Carolyn Edgar on Why She Writes to Change the World

When I was eight, I made two statements about my future that have shaped the course of my life: I want to be a writer, and I want to go to Harvard Law School. Both were unusual choices for the daughter of a Detroit homemaker and an auto company factory worker. We had no lawyers in our immediate family – or writers, for that matter. But as a little girl, I’d been taught that being smart and working hard would open doors to opportunities that weren’t available to my parents.I knew I wanted to be both a writer and a lawyer, but I had no idea how to go about doing both – so I focused on law. Three years after I graduated from college, I achieved my childhood dream of attending Harvard Law School. A tall, handsome young man named Barack Obama had just been named President of the Harvard Law Review the year I started.

Nineteen years after graduating from law school and enjoying a successful legal career, I am ready to pursue my writing dreams. About four years ago, I started blogging. Through perseverance and hard work, I have been asked to write for other outlets, including CNN.com. I knew I could do more, but I wasn’t sure how to elevate my writing and my profile to the next level. And then two OpEd Project alumnae — T.F. Charlton and Tressie McMillan Cottom — told me to look into The OpEd Project. I am so very glad I did.

At the Write to Change the World seminar I attended on October 27, the seeds were sown for an op-ed I’d wanted to write for some time — encouraging people to stop blaming the parents of children who die under tragic and unforeseen circumstances. The op-ed idea was triggered by the case of the New York City family whose nanny was accused of murdering two of their three children, with news site commenters faulting the mom for having a nanny. I wrote a draft op-ed the day after the seminar and was quickly matched with a Mentor-Editor, Laura Vanderkam, who continued to work with me on the piece even as Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast. That op-ed, “Always Blaming the Parents,” was published on Huffington Post, my first piece for the site.

I have shared information about The OpEd Project with many other women I’ve met, through social media and otherwise, whose voices deserve to be heard. The support I have received from everyone involved in The OpEd Project is phenomenal, and the Mentor-Editor program is an incredible resource as well. Thank you for giving me the courage and the tools to change the world!

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The OpEd Project’s Public Seminar “Write to Change the World” in New York

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