“Ten more stories to go,” I thought excitedly to myself. Unlike most of my second grade classmates, I was spending the holiday break fully focused on educational pursuits. New Years Eve 1989 and I had made a goal to write 20 short stories before the ball dropped. So, while most of my classmates slept or excitedly ran circles around the house in anticipation, I made a vow to write as much as possible and to forever improve my writing.
My love affair with reading and writing began early. I’ve spent most of my life wrapped up in either writing or reading pastimes. I read novels like the “Little House on the Prairie” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder before I entered kindergarten. To this day, I’m known to sit down at night with a novel and read until I finish with the next day’s rising sun.
One of my most proud writing moments might seem like a negative memory to most. In sixth grade, my teacher, Mr. Smith, caught me after class and led me back to his classroom. Did my mother perhaps “help a bit” with my latest assignment, he wanted to know, ensuring me everything would be okay. I remember laughing to myself and trying to explain that while my mother was and is a smart woman, there was no way she could have written a paper as well as the one I had submitted.
My pursuits haven’t been limited to fiction reading and writing. In high school, I entered the realm of writing for the web with a web site I designed and wrote about Indiana University basketball. I soon began to learn what writing for one’s audience meant and have ever since been aware of the variance in writing styles based on audience and scope. Around this time, I also began to develop a career dream. I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.
I started a newsletter, also about IU basketball. My little publication reached subscribers across the United States. I remember approaching my older sister, a gifted writer, begging for proofreading help. Some of my favorite high school moments came from my newspaper class. I served as high school editor my senior year, and still remember the disappointment and frustration I felt with my first “bad” editor. Our advisor was negative and controlling, limiting creativity. I would later encounter similar leaders as a newspaper staff writer.
In college, I studied reporting and sadly lost some of curiosity from my youth. Social engagements and work requirements squeezed in on my private writing and reading time. I managed to graduate and landed a job as a newspaper reporter. Here I mastered the art of taking constructive criticism and pounding out story after story like a robotic machine. While I enjoyed the work, I fear the formulaic approach and strict adherence to Associated Press writing style damaged my writing skills in other areas.
Just as my newspaper career started to gain momentum, the crushing powers of economic failure and a chancing demographic brought me back full circle. I’m a freshman-senior starting a new degree path, but bringing along not only some of me original college credits, but the real-world writing experience I gained in my numerous after college attempts to find success in the media world. As a high school English and journalism teacher, I find the opportunity to encourage budding authors with a twinkle in my eye remembering how I once eagerly read ahead in weekly reading assignments.