I grew up in a town where art was a hobby, not a career. . . So I played around with the idea of other paths, because I was told art wouldn’t cut it.

My soft spot for animals led me to look into veterinary medicine. But, I quickly learned, blood isn’t my thing. I have a tendency to faint at the sight of it.

I took a cue from my sister and took drafting classes, with aspirations of being an architect (still creative, but more practical than being a painter.)

I even considered becoming a police officer, since I grew up in the local police station where my mother worked. But getting shot involved blood, so that was out. (Plus I don’t think my mother would have forgiven the world, or me, if I ever got shot.)

Then in high school, I discovered that my dad’s mom, who died before my toddler-brain could remember anything about her, had been a writer. Her book of poems, Thunder in the Drought is the main reason I survived my teens and early college years. A poem she had written 40 years ago still had meaning – and convinced me that, even from the grave, someone cared – when I read them as an angst-filled 15 year old.

Art and storytelling is in my genes.

Art and storytelling was what convinced me to get out of a town that was suffocating me.

Art and storytelling is what I advocate for now.

There’s a kid out there, in every city, in every neighborhood, that needs to know that they have the power to use their art and stories to ascend. And they need to know that there are people out there who are

so excited

to see what they can do.