the creative process. So I looked into self-publishing options, and that is what I ended up pursuing.

Q: What was the response after you published the book?

A: The response was overwhelmingly positive, and I am still so flattered. Many fans are French bulldog owners who found the book through Amazon and Instagram [@frannythefrenchie]. I got my first piece of fan mail last week, a handwritten letter from a 5-year-old girl from Oklahoma.

Q: Were you living here when you published?

A: Yes. When I moved to Waco, I only had a working rough draft of the manuscript. I moved here for a job and didn’t know a soul, so my first year here I spent a lot of time working on the book after work. I spent many weekends in the children’s section at Barnes & Noble, pouring over children’s books. Only now, in retrospect, do I realize how strange I must have looked.

Q: How would you describe your everyday style?

A: My everyday style is casual, colorful and a bit whimsical. Think Anthropologie and J. Crew. But I have been adding in edgier pieces lately.

Q: How does your style fit into your work and lifestyle?

A: It really doesn’t fit into my work, so I had to take a different direction. I work as an attorney in federal court, where the vibe is very buttoned up and traditional. There is not much room for whimsy or risk-taking when it comes to fashion, especially if you want to be taken seriously as a young lawyer. I embrace the ‘capsule wardrobe’ concept. I bought some high-quality basics from Everlane and J. Crew, mostly in solid, muted colors that I alternate every day. I never have to think about getting dressed in the morning, and I never feel too girlish or underdressed.

Q: What’s your mantra for work and life?

A: Why be boring?

randleThe Culinary Creative
Randle Browning

Q: What’s your current job?

A: I’m the director of content marketing at Skillcrush, a tech startup that teaches women how to code.

Q: What inspired you to start your blog, ‘The Waco Vegan’?

A: I started blogging about cooking when I got back from working as a line cook in Europe. After I transitioned into this vegan lifestyle, I started using my blog to share recipes and photos and show other people how easy and delicious it can be to cook vegetables.

Q: What are your future plans for the blog?

A: Recently, I’ve been inspired by the energy here in Waco, so I’m going to write about this town. On ‘The Waco Vegan’ I’m still sharing easy vegan recipes, but I’m also throwing in tips for eating healthy in Waco and being vegan in a smaller town. You can find quick recipes and photos of almost all my breakfasts on my Instagram [@randlebrowning]. I promise, it’s better than cereal.

Q: How would you describe your everyday style?

A: On a casual day I wear sandals and cut-off shorts. And when I go out I stick to simple silhouettes and pretty details, like a breezy embroidered top or a pair of turquoise stud earrings.

Q: How does your style fit into your work and lifestyle?

A: One of the perks of working outside of a traditional office is wearing whatever you want, from yoga pants and a giant amorphous button-down to a nice dress, just because you can. Guess which one of those I choose most days.

Q: During the photo shoot, what was your favorite thing you wore?

A: The ring from Design House. I’d never choose it for myself, but by the end of the shoot I wanted to keep it. Hint!

Q: What’s your mantra for work and life?

A: Eat more plants.

alexisThe Optimistic Organizer
Alexis Christensen

Q: What’s your current job?

A: I work for Waco Community Development, a nonprofit with a mission to inspire and cultivate healthy neighborhoods. We create pathways to homeownership, financial literacy and homebuyer education and community organizing. I’m the community organizer for north and east Waco.

Q: What led you to this position?

A: After receiving my bachelor’s degree in political science from Baylor [University], I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. At the time I was also working at the Waco Foundation as one of the first interns there. I was exposed to the wider world of nonprofit work and fell in love with it. I decided to pursue my master’s degree in social work with a concentration in community practice development.

Q: What’s your role in the Waco community?

A: Organizing is about bringing people together with a shared goal and purpose to create change. Currently, I organize in three elementary schools through our family engagement program. We use research-driven approaches to increase parental involvement. I think parents and families are the secret weapon to turning around the schools. I also work with neighborhood associations, churches and businesses in north and east Waco.

Q: What’s the best part of your job?

A: In this work I have the privilege of hearing the visions and dreams of community members for their neighborhoods and helping them translate those dreams into reality. The people I work with are phenomenal. They care deeply about their communities. They are resilient and resourceful, and they make Waco a great place to live.

Q: How would you describe your everyday style?

A: Typically, I’m very casual. But since my schedule varies each day, I try to wear things that can be appropriate in a variety of settings. In one day I could go from speaking to a class at Baylor, to painting with elementary school students, to an organizational advisory meeting. I try to keep my wardrobe flexible.

Q: How does your style fit into your work and lifestyle?

A: I feel like I’m finding my style the older I get. I try to keep my wardrobe flexible to reflect my personality.

Q: During the photo shoot, what was your favorite thing you wore?

A: I loved the Michael Kors watch. It added a feminine touch to the outfit.

Q: What’s your mantra for work and life?

A: A quote by Frederick Buechner: ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’

melissaThe Tireless Teacher
Melissa Edwards

Q: What’s your current job?

A: Assistant professor [at McLennan Community College]. I teach many levels of ballet, modern and jazz dance, as well as stage movement and introduction to theater. In the spring semester I co-directed and choreographed the musical ‘Once Upon a Mattress.’

Q: What led you to this position?

A: I am retired as a professional dancer and earned my MFA in order to pursue teaching. One of my best friends is originally from Waco. Her family is still here, and they forwarded me the [job] listing while I was still living in New York City. I was specifically interested in the ability to mold the program how I saw fit and have the opportunity to begin to incorporate the deaf community into the arts.

Q: How did your work as a professional dancer prepare you to be a professor?

A: I feel strongly that I can answer any questions that arise: ‘How do I make it [as a professional] dancer?’ or ‘How do I move to New York?’ I not only performed professionally, I also administrated, taught professionally and in schools, co-founded a dance company and did everything else that goes with being a working artist. My versatile background gives me a solid foundation from which to teach.

Q: What are your hopes for this program at MCC?

A: The program is currently a combination of dance and theater. I hope to separate the two and shift the curriculum to be one that is suitable for students who want to pursue strictly dance careers. In the next few years I want to offer more technique levels and dance academics for serious dancers, while continuing to grow the dance for theater component.

Q: How would you describe your everyday style?

A: Sweatpants.

Q: How does your style fit into your work and lifestyle?

A: I suppose basic, but edgy. Anything movable stays in my closet forever. I realized I was wearing a ‘Flashdance’-type T-shirt older than my students the other day.

Q: During the photo shoot, what was your favorite thing you wore?

A: The [coral top] was really cute. I probably would have overlooked it.

Q: What’s your mantra for work and life?

A: Well-behaved women rarely make history.

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