My name is Cara J. Stevens, and I’m a children’s author, editor and freelance writer. I write to tell stories, inform, educate, inspire, encourage and entertain readers, but I also write to let the characters in my head have their say.
It took more than a decade to build up a freelance practice that allowed me to freelance full-time. To be fair, I am, by nature, an overly cautious person, especially when it comes to money. But I’m not going to lie: it can take a long time to make the transition from working full-time for a company to becoming a freelance writer.
Walk in bad circles
Swim in a whirlpool of doubt
Drown in old habits
When I was a tween, I was always on the lookout for a deeper meaning. A message could be found in a fortune cookie just as easily as an ad in a teen magazine. One ad in particular struck my imagination: Gloria Vanderbilt’s perfume. The slogan — “Break free and feel how splendid you are” — really hit the mark for me. The imagery drove the message home — a swan, clearly transformed from an ugly duckling, appeared mid-glide on a glassy lake. If a swan could do it, so could I! The meaning felt so clear, it was like a call to action to come out of my shell. …
In the past two years, I’ve edited 18 picture books and advised on a dozen more. I’ve also turned down about 50 manuscripts that weren’t yet ready for an editor’s critical eye. The number one reason I send authors back to the drawing board is that they’ve submitted an idea, not a manuscript.
It’s a hard truth to tell someone who has poured out all their hopes onto a page in raw optimism and inspiration that what they have presented to you isn’t what they think it is. Most of the time, what feels like a perfect first draft to a new writer looks more like a grocery cart to an experienced editor. …
A family tradition delivering Meals on Wheels continues through the holidays
This tanka poem is in response to Dennett’s prompt: Empty Bellies
Our list grows longer
The car filled with kids and bags
We ring the doorbell
Happy Holidays, we shout
Bags gone, hearts full, We head home
This year, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve both fell on Thursdays, which also happens to be our delivery day for Meals on Wheels. …
2020 stole many things from all of us: freedom to travel, gather, spend time with loved ones, go to work, and just about every daily activity we took for granted.
For me, I think it also took away much of my grooviness: the part of me that practiced yoga and felt like it centered me or grounded me; the part that walked into a used bookstore and decided in advance to buy the fifth book I touched; the part that wanted to dye my hair purple because no one expected me to; the part that thought running and setting exercise goals was inorganic and fake. …
For many years, I’ve dreamed of attending a low-residence MFA program, but the cost is prohibitive and I can’t really commit to two or more years away from work to study a craft I’m already earning a living at.
When March 2020 hit, my freelance writing gigs ground to a halt. I had free time as far as the eye could see while everyone else in my family was busy at work or with school. …
Toes deep in the sand
In my dreams, snowflakes flutter
My heart warm and full
When I was a kid growing up in New York, Los Angeles was just a concept to me. I could sum up all I knew about L.A. in six things: Beaches, surfers, Hollywood, plastic surgery, sushi, and earthquakes.
In my twenties, my whole life was New York City, and I couldn’t imagine ever living anywhere else. From the gritty downtown jazz bars that served wine in juice glasses, to the unending calendar of black-tie galas, I embraced it all.
Learning to embrace the Zen of a blank page
Mind empty, void, blank
A locked room, clean, white, alone
I summon stillness
Throughout the busyness of a day, thoughts fly in, unbidden, searching for a place to land. I push them aside. Not yet. Not yet. I reply. I will myself to wait until dusk when my mind is not standing at attention, ready to pounce if called to action.
I tend boo boos, urge progress, respond, reply, reach out, deliver, convey, complete, speak in full sentences. I am distracted. I am needed.
Dusk falls. Family fed. The dishwasher hums emitting a lemony-clean fragrance that signals the day’s work is done. Obligations complete. My vigilance is rewarded with silence and peace. …
Cold air fresh and clear
Light from the atttic window
I’ll soon call this home
My first night of college, I left the heat of the dorm room, with its half-unpacked boxes and beer-frenzied introductions, and walked out into the night. It was late August in a quiet suburb in Poughkeepsie, and a cool breeze rustled the leaves as I wrapped my arms tighter around myself for warmth as much as for comfort.
I looked up at the soft glow emanating from the window and watched the revelry unseen from a distance. I felt the air rush from my lungs and breathed in the clean air, filling my chest with a fresh feeling of hope mixed with oxygen and something new and untapped. The word HOME circled my brain, looking for something to latch onto. I had only lived in one place before arriving on campus, aside from camps and programs that punctuated each summer for as long as I could remember. …