Writing Poetry to Heal: Meet Valerie

When Valerie Brooks began losing her vision in 2013, the now 66-year-old says she finally started seeing clearly.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Valerie was a born writer, receiving praise for her poetry as early as 5th grade. Her mom was an educator, and her dad was an aerospace engineer. Yet by 12th grade, she remembers thinking that making a living as a writer would be the most boring achievement she could undertake because she viewed her life as dull and ordinary. She earned a full scholarship to USC and worked for Sony and Turner in the entertainment industry.

Photo of Valerie Brooks posing in front of her computer ready for the Writer's Circle

Valerie Brooks

Decades later, Valerie was destitute and addicted to drugs when her vision began to decline from glaucoma and detached retinas.

“Adventures were unfolding in my life that were nothing less than scary,” Valerie said. “Blindness was the ultimate intervention for me. As my visual world was being eclipsed by the non-visual, I remember begging God to allow me some way of recording the events of my life.”

A friend connected Valerie to the Department of Rehabilitation, which sent her to Orientation Center for the Blind in Albany, CA, to receive services and counseling. After hearing enthusiastic reports about Society for the Blind, she moved near family in Sacramento.

At Society for the Blind, Valerie participated in our Senior IMPACT Project and became a volunteer mentor in the program. She joined our Black American Senior Support group and our virtual Coffee Connect program once the pandemic hit. When she entered a poem in Society’s Senior IMPACT Project talent show in December 2020, she was introduced to the biweekly Writer’s Circle at Society for the Blind, facilitated by Sacramento State professor emeritus Brad Buchanan.

“The Writer’s Circle is a safe space where you are an artist with a palette of words from which you can construct your masterpiece,” Valerie said. “I’ve experienced my fair share of unsafe places, but I have found a refuge here. It’s a haven where we can come to create, express, grow and be free.”

Valerie, who now is almost seven years clean and sober, credits Brad for providing an environment free of judgment and criticism where writers can both receive and provide positive, encouraging feedback, and challenge themselves. She finally feels independent and content with her life.

“Everyone, absolutely everyone, has a story to tell,” Valerie said. “The beauty of writing your story is that it puts you painfully and yet wonderfully in touch with yourself. If you are writing-inclined – even the least little bit – it is because God graced you with this ability. Share your gift and tell your story ­– give the world the gift of you!”