I remember the moment I decided to become a writer.
I was in fifth grade and my teacher, Mr. Gelman, told us to write a story which incorporated all twenty of our weekly spelling words. Across the room, Julie, the mean girl who all year had spelled girl "gril" looked stricken. Her face went pale. Mine flushed with excitement.
At home, I observed my surroundings: the Betty Crocker cake mix box on the counter, the broken color tv that only played in black and white, the musty smell of our unfinished basement. I did nothing extraordinary except to take notice of the ordinary. I used these elements of my life and combined them with the spelling words to write a story about the daughter of Betty Crocker who lived in a house with a broken television set, a musty basement, and two sisters.
I felt joy as the words spilled onto the page and elation as I reviewed the final product. I didn't tell anyone, didn't want to brag, but I knew it was good. I knew.
Mr. Gelman knew it, too. He gave me a gold star and read my story to the class.
That year, I started a novel. Praise from Mr. Gelman inspired me to be a writer. I was good at something I enjoyed. (The holy grail as I would discover in my adult life.) I carried a cream-colored looseleaf binder with me everywhere. Inside was a title page and five chapters, each one labeled and separated neatly by dividers, about a little girl living in the country. (My inspiration was James Herriot's, All Creatures Great and Small.)
My 6th grade teacher was a different sort. In me he saw no spark and cared little about nurturing one. My fire quickly burned out and the cream-colored looseleaf was buried along with my dreams. It later disappeared, carelessly thrown away with other childhood keepsakes.
My passion died out without a fan to it's flame.
It took decades to return.
It eludes me again today. These past few days.
I want it back.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
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