Since before I could read, I was mesmerized by books.
I would “read” them for hours. Once I learned how to write, I created books with cardboard covers and tape. Then, I’d put them in the mailbox wrapped in paper for Santa. He never responded, but I didn’t stop believing.
Growing up in Kansas with a Mexican-American family of divers, my love for the ocean started at a young age. I went on to study journalism at the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk!) and earned my PADI dive certification while taking children’s literature classes. After graduation, I moved to San Diego for a position as an art apprentice before moving to Los Angeles with big dreams of becoming a photographer and PADI Divemaster. I lived in a tiny studio in Venice Beach and worked as a waitress on the graveyard shift. The best part: You could see the ocean from my window. (If you stood on a chair).
Before my next big move, I went home to Kansas City, where I had the opportunity to work as the studio manager for the award-winning photographer, Ron Berg. He taught me to see the beauty in the unexpected and understand that good composition wasn’t necessarily obvious. Thanks to Ron, I was ready for my next adventure under the sea.
I accepted a job as an underwater videographer in Grand Cayman, where I lived on PB&J and rode a bike to work. It was heaven. A year later, Hurricane Ivan had other plans as I watched my house, possessions, and job disappear. So, I returned to the U.S. and sent my video reel, one of the only items that survived the hurricane, to Sport Diver magazine and said a prayer.
A month later, I got the call from the editor, Ty Sawyer, at Bonnier, and before I knew it, I was on my way to Florida as the Assistant Editor for Sport Diver magazine. (We still joke about how I didn’t believe it was him when I got the call.)
My decade-long career at Bonnier was a dream job. My team supported me as I worked my way around the corporate ladder as a writer, editor, producer, stylist, and beauty editor for brands that included Sport Diver, Scuba Diving, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, and Spa magazines. They backed me up while I studied Digital Marketing at Full Sail University, and I even had my own “Ask Tara” column – silly caricature and all. I loved every minute of it. I had officially tapped into my inner Carrie Bradshaw.
Now, from a log cabin with my husband and two dogs, my travels have slowed and my true calling has room to shine a little brighter. Whether I’m reading, drawing, or illustrating, I get lost in children’s books.
Jax and the Big Scary Sea is waiting for its publishing home, but no matter where it ends up, the message is clear: An daring dog faces her fear of the ocean and discovers that the sea holds things much scarier than sharks.
It’s a lesson I learned when I was younger, and I hope that it opens a door for everyone. Because when you look deeper, there is always much more to a story than the surface.