Lit Counts: Finding the Value of My Voice At Lighthouse

By Zoe Knight

I came to Lighthouse the summer before my first year of middle school. That was the first time I was able to connect to other writers and feel validated in my self-prescribed label of ‘writer’. These camps and workshops showed me that writing is not a solitary, isolated action. Writing is in fact an incredibly social action, based on the people we surround ourselves with and the way we respond to the world. Lighthouse provided me with a community and a space to grow into my ‘writer’ label, which has taken me to the next stage of my life as ten years later I’m attending university for writing.

I remember feeling distinctly pleased with my first day of summer camp; satisfied with what I had written, excited about the people I’d met, enchanted by the old building Lighthouse was hosted in. Then it was further North than Colfax, and I can still trace the drive there in my memory. I remember the heat of the unfinished attic, the yapping dogs outside the dining room, the strangled second floor parlor that always felt too small. Those years are engrained on my bones as a writer, never to be forgotten, always to be treasured.

By the time I reached high school, Lighthouse had moved to Racine and Colfax, and I could drive myself every Wednesday evening to the weekly meeting of teen writers. It was originally called Teen Council, then Young Authors Collective. But no matter the name, that was my home, tucked up once a week with a bunch of other teenagers trying to write something that mattered. We clustered around long tables and short tables, snacking eagerly on everything in the house. And we wrote. God, did we write. Those were some of my most productive years as a writer, because it mattered in every way possible.

Truly, that was where I began to understand the value of my voice, where I began to strive to understand writing beyond just a flow. I learned from my peers, who have become invaluable lifelong friends (we still email each other pieces for feedback or talk about writing projects). And I learned from my teachers, who had real-life, money-making careers as writers, which was astounding to young me. They were authors, but not just of novels. They’re poets and freelancers and editors and educators and my inspiration moving forward.

When I graduated high school, and essentially the Youth Program, I moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University. I’m on track to get my degree in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse. To me, this degree is an extension of what Lighthouse started within me. It’s an exploration of the craft of writing, a breakdown of the social actions that make us writers, make us readers. It sets me up to continue what Lighthouse inspired in me ten years ago; to write and enjoy the process and the growth.

Editor's Note: Lit Counts is an essay series in which readers and writers from our community express why they believe in supporting and elevating literary arts—the mission of Lighthouse Writers Workshop. The series will countdown toward Colorado Gives Day on December 4, the annual statewide fund drive for nonprofits. For 2018, Lighthouse has set a goal of $90,000, to support the continued growth of our literary programs. If you believe in the mission of Lighthouse, consider scheduling your contribution today

Zoe Knight is a graduate of Lighthouse's Young Authors Collective, and is currently getting a B.A. in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul University.