It Was a Dark and Stormy Night When I First Knew I Wanted to be a Writer

Okay, that's not entirely true, but the pivotal moment when I decided that writing would be my career did come around Halloween of 1989, when I was in the sixth grade.

Backing up a little, I always loved writing. I would write stories and poems which I would illustrate. I think I was very similar to Irene Latham in this way. Once I got into school, we did a lot of writing. Then, we would each choose one of our best pieces to "publish." This meant copying it over into a book that would then be bound in a cover made of wallpaper samples. In the younger grades, we were supposed to write it ourselves and then our teachers would write the correct words above ours, essentially deciphering our creative spellings. However, I could not stand for any errors in my books, so I asked the teacher to write it for me.

I never really thought of writing as a career. I think for most of my upper elementary school years, ice cream truck driver was top on my list. But then came that fateful assignment in 6th grade language arts. Mrs. Condon read us the beginning of a scary story, and then asked us to write the ending. She stopped just as the protagonist was about to go down the stairs to the basement. Well, I imagined a horrific, terryifying world in that basement. I can't remember the exact fate of our hero, but it was nothing good.

A few days later, Mrs. Condon read us the actual ending. It was one of those hokey stories where it turned out he had nothing to fear from the basement after all. It was a huge letdown, and I thought my own gruesome ending was much better. And if my ending was better than that of this professional writer, well then, maybe I should become a writer myself.

I tell this story at schools, and the teachers often chuckle, but the kids nod their heads, and that makes me happy because it means that the audiences are full of chidlren who believe that they, too, can be writers some day.


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