It started with trips to the library––my mother loading my brother and me into the family station wagon and carting us over to the neighborhood branch where I’d indulge in stories ranging from children living in boxcars or attics to a girl sleuthing and solving mysteries. With each book I’d slip into a world far from the one I knew, journeying along with the characters. The adventures showed ways and shades of life I could never have imagined without the aid of books. Moving like a shadow in the stories, I stole through those narratives with my eyes and mind opening wider as the ideas of others filtered through me, instilling in me new possibilities.
I was a shy and reticent child, so it was natural for me to find solace in the imaginary worlds of books. I wasn’t a tragic loner, just a little timid. The worlds in books, however, filled me up in ways my own ordinary childhood never could. But beyond the excitement delivered by the heros in the stories I coveted, I found particular inspiration and strength in the female protagonist. Those girls were strong and capable and confident, the mirror opposite of my vulnerable, clumsy, unsure self. They believed in themselves and the world never doubted or questioned their possibilities or accomplishments. And in reading about them, I began to believe in myself. It took time, but little by little, as the unquestioning acceptance of those girls’ capabilities seeped into me, so did their power. My mousy manners eroding bit by bit, each strong-girl story adding a steel rod to my spine that I would one day grow into. And I did, going from a shy wall-hugger to being the first and only woman to have ridden a motorcycle solo around India. An accomplishment borne out of confidence instilled by books.
I come from a long line of storytellers, so I suppose that, coupled with my love of reading, it was inevitable that I would want leave the world of passive reader and step through the mirror to try my hand at creation. To let others learn a thing or two from my experiences (even the ugly ones…especially the ugly ones).
I’ve got a kinda grrr in me when it comes to letting the world know how capable girls are. But more than that, I want girls, no matter what their age, to realize their strengths and competencies. To rise up from the sidelines society secretly shoulders them to and shout I Can, I Do. So the reason I write is two-fold: as a girl stories empowered me, now as a woman I want to empower others with stories, filling them up with possibilities never before imagined.
C. L. Stambush is a writer, national motorcycle instructor, international traveler, and feminist who has lived, worked, and meandered through more than 20 foreign countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
She is also one of the few female motorcycle adventure riders, having ridden a Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle (in 1996) solo around the edge of India––five months and nearly 7,000 miles on a 350cc Thumper. She has written a book about the ride titled Naked on the Edge: a Motorcycle, a Goddess, and a Journey Around India that she hopes to publish soon.
Her writing has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, Far Easter Economic Review, Travelers’ Tales and a handful of national and international newspapers, as well as a few literary presses and regional magazines.
She is an Indiana University Bloomington graduate with a BA in Journalism and a Sarah Lawrence College graduate with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing.
She blogs about opportunity, risk, passion, transformation, and empowerment. You can read her blog at www.clstambush.com.