Alumna bases novel off college experience

A good book that a college student can relate to can be hard to find. But thanks to a Florida A&M graduate, that search may be over.

Jasmine Sheffield recently released “Freshmen Fifteen,” a fiction novel based loosely off her college experience.

The former military brat who calls Fort Walton Beach, Fla., home said she reflected on her life experiences when writing the story.

“My college experience was life-changing,” she said. “The people I met – friends I gained, mentors I respect – have all in some way, shape or form made an impact on my life.”

In “Freshmen Fifteen,” the main character, Laila, has plans to lose her virginity the night of her high school graduation. That is, until her plans are changed by her boyfriend’s sudden arrest.

Now Laila is attending a popular HBCU as a virgin. This book takes readers on the wild ride of Laila’s journey through her freshman year equipped with friends, fun and frat boys.

Sheffield’s good friend, Lauren Cephas, said she loved reading “Freshmen Fifteen” from start to finish.

“It’s almost as if I had a 300-page conversation with her,” Cephas said. “I definitely laughed out loud in a number of places, and I honestly thought about the characters long after I put the book down.”

Sheffield, who graduated with a degree in computer information systems, never thought she would be taking the journey to publisher and author.

“I used to cringe at 10-page writing assignments,” Sheffield said. “Finishing ‘Freshmen Fifteen’ has been one of my proudest accomplishments.”

Sheffield said she’s not a writer by nature, but one day she sat down at her laptop and let the words flow.

“The title, I thought, is something representative of our freshman year,” she said. “Everyone can relate to those 15 pounds.”

Katia Moyer, a third-year business student from Miami, said her interest was piqued just from reading the book’s summary.

“The book sounds relatable,” said Moyer, who added that it’s always encouraging to see FAMU grads doing great things. “It puts us in a positive light. And it shows that when people leave FAMU, they go out and do work, and it showcases their talents.”

Sheffield said she wrote the novel as a way to enlighten young women to real issues such as teen pregnancy and sexual relationships.

“I hope to get that information out without being a scolding mother,” she said. “In the book, I talk about how you should get tested and how you should get checked if you are having sex.”

Sheffield’s greatest inspiration comes from her brother, who began writing poetry to get through a troubling period.

“The way he was able to overcome his situation by expressing his thoughts through words was life-changing for us both,” she recalled.

Sheffield’s close friend and co-worker, Christine Davis, said that because of Sheffield’s hard work, she’s not surprised at the way her friend’s career has progressed.

“Jasmine is a go-getter with lots of ideas and talent,” Davis said. “When she puts her mind to something, she follows through.”

In addition to working on a part two of “Freshmen Fifteen,” Sheffield also owns a publishing company. She said she enjoys mentoring young writers.

One key piece of advice Sheffield wants others to understand is to “pursue your dreams, whatever it is that drives you to be the best person you can be. Don’t pursue money. Pursue your passion and the money will follow.”