Memphian to Meet: Holly Whitfield

Posted on March 1, 2014

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By Kendra Lyons

alkdfjalkfdYoung adults in Memphis frequently turn to the popular “I Love Memphis” blog for ideas for weekend plans, updates on the local music scene, new restaurants to try, and an upbeat online experience covering the city. Holly Whitfield, a Hattiesburg, Mississippi native and University of Memphis graduate, began her career as the I Love Memphis blogger just this year.

Whitfield explains, “I’ve definitely been a writer my entire life. Since I was very little I’ve been writing and illustrating stories. When I was five, I went around telling people I wanted to be a writer and an artist.”

holly2Whitfield initially began her undergraduate studies with a focus on architecture, but eventually realized that her lifelong attraction to graphic design and writing was what she wanted to pursue, leading her to a position as a freelance writer for the Commercial Appeal, where she eventually was hired as an Editorial Director for the niche publications department.

“I had some talented, influential writing professors at the University of Memphis that took me from a rambling, wordy person who liked to write to writing something that hopefully other people want to read. I can’t say enough about some of the professors there. Jan Coleman was one of them who changed my life, really. She taught me how to work through a piece to make it publishable, and encouraged me to pursue writing.”

When Whitfield came across the opening for a new I Love Memphis blogger on LinkedIn, she had reservations about applying. “At first I thought, I don’t see myself as that type of public figure, really. That attention has never been my thing. Once I thought about it a little bit more, and especially when I talked to my friends, all of my closest friends immediately said ‘No, that job is you. That is all about everything you like to do.’ And I started to see it from their perspective and I was like, OK, yeah, you’re totally right. I can do this, and I want to do this.”

I expected the writer behind “5 Things to do in Memphis this Weekend,” “Party Like it’s Your Birthday, Memphis Style” and “2014: The Year of Art Festivals, Remixes, and Possibilities” to be something like a cheerleader for the city- extremely upbeat, intensely optimistic, and completely engulfed by the positive aspects of the city she writes about daily. Whitfield instead proved to be incredibly passionate about the improvements being made in Memphis, but also sharply aware of Memphis’ full picture, which certainly includes all of the topics she covers on the blog, but also embodies certain challenges.

“Let’s take this for example: the phrase, ‘Midtown is Memphis,’ which has been around for a long time…well first, disclaimers- number one, I love Midtown and live in Midtown, number two, Midtown is where I fell in love with Memphis; I fell in love the second I walked into Cooper Young for the first time, and number three, I think that Midtown historically, especially in the last twenty years, embodies a lot of ideals, things that we would want Memphis to be; creative, outspoken, and tolerant. Midtown can be all of those things.”

holly_3Whitfield added thoughtfully, “But, I think that now it’s time for us to not say ‘Midtown is Memphis’ anymore. Memphis is Memphis. There are too many people in other neighborhoods outside of Midtown who are creative and forward-thinking, who are doing cool things in arts, education, business, community development; we can find those people and projects all over Memphis now.”

Whitfield’s goals for the I Love Memphis blog are to appeal to a diverse age group, incorporate more guest bloggers, and to write more about Non-Profits in Memphis, which is what motivated her to start the Project 50 series. By the end of the year, Whitfield will have completed fifty posts to serve as living proof of the positive movements being initiated by Memphians who are passionate about seeking change in the city.

Since graduating from college, Whitfield accounts for experiencing more “spontaneous moments of appreciation for Memphis. It suddenly hits me sometimes. Yesterday morning, I was at Brooks at like 8 a.m. for a meeting. I was parking my car and I looked at over at Overton Park and the sun was coming up over the golf course. It was very picturesque, and I recognized that having something like Overton Park in the middle of our city is very unique.”

Whitfield continued about the significance behind these moments of pride in her city: “I mean, I’m looking at that scene and it’s really pretty, but it’s also the idea that the park is supported by individuals who take it upon themselves to donate and volunteer with the Overton Park Conservancy and the people who took it upon themselves to stop the interstate from going through the park in the 60s and 70s. So sure, it’s pretty, but there are stories behind it too. There are a lot of places like that in Memphis.”

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