While many high schoolers spent the summer relaxing, one Estacado High School student was out promoting his self-published book of poems. Incoming senior Cameron James wrote “The Journal: The Mind of a Visionary” about his experience as a teenager growing up in Lubbock and living on his own.
James began writing after his great grandmother passed away. She was his biggest inspiration, making him do multiplication and helping him sharpen his mind at a very young age.
“I remember her telling me, ‘It's okay, keep going,’” James said. “I remember going through a depression stage after she passed for about four or five years. Really what woke me up out of that was writing and music. It helped me a lot with it.”
James said where he came from, many people ended up in a life of crime. One of his poems reads “...lost at sea, with nowhere to go, thirteen or fourteen, just fighting to keep afloat.”
“I was supposed to be that kid who was in and out of "juvie"...going to jail back and forth, on and off by the time I was 18 or 19,” James said.
Instead, he began writing. He credited his sophomore year English teacher with letting him think outside the box.
“When we did essays and writing assignments, she let me have 110% freedom to write literally whatever I wanted,” James said. “Instead of her giving me a topic or a prompt or something like that, she would say, ‘Be free to write whatever you want. Do what you want to do.’ That helped me a lot.”
He fell in love with English class.
“I think a lot of times with a lot of teachers, especially a lot of younger teachers, they try to go too much by the book and try to be so textbook that they don’t realize, for one kid that may be great. They may be able to learn as much as possible,” James said. “But to another kid it might be beating them down, and they feel like they are trapped. I was that kind of way.”
James had a favorite spot in the library where he would go during lunch to write. He started setting goals for himself.
“Sometimes I could write one, sometimes I couldn’t get any, but I was doing two a day, at least,” James said. “February 23rd was the day it was supposed to originally be released that didn't go as planned because I started dealing with a lot of things. I moved out my Junior year back in February when I was 17. So I had to be smart about it whether I was going to use the money that I had to kind of focus on this, or to take care of myself, postpone this and set it back a little bit. It was a very wise decision.”
His teachers and coaches said James was a discerning student.
“He's a natural leader, and kids just follow him, ‘cause he does everything right,” Estacado Basketball Coach Tony Wagner said. “He's one of the best students grade-wise and academically. He's one of the best athletes in the school as well. If you tell him to do something you can count on it being done. A guy like that, you can't replace them in the locker room.”
The high schooler decided to self-publish his book.
“It was hard,” James said of the publishing process. “I was basically going house to house, asking questions, asking questions, asking questions. Sometimes I would get the door slammed in my face, and sometimes people would want to help me.”
James warns readers his poems are raw, sometimes explicit and very personal.
“We are all humans, and a lot of people can connect with it in a way that I didn't even know was possible.”
James dreams of having his photo in the Estacado High School Hall of Fame, but he wants to give back, too. He speaks to younger students in the Lubbock area, inspiring them to pursue careers in creative arts or entrepreneurship. He has partnered with local elementary schools to write a children's book.
“I've seen a lot of kids losing hope, starting to fall into the stereotype. It was good for me to go back and give them my story to let them know there is a totally different route,” James said. “In order for me to work hard, it made an easier path for them under me. My hard work was going to make it easier on someone else. I felt good with that, and proud with that.”
Cameron James will graduate in May 2018, and plans to attend school in New York City. His book “The Journal: The Mind of a Visionary” is available for purchase on Amazon.com.
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