From my early years, I was a literary-minded person.
I can easily flash back to the Methodist preschool classroom where my teacher, Mrs. Thal, would read us a picture book–when her words carried me away to foreign, abstract worlds and I sat enchanted. I can recall my kindergarten teacher, wide-eyed as I read aloud her emails while I waited for her to grade my work. I remember those lengthy pitch-black nights with the fifteen-or-so library books I attempted to read at the same time (it didn’t work.) But the seed that would eventually flower into a passion for words didn’t fully appear until the first or second grade.
In one of those early elementary years, I participated in the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools’ (FACCS) Creative Writing competition. Our teacher told each of us to write a poem about someone we loved. The poem had to follow a format where the first half grew in line length and the second half shrank in the same. My mind is fuzzy concerning my first reaction to the assignment, but I figured out relatively quickly whom I wanted to write about: my mother. I wrote about her brown eyes, her love for me, and whatever else I could write on the page about her; I grew desperate toward the end. I gave it to my teacher and hoped my poem would be memorable to the judges. I wanted them to see my love for “Mommy”; it turned out they saw not only that but a blue ribbon-worthy piece.
When I received news that my poem had won “Superior,” something bubbled up in me. I realized that I enjoyed hearing that news–that the mysterious, never-to-be-known people who read my work not only saw words but the love and joy and effort behind them. My life was changed, though I scarcely knew it at the moment.
Despite my success, I didn’t write much outside of school, if at all—but I drew massive inspiration from books. I reveled in the mysteries of Nancy, Bess, and George; I traveled back to the USA’s western days with a treasured biography of Annie Oakley; I read everything that had thought-provoking covers and filled pages. This was the time I had huge stores of library books stuffed in the space between my bunk and its rail. My happiest moments in life so far were spent on the bed with my books.
But then came trouble. Various trials began enveloping my family, so I was pulled out of Citrus Park Christian after completing second grade; in third grade I began homeschooling. The first year of this was helpful to my literary side since I was able to complete more challenging reading curriculum by moving up a grade level. This sharpened my mind for what would happen in fourth grade.
Circumstances seemed better during the fourth grade; it was the year in which I first enrolled in a writing intensive program called IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing). The program focused heavily on “structure and style”–that is, how to bring clarity, creativity, and logical flow to whatever I wrote. In order to teach these things, the program provided workbooks on everything from U.S. History to inventions to Narnia. We would make key word outlines from each paragraph of the source text and then write everything they said in our own words, adding new methods to improve our language’s richness with sentence openers and “dress-ups.” I used this program for five years and successfully completed levels A, B, and C.
The effectiveness of the program was only half-dependent on the textbooks themselves, though. In order to truly be effective, the students must have excellent teachers of the material. The finest writers have teachers who inspire them to write well. Fortunately, I had an abundance of those teachers in the IEW program. I started with Ms. Erika Greelish, whom I thought to be pretty and sweet. Love for her students flowed from every word she spoke, and her face radiated with joy every time she taught. If I were to pick out someone who influenced my writing the most, the honor would go to her. When sixth grade came about, homeschool moms taught me the program. Mrs. Moore and Mrs. Fischer helped me to press on with my skills even when it was challenging. Mrs. Fischer helped me to begin the high school level when only in seventh grade. And much, much later, at the start of ninth grade, I would converse with the founder of IEW, Andrew Pudewa. My teachers’ love for writing would serve me well throughout my academic life.
This is the end of the first part; I’ll publish the second on Friday. Part Two wil discuss:
- My fiction writing during middle school
- The Savior, the longest work I’ve completed so far
- British Literature
Thank you so much for reading–please stay tuned!
October 24, 2017