Barry McNamara  |  Published January 19, 2023

Sims ’16 Authors Novel

His book, ‘Getting By,’ named a finalist in the African American Fiction category at the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

MONMOUTH, Ill.Jaire Sims ’16 was a straight-A student at Perspectives Charter School in Chicago, but that doesn’t mean his teenage years were easy.

JAIRE SIMS: The debut novel that the 2016 alum completed while at Monmouth was a finalist for a b... JAIRE SIMS: The debut novel that the 2016 alum completed while at Monmouth was a finalist for a book award.His website describes that period as a time when his “quiet nature and social anxiety made him a prime target for bullies.”

Flash forward to four years beyond his time at Monmouth College, when Sims published his first novel, Getting By. It was a finalist in the African American Fiction category at the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Sims hopes Getting By will reach readers in specific demographics who share commonalities with him. He wishes to inspire such like-minded individuals to draw inspiration from their life experiences and perhaps someday create a story of their own.

Following is some of Sims’ story – how he came to be a Monmouth student, and how he came to be a successful novelist.

Peter Pitts was involved

“My high school counselor introduced me to Monmouth,” said Sims. “It was the last school I applied to, and it was late in the year – March or April. By that time, I’d already applied to 10 other schools, and I had my top choices. But then (longtime Monmouth admission counselor) Peter Pitts visited my high school, and my counselor suggested that a liberal arts school would be a good fit for me. I got an acceptance letter from Monmouth rather quickly after I applied.”

Sims had a new top choice, and he confirmed his plans during a summer visit. Monmouth was affordable for his family, and it wasn’t too far from Chicago. It checked another box, as well.

“Monmouth was the first time I was in a place where everybody didn’t look like me and everybody didn’t have the same experiences I had.” Jaire Sims

“Monmouth was the first time I was in a place where everybody didn’t look like me,” he said, “and everybody didn’t have the same experiences I had.”

Sims’ original career goal was to become an editor, and he chose communication studies as the route to get there. Even after that plan lost his interest, he stuck with the major, figuring it would be “the most relevant no matter what I did after college.”

Among the faculty who influenced his time at Monmouth was Chris Goble in communication studies.

“Although very quiet, you could see that Jaire was searching for a way to express himself,” said Goble. “I could see that in his projects in my media courses. I was so happy and proud to see him find a voice and share his story. And from that, helping others share their story through his courses he is offering on his website.”

An internship Sims had at Monmouth’s City Hall helped him sharpen his web design skills – skills he still uses today on his own site – and although he didn’t get the straight A’s he’d been accustomed to in high school, he was a strong enough student to be inducted into Lambda Pi Eta, the national communication honor society.

Getting ‘Getting By’ published

While at Monmouth, Sims also returned to a project he started in high school – working on his first novel. He wrote a few chapters while in high school, but he soon found his free time occupied by studying for the ACT and filling out college applications.

The idea to take on the task, he said, came after reading You Don’t Know Me by David Klass and being inspired by the coming-of-age novel, which tells the story of a boy who is abused and faces pressure in his school.

“It’s not an autobiographical story, but it does combine some of my experiences from high school and college, as well as my own creativity and imagination,” said Sims of Getting By, which he completed his junior year at Monmouth. “I spent my senior year revising it.”

But Sims didn’t get the novel published immediately. He knew there would be costs involved, so he worked to save money, eventually putting enough aside to hire his own editor. The book was published in August 2020.

“A few months after that, I submitted it to a book award program,” said Sims. “I didn’t think it would win, but they got back to me a little while later and told me it was a finalist.”

His main character’s “decisions and options on the cusp of adulthood create a compelling, uplifting, realistic story of a potentially successful young man and introvert who faces pressures and influences beyond those usually wound into African American coming-of-age stories,” wrote Diane Donovan for Midwest Book Reviews.

Just do it

Sims was asked what he says to others who are considering creating a story of their own.

“Just start writing, even if it’s just a little bit every day – a page or a paragraph,” he said. “If you don’t, you’ll find excuses not to write. Develop a discipline and a routine, and figure out what’s the story you’re eager to tell the world.”

“Just start writing, even if it’s just a little bit every day – a page or a paragraph. If you don’t, you’ll find excuses not to write. Develop a discipline and a routine, and figure out what’s the story you’re eager to tell the world.” Jaire Sims

Sims gives plenty of other advice on writing and self-publishing through the courses he offers on his website, jairesims.com, but another point he wanted to stress to aspiring writers is to bring in outside opinions.

“It’s very important to get feedback,” he said. “Find some people who love reading who can tell you what they think. And it’s also very important to have a good editor, so you don’t have typos all over the place.”

When he’s not working on his website, his writing course or revisions to the sequel of Getting By, Sims works in downtown Chicago for Mercer, a company that provides trusted advice and solutions to build healthier and more sustainable futures for its clients, colleagues and communities.

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