Laken Brooks: Life on the Byline

Posted by Monica Hoel
There’s a name popping up on a lot of bylines these days you might recognize. Laken Brooks’ name can be seen on CNN, Forbes, Healthy Women, and even Atlas Obscura. So how does a 2017 graduate manage to be so well-published so quickly after college?

Well, for starters, the young woman known as a loquacious Fulbright scholar is also a terrific writer. But in addition to that, she’s smart about how she networks.

She joined a writers group on Facebook and that has given her insights on organizations looking for well-written and well-researched stories. She had initially planned to focus her skills on editing – but being in this group made her think she should try her hand at writing. She has taken advantage of those connections to be alert to new opportunities – but, of course, that only gets her to the door. Her skills as a communicator get her through the door and onto the byline.

Laken is working on her Ph.D. at the University of Florida and even that project is traveling unexpected paths. A native of Grassy Creek, North Carolina, Laken is proud of her Appalachian roots and she is using her advanced education to make unconventional connections between Appalachian traditions, modern-day technology and even physical healing. “People don’t want to recognize that those of us living in the mountains exist very well without reliable GPS and wifi – so I want to explore how technology can be informed by Appalachian tradition.”

She expresses great pride in her connections to Appalachia and a bit of sadness and frustration for those who would offer more judgement than understanding on this rich-in-tradition but oft-maligned community. “My grandmother doesn’t always understand why I am asking her to tell her stories and share her knowledge – but she hasn’t always been validated for what she knows. I hope my research and writing can highlight the wisdom and knowledge found in Appalachia.”

Even Laken’s approach to her dissertation is interesting, using podcasts and soundtracks to accompany her written work. Her research topics run the gamut from quilt-making to moonshining to cattle-calling – and her plan is to put the innate wisdom of those traditions into a current-day context.

Laken spoke with WEHC-FM recently on her work and the conversation includes a fascinating dive into witchcraft and the role of women in Appalachian communities. You can enjoy the recording in the WEHC-FM archives.

  • Laken Brooks
    Emory & Henry Class of 2017

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