Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher. – Flannery O’Connor
I don’t remember the first story I wrote. I remember an early story, from 2nd grade, and I remember that I misspelled the words leprechaun, microphone, and friend. I can see the writing in red pen, the circled words, and my little leprechaun with his red hair and his pot of gold. But that wasn’t my first story. There’s no record of my first story like there is of my youngest brother’s (Wanda stood by the shark. The shark ate Wanda. The end) and I think it was maybe because I told them instead of writing them down.
When I was very little I had an imaginary husband. People would ask me about him and I’d come up with stories for them. I knew he wasn’t real, but now that I think about it, I might have thought that everyone else believed my stories.
I don’t think it surprised my family when I started to write things down. There are notebooks scattered from here to yonder full of stories and poems. The poems are the most embarrassing and I was reminded of that very recently when my mom revealed that she’d found quite a few scattered pages recently. If I ever get brave enough, maybe I’ll share a couple here.
When I got to college I finally got to take my first writing course. At the time I was planning on teaching high school English, but I saw how many education courses I would be taking compared to the number of literature and writing courses and I made up my mind right then that teaching wasn’t what I wanted to pursue. I changed my major and settled in for three years of constant writing and a seemingly endless pile of books.
I loved my writing classes. They were so different from every other class I was required to take and they pushed me to produce and think critically about everything I read and wrote. In these classes, I got to meet many of the people I’d be surrounded by for the next few years as we pursued the same degree. The group would change a little from class to class, adding a few new faces, dropping others, but for the most part the group stayed the same. And we got to know each other. The one guy who had to include a vampire in every short story. The girl who changed names but was really just sharing journal entries in Intro to Fiction. Some of these people were amazing writers and some of them went the way one professors warned us they would (“You’ll end up in the College of Journalism once you realize you can’t cut it in these classes.”). I have the pleasure of reading some of their work in print now and that’s really cool.
While I didn’t keep in contact with all of the folks I got to know in those classes, there are a few I’m still in touch with and one of them really came through for me this week in the writing competition I am still in. This was champions week and since I am a first timer in this thing I had no idea what it was or that it even existed and I needed to be worried about it until it was here. Basically what it amounts to is someone stepping up to the plate to write something alongside you. The task of finding someone was just almost too much for me to take on at this point in the game, so I was relieved after a minor meltdown on social media that Marisa stepped up and offered to write something. (So did my cousin, Savannah, and I really appreciate that!)
Marisa was one of folks that I met in a writing class. A while back on her blog she examined the types of people you find in creative writing classes and I’m still trying to figure out where I fall. Read it. It’s funny and true. Marisa is addicted to getting degrees and writes regularly over on her blog. She also writes for this other thing that basically everyone in Oklahoma knows about, but I don’t know how open she is about writing for it. I mean, I know she’s more open about it than I am because she uses her name on it. Unlike my during my brief, 2 post stint at the same place that was brought to an abrupt end when I was approached by members of the Idabel mafia.
So anyway! Want to read some fiction? You’re in luck. I have a short story about a boy and a kite and Marisa wrote one about rabid raccoons. You don’t want to miss this. And, if you’ve got a moment after reading and want to help me stick around in this contest for another week, there’s a poll for the other writers and me (watching_ships) and a poll for the champions and Marisa (gentlemarisa). I appreciate your support! Even if I end up going home this week, I have written so many thousands of words that I would not have otherwise.