I woke up this morning musing about my past writing teachers. It probably has everything to do with my reading On Writing by Stephen King until my eyes drooped last night. Geoff’s pal from work recommended it since he knows I like to write and already I’m in love with it and I’ve only read about 30 pages. Thanks, Randy! I remember my Dad reading Stephen King all the time and making me wait until I was older and then only letting me read his compilation of short stories. That book had a picture of a hand wrapped like a mummy with eyeballs all over the hand peeking out from underneath the wrappings. I remember my Dad telling me that if a story got too scary, to stop reading it and try another. As I type this, I’ve just realized I could read everything he’s written if I wanted to. Do I want to? Some might say Stephen King is creepy, if he is, he’s Brilliantly so! Anyway, this book about writing is awesome, but that isn’t what I wanted to blog about.
Mrs. Thompson was my eighth grade English teacher. She must have loved to write because she assigned us to do it all the time. In my mind, there are two types of English teachers… those who make you read and those who make you write. I think both are fantastic and I could do either one for hours! I remember reading Great Expectations with Mrs. Thompson, or at least doing things related to that book. I honestly can’t remember if we actually read it or if we read excerpts and she elaborated on them. I remember doing a project where I made a wedding cake with spiderwebs and bugs all over it because of the Benefactor’s wedding cake that she still had in her house. (I need to read that book again, the details are getting hazy) I also remember Will (and probably Russ), sitting under the skylight reflecting light from his watch onto Mrs. Thompson’s blouse. He got too close to her eyes, she saw it and he had to move seats.
I still have examples of my writing from that era. I didn’t date everything I kept, unfortunately, so I’m not entirely sure what is from that period… although I can take a pretty good guess by the printer things were printed on. Daisy wheel mostly, at that time. I remember having a story that I’d started as a kid, probably when I was around 10 years old or so, that I pulled out and worked on again in Mrs. Thompson’s class. It was about a girl who lived in a small town and her best friend had been kidnapped into a cave in the mountains. She goes in to save her and meets Medusa… snakes for hair and turning people into stone and all. I remember Mrs. Thompson thinking it was cool that I already liked to write and being very encouraging.
The very next year when I was a Freshman in high school, I had Mrs. Peterson for English. She is one of those people who you can tell right away you’re going to remember forever. She was very short (to me) and had short dark hair. She loved Gone With the Wind and had a big poster of it in her classroom. As I recall, she had also written a sequel screenplay. She also had a guillotine in her classroom, replica I’m sure. She gave us actual Turkish Delight when we talked about the Chronicles of Narnia and I also remember that she loved the Great Gatsby. Truthfully, I don’t remember much about the actual English class other than what I’ve just told you, but she let me into her Creative Writing class.
My very first Creative Writing class. Where the bug bit and bit hard! Three students in that class still stand out to me. They were all older than me. She had given special permission for me to join the class. Two tall exceptionally gorgeous girls named Thressa (the infamous Will-the-reflector’s sister) and Heather and a kid with blond curly hair who wanted to be a mortician who was also the class clown. Mrs. Peterson loved to give him the stink eye, but you could tell that she had a soft spot for him. Thressa and Heather were so motivating to me! I wanted to be just like them. I remember learning the word ‘cacophony’ which means a lot of loud, confusing noise. I remember passing around scents (as in little baggies with things in them that smelled), and we kept our eyes closed and wrote down what we thought we smelled. I thought coffee was bouillon!
When I knew I was moving, I hadn’t seen Mrs. Peterson for a few months as a consequence of having a different English teacher the next year. I remember recognizing her from the end of a long hallway by her silhouette. I still remember standing there wondering if I should go and tell her goodbye and thank her for how much she had inspired me. I have always wished I walked down that hallway.
I’ve had many other English teachers. The two I had in my Utah high school were readers. And I worked on the Literary Magazine for 2 years and got lots of writing in with Mr. Frank. It’s funny who stands out and who doesn’t. I really wish I could tell Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Peterson how much they have affected my life. I’m pretty sure they would enjoy knowing that. I’m sure they’ve heard it a thousand times from different people who are not me. I wish I could add my voice. At the risk of sounding like a missing person advertisement, if you know where either of them are, I would love a head’s up.
I have a feeling that this Stephen King book is a journey, as exploring a talent or a passion always is.