“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Little Writer

When I was in third grade, I had an amazing teacher who made Writers' Workshop the center of the classroom atmosphere. When you finished your work, or needed something to do, it was just a given: you wrote something. I remember the back of the classroom had shelves of all different kinds of paper, because the different stages of writing were color-coded. Drafting was on yellow lined paper. Final copies were on crisp white paper with turquoise lines. And totally awesome? That special paper that had space for a drawing on the top and lines underneath for the story.

But the absolute best was that this teacher capitalized on the self-publishing industry before it was even a societal Thing. If she read your work and thought it was worthy, she offered you the chance to be "published." This meant using super expensive heavy paper, penciling in light lines so all your sentences were straight, and drafting illustrations that she, the teacher, had to approve ahead of time. You had to design a cover, have a snappy title, and then she'd laminate the whole thing and bind it with these plastic clippy things that resembled a spiral-bound notebook.

But the absolute best, best, BEST? It wasn't the twirly book rack off to the side of the room, over by the window, where all the published books were displayed, although that was really cool. It wasn't that your classmates would peruse this collection and casually pick yours out and then READ it (always followed up with a super enthusiastic, "Oh my gosh! This is SOOOOO good!" (Quick aside: I hope all people have a) grown out of believing people when they make remarks like that and b) have stopped making them themselves.)

No. The best part was that on the cover of a shiny, laminated book on a twirly rack off to the side of a classroom had, "by Mary Pat Michalek" on it.

I started writing as soon as I could sound out words. I started telling stories even before that, even if it was only to myself at bedtime because I couldn't fall asleep. As often as I could imagine myself as a teacher, I could imagine a shelf, maybe shelves, of books in my vague, sketchy future house that all said, "by Mary Pat Michalek" or some other last name that simply indicated that I was not just a teacher and writer, but also some lucky man's wife.

And yet, the real drive, the vision, the dream all started in third grade when I wrote and published, "My Family," for the classroom library. It was a braggy nonfiction account of one particularly self-involved girl's home life, that no one could ever relate to because much of it was--I don't want to say lies, but, well, I am also the girl who told her entire first grade class that her family owned and acted in the circus. See what I mean? A story-teller from the get-go.

I'm not sure why I've decided to share this now, but for the facts that the memory sort of just came to me, and because I haven't written anything in awhile. Either way, it is a special memory to me and I felt like sharing.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday!

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