Tag Archives: lynchburg

Top Three Hikes Within an Hour of Lynchburg

By Rachel Van Tuyl

As summer draws to a close and November ushers in cooler temperatures, Lynchburg residents and students may find themselves looking for some beautiful hikes in the area. With so many natural areas around the city, it isn’t difficult to find hikes to fit any level of difficulty.

Husband and wife team Adam and Christine Anderson, who run the website Virginia Trail Guide, have grown up hiking Virginia trails, and offer advice to hikers who may not be very familiar with the area.

Sharp Top Mountain

Thirty-four miles to the west of Liberty University’s campus lies Sharp Top Mountain, which is visible from Liberty’s campus. The 2.6 mile hike is a steep uphill all the way to the top, so this trail will definitely give hikers a workout. A series of steps forms most of the trail, for a total of a 1,227-foot elevation gain.

Despite the trail’s difficulties, it still seems to be a popular destination among hikers.

“The trail is a little rocky and there are some stiffer uphill sections, but it is well worth the effort,” reviewer Dave Phillips wrote.

Adam Anderson has been hiking Sharp Top since childhood, and he has noticed more people taking the hike over the years.

“I always recommend (starting) a hike up Sharp Top early in the morning, so you can take in the beautiful view with a bit of solitude,” Adam Anderson said.

Crabtree Falls

Located just 45 miles from Liberty, Crabtree Falls is the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It is a moderate hike with few challenges.

“Crabtree Falls is probably one of the easiest waterfall hikes in the Mid-Atlantic,” reviewer Melissa Moore wrote. “The waterfall is only a few hundred feet from the parking lot via a flat, paved path, (and) the viewpoint for the falls is right there next to the falls.”

However, Christine Anderson said that more experienced hikers who want a challenge can continue hiking beyond Crabtree Falls to either Spy Rock or The Priest.

“Both of those spots offer amazing views and are challenging add-ons to the Crabtree Falls Hike,” Christine Anderson said.

Although the falls are a beautiful location, they are not without their dangers.

“It also has the misfortune of being one of the deadliest spots in (George Washington National Forest),” Christine Anderson said. “The rocks are very slippery, but hikers keep leaving the trail and climbing out toward the waterfall.”

According to a sign at the falls, the rocks are slippery because of clear algae growing on them. But Christine Anderson said the hike is safe if hikers stay on the marked trails.

McAfee Knob

Perhaps one of the most well-known trails is the McAfee Knob hike, located about an hour from Liberty. The 8.8 mile hike, with its picturesque views, offers visitors unique photo opportunities. Thousands of hikers visit the area every year to have their picture taken atop the knob jutting out from the mountain.

For many, McAfee Knob holds special memories.

“I spent my birthday backpacking across McAfee Knob a couple years ago,” Christine Anderson said. “I got to sit on the ledge and dangle my feet over the view. It’s a gift to have a birthday in such a glorious spot.”

Since the Appalachian Trail crosses McAfee Knob, the area sees many visitors, and it is the most photographed area on the entire Appalachian Trail, according to Christine Anderson. She believes that the hardest part of the hike isn’t the trail itself, but rather trying to find a parking spot.

“With the rise of Instagram and other social media, casual hikers are choosing to visit this iconic spot in increasing numbers,” Christine Anderson said. “It can be hard to find parking, and the trail is often quite crowded.”

Hikers who want to try McAfee Knob can visit Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club’s website, which offers tips and other information on this hike.

“We’re lucky to be in a state that has so many wonderful hiking trails,” Christine Anderson said. “No matter what trail you choose, you’re going to see something great.”

Whether hikers choose to scale a mountain or visit waterfalls, it is important to plan ahead for hikes. This includes checking the weather, and having a trail map, first aid kit, water and snacks. Hikers can also look for a list of 10 essentials for all hikers.

“Looking at some of the sights you see on these three hikes will naturally cause you to pause and reflect on the beauty of nature,” Adam Anderson said. “With the crazy world that surrounds us on a daily basis, we could all use some of that to help ground us and think about our place in this world.”

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A Writer & Her Garden

 A granddaughter helps her grandmother’s legacy continue to flourish.

Written by Hayleigh Worgan   Photos courtesy of Anne Spencer House & Garden MuseumIn early 2008, Shaun Spencer Hester sat on her mother’s porch contemplating where her career would take her next. She caught sight of her grandmother’s home across the street, and an idea began to take shape. A historic landmark, the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum (part of the Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation, Inc.), was maintained by Hester’s parents, but closed to the public. A historian, preservationist, and writer, Hester decided to reopen the museum in time for Virginia’s Annual Garden Day. 

When she stepped inside, she was struck by the feeling that she had stepped back in time. In that moment, she recalls, she knew that it was imperative to preserve as many of the original features of the home and garden as she could. With the windows clean and the floor swept, she opened the doors in time for spring that year. She became the museum’s curator, and introduced a new generation to the life and work of her grandmother, Anne Spencer. 

(photo: Anne Spencer in 1940)

Every inch of the Spencer property tells a story. In her time, Spencer used her garden as a sanctuary and gathering place, hosting intellectuals and African American travelers during years when our country was deeply segregated. Both inside the home and out in her community, she understood the value of planting seeds and helping them grow. An important figure in the literary and cultural movement of the 1920s and Harlem Renaissance, Spencer left quite a legacy. Her many accomplishments include being the second African American published in the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry (1973), assisting in the foundation of the Lynchburg chapter of the NAACP, and working as a librarian for the all-black Dunbar High School for twenty years. 

“The whole reason she wanted that job was because, at the time, there were no libraries in Lynchburg open to African Americans,” Hester says. “She thought, if she got the job, she would be able to allow access—not necessarily physical access—but she would be able to check out books for people in her community.”

Sources have described Spencer as a recluse because of the many hours she spent, day and night, working in her garden. Although she enjoyed her time alone, this accusation is unsubstantiated. Not only did she welcome people into her garden and home, she listened to their stories.

“For my grandmother,” Hester explains, “her garden was a place she could entertain visitors and guests. It was a way for her to connect to people, but it was also a place for her to get away from people, and she used it in both of those ways.”

The cottage in Spencer’s garden was built by her husband, Edward. There, she would escape to write poetry and prose that continues to be published in anthologies today. 

“It was a place to think and just be quiet. I think that is important for everyone, writer or not, and what better place to be than with nature?” Hester adds.

By preserving her grandmother’s home and gardens, Hester, the Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation’s Board of Directors, and the advisory board, are doing much more than providing another lovely stop on a garden tour. They are sharing part of the African American experience in American history.

“I tell people on these tours, when you think about my grandparents who met when they were young, in the 1800s, they were the first generation of their family to be freely educated just over 100 years ago. It’s really not that long ago. To see how we’ve grown, and understand the African American story over all of those periods of time is just starting to be told and of interest to all people. These stories aren’t written down in our history books, and if we don’t write them down they will all be lost. It’s now time for people to tell their story, whether it’s good or bad,” Hester says. 

Hester is currently working on a book detailing the history of her family, including the many ways they impacted the Civil Rights Movement and integration. Follow her on Instagram (@shaun.hester) for current information on the project. 

Visitation to the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum slows down in October, but the garden is an unforgettable sight, even in the fall. From mid-October to March, Hester encourages those interested in a tour to book it two weeks in advance through the museum’s website. For more information visit www.annespencermuseum.com.

Hayleigh is a freelance writer, independent author, and writing consultant. In 2017, she published her first novel, The Huntsman: A modern retelling of Red Riding Hood. She spends a lot of time traveling and exploring new regions for inspiration, but Roanoke will always be her home. www.hayleighworgan.com.

Virginia Made: TeTai

Meet Tabitha Venditti of TeTai

Summer vibes have finally arrived. Sunshine, warmth and vacations. Beaches are calling your name and cookouts on the weekends become norm. Fun in the sun is the theme for June as outdoor activities are planned for the entire family. Through all the chaos there’s one thing that sometimes takes the back burner. Skincare. That’s where Tabitha Venditti, founder of TeTai, a natural skincare line, comes in.

Tabitha grew up in Portland, Oregon and later moved to Pennsylvania. In 1993, she found herself in Lynchburg attending Liberty University. Twenty-five years, and a family later, Virginia is where they call home. Tabitha recently completed a degree in English from Lynchburg College. Raising a family, running a business and working for a local family as a personal chef while taking classes was not an easy task. Not a woman to back down from a challenge, Tabitha not only completed her degree but graduated with special recognition for her writing abilities.

TeTai began as a challenge as well. Named after her two daughters (Tegan and Taitum). It all started when Tabitha’s oldest daughter, Tegan’s, eczema became more and more problematic. An aunt in Hawaii sent the family a recipe for a scrub using oil and sea salt that helped but was too oily for the three-year-old. Tabitha took on the challenge of creating a product her daughter could use with success. The result was a unique scrub that combined seven unique oils, fine sea salt and essential oil of lavender. The natural product healed Tegan’s skin without all the harsh chemicals and created a demand among friends and families.

“Every product I make bears the names of my daughters and represent quality. I couldn’t sell it if I didn’t believe in its quality.” Each product created within the skincare line covers a variety of issues within the skin for both men and women. From extremely oily to dry, sensitive skin and acne, there’s a little something for everyone. Scrubs, bath bombs, toners, facial oils and essential oils are just a few naturally-based products offered. The newest additions of TeTai were motivated by Tabitha’s own need for a regime to combat large pores and sagging, aging skin. The TeTai Toner and facial oil combination of argan oil and organic lavender solved her problems better than any name brand skincare without costing hundreds of dollars.

Tabitha’s passion for her daughters and leading a natural lifestyle are what have built TeTai into a trusted brand amongst her clients. Her willingness to research, experiment, fall and get back up again are examples of the tenacity it takes to run a successful small business. As her friends were asked to describe Tabitha their words matched everything reflected in her business. Words like “passionate, young-at-heart, determined, quirky, vivacious and loving” were just a few mentioned. When she’s not experimenting for TeTai you can find Tabitha enjoying her college and high school-aged daughters, reading To Kill A Mockingbird, or watching Jumanji through tears. On Saturdays, catch TeTai at the Historic Roanoke City Market and various craft shows around Virginia.

Find TeTai:

www.etsy.com/shop/tetai   USE BELLA CODE: BELLA for 20% OFF

 

www.tetai365.com

Written by Faith Jones of Hill City Handmade

Faith Jones is a local entrepreneur, creative, and believer.  Her businesses include Faith Inspired and The Hill City Handmade. Faith has a degree in Art and Photography and is a former high school art and culinary teacher. She enjoys spending time with her family and travelling. Faith’s motto is, “Paris is always a good idea.” 

www.thehillcityhandmade.com

Bella Finds: Supernatural Kitchen!

Spring and Easter are right around the corner, and bring cupcakes and goodies along with them! Supernatural Kitchen offers plant-based food coloring with no artificial colors. Just mix the vegan and gluten free powder in some water, and you’re good to go! Color icing, cookie mix, and cake batter to make your deserts fun and festive. And to top off those goodies add some of their soy-free, plant-based sprinkles. Choose ‘white sequins’ for a simple toping, or ‘rainbow starfetti’ for a fun and colorful addition. You can order from their website, www.supernaturalkitchen.com, where they also offer recipes for Ombre pancakes, Sunny Day cake, and even a tip on how to make your morning toast more fun!

Written by Samantha Fantozzi

Earth Girl Wellness: Eat Healthy!

One of the questions Earth Girl most frequently gets asked is, “How do I encourage my household to eat healthier?” It is a great question and one with a variety of solid answers. It is usually best to provide feedback that is specifically tailored to each individual household since every family has a unique dynamic. Homes all have varying interest or talents to prepare meals, various schedules from serene to hectic, and everyone places a different emphasis on food in their budgets. However, there are three basic suggestions every household can implement immediately to ensure success.
1) Place healthy, easy-to-eat foods within arms reach every day. It is not unusual to hear advice that your cupboards and refrigerators need to be filled with healthy eating options. But as the saying goes…out of sight means out of mind! Place ready-to-eat, already prepared choices on your counter in brightly colored bowls or on seasonally decorated platters. Having the healthy choices in plain sight and/or in a high traffic area places a constant reminder to fill up on nutritious snacks. Red or green grapes, baby carrots, or a bowl of almonds can be quick grabs to nourish your body. Think of all the times it is convenient to grab candy from a dish…just change your habits to something healthy!
2) Water, water everywhere! Carry a water bottle with you everywhere. Water is free, has no calories and is arguably the most important essential nutrient the body needs. It keeps your belly full so you are less likely to eat unnecessarily. We often reach for something to eat thinking we are hungry when in fact, we are simply dehydrated. I often recommend an individual carry a water bottle around the house and at work, especially if a snack room or table constantly tempts her to reach for something unhealthy. You can’t reach for a donut if you already have water in your hands!
3) There are no forbidden foods! Teaching yourself and loved ones that it’s okay to indulge once in awhile is extremely important! Learning how to spread out indulgences and consume them in moderation creates a balanced lifestyle and diet. Plus, it’s no fun to never eat the foods you love! Purchase limited amounts of your favorite foods to have in your house for times you want to savor a beloved treat. If you have only one bag of chips in your house, you learn that if you eat them all in the first day you have none for the rest of the week. If you have a small handful or snack bag full once a day, you can have your salty yumminess all week! This is an especially important lesson for children and youth to learn early in life.
Earth Girl loves to recommend easy to use modifications to ensure a healthy household. My top three recommendations above can be utilized in any household regardless of time restrictions, budget, or culinary talents. Individuals of every age, fitness level, and motivation can put each suggestion to excellent use to create a healthier lifestyle!

Simple Sheet Pan Suppers

At times, spending hours in the kitchen can be a relaxing, enjoyable experience. However, even for avid home cooks, a busy weeknight isn’t one of those times. Fortunately, solutions like sheet pan suppers make it easy to create dishes with exceptional flavor depth that come together quickly and clean up just as fast.

Keeping a variety of vegetables on hand makes it simple to pull together a family meal. Onions, for example, are versatile, flavorful, easy to store, have a long shelf-life and are available year-round from U.S. growers. An added benefit when cooking with onions is that you’re serving up a good source of fiber.

For more tasty recipes to make supper a cinch, visit onions-usa.org and usaonions.com.

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Spicy Sheet Pan Roasted Jambalaya

Recipe courtesy of the National Onion Association and Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee

Servings: 4-6

1          large yellow onion, diced
1/2       large green bell pepper, diced
1/2       large yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2       large red bell pepper, diced
3          stalks celery, sliced or diced
2          garlic cloves, minced
1-2       jalapeños, seeded and diced
1          pint cherry tomatoes
3          tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2       teaspoon salt
1/2       teaspoon black pepper
1          link (13.5 ounces) Andouille sausage, sliced
1          pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1          tablespoon Cajun seasoning blend
linguine noodles, cooked according to package directions
1-2       lemons, sliced in thin wedges
2          green onions, sliced
fresh chopped parsley

Heat oven to 400 F.
Line 13-by-18-inch sheet pan with parchment paper.
In large bowl, combine onion, bell peppers, celery, garlic, jalapeños, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper until evenly combined. Spread out evenly on pan in single layer. Add slices of Andouille sausage. Roast 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and start to brown.
Toss shrimp with Cajun seasoning and prepare linguine noodles.
When ready, remove baking sheet from oven. Place shrimp on top of vegetable and sausage mixture in single layer. Top with half the lemon wedges. Return to oven and cook about 5-8 minutes, or until shrimp is no longer pink.
Serve over linguine garnished with green onions and parsley with remaining fresh lemon wedges on side.

 

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Easy Drumstick-Quinoa Sheet Pan Supper

Recipe courtesy of the National Onion Association and Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee

Servings: 4-6

8-10     chicken legs
1          fennel bulb
1          large yellow onion, sliced
1          large red onion, sliced
2          garlic cloves, sliced
3          medium-sized potatoes, cubed
1          orange (1/4 cup juice and zest)
1/4       teaspoon thyme, dried
2          tablespoons olive oil
1          teaspoon sea salt
1/2       teaspoon black pepper
2          tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
orange rind curls
brown rice, cooked according to package directions
quinoa, cooked according to package directions

Heat oven to 400 F.
Line 13-by-18-inch sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place chicken legs on pan. Spread fennel, yellow onion, red onion, garlic and potatoes around and in between legs.
In small bowl, whisk together orange juice and zest, thyme and olive oil. Pour mixture over chicken and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender. Cook rice and quinoa.
Garnish chicken with parsley and orange curls. Serve over brown rice and quinoa.

 

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Sheet Pan-Style Buddha Bowls

Recipe courtesy of the National Onion Association and Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee

Servings: 4-6

2          yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1/2       head of red or purple cabbage, cut into wedges
2          red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1          small butternut squash, peeled and 1/2-inch diced
1          pound Brussels sprouts, halved
extra-virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1 1/2    cups quinoa, cooked according to package directions

Tahini sauce:

1          tablespoon tahini
1/2       lemon, juiced
1          teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2-1    teaspoon maple syrup
2          avocados, peeled and sliced
fresh parsley

 

Heat oven to 400 F.
Line 13-by-18-inch sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place onion, cabbage, potatoes, squash and Brussels sprouts in single layer on pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables 40 minutes, or until tender. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

While vegetables roast, cook quinoa.
To make tahini sauce: In small bowl, whisk tahini, lemon juice, mustard and syrup until smooth.
To assemble Buddha bowls: Spoon quinoa into bowls. Add roasted veggies and garnish with avocado and parsley. Drizzle tahini sauce over each bowl and serve.

 

All About Onions

Knowing how to buy and store onions can make them true superstars in your kitchen. Growers and shippers of the National Onion Association and Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee offer these tips:

Buying
When shopping, buy onions with dry outer skins, free of spots or blemishes. The onion should be firm and have no scent. Avoid bulbs that have begun to sprout.

Yellow, red and white onions are available year-round from producers in the United States.

Seasonal differences like flavor and texture are noticeable and highlighted during these time frames:

Fall and winter onions (available August-April ) have multiple layers of thick, paper-like layers of skin. Known for their mild to pungent flavor profile, these varieties can be eaten raw, and are ideal for roasting, caramelizing, grilling and frying because they have less water content.

Spring and summer onions (available March-August) have thin, often transparent skins and are typically sweeter and milder than fall and winter varieties. Due to their high water content and mild flavor, they are best used for raw, pickled, lightly cooked or grilled dishes.

 

Storing
Store onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, not the refrigerator. Do not store whole, unpeeled onions in plastic bags. Lack of air movement reduces storage life. Peeled or cut onions may be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Source: National Onion Association and Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee

 

Meet Pareena G. Lawrence, Hollins President!

Pareena G. Lawrence became the 12th President of Hollins University in July 2017. During the same summer, the book she coauthored, Life Histories of Women Panchayat Sarpanches from Haryana, India, was published. The book considers stories of elected women leaders in villages across India. Her life, research, and professional accomplishments have elevated and continue to support women in her community and around the world.

Lawrence grew up in India. Her childhood was filled with a lot of rules and things she couldn’t do, and the only reason she wasn’t allowed to do them was simply, “because she was a girl.” The fact that women were so confined in her society sparked her eagerness for change.

“Changing the world and rules seemed wrong became a passion of mine at a very young age,” she recalls.

After she finished college in India, at the University of Delhi, she followed her friend’s lead and applied to some grad schools in the states. In the education department of the US embassy, she looked through pamphlets of colleges and wrote to them asking for applications. She found that continuing her education in America would be the best option for two reasons. The first was that she heard a PhD in America could be finished in a more reasonable time frame than in India. Second, she was surrounded by family in India that, sooner or later, were going to start to push her towards marriage, and she wanted to have her education completed before thought of marriage.

Two years she after she graduated from her University in India, Lawrence started at Purdue to work towards her PhD. She decided to take an education job while there was the hiring freeze in her intended field, international development. She planned to go back and apply for a job in that field after the hiring freeze was lifted. However, Lawrence found that education was the perfect place to put her passion for change. She thought her impact would be larger through higher education. She explains, “The most important thing for me to do was to help prepare [this] generation to be change agents of the world.”

Her last job before coming to Hollins University was the Provost, Vice President of Academic Affairs, a Augustana College. When asked why she took a job with Hollins, President Lawrence recalled her time at an all-women’s school she attended in India.

“The whole idea of ‘of course I can do anything’ and self-confidence came from that all-girl environment,” she explains.

This feeling stuck with her throughout various career positions in her life, so when she was offered the job at Hollins she already believed in their mission.

“I strongly believe that this education we have at Hollins and the environment we have is transformative,” Lawrence says. She also believes that, at an institution like Hollins, the students strive to be the best they can be and the support systems give them a chance to believe in themselves.

President Lawrence is a big believer in the importance of a liberal arts education, not just for women, but for all genders. To her, it works so well in a women’s institution because people are willing to take more risk in a place they feel safe and supported. For more information on President Lawrence and her accomplishments, visit www.hollins.edu.

Written by Lilith Turman

The Next Literary Voices: Cara Hadden

It’s a classic story. A group of possessed marshmallows unleashes havoc on a small town in California. You’ve heard it before, right? Probably not. This type of atypical idea can only come from an inventive mind with a Roald Dahl sense of humor.

This story of marshmallow mayhem came from a mind in Virginia’s Spotsylvania County, just outside of Fredericksburg. This brave mind isn’t afraid to invent strange stories about sugary snacks. In a world where book readership is shrinking, it’s the kind of mind that just might be the future of books. It’s the mind of Cara Hadden.

“The worst kind of failure is to not try at all,” Cara explains when talking about writing and the fear criticism.

This sounds like an old proverb from a tattered library book or a piece of advice a grandparent might rattle off over dinner. It’s a thought of a person who has experienced life and its fickle fate.

But Cara’s not a grandparent or even an adult. She’s a 15-year-old freshman at Chancellor High School, and she understands failure and loss in a way most teens do not. I certainly wasn’t spouting Confucius-like quotes in high school. Like many, in my teens, my problems were more of the self-created melodrama variety.

This was not so for Cara.

There is an old saying that artists must suffer for their art. Whether this is true or not is debatable. In Cara’s case, from suffering an artist was born.

When Cara was just over a year old, her father was diagnosed with brain cancer. He battled the disease for ten years, passing away in 2014 when Cara was eleven and had just started middle school. Cara could have channeled her grief into any number of noble causes. Barely a decade old, it would have been understandable if she did nothing more than get up in the morning, hug her mother and grandmother, and go to school.

A few months after her father’s death, as part of an in-class assignment, Cara wrote a time travel story about a boy living during a nuclear war, based on a prompt titled, “Another Time, Another Place.” By the end of class, Cara’s story was not complete. She had more to say. Her teacher allowed her to finish the story at home. The next day, she returned to class with 9-pages of prose and a realization. She wanted to be a writer.

Armed with this new purpose, in 7th grade, Cara wrote another story, a very personal about her father’s life, including his four years in the Army’s 82nd and his battle with cancer.

“Even though he knew he was dying, he dealt with life as it came, and always had a positive attitude. That is one of the most heroic things that anyone could ever do,” Cara says of her father.

It wasn’t an easy story for Cara to write. Despite the fear of judgment not just of her writing, but of her representation of her father, Cara submitted the story to a writing contest. It won. She placed 2nd in the 2015 Spotsylvania County Teen Veteran’s Day Writing Contest.

Cara didn’t just write it to heal herself. She wrote it help heal others.

“Maybe other teens who have gone through similar experiences as me can be comforted by my words,” Cara says of the story.

What is clear about Cara is that her young mind understands a fundamental truism in writing. Whether it is marshmallows springing to life, memorializing her father or historical romances, writing is about connections. It’s about creating something that cuts through the confusion and pain to reach another person.

Perhaps Cara understands this because she has known suffering. But there is more to Cara than loss. To talk to her is to talk to a vibrant young woman who oozes potential and positivity. She’s a girl whose love of musical theater causes her to break into song in the middle of the day. She easily admits to her clumsiness while downplaying her obvious talents. Not only has she won writing contests, she has also starred as Ariel in a school production of The Little Mermaid. She’s a real, complex girl who has the same worries as most teens.

“At times I struggle with the normal fears that come with being fifteen, like fitting in and meeting new people,” Cara admits.

Cara describes herself as an imaginative, God-loving, intelligent, performer and bibliophile. She left out an important descriptor, likely a symptom of her humility. Cara is a writer. She’s not the kind of teen writer who scribbles a few lines in notebooks and hides them in a drawer, collecting cobwebs and dreaming of the day she sees her stories in print.

At 15, Cara is already an award-winning writer and soon to be published. Her story called The Letter, which is loosely based on her grandparents’ love story, was chosen to be part of an anthology from her writing group, the Riverside Young Writers, part of the Virginia Writers’ Club.

She credits the writing group with giving her a safe space to share her work and recommends potential writers join a writing group or create one.

“I cannot recommend joining a writing group highly enough. It is such an amazing opportunity because you get to be in an accepting environment with other kids around your age who share the same love of writing that you possess,” Cara says.

Cara and her story serve as a lesson for any girl or woman who wants to follow her dreams. You cannot let tragedy or difficulty stop you. If you don’t try, you’ll never know what you can do.

Written by Kristin Kanes