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How $12 and A Bookstore Changed My Life

Updated on March 26, 2015
Negative Octopus by Sarah Jackson Smithsonian Magazine July 2012
Negative Octopus by Sarah Jackson Smithsonian Magazine July 2012

The Book Made Me Do It

My name is Sarah Jackson and I live in Montevallo, AL.

This is a story about a $12 bookstore purchase that inspired me to take a risk and ultimately experience a life-changing event.

For our family, going to the bookstore is a fun outing. When we have a little extra money, we buy books. One summer day in 2011 we visited our local bookstore. As I browsed through countless titles, I saw a book on the bargain table titled "The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio" by author Terry Ryan. I grabbed it. My husband called me back to the magazines. He handed me the latest issue of the Smithsonian, which featured the winners of their international photography competition. I LOVE the Smithsonian, and I LOVE photography, so it was a definite purchase for me. At the checkout, I spent $12.00.

That week I read both books. "The Prize Winner" made me ponder contests. I had never entered any sweepstakes or contests. I began thinking about how fun it might be to try a few - maybe get the kids involved. Then I had an epiphany. My Smithsonian magazine had information about how to enter their international photography competition. Despite my intimidation, I decided what the heck. I did it.

I am a professional artist and writer by trade, but photography has been my selfish passion since I was a kid. My kids and my husband helped me go through photos, chiming in when they saw a favorite. By the time I was finished, I had submitted 8 photographs in the 9th Annual Smithsonian International Photography Competition.

And then I forgot about it. I read other books. I bought other magazines, but none of them inspired me the way those two books did on that week in July.

The following March I received an email from the Smithsonian. I was a finalist for the Altered Images Category. Three weeks later I received another email stating that I had won first place! My photograph, "Negative Octopus" won first place out of 260,000 entries from over 90 countries. My photograph was featured in the July 2012 Smithsonian Magazine. My work was suddenly recognized by surrounding art communities. My works were featured in other magazines. Winning gave me confidence and brought me out of a creative slump. I started making art again.

One year after making that $12 purchase we drove to the same bookstore and bought a copy of Smithsonian. I opened it right there in the store - and there was my photo. The experience was surreal. Winning changed my life in many positive ways. It was absolutely amazing.

A $12 purchase at a local book store changed my life. Two books inspired me to take a risk and try something new. I am so thankful I made that purchase.

This is the story of how a $12 transaction changed my life.


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      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      That is a great story, love the winning image too. Photography is one of my favorite pastimes which made it more interesting to read about your success. Thanks for sharing.