The Early Years
Juanita J. Martin, formerly known as Juanita Jenkins, has been writing semi-professionally since her teens in New Jersey. When she was 18, she won a $50 EE series bond for her essay, garnering first prize in an essay contest for the NJ Audubon Society. Her essay was about the environmental impact of the 1976 casino referendum. What began as a class project in college led to Juanita becoming editor of Atlantic Community College’s literary magazine Silhouettes. Juanita went on to write for The South Jersey Advisor newspaper and others. This would be the introduction to other literary accomplishments down the road.
Upon leaving the Air Force after four years, she made California her home. She returned to school, first at Solano College to obtain a Social Science Degree and at Napa College for a certificate as a Licensed Vocational Nurse. While at school, Juanita returned to her writing, first as a reporter and writer at Solano College, then at Napa College, where she wrote and supported the first LVN Scholarship for $500, the advertisements, and the bio of the first recipient.
Inspiration and Discovery
Writing poetry was solidified for Juanita when her nursing director at graduation said, “I‘m sorry Juanita, I think you missed your calling. You should be a writer.” Juanita replied, “Why not do both?” Juanita has done both writing and nursing since. She discovered open-mike poetry which brought her talent to the stage. . Poetry will always be her first love, although she’s gifted in other areas.
In 2001, Juanita began a small freelance writing business out of her home. About the same time she discovered that there was a Barnes and Noble Booksellers™ in Fairfield. She became the first poet to hold an open mike series there which lasted for two years. By 2003, Juanita produced her first inspirational poetry and jazz music CD. On the advice of a friend, Juanita went to a poetry event in Sonoma County. This would be the kick start to Juanita’s new writing career and her muse. From the years 2005–2009, Juanita began publishing in numerous journals, some in Sonoma County and beyond. She won several awards as a poet, freelance writer, and performance artist.
A Fairfield First
In 2010, Juanita became the first poet laureate for Fairfield, California. She was chosen based on her writing, her ability to articulate in many forms, and her vast resume. During her two years as laureate, she gave readings, workshops, book signings, and judged contests. She also wrote the poem for the City of Fairfield about Fairfield, called The Heart of Solano. She also wrote the first poet laureate program. In 2013, her book, The Lighthouse Beckons, a collection of poems, was accepted into several branches of the Solano County Library. Her poem, Emancipate Me, was accepted into Benicia Historical Museum’s exhibit, Freedom is a Hard Bought Thing, commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation’s 150th anniversary.