Thursday, October 7, 2010

For My First Writing Teacher "L"

So much has transpired since my last post, but let's not hash out the details of all of that yet. For now I'll just say that my husband nearly died, I gave up on my perfectionism, working on my senior thesis has been hell, and I am taking a year off after I graduate on May 7, 2011.

This post is for my first writing teacher. She's called L, for now.

I'd dropped out of school at 15 and gotten married 5 years later. No one in my family had gone to college. My husband and I roamed over the whole country looking for something. In a car with a tent for 12,000 miles, in a rig with a bunk for 40,000. We wound up in Asheville, NC, thinking we'd found whatever it was we were lacking.

When we moved to Asheville, my husband was on the road for 6 weeks at a time, and I spent winter nights reading every single Lee Smith book. I scribbled a few journal entries and poems. I waited until I had residency and enrolled in communtity college.

I met her on my first day of college, over 5 years ago. She frightened me a little, everything about being a student frightened me.

I was lost in so many ways.

But here was this woman, my teacher, with her elegant designer suits and her delicate high heels. Style, class, and what's this? A tattoo? She told me emphatically that I was a writer.

I believed her because everything she said sounded authoritative to me. I hadn't written or read as avidly as I had when I was a child or a teenager. There were circumstances: being lost.

The semester after my writing teacher told me I was a writer, I took my first creative writing class with her.

She was inspiring, hilarious, outrageous, fabulous, and fragile.

I learned that one wrote with one's whole body and entire being. It was a physical, spiritual, playful, and most of all, a therapeutic act. I learned to quiet the voices in my head which attempted to drown out my ability to write.

She gave me, and so many others, opportunities to get up and read our work in front of an audience. I went from a shaking voice, and the immediate threat of vomiting, to being able to read in front of an audience with some semblance of calm. I learned to appreciate the pause just after reading, a pregnant silence where I felt heard for the first time ever.

Before I graduated I took another writing class with her. This led me to the decision to switch my major from Sociology to Literature/Creative Writing. I remember her advising me to stick with Lit or English and write as much as I could, whenever and wherever I could. I disobediently chose Creative Writing. Did I mention her wisdom?

When I went to walk the stage in May 2008, she was there to give me, and many others, a hug on the way up the stairs.

I have often thought of her wisdom, kindness, and generosity of spirit. She helped mold me into a student and a writer. I became someone willing to risk everything for my passion. After all of these years I have continued down the difficult path of being a writer, an experience I described in an analogy to my newest writing teacher as "A calling, a religion. My desk is my altar and the writers I admire are my gods."

Thank you L, you are counted among them, you are a literary goddess!

Much love to you!

From the bottom of my guts, because you taught me that's where the best writing comes from.