Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Remembering Your First Love

Back in my sophomore year I had an unusual English Teacher. If you’re anywhere near my age, you’ll remember the kind I’m referring to. They were the almost hippies types. With their hair hanging just over their collars, no tie, and yes, they actually wore those corduroy jackets with elbow patches. They got a kick out of ruffling the feathers of administration just enough to annoy them, but not enough to get fired. But it wasn't the way he dressed or picked on adminstration that made him unusual. It was the way he made writing come to life.

On the first day of class, this teacher set the tone for what would be he most exciting English class I had ever taken. He told us to open our books to a certain page. We did. Then he instructed us to place our right hands on that page. Again, we did. Then he said, “We have now met the state’s requirement for touching on the subject of grammar and punctuation. Please close your books and let’s learn something fun.”

That year, I learned what writing from the heart with creativity was. We had our choice of several novels to read. After reading the novel, the assignment was to get into a minor character head and rewrite it from their POV. I chose “One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest.” It took the entire year to finish that assignment. We soon discovered how much work goes into writing a novel. What a great year it was. That teacher sparked something in me that has never faded. I love writing. It's as much a necessity to me as breathing.

Now before I get clunked over the head by the Grammar Gestapo let me clarify, I do believe grammar and punctuation are important. So important, that I’m taking a refresher course. Picture this, you're an editor with a slush pile a mile high. You come across two manuscripts both with equally great story lines but one is pristine while the other is riddle with grammar flaws. Which one would you choose? We may not like it, but editors will choose the one that shines every time.

Write from your heart and make it exciting. But if you are lacking the tools needed to deliver a clean package then go out and get them. There are plenty of refresher courses or if you are an ace at self learning pick up a book and learn the tools of the trade. After all, just as carpenter wouldn’t think of building a house with only a hammer and few nails. A writer mustn't construct a manuscript with only a pencil.

Happy Writings,


Cheryl said...

Thanks for sharing this little bit of your past, Lori. I had an English teacher who also helped instill a life-long love of the language in me too.

Grammar has never been my strong suit either, and you make a valid point--sloppy work will give editors an easy reason to reject your work. Thankfully, I have lots of books to study from.

Great post!


crazybasenji said...

Yay! Hoory! and Right On! from the Grammar Gestapo.

My English teachers in high school were crabby old ladies who made us diagram sentences -- ugh. My SCIENCE teachers were the cool hippie guys. Probably why I ended up in science first, writing later.


Anonymous said...

Laura, Great Post!

I was just thinking about my history teacher in HS the other day. Mr. Harris not only taught me World and American History, he laso taught me how much I need to know on these subjects if I ever hoped to write well about them.
I started a Civil War novel in the 10th grade and used the information I learned in his class to help me along. I only wrote a few pages before I realized I was in WAY over my head.
I told Mr. Harris about my failed novel just before graduation. He said "Mz. Heidelberger, I expect to see your name on my library shelf one day. Do not disappoint me."
Mr. Harris is dead now, but I intend to take an autographed copy of my first novel (when I get one lol) to the library in his hometown.
Teachers can never be paid for all of the wonderful things they have given us.
I had a great English Lit teacher too, but I'll save him for another day.


Jean said...


I didn't have any cool teachers. My 7th & 8th grade English teacher was a very strange little man. He told me once I perturbed him. I had to look it up to see what he meant.

I can't remember a time I haven't loved reading though Even as far back as the 2nd or 3rd grade I was reading like crazy. I so got in trouble many times for the flashlight under the cover thing.

Great post girl!


Kate said...

Hey Laura!I really loved your post.It's great to hear about your English teacher who sparked your passion for writing.It reminds me of my own English teacher, to whom I'm grateful for inducing the passion for writing within me.It has always been my first love, and now it is the pivot of my career.Have a great week ahead!