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My S.T.Y.L.E with Crystal Peters, Brooklyn Law School

Crystal Peters is a native New Yorker born to West Indian parents. She is a third-year public interest scholar at Brooklyn Law School, where she focuses on the intersection of criminal justice and civil rights. She intends to pursue a career in policy, and will continue to draft legislation and policy proposals for social justice reform. She is also an avid thrifter, with a keen eye for vintage pant suits and statement jewelry.

Please tell us about yourself.

Well. I am a millennial woman attempting (and somehow managing) to forge symbiosis between my passion for fashion, my interest in journalism and my lifelong commitment to civil rights through legal scholarship.

How would you best describe your style?

I would describe my style as rebellious. When it comes to both fashion and writing, I am mindful of trends and often shy away from them to ensure a certain level of authenticity and individuality. Thrift stores in NYC definitely facilitate this process for me.

When it comes to writing, I feel privileged to know that I can make substantive contributions to social justice advocacy through the unique lens of experience. My personal connection to this work enables me to resist the common urge towards comfortable narratives. The truth isn’t about comfort. In fact, it is my duty to make people uncomfortable through my proposals. It is through this discomfort that we are able to create systems of accountability for the solutions that we seek.

What are your most successful writing habits?

My most successful writing habit is drafting. My ideas typically originate in a ‘Notes’ application of my iPhone. I am constantly jotting down thoughts, quotes, and other things that may come up in daily conversations and activities. Initially, this was to something I did to refresh my failing memory whenever necessary, but it has become a critical step in my writing process. Often times, the notes sit for weeks on end before they evolve into more fully-developed pieces. I also tend to read through my Notes folder and random points of my day and reflect on the events leading up to or prompting the draft.

Which S.T.Y.L.E technique do you focus on more in your writing? (Structure, Transition, Your Voice, Layering, or Editing) Why?

I tend to shift my focus somewhere between ‘Your Voice’ and ‘Editing’. I am constantly attempting new ways to develop a deeper understanding of the connections between law, journalism and social change and to gain. I love writing, but also need the practical legal skills and expertise necessary to be an effective advocate both on paper and in public forums. Although both personal and professional experiences drive the passion with which I tackle my work, my voice is sometimes stifled by the rigid, formulaic confines of legal writing. I spent most of my time editing my drafts; often sacrificing creativity for conformity (to professional standards of legal writing). I hope to gain more confidence in evolving role as a lawyer and a writer.

How do you write to get noticed?

I tend to vary between creative and legal approaches to writing but I think my emotive use of language generally calls attention to my work. I hold an unapologetic belief in prioritizing the voices and leadership of minorities and people of color so my writings are exercises of truth-telling. I try to write poignant and persuasive pieces that will foster social and political discourse on issues disproportionately affecting the communities I either belong to or serve, and sometimes both.

What is your brainstorming process?

At this time, I mainly write policy briefs and memoranda on various issues within the criminal justice field. Brainstorming, for me, involves lots of reading, research and client and/or community-member interviews. I take every opportunity to learn as much as I can from the individuals directly impacted by the issues I’m writing on. I truly believe that listening to and understanding people’s stories are important tools in an attorney’s arsenal and I try to be mindful about including all stakeholders in my policy development process.

How do you overcome writer's block?

I overcome writer’s block through reflective meditation. My best writing occurs during periods of intense questioning. I’ve learned to to question what I see, then to question what I see after that, because at this stage of the writing process, questions matter as much, perhaps more than, the answers. What is the need for this project? What communities will be served? Why? Realizing and constantly reaffirming the need for the work that I am doing helps me stay on track.

How can we start becoming better writers overnight?

Overnight? We can start becoming better writers by becoming better readers, better listeners. Venture out into this world and connect with great minds. That is where inspiration lies.

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