Wordsanctuary Revisited

Musings of a writer-teacher-counselor.

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Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

I am inquisitive and have worked in writing, editing, and teaching. I am a citizen of the USA and also concerned about the world. This is an addendum to my original blog, Wordsanctuary. That's at www.wordsanctuary.blogspot.com Please check out my column at www.insidehighered.com, "A Kinder Campus." Click on Career Advice to find it. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, January 11, 2008

My Writing History (Excerpt)

How many people would be willing to step up and look into the kaleidoscope of my life as a writer and reader? Few. But if they would, they might see indigo seeping from my fountain pen in junior high; red, undulating teachers’ comments; orange and yellow circus spirals made with my thick crayons on our dining room wall; green felt-tip comments I made in margins as an editor; pink and white chalk like icing squiggled on the sidewalk, graphite storms on tear-drenched paper in second grade ...
I teach writing; I have written for a living. This is not because the process has always been easy for me. I was the little girl in second grade who couldn’t write fast enough for her stern teacher, Mrs. Higley. She would pull the paper out of my hand when I was the last to finish – actually, not quite finished– and I would cry. Mrs. Higley was unemotional, with cold blue eyes. Wouldn’t you cry? Sweat from my fist blurred faint blue lines on my paper as I agonized to be perfect. That was part of the problem: I knew that handwriting was important. I was a tug of war between the ideas tumbling forth…and the too-slow penmanship. For years I associated writing and crying.
However, I had also been the four-year-old who regularly “wrote” on our dining room wall. With crayons. Our walls were celery-green. I was small--but here was a vehicle that gave me power and might. Some muse (or demon) within compelled me. Orange, yellow, red, blue, green…I didn’t have the fanciest crayon set, but I made the most of it. My mother would take out cleanser and sponge and try to scrub off the marks. Shadows of crayon remained, interspersed with streaks of—bleach? One day, exasperated, she asked the woman who lived above us in the duplex what she should do. Should she punish me for my exploits?
Get her a blackboard,” was our tenant’s wise response.
First it was a small rectangular blackboard, not much larger than a notebook, with a yellow duck sponge. I can still feel the dryness of the sponge and how quickly it absorbed water…flooding words and pictures on the board into grey oblivion. Not long after, I got a real blackboard on an easel-type stand. Thus, a teacher was born. I held school in the basement, and the neighborhood kids showed up—even Gregory, who tortured ants and teased me on the street. In my school, he was a model student.


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