Ever have an English teacher change your life? Maybe it was a discussion about that story you read in class. Or maybe, like me, you had teachers who flamed your passion for writing.
Today is the official release of my new book, A Packaged Deal, the first story in the Towering Pines series. I dedicated it to three English teachers. My friend Maria Clinton, who teaches high school English a few blocks from my home, my high school English teacher, Mr. Wyly, and my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan. Other names and faces flit through my mind. I’ve had many excellent English teachers, but there’s a reason I singled out these three.
Years ago as I drove up a windy road toward Nederland, Colorado, a story called for my attention. It was a tale from years before, my first attempt at writing a book. I started it my senior year in high school, and I still have the handwritten cursive manuscript on lined notebook paper to prove it.
That story matured with me over many years, but it never went away. It’s the stories that don’t leave you alone that must be written. A Packaged Deal is one of those, and that story I began at seventeen grew into the book releasing today. I remain forever grateful to Robert Wyly for this and more. Why? Because in that nine-week creative writing class I requested permission to write a novel instead of doing the daily assignments, and he cheered me on.
It was one of those touch points that established my dream to become an author. The experience helped keep my dream alive and sustained it during my busy years as a teacher and young mom, when I thought I would write books and didn’t accomplish much more than short poetry and family letters.
I chose my third grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan, for this dedication because her class is the first place I remember knowing I would someday write books. It started when she assigned us a creative writing exercise using personification. I wrote about a pencil and an eraser who always fought but eventually discovered they needed each other when they had to work together to save the third grade classroom. As I wrote that little story, I was hooked. My first “real” job out of college was as a third grade teacher. I can only hope there are a few students out there whose lives were impacted by me as I was by Mrs. Duncan. I read that pencil and eraser story to my students every year, and they always loved it–and loved writing their own personification tale.
Mrs. Duncan also gave me another gift I’m forever grateful for. She discovered that I loved to read and that I finished my work quickly. Instead of allowing me to sit idle, she and the librarian set me up on a speed reading device that helped me read and comprehend more and more quickly. This valuable skill allows me to consume books even now, and I’m very grateful.
I chose to include my friend Maria in the dedication because of her dedication to her students. I am consistently amazed by her passion for them. She cares about their academics and works hard to prepare them for college. She is also passionate about them as individuals. I believe the literature, writing, and class discussion in Mrs. Clinton’s classes open the world beyond that classroom as well as helping her students explore the world within. No doubt the experience grows their understanding and provides forward momentum in their lives. What a difference a passionate teacher makes! (Mrs. Clinton and I share another joy beyond our mutual love of literature, learning, and people. My son, Sam, just proposed to her daughter, Ariel! Wahooo!!)
I’m forever grateful to these three teachers–and to all the English teachers (and librarians!) who called forth my passions. As I reflect, story after story, teacher after teacher, comes to mind who fostered my love of books and writing. The story that made me laugh that our fourth grade teacher read to the class? I read it to my own class of third graders years later. We laughed so hard my co-worker came over and asked what was going on because her class was getting jealous. That serious book about concentration camps in fifth grade? Still part of the shaping within me for justice and compassion. The sixth graders teachers who allowed me to express creativity in numerous ways. Anne Frank’s Dairy, Great Expectations. The immersion into fantasy thanks to a teacher who loved Brigadoon and pookas. The elementary librarian who constantly worked to find me the next books series and keep me engaged in reading. The junior high librarian who became a friend as she shared her favorite authors with me, again finding ways to keep my love of books growing. The list continues into college.
So here’s to English teachers (and librarians) everywhere! Thank you for pouring out on our behalf!
PS A Packaged Deal is available in paperback and on Kindle. Tomorrow I’ll share a little more about how this story matured from its beginnings in Mr. Wyly’s class to become the novel of today.