Kinyel Ford in a long-sleeved green shirt with light brown curly hair and gold hoops, facing the camera and smiling.

Meet alumna Kinyel Friday

Kinyel Friday began her educational journey at the University of Louisville, where she earned a B.A. in Psychology. Following this, she pursued a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan. After gaining experience in the field of social work for eight years, she decided to further her education with a master's of English, specializing in creative writing, from Wayne State University.

Currently, Kinyel is utilizing her skills and experience as the operations manager at 826michigan, inspiring children in a unique way. Kinyel's experience at WSU and her love for English and writing led to the creation of her children’s books and the development of her publishing company, KinYori Books

Kinyel Friday is the author of "I Am My Hair" (2020), "Swim Like Fishes" (2021), "Not My Lisa" (2022), "I Feel You" (2022), "Night-Night Nina" (2024), and the short story “Troubled Minds” (2021), all published by KinYori Books.     

Why did you decide to pursue your Master’s in English at Wayne State? 

Shortly before I graduated high school I wanted to go into law. I couldn’t figure out what type of law I wanted to go into. I had a psychology class, loved it, and decided that’s what I wanted to go into. Particularly, I was looking at doing family therapy. During undergrad, I decided that I was interested in therapy, but not that kind of therapy. I ended up leaving Louisville and came back to Michigan because I was accepted at U of M. I can say for years, while I was in school, I decided I was interested in teaching, but I didn’t want to go to school for teaching.

I’ve always loved English, I’ve always loved writing, so it’s always been in the back of my mind, like, "Hey, I should do something with this," but I never really pursued it. I took undergrad classes in writing, but never took a full course in that direction. By the time I was in my first professional job, I decided to go back to school and pursue English. I’m pretty sure there are different ways I can use that degree, and in my mind, I was going to pursue teaching at a graduate level. Have I done that yet? No, but it might be a goal someday. Of course, creative writing has always been in my life since I was young.  

Is there a memorable time or experience at Wayne State that resonates with you? 

I can name two. There’s one professor I worked with, Professor Duncan. When I signed up for his class, I thought it was just going to be African American History, but when I got to the class, it was about Detroit. I thought, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be in this class,’ but I ended up staying. I’m glad I stayed because without that knowledge, he taught us about Detroit and Black Bottom. We took a field trip to one of the plants. We took field trips to a couple of different places. Without that class, I wouldn’t have known about some of those places that he was talking about, some of those places that we had read about and discussed in class. I really appreciated that class even though that’s not where I was trying to go. 

The other one was Professor Bill Harris. I took his class on playwriting. Something else I wasn’t interested in, but I wanted to try. I loved that class as well. I say this because playwriting is not my thing. I would have never imagined writing a play, but I enjoyed it because it was a different type of writing; it was challenging to, one, try it, and two, it challenged me in a good way because this is not something that I would have thought I could do. Taking that class and some of the other classes at Wayne State helped me look at the different possibilities of writing and try different things. I know some folks will say stay in your lane or write what you know, but after taking those different classes, it’s like you don’t have to stick to one lane; you can try other things. There’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe you’re better at something than you thought you were. That is kind of how my career is shaped anyway. I thought I could only write short stories and novels, but children’s literature came into play.  

How did you come to work at 826michigan? 

Through a friend. At the time, she was my former boss. She told me you might want to look into this job; you might want to check it out. She knew that I write for children. At the time, they were hiring for a teaching artist. It was a full-time position, and I couldn’t do a full-time position, so I ended up contracting with 826. I started in January of 2022 and was a teaching artist until the end of the Summer, but my contract was up. I don’t want to leave here; I love it here, and I ended up staying, but in a different position. I went from working in programs to the operation manager. I’ve been in the operation seat since then.   

When did you start developing a passion for writing children’s literature? 

It wasn’t until right at the end, or right after I was a school social worker. I will say, I’m surprised that (children’s literature) was my first publication because I usually write short stories and I am working on a novel; so, for me to publish a children’s book first surprised me. As a school social worker, I worked primarily with K – 8 students. I thought about some of the students that I worked with, and I channeled that. "What are some things that I would want students to know when they’re young?" "What are some things that might be helpful to students?" I channeled how I felt back then. Let me give you an example. My first year as a social worker, I did a self-esteem group. I was working with a group of middle school young ladies. We met weekly for eight weeks. There was one particular student—we were talking about beauty in this group. I said, "Tell me about your concept of beauty." "What do you think is beautiful or a person that is beautiful?"

They were cutting out images from magazines and they were sharing them with me. One young lady, in particular, mentioned that she wanted to bleach her skin. She is a little bit darker than me but not too much darker. Her hair was a little shorter than mine; she didn’t like her hair. That was very unnerving to me. That made me think, if I could have reached her at a younger age. Not that I’m a magician or anything, but I would have loved to have worked with her when she was younger to make sure she didn’t feel that way about herself. She gave an example of Beyonce. She said she’s so pretty, she’s got the long hair. And I’m like, you’re beautiful too, and your skin is gorgeous. We just talked about beauty. In my mind, I always think back to that young lady. If I could catch children as they’re younger and teach them, ‘You are beautiful; you are fine just the way you are,’ then I feel like I would be successful as a writer.  

What led to the development of KinYori Books? 

I could have self-published and been done, but I knew that I was going to write more, so that’s why I developed KinYori Books LLC. I have a ton of writing that still hasn’t been published, still hasn’t been edited yet and not ready for the public, but I know that I’m not finished.  

How did writing your first publication become a reality? 

For years—well, I can say for decades—I’ve wanted to publish and didn’t make that move. It wasn’t until Dec. 1, 2018. I have a terrible memory, and I remember that because every Dec. 1, I put up Christmas decorations. This particular day in Dec., I was trying to decorate, trying to move something in my house. I ended up slipping down the basement stairs and hurting my knee badly to where I had to have knee surgery. In 2019, I was on leave for three months. The beginning of 2019 is when I had that time. I couldn’t make the excuse of "I got to go to work," "I’m tired after I get off work." I didn’t have an excuse; I was just sitting there with my busted knee and time to focus. So, I was like, "I want to know what it would take for me to publish." It wasn’t until I had that downtime where I was like "I’m going to go ahead and start. I need to know what are my steps to publish." I picked my first children’s book that I wrote and I got in touch with my brother, who is a fantastic artist. His bachelor’s was in graphic design. I was like, "Hey! You think you could help me with illustrations?" He said no, but I’ll put you in touch with one of my friends (Robert Roberson Jr.). That’s how I got connected with the illustrator that I work with. He’s done a fabulous job, and I’m sticking with him because not only does he do an excellent job, but he is so easy to work with.  

With the experience that you have now as a published author, an experienced writer, and working with children, if you could go back in time and speak with a younger Kinyel, what advice would you give her? 

You don’t have to wait. I say this because I was wasting time and I could have published years ago. You don’t have to wait for the perfect opportunity, you don’t have to wait for the perfect day, you don’t have to wait until you connect with so-and-so. If there is something you want to do, just do it.  

What’s next for Kinyel?   

I’m currently working on my novel (which) is finished. I need to take my own advice and "don’t wait." Where I’m at now is I need to go back and edit and make sure everything flows before I send it off to an editor. What’s interesting is this is not a traditional novel. This is eight short stories put together that use the same characters and the same timeline. I started writing this as an undergrad. The first short story came out when I was in undergrad, and I wrote one more after that. By the time I got to Wayne State, that was my thesis. At that time, I had three short stories done, but I needed to clean those up and add two more. I worked with Dr. Caroline Maun and got my thesis together. I’m taking that and adding a couple more chapters to it. Hopefully—I’m crossing my fingers—that it will be published this year.  

– Jeffrey Amato