Penda Lynn James

By contributing writer Penda James

On December 6, 2011 a woman I had recently come to know took a cocktail of her own medication in an attempt to end her life. Our interaction had been sporadic but we spoke frequently; there was no indication to me that she was suicidal. Her decision greatly penetrated me; I was distraught about what I thought I could have done to prevent her from making this decision. Questions plagued my mind: Did I speak to her when I saw her last? Was I really listening when she was talking to me? Why didn’t she talk to me?

The experience made me realize how suicide and suicide attempts had touched many people in my life. I pondered on the fact that many in my circle could no longer verbalize their dreams and aspirations with passion. I felt the weight of their stories on my back and it was a heavy burden. I couldn’t visit her at the hospital even though she asked for me. My husband went in my stead and encouraged me to be supportive when she came home. That encouragement sent me on a mission to find strengths about my friend. I wanted to combat every negative with a positive, NO MORE EXCUSES. When I embarked on my mission, it reignited a passion for my business.

I started InSCRIBEd Inspiration, LLC., in 1999 to serve writers as a writing coach and an editor. Most people don’t realize that they need a coach until they get stuck trying to finish a project and need a push. Although I am passionate about the work I do, I had been giving my services away instead of promoting myself as an entrepreneur. I thought I was doing people a favor by helping them. Truthfully, my business was becoming more of a burden than a blessing. While walking with my friend through her healing process, I recognized that “the act of doing something that seems contrary to your own best interests” is one definition of suicide. Wow!

My list would be long if I had to outline ways I had been doing things that seem contrary to my own best interests. Ignoring my passion to help people pursue their dreams was transforming me into a zombie with no creativity or zeal. I had been prostituting my business to maintain friendships, giving away my services at the cost of not spending time with my family. It took my friend’s suicide attempt to help me digest the fact that my dreams were dying and my business was on life support.

In my quest to learn things about my friend, it came to light that she loves to read and edit. I created a challenge for us, “I am going to write a book in thirty days and you are going to edit it for me.” In March of 2012, I embarked on a journey to write a book that would confront excuses that hold people back from pursuing their dreams. Every day I wrote a chapter and emailed it to her. She responded with constructive criticism and pushed me to write on a deeper level. While focusing on my book, I noticed that my business was also growing; people were actually seeking me out to edit their books for them. What a change!

After thirty days we not only had a finished book, but we invited a group of friends to join us for a discussion. At that meeting I challenged the women to run after their dreams with intentional tenacity. I stood in the meaning of my business when I had breakfast with those women in May 2012. It became clear to me in that moment that InSCRIBEd Inspiration exists to not only support writers, but to find ways to help people achieve their highest goals. With my friend, her passion for editing and reading helped birth my book Girl, Pray for Me which has led to how I found meaning in my business.

In this season of my life, I am seeking to create my legacy. Like Maya Angelou, Hugo Chavez, Nelson Mandela, and Dr. Dorothy I. Height, I want people to be impacted by my work. Beyond catch-phrases and quotes, I want them to internalize and act upon the power of their own dreams. Through a near tragedy, I learned three things about the meaning for my business: 1.) the value of embracing a friend, 2.) the importance of fighting complacency and 3.) to never let the passion for my business die.

Bio | Penda James
Penda L. James has a Master of Education degree from Bowling Green State University. At Wilberforce University she nurtured her love to help writers as the Editor in Chief of the Mirror Newspaper. For almost 20 years she has worked with numerous types of writers including song writers, playwrights, students, pastors, novelists, poets and others who wanted to tell their story. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her dancing daughter and humble husband. Connect with her at


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