Writing: The Journey

Born and raised in the great state of North Carolina, I was blessed with great teachers and great parents that have always supported and influenced my love for reading and writing. My mother worked with the public school system, as well as many of my family members. Even as a small child, I recall learning the words of great artists of the written word such as Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, and Shel Silverstein. To this day, I still carry an undying admiration for my first literary crushes.

Shockingly, during my teenage years, I became rebellious, cocky, and….”goth”. My freshman year in high school English (honors), I had read each mandatory classic for the term much earlier in my youth. I spent my days in class sleeping on the pillow that had replaced the spot for my literature book inside of my back pack. If the teacher managed to wake me to ask a question about a book we were supposed to be reading, I supplied her with the correct answer, then dozed back into my dreams. At the end of the year, I had managed to ace every test given while snagged a zero each day for class participation. My lovely, though ignored, Honors English teacher changed my life and did the best thing she could have ever done for me. She failed me. By one small point between passing and failing, she held that point above my head and sent me packing to summer school. I wasn’t sent to summer school with my well known slacker peers, I had to go to a different school. Strange.

The first day of summer school, I sat between jocks, cheerleaders, and the “dazed and confused”. Ms. Fields was the teacher. She walked into the class pushing a television cart. She inserted a VHS tape into the VCR and before I knew it, I was watching “Conjunction Junction” from School House Rock. I felt like show and tell was next on our schedule, followed by nap time. The teacher noticed my tormented expression. She tapped my shoulder as she motioned for me to follow to her desk. In a stack of files, she sifted through until she found my file. She sat as she shook her head in disappointment. I knew that I was a slacker.  I was not taken aback by her reaction towards my file. I was ready for her to bash me, to tell me just how pathetic I really was. She didn’t.

Ms. Fields walked with me to a table in the back of the room. I was away from everyone, though the sounds of School House Rock echoed through the room. She rustled through a counter top, returning with notebook paper and a vast assortment of pencils and pens with colored ink. I sat at the table as she placed the writing tools in front of me. I looked away, watched the cartoon images on the television. In a jolt, she shoved my chair away from the sights of the television, now facing the back wall. She snagged a small radio from her desk and hit play on the CD player.

“Write.” she said scornfully.

“Write what?” I snipped.

“I do not care. Just write.”  her fingers jabbed the notebook paper. “All day, you will write. Today, tomorrow, each day that you are here, you will write.”

“Whatever.” I rolled my eyes.

The music was not the likes of my normal Manson, Nine Inch Nails, or Pantera. I knew it though, not word for word, but the voice, I knew. It was R.E.M. It was not the worst thing that my ears could be subjected to, but not the best. She left me alone. I was allowed to get up for breaks and lunch, but always back to the table as I returned to the class room. I had full intentions on being a smarty-pants and giving this woman just what she asked for. I wrote through an entire stack of notebook paper. She brought more. Over and over.

By the last day of summer school, I had blisters on the sides of my fingers from writing compulsively. My file would hardly stay folded due to the thick stack of writing inside. I also, had managed to hum R.E.M. songs even when I left school each day. I would never tell her, but summer school was a joy. As I mingled between the cheerleaders and the “dazed and confused” during my last lunch break (great time to begin social activity) the principal, Ms. Fields, and a woman from the guidance department trooped through the open smoking area where all the teenagers gathered.

“What is this?” the principal shook the folder near my face.

“What is what?” I avoided eye contact, sure that I had written something illegal or sickening to normal folk.

“How dare you allow yourself in summer school?” her face turned from scary to amazed.

I shrugged my shoulders. Even if I was pleased, I could not show that I cared. Ms. Fields placed her arm around me as the four of us walked to a concrete bench to talk.

“This is amazing.” the principal said. “Your writing, it leaves me speechless.”

I nodded, unconcerned. Ms. Fields rolled her eyes. I am still unsure as to why someone from guidance was even present for this conversation. She did not speak.

“If I ever see you in summer school again….” the principal paused. “Well, I best not ever see you in summer school again. Let’s leave it at that.”

With a smirk, I nodded. “Yes ma’am.”

“Writing….” Ms. Fields included, “That is your deal.”

The three women left me alone. The cheerleaders and the dazed and confused seemed afraid to speak to me, unknown that the conversation was not a dire one. I sat silently, alone……I was humming R.E.M. as I scuffed my platform combat boots against the ash coated concrete ground. I went to summer school as a slacker. I left summer school, a writer.

The start of the next school year, i was called to the office. I was not alarmed. The office is where I spent a good amount of time of my high school life. When I was not slacking, I was showing off. I was not in trouble this time. The English teacher that failed me by one point was now and assistant principal. She handed me an envelope. I had been sent mail at the school’s address. Interesting. It was from Ms. Fields. A note inside once again implemented my strengths in writing and the pleasure that I was to have in summer school. She stated that she best not ever see me again, but would be a fan when I became famous. Behind the letter, a permission form for me to sign. She had sent one of my writings into a contest. I was a finalist, my signature was mandatory. My flesh burned with the thought of someone reading my writing and saying that it wasn’t up to par. My pessimistic ways kicked in. A scholarship was part of the prize up for grabs. I had nabs and a soda for lunch. I could taste it again as I stood there, debating this chance to fail. I balled the paper note along with the permission form into the palms of my hands, sarcastically tossed it into a trash can across the room, and left the office. I resented myself the very moment my hand twisted the door knob to leave.  I never heard from Ms. Fields again.

I continued to write. I passed English with flying colors, even though I had read the material in my own free time. I was no longer bored with it. I wrote love letters for friends to give to their boyfriends or girlfriends, I wrote poems for those that received my lovely letters so they could impress their loved ones with “their” writing skills as well. I wrote essays, I wrote songs for the people with bands, I wrote protest letters for the unjust things going on inside of the school. Everyday, I would write.

After school, I would write editorials to send to the paper expressing my deep rooted opinions. I took the most pleasure in calling out the big names of the small fish bowl of a town in which I lived. Eventually, I got an ounce of guts and chased my dreams of professional writing. I offered a wonderful idea to the local newspaper editor that I had admired for most of my life. A form rejection reply, he stated that my idea was not needed. I was crushed. This is that rejection that I feared with the permission letter to sign coming to haunt me once again. A few weeks passed and I opened the local newspaper to find a gnarled version of the idea that I offered that was “not needed”. The contorted version was horrid. The writer of the new section of this newspaper was even worse. I cried. No, I did not cry. I fell apart.  I was done with writing. People that had known of my suggestion and my rejection from the editor called in horror. My only pleasure was hoping that the editor would look like an idiot for this new segment and just maybe he would lay in bed at night and think, “I should have listened to that girl. I should have let her have it.”

I also started a novel. The idea and plotting of a novel, really. I attempted a write of the novel, but the details lacked, it needed to stew more. I wanted this to be my epic. My magnum opus.

I continued editorials in this paper. I did not want the editor to forget my name. I wanted it fresh. A new newspaper came into a neighboring area. They were hiring a journalist. I had been turned down by this other editor several times, but just for an ounce of “AH-HA!” I applied. I was getting used to the pessimistic rejection feeling. What could it hurt.  I was offered a sample job. If the article was good, I got paid and became a journalist. If not, we would forget that it ever happened.  My first article graced the entire front page of this newspaper. I hummed R.E.M. as I cried happy optimistic tears.

I was a journalist. A “staff reporter” , at last. I was not a failure of writing. I never was. I was only a failure to myself. I covered interesting stories. I had the chance to drive a Bug-E (electric car), I was able to attend wonderful events, I learned the process of building solar panels, I met people that were making a difference. I was making a difference by spreading the word of these people along the pages of the newspaper. I met a special child, a child that will always hold a place in my heart. I think of him daily. He is an inspiration. He battles a horrible disease, he has struggled since his birth, yet he greets each day with a smile and heads into his journey with love and happiness. He has taught me more about optimism than anyone else. After I had written an article on this special boy and has faith-filled family, I attended a fundraising event; a spaghetti dinner. Along the front table as I walked though the door, sat a lovely older lady. She held her hand out to hand me something as she said, “Learn about {the boy’s name} and his battle with {his disease}. She was handing me a copy of the paper with the article I had written on the cover. My article was being used to inform people of his life, his battle, his family, and the cause that we were all there supporting. This is actually still the highlight of my career. I finally felt purpose in my life as a writer.  If I were to ever become the next Meyer, King, Rice, or Rowling, this would still be the highlight of my writing journey.

We have moved out of state now, with my husband’s work. I came to a new town. I did not know anyone or how to get anywhere. I could have gone out and ventured, but being the recluse of a writer that I am, that is not what I did. Being a stranger, not having play dates or girl’s night out- never having to worry about having company pop up, there was only one thing to do.

My novel had haunted my dreams, my thoughts, setting on the back burner as real life had taken over the ultimate dream. It was time to dust of this magnum opus and bring her to life. I have plotted to the smallest detail (thank you O.C.D., you have finally found a use) my six book series. Book 1 is complete and in search of finding it’s way onto a bookshelf.  Book 2 is in the beginning phases and I am humming R.E.M.

I would like to say a thank you for reading the journey of my writing life, but honestly, it is only just starting.

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