While cleaning out a file cabinet a few weeks ago, I found a story I wrote in eighth grade. It's now a yellowed piece of lined notebook paper headed with the title, 'The Lady or the Tiger?' My teacher, Mrs. Oliver, challenged the class to come up with a story for this first sentence: 'Without the slightest hesitation, the prince went to the door on the right and opened it.'
My memory of actually writing the story is dim. Looking at the cursive handwriting of my thirteen-year-old self, I can't remember where I was when I wrote it. Was I in class? Sitting at home at my desk? At a table in the library? I have no idea.
But I do remember the sense of pride I felt when Mrs. Oliver handed back the graded paper. Her comments in red-ink — 'written very well, Dawn!', 'very imaginative ending', and 'super description' — boosted my confidence At that age, my writing dream was just a tiny spark, very vulnerable to the winds of encouragement and criticism. Luckily, Mrs. Oliver was the kind of teacher who nourished potential as were several other teachers I had during my young writing life. A few teachers like Mrs. Oliver worth mentioning who inspired me are:
- Ms. Kruckoff, who encouraged me to join the high school newspaper staff my freshman year, for helping me find my niche and developing an interest in my future course of study: journalism;
- 'Doc' Winger, who taught me to think and write critically about the classics in Rhetoric class even though he was beyond intimidating when he looked at me over the tops of his wire-rimmed glasses;
- Mrs. Bolen, for my first experience in a creative writing class, for taking us on that field trip to the Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago and far away from our comfort zone, for the best creative writing exercise ever;
- and Dr. White, for providing a creative writing class where I felt nervous yet safe while having my work critiqued for the first time by writers more experienced and skilled than me.