We have stories to tell, ideas to share, issues to tackle. We want to start conversations, inspire actions, motivate change. And we're already having fun.
Allow me to introduce "we," the authors of the Herald's new Sunday column, "I Am Woman, Hear Me Write."
We're a diverse group in age, ethnicity, beliefs, work experience, families and so much more. But we all live and work in Manatee County. And we are women.
How did we get together to launch this column? It wasn't easy, with this extraordinarily busy crew. But we finally found a time to meet in one spot to debate the possibilities - and suddenly three hours had sped by (and only one or two glasses of wine).
We honed in on one shared truth: Women have the need to connect.
I left that night amazed and humbled by these women, each filled with confidence and caring about each other, about our community -- and, most importantly, about themselves. And they -- we -- all are determined to be key members of the community's change agents in Manatee.
(I thought I was merely providing the vehicle for this column -- the Herald -- and, of course, the editing. But the others nudged me so I, too, join the ranks of writer. In many ways, this will help me see just what I'm asking of these friends.)
We'll be writing about regular women doing extraordinary things. We want to make you laugh, cry, talk and think. We want to nudge each other out of that proverbial box. We will celebrate, commiserate, and sometimes take a critical look.
What we don't want is a soap box for causes and platforms, so no preaching on Sundays in this column. After all, the column is about "we," not "I".
Another rule we embraced: No apologies.
We want to create a forum to speak openly about the questions, obstacles and issues facing girls and women of all ages. We hope to weave the female fabric of our community, and create a place to connect. We can provide a support group, of sorts -- "I'm not the only one who went through this..."
We actually had planned to launch this new column in honor of my dad's birthday, July 6. So much for deadlines. But the intended symbolism, I hope, won't be lost. We don't want only women to hear us. We want everyone, young and old, male or female, to tune in -- and respond.
How'd we come up with "I am woman"? The credit goes to Emma Taylor, a second-generation Manatee County native who, at 26, is the youngest member in our group right now. The moniker fits perfectly, especially in researching Helen Reddy's inspiration when she wrote the song back in the '70s.
In a 2003 interview, Reddy explained, "I couldn't find any songs that said what I thought being woman was about. I thought about all these strong women in my family who had gotten through the Depression and world wars and drunken, abusive husbands. But there was nothing in music that reflected that...
"I remember lying in bed one night and the words, 'I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman', kept going over and over in my head. That part I consider to be divinely inspired."
Our women's writers group certainly believes in inspiration.
Just as we were beginning to plan this new column, Maya Angelou died at age 86. She left the world, but particularly women, with volumes of inspiring essays, poems and memoirs. Her celebration of being a woman is at the core of all her work, but perhaps none more than "Phenomenal Woman," an anthem for all women:
'Cause I'm a woman
Where Maya Angelou left off, we start.
Joan Krauter, the Herald's executive editor, can be reached at 941-745-7070. Follow her on Twitter@JEKrauter.