Thinking should never be bland.

At Spice for Thought, you will encounter spicy thinking–critical reflections that don’t fall into prescribed ruts of thought. You may be familiar with portraits: paintings or photographs that capture a personality. Think of Spice for Thought as the portrait of Alexandra’s mind.

Alexandra Syrah

(née Ghaly) published her first piece, “Gourmet Foods–Not So Gourmet After All,” sometime in early 2000s in the online Neopets Magazine, the Neopian Times. She was around 11 years old at the time. This success prompted an unexpected flood of Neopets email messages, including requests for Neopets currency (because clearly, being a published writer means that you’re wealthy). Alexandra followed up with four additional Neopets publications.

Around this time, Alexandra taught herself to code HTML, CSS, and PHP by using “View Source” on webpages, reading the code, then adapting it for her own Sailor Moon Geocities fan page. At age 13, Alexandra graduated from writing for Neopets to writing X-Files fanfiction. In 9th grade, she won her first ever writing contest for a short story, “White,” a tragic love story written in a minimalist Hemingway style. The contest was hosted by the Tarpon Springs Public Library in Florida.

Alexandra had entered the Gifted program in 1st grade. At age 14, she volunteered to tutor during the lunch break at her high school. The following year, she contracted with her first paid client–the mother of a 9 or 10 year old boy who needed help with math.

Alexandra studied French for 7 years, beginning in 7th grade. By taking AP and IB classes, she entered college as a sophomore–with 31 credits. She took advantage of her “take any class you want” Honors privileges and enrolled in a number of anthropology classes, plus a bioengineering class and a 400-level global climate change course. She also had the privilege of studying with poet Diane Wakoski and memoir-writer Marcia Aldrich. In 2010, she lived with a French-speaking Muslim host family in Dakar, Senegal for 5 months. Those 5 months left a deep impression that would prompt an unfaltering desire to empower people to reach their fullest potential, no matter their circumstances in life.

Back in the States, Alexandra continued to write, publish, tutor, and edit as a freelancer. She also involved herself on a number of literary journals, including the Red Cedar Review and Fourth Genre, as well as the college yearbook. Some of her publications from this time period include, “The Old Straight Track,” and “meditation on the chipped mosaic of a clay augur, in the form of a fountain.” At the same time, she particularly enjoyed working with Burmese refugees on an anthropology Photo Voice project and tutoring ESOL with a Chinese graduate student.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Michigan State University, Alexandra worked full-time at a local independent bookstore. She also took up a writing internship at Delta Dental and continued working as a Research Assistant on an exciting international project investigating the intertwined history of steel and photography.

In 2012, Alexandra entered the nonfiction track of George Mason University’s Creative Writing M.F.A. program. There, she honed her teaching, tutoring, and writing skills and became more integrated into the academic community.

After attaining her M.F.A. in 2015, Alexandra taught a children’s after-school enrichment class as well as courses in English Composition at Northern Virginia Community College. She also moved into a variety of ministries, including homeless outreach and a bra party for women. In addition to “boots on the ground” ministry, she put her writing skills to use as a blog staff writer at Christians for Biblical Equality International. From 2017-2018, she was a live talk radio host on WAVA 780 AM. During this time she had the privilege of interviewing Jeff King, the President of the nonprofit International Christian Concern.

Today, Alexandra’s passions include education and international development. Her dream is to found and run an international development organization with an associated think tank.