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Former Teen Mom In Lee's Summit Writes Books That Buoy Kids With Challenges

Carrie Beamer's first son was born when she was 16. She has written a book about overcoming obstacles.
Carrie Beamer
Carrie Beamer's first son was born when she was 16. She has written a book about overcoming obstacles.

When not at her day job as a high school registrar, Carrie Beamer writes fictionalized versions of real life events for young adults.

Carrie Beamer is a cheerleader for kids facing big challenges. She’s had more than her share of them and knows that with a little grit, the worst is mostly survivable.

Now in her 40s, Beamer is a high school registrar in Lee’s Summit and has recently realized a lifelong goal: write and publish a book. Two books, in fact, and they’re both based on events from her life.

Signs We Don’t See is about fighting the stigma around mental health issues and comes from Beamer’s experiences with a relative. Keep What Remains is a fictionalized version of the year or two leading up to the author’s pregnancy at the age of 15.

Beamer characterizes Keep What Remains as a coming-of-age story about a character she's named Megan, a girl with a strict dad and a hard-partying best friend.

“Megan is always the one trying to reel in the best friend. Megan starts to lean toward Tessa when Tessa moves to a new school and meets a new crowd. She meets a boy at a party, and it changes everything for her, and it changes everything for her family,” Beamer explains.

The change came in the form of a baby. In Beamer's real life, that baby is now 28 and set to be married in the fall. He and his former teen mom have college degrees and are happy to have beat the odds.

But she’d never really told him the story of how he came to be. It felt right to put it on paper and launch an appropriate start to her writing career.

By the time Beamer followed her friend into the dark underworld of teen partying, her mother had abandoned her family. In her book, Megan's mother does the same.

Several months into her new lifestyle, Beamer realized she was pregnant. She remembers that her world both stopped spinning and seemed to speed up. Her baby-daddy dumped her, her father refused to help, and her high school kicked her out.

“I ended the book much different from reality, because the publisher was like, ‘You can’t end the book like this,’” Beamer says. “‘Nobody wants to read this kind of ending.’ But I was like, ‘It’s what really happened.’ And they were like, ‘No.’”

So, in the book, she sainted the child’s father and made the pregnant girl’s father much more forgiving, brushing aside the painful memory of illegally leasing an apartment, struggling to make ends meet, and fighting to complete her education.

In her job as a registrar in a Lee's Summit high school, Beamer's office is right by the counseling center.

“I’ve met teenage girls here at our high school, one in particular that got pregnant a couple of years ago, and she reminded me of me,” Beamer says. “She was very much like, ‘I can do this, and I can still get my education.’ And I was like, ‘Yes you can.’”

The heroines of each book are confident and self-possessed — just like Beamer. While they may be scared by their situations, they don’t look for anyone to save them. They know giving up isn’t an option, and there’s no self-destructive behavior or discussion of suicide.

Though, Beamer points out, in her case the self-destruction was partially what led to at least the pregnancy.

“I do think a lot of times with teenagers, the destruction comes before and then this is the outcome of that destructive behavior. Well, now you’re in a situation, what are you going to do?” she asks.

In her current role at the high school, she sees students’ fear every day, and because they’re nervous about the judgement of others, they often don’t ask for the help they need.

“I really hope that my books show that yes, you can get help, but it’s a long journey. It really is a long journey; it’s not going to get fixed overnight,” Beamer says.

She has placed copies of her book in the school’s library and office. Beamer doesn’t think she has all the answers, but she does know that very few problems are insurmountable if a person has grit, and that’s what she wants kids to be able to find in themselves.

“The number one thing you need as a person is grit,” Beamer says, “because life is hard and nobody’s going to get through life without some situation that’s going to knock them down or make them keep going.”

Anne Kniggendorf is a staff writer/editor at the Kansas City Public Library and freelance contributor to KCUR. She is the author of "Secret Kansas City."
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