Third grade was a big year for me: the first time I was in public school after private school proved too expensive for my parents to justify on my brother and I despite the level of education and my first mentor happened to be my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Wallen.
At the time, of course I didn’t think of her as my mentor. I just thought of her as my best friend. She introduced me to the world of Shel Silverstein, let me stay indoors at recess to read and write, and submitted an application, after my parents’ approval, for the Young Writers’ Workshop.
Before that, I only thought of writing as something linked to book reports during the summer reading program at a local library and an activity to pass the time during the mini sermon given by the pastor before the dismissal of the kids to Sunday School time. The book reports led to a special award created for me the previous year, at age seven, during the end-of-summer award ceremony.
“We couldn’t believe this particular little girl wrote these reports, so of course we figured out she had a lot of help from her mom. But, when we spoke to her mom, she explained that the reports were written entirely by her daughter. We were very surprised to hear that and knew we had to create an award for this talented budding writer,” the head librarian explained. I had no idea she was referring to me and felt a happy knot of anxiety explode in my abdomen when she called my name.
The stories written during church were of the most silly and innocent of topics, generally with nature such as the sun itself hiding out from the moon and twin girls I unwittingly referred to as the Andrews’ Sisters, who solved local neighborhood mysteries. Carefully drawn pictures accompanied the stories, all found in a tiny memo book, which I showed to Mrs. Wallen later during a sunny fall afternoon recess while everyone else was outside.
Throughout the school year, I tried my absolute best to keep her close to me and win her approval, as she encouraged me with kind and constructive criticism. In my previous years, in private school, I made it a point to know these teachers as well as I could. I’d play with their kids, after school, or write them letters in the summertime to “check in on them.”
The precociousness of this never crossed my mind until much, much later in the course of a career exercise meant to find your “true passion.” Yet, it made me realize that there had to be a place where I could tap into that and discover if the slow unfolding of the creativity was still within me.
Today, this blog/place serves as a welcome home and a crystal-clear sign that I need to re-discover a writing mentor. I hope she/he appreciates my candor and proves to want to be a partner on my campaign to a purely creative existence…