Tamara Dunn: Artist, Journalist and Writer

Born: 1979 in Queens, New York
MBTI: Either INTJ or ISTJ, so I have either the most common or the rarest personality type.
Educational Background: Bachelor’s degree in studio art from Wake Forest University
Current Computer/Mobile Device: A 6-year-old Asus laptop, a 4-year-old iPad mini and a ZTE cellphone

Tamara Dunn's desktop
Tamara Dunn’s desktop

What was your childhood dream?

I wanted to be a music video choreographer.

What do you do for a living?

I am the assistant city editor and a movie blogger for the Standard-Speaker newspaper in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

How do you keep track of what you’ve done?

Journalists are busy entering contests each year, and as the year goes, I keep track of the articles, blog posts and designs I’ve done that I think are good. As far as art, I share a lot of my photographs through Flickr.

What is your most significant accomplishment? Is there anything you hope to do even greater?

In 2011, several national publications and websites featured my tabloid cover design of the Osama bin Laden raid. It was weird doing interviews and seeing my name in academic papers as my job was more behind the scenes. I hope for a chance to design another front page that has as much impact as that one.

Tamara Dunn's cover design of the bin Laden raid
Tamara’s cover design of the bin Laden raid

When you make sacrifices for your work, do you tell people or keep it to yourself?

It’s a bit of both. I like to share my thought process and what steps I had to take to make things happen. Whether it’s a power outage, a hurricane or a system meltdown, you’re going to know about it.

Other than money, what else have you gained from your job?

A heightened sense of the world around me, from the stories coming across the wire to the stories our neighbors have to share.

What are your favorite apps/tools that help you do what you do?

I have three that I use a lot: Calm — a meditation app for my ongoing practice; Canva — a graphic design app for book covers, graphics and other design elements; and MindNode — a mind-mapping app that helps with brainstorming and idea formation.

What do you do to recharge yourself?

Meditation is beneficial. Taking 15 minutes to center my thoughts and remember to breathe is something that helps.

What inspires you?

Struggles. When you’re against the ropes, it’s what you do to get out of trouble that makes you stronger.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

My mother.

When is the last time you cried and why?

Less than two weeks over a moment of rejection. It was the tipping point to a bad week.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I’m an amateur tarot card reader. I got started last fall with two decks, and I also use an app. I haven’t read cards for people yet, however.

What do you feel your impact is on those around you? What would you like it to be?

I don’t think I have much of an impact.

What scares you most?

Spiders and failure.

Which is worse, failing or never going for what you want?

I tend to think about my failures more than what I have missed.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a while? If so, what is it and why haven’t you?

I’m working on three writing projects, and through mind-mapping and classes, I’m organizing my work and methods the best way possible.

What piece of literature has influenced you the most?

God’s Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembène. Sembène made great, empowered women in his books and films.

What are you currently reading or is the last book you read?

I’m currently reading You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson. I like her podcast with Jessica Williams, 2 Dope Queens, and I had been trying to find a memoir to read written by black women my age.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve read online recently?

I watched a BuzzFeed video on Anthony D. Mays, a man who went from foster care in Compton, California, to become a software engineer at Google.

If your life was a novel, what would be its title and how would it end?

Filling in the Boxes — Since I’m still writing this novel, I think the end would be how the boxes were filled with outside-the-box thinking.

What is a song, album or playlist that everyone should hear?

I’m a big fan of movie scores, and my all-time favorite is Miles Davis’ Elevator to the Gallows. It’s smooth, kinetic and moody like the French New Wave film. Battle of Algiers is also a classic, and modern ones for Arrival, Phantom Thread and Moonlight are also great.

What are some of your favorite films?

North by Northwest is my absolute favorite. Others include Moonlight, In the Mood for Love and Bringing Up Baby.

In conversation do you tend to talk or listen more?


What are you looking for when you have a conversation with someone? What topics do you want to discuss?

I hope the person is aware of current events and how government and media affect our daily lives. I’m also a cinephile, and I would wish the person has seen movies beyond what’s in theaters.

If you were guaranteed honest answers to two questions, what would you ask and to whom?

I would ask my maternal grandmother if she ever had faith in people, particularly in her family, and if she ever had faith in a higher power.

Who is your favorite person to follow on social media?

I like following Angelica Bastien on Twitter. She’s a staff writer for Vulture and sometimes tweets about her struggle with bipolar disorder. I’ve been following food blogger/photographer Tracey Benjamin of Shutterbean for 10 years.

Where is your favorite place?

Wherever my best friends are.

How big is your circle?

It’s more like a weird pentagon. It is quite vast but not intersecting.

If you could take a one month trip anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, where would you go and what would you do?

I would like to go to Spain to see the buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi.

Do you have a favorite restaurant? If so, what is it?

Bouley in New York City is the best dining experience I ever had.

What is your favorite food to prepare?

I love to make a variety of chicken wings. Mojo, crockpot, curry, buffalo, all of them.

What is your favorite comfort food?

Ice cream. My grandfather worked in the industry and passed that love down the line.

Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor?

Breyers Cookies and Cream.

What is happiness to you?

Dedicating time for myself is important. If I know that I have fulfilled a day for myself in which I didn’t have to do something for or answer to someone else, I feel relief and content. It happens when you hear that positive, internal voice and not the self-critic or saboteur.

What has been your biggest disappointment in life, and how did you handle it?

I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at age 28 nearly 10 years ago. It was something that was deep in my family tree, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I had it. However, it came much sooner than I thought. Within a year, I lost 50 pounds; I ate much healthier; I exercised. But after another health setback sometime later, I didn’t do as well as I should; I gained the weight back, and I stopped exercising. I try to find ways to be a better diabetic, but it’s a longer road than what it was before.

If you could do just one thing to improve the planet right now, what would it be?

Get people to believe that climate change is real, and not something solely based on weather.

What advice would you give your younger self?

The path to stability does not exist. There is no clear way of achieving one’s goals.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned?

Practicing gratitude, being thankful for what I have.

For what are you most grateful?

I had 37 good years of being my mother’s daughter. She died almost a year ago.

Do you have a mantra or quote that guides your life?

“Let love rule.” It’s from the Lenny Kravitz song, but these are three words I use to center myself, my voice and my work. Whether it’s through pain, indecisiveness or confusion, this mantra reminds me of my purpose in life.

How would you like to be remembered?

I hope that I motivated others to prevail in times that seem bleak. I hope that people think that I care about what I do as a journalist, writer and artist.

Who would you like to answer these questions?

Melissa Harris-Perry.

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