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(In her own words)
“I was twelve years old when it hit me for the first time: there was nothing more powerful than words. Perhaps in a last-ditch effort to give her students something to do at the end of the school year, my sixth grade teacher assigned my classmates and I one last creative writing story. I don’t recall it centering on a particular theme, nor do I remember what the story was actually about – but I do remember poring over the handwritten words on the page. I remember the hard won eraser marks on my college-ruled notebook paper, how I wanted and needed and demanded to tell the tale in a particular way.
When I didn’t get my prized story back on the last day of school, I returned to Mrs. Johnson’s classroom a couple of days later and listened as she apologized for throwing my paper away in the recycle bin. I walked home, tears brimming in my eyes, devastated that my most important words lay jumbled in the bottom of a garbage receptacle. Even though the memory is fuzzy at best, it’s still something my mind chose to remember all these years later, its scene a telltale sign of my eventual future.
Now, nearly thirty years later, when someone asks me what I do for a living, the word “writer” falls off my tongue, almost effortlessly. But this identifier didn’t happen overnight: after college, I taught high school English and leadership. A handful of years later, I remained deep in the trenches as the director of a non-profit youth organization. Even though I didn’t call myself a writer, the act of writing still gave me life. I blogged. I wrote sermons and speeches. I guided others in the art of writing. I dreamed of writing a book someday, although I wondered how it would ever happen.
But then, becoming a writer really, actually happened. Almost six years ago, I quit the traditional work force to care for my oldest son and pursue a dormant dream of writing and speaking full-time. Although I doubted my abilities, a thousand times over, and received rejections, ten thousand times over, something deep inside kept telling me to press on, to keep putting one foot (or one tapping, typing finger) in front of the other and do the hard work.
Now, I write for various print and online publications; I guide others to stop and pause and read between the lines, quite literally; I pore over my own words, writing and rewriting because it’s what you do when you call yourself a writer. And in less than two months, my first book, The Color of Life, which is a memoir about my journey as a white woman into issues of race and justice, will publish.
I’ve not arrived – not by any stretch of the imagination, because I doubt any of us actually arrive – but I have reclaimed old stories lodged in the recycle bin, as I’ve begged to get the story just right.”
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her first book, The Color of Life, a memoir about her journey into issues of race and justice, releases in early February. She blogs regularly on Patheos, and you can also connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.