She Writes! Maxine Johns

She Writes! Maxine Johns

Tell us about your journey into becoming a writer? 

My writer's journey has been a long and eventful one to be honest. As a music journalist and entertainment writer based in Sydney Australia for close to 25 years, I have many stories to tell. As a South African born woman of colour, growing up in a country like Australia has been an amazing journey but also one that has been fraught with consistent bouts of racial indiscretions and overy cultural appropriation when it came to Hip Hop and black music being represented correctly to a largely caucasion run and based music industry. 

Starting out at a time when the hip hop music genre was still in its infancy stage here in Australia has proven to be an amazing training ground for me in honing my writing skills and learning to navigate an industry that defied navigation. Whilst I was studying for my journalism degree back in 2001, I was presented with an amazing opportunity to write as an intern for a start up publication in Sydney that focused on the promotion of local and international hip hop artists and their music. This afforded me the chance to explore my avenues as a writer and starting out reviewing artist CD’s to live shows to music documentaries I was able to find what fit my style and also what spoke to my energy as a writer. Something I learnt early on in my journey is that if my energy doesn't feel writer when I am preparing for an interview or to write a piece, nothing will flow authentically and I have to walk away from said topic and get my energy to where it needs to be. 

During my late 20’s and early 30’s I really found my feet as a feature writer for a top Sydney music publication called 3D World Magazine that had national distribution and street cred in the world of Hip Hop music and it was during this time that I discovered by talent and utter obsession with talking to artists about their journeys and how they came to be who the world was seeing. I had an amazing editor who believed in me, my stories and the way I spoke to celebrities to get honest and integral interviews that would end up on the cover of the magazine for many years. I have been blessed to meet and interview amazing artists from 50 Cent to The Black Eyed Peas, Jay Z to Busta Rhymes and beyond.

And every interview has seen me go through the rigors of nerves and performance anxiety of the highest levels but yet once the conversation had started, I wouldn't want it to end. Adrenaline is a hell of a drug. Moving on from that publication I went onto create my own blog dedicated to capturing artists' journeys through unfiltered conversation and grew my page called Ms Hennessey Speaks Blog organically to reach over 200k readers internationally over the space of two years, which I was incredibly proud of. 

The blog changed my life and style as a writer just as much as the internet changed the way we read books and get our news. It taught me so much about change and adaptation and taking chances and having the confidence to know that I built that, I got those interviews with those artists and I shared those stories. The natural progression into writing my own books came during my time as a newlywed living in Sicily with my US Naval husband at the time in 2008, pregnant with our first son and living a much quieter life as a military spouse. Maybe it was missing the fast paced excitement of my life back in Sydney, or the rush of excitement I would get knowing I had secured another exclusive interview with someone amazing that pushed me to pen my first book How to Live for Love & Hip Hop. 

This was a definitive love letter to my early years as a woman in Hip Hop making her mark, shaping a community and finding her voice in an industry determined to overshadow my place in it. It was in parts cathartic, in others traumatic but in its essence a total necessity to write. 

Fast forward 7 years from that initial pen to paper moment and the finished product was in my hands and my heart ravaged as a first time published author having to defend my truth and story to editors who had no notion, understanding or care of what love and hip hop truly meant to an empathetic music journalist. They tried to change my narrative, cut the length of my story down and basically sucked the life out of what it should have been to what it was. And it was because of that that I decided to create my own publishing imprint and create stories that no one would deem inferior, and come the pandemic of 2020 my own MHP Publishing was launched. 

With one book already published and released under my imprint called She is Empowered in 2021, MHP Publishing has put the fire back in my writers belly to

push forward in my quest for conversations with amazing creatives and to encourage everyday heroes and she-ros to write and share and publish their own pieces, with my help, make their author dreams come true. Owning your place in this world is a right that no one can take from you, and it is something that I hope my writing and journey as a truth seeker will hold firm onto as the legacy I leave my children and their families in the future. 

What is the most unique aspect of your writing style and the works you create? 

The most unique aspect about my writing style and the works I create is that I truly enjoy capturing authentic and true stories of lived experiences under the umbrella of inspiration, empowerment, survival and personal testimony. As an entertainment journalist for the last 20 years I have always enjoyed the conversational feeling of the Q & A style of writing, asking the questions that invoke honesty, self love and ownership of one's journey no matter the difficulty or plight. 

For many years before I wrote my first book, How to Love for Love & Hip Hop ( which took me about seven years to write, many drafts and many rewrites later ), I have always written and captured the journeys of music artists , celebrities, creatives and the like in a conversational manner where the reader could see my questions and the depth of my research to the transparency of the interviewee’s response and beyond. My blog, which is called Ms Hennessey Speaks Blog, captured many stories from so many people and creatives from different walks of life and really taught me the importance of true and authentic conversation. No matter the fame, fortune or followers, nothing beats the connection of conversation and sharing our stories in real and honest ways, that's what makes me write the stories I do today and what has made me go on to create my own publishing imprint MHP Publishing. 

My recent book released back in March of 2020 is called She is Empowered, and is a collection of personal stories shared with me by women I have been blessed to call a friend, work colleague, industry peer or just all round She-Ro in that they have overcome, achieved, survived such incredible tales of adversity and

challenge. These are women who trusted me to share their stories in this book that I was blessed to be able to release under my own imprint MHP Publishing and has gone on to sell many copies worldwide through Amazon and beyond, reaching women globally with similar stories to share from a ground roots level. They are not all celebrities or women of particular notariarty, but a beautiful collection of like minded and fierce females you each have something in common, which becomes the inner super glue for this book and that is they use their stories, platforms, lives and voices to empower and remain empowered, especially in these trying times. It is a very proud project of the heart for me. 

What advice for emerging or new writers would you share to help them stand out from the crowd? 

Write from your heart and never be afraid to share your truth in your narrative. As a writer of so many years and varied experiences, I have really had an opportunity to watch and learn the ways people move and behave, especially in industries such as entertainment and music. When I first started writing and learning the ways I would take on the opinions of others too much, almost to my detriment to where I would realize too late that there are always going to be some people that will never truly support you or your dreams no matter how positive and pure your intentions are. 

After years of being used to writing everything from artist bios to exclusive interviews and not being paid for my time, I had to have a long hard look at how I was positioning myself and my energy in this arena. Once you learn your worth and don't settle for anything less you see your work and inner worth upgrade immediately. I am in my mid 40’s now and have been a writer since my 20’s so a lot of growth and evolution has occurred during this time. I now respect my time, put value on that time and do not sit at tables or in groups where inclusivity, encouragement or support are not being served. 

Do not stop fulfilling your dreams and goals no matter who you are, your age, culture or creed and if you believe that you will achieve it no one can stand in

your way. To write is to bare your soul to the most vulnerable of truths and whilst it is scary at first to publish your new works, whether it be a book or a piece of prose, just know that no one knows what it takes to be you, walk in your shoes or write your story, so make it real, make it shine and always be authentic to your purpose and no one will ever take that away. 

What impact do you plan to have in 2022 and beyond? 

The impact I plan to have in 2022 is creating written and visual content that feeds the hearts, minds and souls of people who are lovers of stories of truth and authenticity. I am currently penning my third book which I am so proud to be releasing under my own imprint again and knowing that I can help and encourage these storytellers to share their realities in their own narratives, which no interjection, watering down or involvement from outside publishing parties is the greatest feeling of ownership and honesty I can imagine. 

I plan on using the power of accountability and acceptance of self and one's journey to propel more conversations and stories to flow, whether in print or online through my interview series on my Youtube channel Ms Hennessey TV. We live in a time where connection and conversation is a necessity and I believe the online impact platforms such as Youtube allows immediate connection with the world and has the ability to reach people on many levels. My channel Ms Hennessey TV has been created to bring my interviews out of the written world and bring forward the visual connections that conversation has when people talk to each other, and the wonderful avenues those conversations take us down. 

I am fiercely proud of this new interview series and this channel, which I was a little hesitant about at first, knowing how dark the internet can be at times, however when you operate from a place of pure intention and honesty, inadvertently your stories will lead you to the right viewers. So my impact is to continue being a conversation starter, carrier, documentarian in both book and online format and ultimately an agent of change in a world that needs honest , inspiring and authentic narrative.

I am also looking forward to continuing my studies as I progress in my Education Degree journey. I currently work part time as a pre-service teacher working at a primary school in Sydney ( elementary level in the US) and I have fallen in love with the art of music education and literacy and get to fuse my love of Hip Hop and its linguistic powers into teaching. Writing and implementing programs that teach young students how to tap into their creative channels and learn how to podcast and experience radio presenting is something I am truly proud of and grateful for having the opportunity to explore my teaching style and also seeing the positivity it brings to the amazing students I work with every week. 

How can readers support your efforts? 

Readers can support my efforts by subscribing to and following my Youtube channel: @ Ms Hennessey TV and also following my instagram pages: @mhp_publishing and @mshennesseyspeakstv 

Please support my two books How to Live for Love & Hip Hop & She is Empowered by buying a physical copy off or through my own e-bookshop: 

Thank you in advance for your support!