KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Veronica Clay isn't your average teenager. While most teen girls were getting their first boyfriends or learning how to drive, Clay was graduating from high school. At 16 years old, this bright-eyed curly haired poet was already stepping into college. At 17, she published her first book.
"I've been able to inspire a lot of young people and really people of all ages to write and to embrace themselves," Clay said.
Now, she's spreading a message of hope and courage.
Clay started writing poetry when she was in the 6th grade but says it wasn't always appealing.
"We would write simple poems. They were really bad," laughed Clay. "But I realized that I really liked writing."
After a push from her mother and her first taste of being on stage, the now 19-year-old says she was hooked.
"I didn't believe her until I performed my first spoken word in 6th grade and I realized that there was something special," Clay said.
Today, Clay is the author of "Mile Marker 17," a book of poems, short stories and raps she wrote up to the age of 17. She touches on everything from racial issues to being a woman in today's society.
"I want to talk about real life issues," said Clay. "I want it to be as real and raw as possible so more audiences can learn."
Even with her early success, Clay says her goal is to reach as many people as possible, but not for her own glory or even attention.
"A lot people want to be famous," said Clay. "To me, it's not about fame. Whether or not they know who I am isn't important. My goal is to write and meet as many people as possible with the message of hope and inspiration."
And that message is one she had to speak into herself. She says her journey as a spoken-word artist was almost halted by her own fears and discouragement, but she kept pushing and sharing her work. Now, she's going further than she ever imagined.
"I would have never expected to be able to speak at schools or publish a book at 17 years old," said Clay. "Never give up. When you have a dream, pursue it with all your heart."
Clay is currently working on her second book, but this time, she's tackling fiction. Although it's a novel, she says she won't break away from poetry completely.
"Because I am a poet, I love implementing poetic writing and artistic style into my fiction," said Clay. "It doesn't look like typical prose."
Clay is a junior at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo. You can find more of her work on her YouTube channel.
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