Keren Taylor

Keren Taylor
Community leader, artist, writer
Los Angeles, CA

"We did the math one afternoon: our 150 volunteers give around 2,000 hours of their time every month. That is our way of bending time, of giving girls a new way to experience their high school years." 

Sometimes I think there isn't enough time for me, for us, to reach all the girls we know we could inspire.

It's the middle of the night, and I'm thinking about Christina. I didn't hear back from her after my last email, and now I wonder what I could do, what we could do next. The deadline is approaching and we don't know if she sent in her materials. Did I email her back on Facebook, or did I respond to a text message from her? Do we have a cellphone number for her mother? Is she the one living with her cousin, or is that another girl? In the quiet of the night, my questions grow louder, so I get up, drink some water, calm myself, and step out into the backyard to smell the air and see the stars. This is Los Angeles—the sky is never black, and I can never see more than a dozen stars, but they still ground me and remind me of my mission, my vision, our purpose, our path and all the girls in our orbit and beyond. 
I started WriteGirl with one single sheet of paper 14 years ago. That simple concept hasn't changed very much over the years—we continue to recruit women writers to mentor teen girls and help them develop skills to effectively mentor girls in poetry, fiction, songwriting, journalism and more. We did the math one afternoon: our 150 volunteers give around 2,000 hours of their time every month. That's a big number. That is our way of bending time, of giving girls a new way to experience their high school years—a sort of parallel universe to school where they can express their ideas freely, ask questions of any kind and grow more confident in sharing their words out loud.
WriteGirl is a sanctuary for many of our girls—a place where they say they feel relaxed and not judged, a place they leave uplifted no matter how they felt when they arrived. They go to college knowing we are still here for them. Sometimes they reach back out to us to seek our input, to re-connect with the WriteGirl community where they will always belong. And more and more, we see them graduating from college and leaping into jobs, internships, fellowships and even doctoral programs with confidence, with energy... and with eloquence. 
But there is something much more extraordinary happening—our girls want to give back. They seek jobs that serve others, jobs that have bold missions and ambitious timelines. They want to help their communities; they want to repair the world. Thinking about that gives me the real middle-of-the-night peace of mind that lets me go back to sleep to rest and ready myself for another day. 
The idea of giving back, of coming full circle, is embedded in The Visionary. I enjoyed the circular feeling of coming back to the same physical place where the story began. I think my own story was anchored by a similar feeling of place at the beginning and the end. And the moments in the book when one place—Mexico, for example—suddenly had a memory of another place very far away, I really connected with that. The feeling of moments happening simultaneously is elusive, and for all our focus on meditation and the power of being in the “now,” I think that sometimes we lose sight of what is actually happening right now, in all the places we cannot see or feel with our own senses at this moment.
...this thing that is the foundation of everything we are do and feel this pen that writes all of our words and decides what we remember and what we forget... 
As a writer, this passage in The Visionary resonated with me. Writing is a way to remember, to resolve, to fully realize things, and part of what drives me in my work with WriteGirl is the desire to encourage girls to pick up the pen and write—anything. The act of writing is an act of self-determination and activism. I know we are helping them find their way in the world just by helping them develop a love and a habit of writing.
There is another single sheet of paper I am working on. I have a vision that keeps returning, a vision of helping girls find and raise their voice in other parts of the world—Pakistan, Korea, South Africa—all places I know have a focus on educating girls, on empowering women. We currently work with 500 girls annually. It is time for us to amplify our work and exponentially grow that number. The global movement for Girls Education needs the magic of WriteGirl—it is time to turn my late-night contemplations into daytime worldwide action.
~ Keren Taylor

Keren Taylor is the founder and executive director of WriteGirl, a creative writing and mentoring program for underserved teen girls. WriteGirl received the 2013 National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award, presented by First Lady Michelle Obama, to honor exemplary after school and out-of-school programs across the country. The organization was also named the 2010-2011 California Nonprofit of the Year by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver, and received the 2010 HUMANITAS Philanthropy Prize. 

A popular speaker at conferences and book festivals nationwide, Keren is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. In 2014, she was selected as a CNN Hero for her work with WriteGirl.

Keren holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from the University of British Columbia and a Piano Performance Degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto. She is also a mosaic artist and jewelry designer.

Learn more about Keren and her work at