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Steph Ox on Poetry, Children's Books, and Writing through a Personal Lens

by Dea Fejzullahu

Steph Ox is a poet-writer, research assistant, and a bestselling children's book author from Philadelphia. In addition to writing poetry, she does live performances of her work in order to connect with her audience.

Writer and poet Steph Ox
Photo: Steph Ox

Steph Ox calls from Philadelphia with a bright smile, dark hair cascading down her shoulders.

"I'm Steph Ox," she says. "I am a creative writer, poet, and overall a language lover."

Ox says she began writing in her teenage years, though her mom likes to dispute this and claims that her first piece was completed at the ripe age of seven.

Regardless of how long she has been a writer, Ox has always been greatly impacted by writing in her life. Even after long days as working as a full-time assistant researcher, she still prioritizes writing and makes time for it.

"I would be miserable without poetry," she says.

Steph Ox on stage
Photo: Steph Ox

Parts of what makes her work so captivating is Ox's ability to make the reader relate to her words. In order to create a show that deeply moving, she taps into her own emotions - a very personal process. Ox explains that she wants her audience to truly connect with her work, which is reflected in the inpour of validation online and terrific support while on stage. She says that these moments with the audience, the connecting with the people, are what inspires her to keep doing what she does daily.

"After I was done with a show, people stood up and started cheering and applauding," she reminisces of an early memory. "It was unlike anything I experienced before; they clearly appreciated it."

Everyone knows that a poet's life isn't always a dance on roses. Ox, like many other writers who share their work online, has also faced criticism.

"I don't like focusing on the negatives," she says. "Not when I could just focus on the positives!"

Finding inspiration in everyday life

Many creatives dedicate a set number of hours to their craft, but Fox's creative process starts whenever a wave of inspiration hits, often from daily occurrences.

"I don't have a writing schedule or anything. Instead, someone might tell me something that inspires me, and from there I just get up and write."

Much of her work is constructed in first person perspective, which can be a very raw and exposing process. This comes from her wish to make her writing more authentic and vulnerable, which also makes the reader feel more attached to the contents of her work.

"I think as a poet, you grasp and let yourself be inspired by things in your daily life. Whether it's about a local ice cream shop changing your favorite flavor or any other small experience, it's something you can feel and thus write about. You just need to actually start experiencing things and write about it."

She applies this to stage performance and fright too, saying that it can only be overcome by "just go[ing] out there and try[ing] it." She explains that once you've done it, it's a thrilling and captivating experience that she wouldn't change for the world.

When asked how she knows that one of her pieces is finished, she explains that she just knows.

"It's a feeling," she says. "You just know when it's done."

This sentiment of "just doing it" - in the words of a large clothing brand - is one that reflects across all aspects of Ox's work, including in children's books. In Don't Write on Mommy's Wall, she teaches children how to follow directions in a fun and explanatory way, while also teaching parents how to give directions.


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1 Comment

Sep 16, 2023

She’s really good!

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