The Write Stuff sarah March 28, 2023

The Write Stuff


By Lisa Danford

Passion Project Years in the Making

Brandon Hawkins always loved drawing. He also had a strong interest in dinosaurs from a very young age. As he got older, it was only natural to combine the two.

“It started with the excitement of learning about different dinosaurs. That eventually grew into learning about the evolution of dinosaurs and the earth,” wrote Hawkins, 19.

“Drawing my favorite things was only natural. I used my imagination and put everything I was learning about dinosaurs into pictures.”

The drawings stopped when he was 12 years old. Hawkins came home from a friend’s birthday party with a terrible headache. During the night, he woke up unable to breathe and experienced a severe anoxic brain injury.

Years later, as a senior at Taylor High School, Hawkins took a class where each student had to complete a passion project. For him, it was teaching younger kids about dinosaurs and art.

After his earlier drawings were assembled, Hawkins decided which facts to use for each dinosaur. His coloring book, The Paleo Prince and His Dino Friends, is a play on the nickname he earned from classmates. “Seeing my work come to life again and so many kids enjoying it was amazing!” he said.

The Paleo Prince and His Dino Friends is available on Amazon.

Sharing His Struggles

In January 2020, Daniel Nardi was having a bad day. “I kind of was just hopeless. My mom said, ‘Daniel, you should write a book,’” he shared.
“I thought about it for a while, then went to my room and started writing.”

Nardi, 22, published his memoir, Daniel’s Way: My Experiences with ASD and Mental Health, in 2021.

“I wanted to share my story because I felt like it would get people to understand what I went through,” he said.

He describes his experiences in and out of hospitals for his mental health struggles. “I went through a lot on that unit, but I felt like it was a special place. I learned so much there about self-care,” he said.

Nardi is working on his next book about how his autism is like a superpower. “I write about my overdose, hospitalization in April 2022, and how I’m progressing life,” he said.

Daniel’s Way is available on Amazon or DanielsWay.Net.

Opportunity Knocks to Pursue Writing Dream

It was a chance meeting that led to the opportunity of a lifetime for Mitch Neu. In summer 2021, his mom became friends with former pro football player Brad Cousino.

Cousino wanted to share his story in a memoir. Neu, after reading a draft aloud with his mom, offered to help Cousino with the book, Unwanted, Unworthy, Unshackled.

“I love to write and I loved Brad’s story. The book is about Brad’s journey from poverty and daily abuse as a child to his success in the NFL and his journey beyond the NFL,” said Neu, 26, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in digital media and an emphasis in screenwriting.

“I helped Brad by delving much deeper into the stories he shared about his personal life in his speeches to create a memoir,” he said.

Neu added that research helped him write the story through the eyes of sports writers, coaches, other athletes and more.

“I can’t believe I can search my name on Amazon and find my book—it feels absolutely euphoric!” he said. “I am very grateful to Brad Cousino for giving me this opportunity to co-author his book, which, in turn, helped me develop a new kind of mature relationship with my mom.”

Neu dreams of having a full-time writing career and has plans to publish more books on the side.

Unwanted, Unworthy, Unshackled is available on Amazon and

Pairing Poetry and Art

Nina Matthews-Hull was always close to her grandma Ginny. They’d read the Bible together, talk, and support each other through life’s challenges.

In high school, during a particularly difficult time, Matthews-Hull, 42, turned to art, which became a lifelong passion. “I’ve got to paint or I just go crazy,” she said. Ginny died in 2011 and left her book of poems to her granddaughter, which inspired the book, One God.

Each poem is accompanied by one of Matthews-Hull’s paintings, which are large and colorful, and adorn the walls of her home.

“I’ve always enjoyed writing. I want to be an author and an artist. I included the poems I like the most and that fit with the statement I wanted to make,” she said.
“My grandma wrote beautiful poetry and continues to inspire me.”

Matthews-Hull self-published her book, One God, with help from her aunt, fellow church members, and others.

One God: Two Artists, Two Mediums, Two Generations, One Family is available on