Friday, July 18, 2014

Roots Part 1: The Daffodil Family

   So my second grade teacher was a witch.  I had worshipped Mrs. K and Mrs. M in prior years, but in second grade I was given a teacher who originated the duck-face.  I remember kids being pulled out of their dull turquoise desks by their ears.  I remember spike healed shoe pulled off and hitting the ornery boy with it, drawing blood.  Yes there were 40 kids and one teacher, but that doesn't explain why she ridiculed the slower kids, refused to let us go on field trips with the rest of the school, and barked like a deep-throated hound at the slightest provocation.  We'll call her Mrs. A.
     Mrs. A only liked to criticize.  She didn't believe in praise, or fun, or smiling.  She believed my hand-writing should be done with the paper perpendicular to my body.  90 degrees.  I liked to slant my paper.  No, no, no.  So she would walk me across the room and make me stand during hand-writing lessons, behind Bonnie.  Bonnie did it right.  Why couldn't I write more like Bonnie she would ask? 
     I remember a parent teacher conference where she told my parents that I was not trying in Reading Comprehension.  That to get the scores I had in this subject I must be purposely trying to fail.  My parents were not happy.
    So after all these tragic happenings at age eight, why did my writing roots start  here with witch-teacher?  Well, in the entire nine months I spent with her, there was one moment of sunshine.  It was when she showed my parents a story I had written.  Remember those pieces of paper with room at the top for a drawing and lines at the bottom?  I had written a story about a family of Daffodils and I had gone onto three pages to tell my story.  She was not happy, she did not say this with a smile, but she begrudgingly said to my parents, "This is way ahead of her age-level.  Very good work." 
     I didn't know then that it would have such an impact on me, but all that year of scalding negativity was balanced by this one tiny positive seed.  I did something well.  I did something better than witch teacher expected, who had only unreachable expectations.  I had made her unhappy, because she was forced to compliment me. 
     And so I thank the Daffodil Family.  Thank you for coming to me in 1971 and giving me a spark of hope.  Here is proof we can learn as much from adults how NOT to act, as how to act.  And how powerful a compliment can be.  Give some.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

My New/Old Writing Nook

I'm sitting in what used to be my son's room.  Eight years ago when he went off to college it was going to be our "ILLINI" room where the guys watched sports and we had a second television.  Then as things do they change.  It has been a dumping ground, back to being my son's room, a guest room, an art studio, back to being a dumping ground, and as of a few moments ago, it is my writing nook.  I thought I'd share some pictures of how clean and empty it looks, on its first day of life, as I'm sure it won't stay this way.

So, here is my new writing nook.  As you can imagine, I will spend just as much time writing on the bed as at the desk.
Here is my 'new' desk that my husband Chuck found for me at an estate sale.  It was exactly what I'd been looking for for a long time.  Simple. Sturdy. Not sure how old.
Here is my view, sitting in my chair, with the tree in the window and a nice breeze coming in.  The name plate I got in 1984 at my first job out of college.  So it is...old. 

For any of you writers, these are some of my most re-read, most practical writing advice books.  I recommend them....
Some whimsy.  An old victrola cabinet that 'came with the house' full of scrap books. And a new 'writing muse', a gift.

And the all important chocolate.  Who can write without chocolate?  On this special occasion, I got a pack of Peanut Butter M&Ms.  My sister would understand.

And, this, my first writing at the new desk.  If only every writing day were so pleasant, right?  No re-editing bad scenes.  No scratching your head at what you were thinking when you wrote that.  Of course, decorating a writing room isn't the same as actually writing.  A fact that isn't lost on me.  But for today, I'm going to just savor the flavor of new beginnings.