“Don’t quit your daydream:” A Rowan alumna’s journey to becoming a YA author 

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On Feb. 22, Alyse returned to Rowan’s campus to share her journey to becoming an author. - Photo via @charity_alyse

Just six years ago Charity Alyse was roaming the halls of Bunce, “guzzling Starbucks,” and studying English literature. Only a few short years after graduation, she is now an author, first-grade teacher, and master’s student. 

On Feb. 22, Alyse returned to Rowan’s campus to share her journey to becoming an author. The enthusiastic and bubbly alumnus published her first book, “Other Side of the Tracks” with Simon and Schuster— one of the “big five” English literature publishers. For bookworms and English majors alike, publishing with Simon and Schuster is a big deal.  

Alyse’s love for literature began as a young child but the road to becoming an author was no walk in the park. 

“My kindergarten teacher told me I’d never be a writer,” said Alyse during her lecture.

Alyse shared that when she presented a re-telling of the classical fairytale “The Little Mermaid” to her kindergarten teacher, she told Alyse that it was copyright and that she would “go to jail.” 

Those fierce words crushed Alyse but that did not stop her from accomplishing her dreams. She continued to write throughout elementary school, middle school, high school, and into college. Now, she looks back with a smile, knowing she proved her kindergarten teacher wrong.  

“Don’t quit your daydream,” Alyse said. 

Alyse credits her professors with giving her the momentum to publish her own literature. In particular, Alyse gives thanks to writing arts Professor Keri Mikulski. She encouraged Alyse to take her 10-page assignment and turn it into what is now a 435-page long novel. 

“She encouraged me to pursue this 10-page story and turn it into a novel. She invited me into her office and she was just like ‘Anything you need.’ She started looking up YA books that were like my book to help that I could read to help me really get into writing… [she] just gave me so many resources,” Alyse said.

As Alyse originally shared her 10-page assignment with the class, she worried that no one would like the story, but she was wrong. 

When it was Alyse’s turn to share, everyone was blown away — some students even went as far as crying. Alyse recounted at her lecture that she was in awe of everybody’s reactions to the paper she had written. 

“Other Side of the Tracks” is a contemporary retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare. The novel has many twists and turns which keep readers engaged but most importantly; the book deals with themes of racism, discrimination, and abusive power.  

Much went into crafting this novel, but what inspired Alyse the most was her faith and The Black Lives Matter movement. Alyse feared for her family, especially the Black men in her life because of racially-motivated police brutality. Although she still fears the realities of police brutality being used against those she loves, her Christian faith pushes her through.

In addition to using “Other Side of the Tracks” to advocate for causes she holds close to her, Alyse was inspired by the works of Shakespeare. Her classes with English Professor and Shakespearean Dr. Claire Falck helped Alyse build the plot of her novel.

As someone who enjoys reading and arguing with Shakespeare, Alyse acknowledges the racist undertones of some of Shakespeare’s work. Her retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” is Alyse’s way of re-inventing Shakespeare.  

“If you have a race war, between two towns, what better thing can you do to stir up these towns by having two people from these towns fall in love,” said Alyse. 

Shakespeare isn’t the only one whose biases have affected Alyse. During her lecture, Alyse shared her struggles with the publishing industry. She noted that the current state of the publishing industry is exclusive — especially critical to authors of color. 

Alyse had over 250 rejections, with many publishers claiming that there is not an audience for her type of work.  

“I was very sad. I was angry. I think the anger came from why I was getting rejected. They would be like ‘This story is so great but I don’t think that there’s a market for stories like this,” Alyse said.

The protagonist of “Other Side of the Tracks” is a young, black ballerina named Capri. Alyse said during her lecture that she sees a lot of herself in Capri. 

According to the book, “Capri and her basketball star brother, Justin, are intent on saying goodbye to the socially and economically repressed Hamilton… But one night changes everything. A Bayside police officer shoots his gun, spilling Black blood on the wide side of town. And now…the two towns become an all-out war.”  

The plot focuses on the interracial relationship between Capri and Zach. Alyse had a difficult time accepting the publishers’ biases, but as she had done for so long, Alyse pushed through—letting no one stop her. 

“You said I can’t so I’m going to keep sending it in,” Alyse said. 

Additionally, Alyse’s editor is Black, which she says is an advantage for her.

“I didn’t want to make it [the novel] as Black, but having that Black editor and she’s like ‘Let’s make this as Black as we possibly can. Let’s see more Black characters, let’s get more history, let’s really push it towards our community and show them that they can do anything,’” Alyse said. 

Alyse’s motto is “Don’t quit your daydream” and this mantra has carried Alyse again and again.

Looking towards the future, Alyse is excited for her second novel to come out in the spring of 2026. Her novel, “Laced in Gold,” has already been bought, despite her not finishing it. 

Alyse hopes to continue making her impact on the world and she hopes her book helps break barriers. 

“Show publishing that there is a market for [black authors], go out and buy a book by a Black author, go buy a book by a Latin author, like go outside of yourself,” Alyse said. 

For more updates on future works, follow Charity Alyse @charity_alyse on Instagram, and her novel, “Other Side of the Tracks” is available for purchase on Simon and Schuster’s website and Amazon.com.

For comments/questions about this story DM us on Instagram @thewhitatrowan or email thewhit.featureseditor@gmail.com

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