As a member of the 2015 Morehead online summer writing project, I was asked to write a literacy narrative. I combined this narrative with another prompt provided during that four week course: Write a story in which each sentence will begin with a different letter of the alphabet, beginning with the letter A, and moving sequientially, i.e., B, C, D, and so forth.
As a child, I read Australian my mother grew up on. Blinky Bill, a cheeky koala and his cohorts introduced me to the Australian bush while Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, two gum nut babies who came to life. Curious George, Harold and his purple crayon, B’rer Rabbit, Maurice Sendack’s wild things, and Grimm’s fairy tales took me to other world less tangible than the tiny island continent I would visit when I was six years old, but those worlds strengthened my imagination.
Different selections arrived in my neighborhood every summer, thanks to the Reading is Fundamental van. Each summer also held weekly trips to the town library, and the school library fueled my passion for books when school was in session. Given the freedom as I grew up to read anything without censorship. Harper Lee taught me about social justice. Judy Blume taught me about sex. Knowledge of the world, its religions, it philosophies, its triumphs and its tragedies were alive because of books.
LIving through different authors’ eyes became the norm for me. Many viewpoints taught me that there was no single absolute in the world, that opinions about what really mattered depended entirely upon the author I was reading at the time. No single culture had all the answers, and in fact similar themes could be found in all cultures, however I never even considered adding my own voice to those of others until college.
One professor, my English 101 teacher in a small community college, told me I could write. Quickly, I changed majors again and began to study for my English/Secondary Education degree. Rarely had anyone before this man pointed out that I could write, and I wanted other students to know before their English 101 class that they had talent. Several years later, I graduated and started teaching middle school students about the joys of reading and writing. The desire to write really didn’t manifest until my third year of teaching when I signed up for a summer writing project in Arizona.
Under the tutelage of that project and many others since, I now consider myself a writer. Varied levels of confidence about my writing skill always tug at me as I write, but I have improved because now I can better express what I am thinking at a specific moment in time, and I love that. Writing helps me understand myself, others, and the world, and I can use my own voice to do this, although I still read and treasure the many mentors I read who I know write better than me. Exact wording, tone, and structure often elude me, but I keep trying, both for myself and for my students, for this is the way that I learned how to write and how to teach others to write. Zen, for me, would be the ability to say, with ease, what I feel in a way that others could understand, but for now I struggle, as every other writer does, to say what I want to say in a way that others will want to read.