Tasked with writing a fractured fairytale in one of his first English classes out of high school, Parker Atlas Yaw ’24 had no way of knowing that he would be a published author just a few years later. Now, a junior at SUNY Potsdam, he has turned those initial pages into a fully formed novel that will soon be on the digital shelves of Amazon in paperback and eBook.
“I pulled out the idea, dusted it off, and wrote 40 pages in a week. Five (hundred) drafts later, ‘The Story of the Sleeping Lady’ can finally stand on its own as a 300-page novel,” Yaw said. “‘The Story of the Sleeping Lady’ is a middle-grade gothic fiction reframing of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ story focusing on the prince. The book follows Prince Philip as he embarks on a quest to right his father's wrongs, but as he and his knights venture into the dark of the Great Overgrowth, it becomes far more complicated than he expected.”
Yaw—who has excelled academically while pursuing a double major in anthropology and English literature/writing—has also connected with a book distributor that is in the process of trying to get the novel on the shelves of Target, Walmart, and Barnes & Noble.
"I have absolutely loved being a student at SUNY Potsdam. It's comforting to see familiar faces in my classes over the years and have professors remember your name. There are so many professors that build a personal rapport with their students. I love knowing that they care about not only my education but my wellbeing.”
Born and raised in Malone, N.Y., a short drive from Potsdam, Yaw has always been familiar with SUNY Potsdam. As a teenager, he regularly made the trip to campus to attend a volleyball camp, and when his father, the varsity soccer coach at Franklin Academy, entered the playoffs every year, Yaw would watch the games from the stands overlooking the Maxcy Hall Turf Field.
After getting his associate degree from North Country Community College, he set his sights on the familiar College to the west. “I didn't ‘choose’ Potsdam, per se, in that, after community college in my hometown, no other university really occurred to me. SUNY Potsdam has always just been a part of my life, and it's close enough to home that I get to live with my family to help my brother experience high school,” he said.
Yaw enrolled at SUNY Potsdam with aspirations of becoming a high school English teacher. He has continued to refine his writing skills over the past two years, while also completing his recent novel. “There are two branches of English study that have both strengthened the writer inside of me—literature and composition. Reading and analyzing the works of literary greats has inspired and enlightened me, and deconstructing the steps and purposes of writing has allowed me to become more intentional in the way I use language,” Yaw explained.
Something he didn’t expect when he arrived at SUNY Potsdam was to fall in love with the Department of Anthropology—which has offered him a new lens through which to explore the world. During his first semester at the College, he took an introductory anthropology class with Dr. Lydia Rodriguez, which immediately changed his academic trajectory. “My anthropology advisor, Dr. Rodriguez, is perhaps the most impactful professor to date. She has guided and encouraged me on my academic journey, and I know that I am better for her support,” he said.
Yaw walks with Dr. Rodriguez in the Academic Quad.
Building on the lessons from his anthropology classes, he plans on incorporating his newfound knowledge into future novels. Outside of writing, he has focused his studies on linguistic anthropology and archaeology, and he’s participated in mock archaeological digs. Yaw is also working as a member of the editorial staff for the College's anthropology journal, The Collegiate Anthropologist, after Dr. Rodriguez selected him for the position. “I am incredibly grateful for her confidence in my abilities and my passion,” he said. “My favorite thing about studying anthropology is how holistic and encompassing it is. As a discipline, anthropology is a melting pot, taking inspiration from so many different sciences and arts, which allows us to study so many aspects of humanity.”
Yaw has been named to the President’s List for four semesters in a row with a 3.87 GPA. From the Provost’s Scholarship to the Excelsior Scholarship, Yaw’s tuition has been fully funded as he combines his passion for English and anthropology. He will wrap up his bachelor’s degree next year, while adding a minor in archaeology to his list of academic accomplishments. After walking across the Commencement stage in May of 2024, he will pursue a graduate degree in adolescent education at SUNY Potsdam.
“I'd like to travel the world for a bit to take in some beautiful architecture and cultures while working as a linguistic anthropologist focusing on youth language innovation. Then I plan to return to the North Country to teach high school English, hopefully at my old school, Franklin Academy,” Yaw said. “During my career, I plan to earn a doctorate in linguistics. I am also going to continue publishing my speculative fiction books, starting with my next novel, ‘The Community,’ which I am hoping to release before the end of the year, and the sequel to ‘The Story of the Sleeping Lady,’ which comes out in 2024.”
Article by Jason Hunter, Photos by Jason Hunter and Ayisha Khalid' 24