I can vividly remember some of my earliest writing, from a poem about the Statue of Liberty, to greeting cards prepared especially for my mother. It was at the ripe old age of 12, however, that I had an idea that writing would come to be a meaningful part of my life. Age 12 was the year of the kite, my first discovery that words could be manipulated and positioned to create meaningful and memorable mental images and movement. I remember my English teacher from that time, vividly – Mrs. Beer: Tall, waspish, blonde-haired with small pale features, proper, reserved, and the first person to fling wide open the doors of literacy.
It was Mrs. Beer who brought me to the Island of the Blue Dolphins, to the Westing Game and My Side of the Mountain, to Caddie Woodlawn and Boo Radley, and eventually to my own Separate Peace. She would be my English teacher for three years of my life – difficult years, formative years, years of discovery and doubt. And it was during my 7th grade year when asked to produce a piece of creative writing (and who can recall the actual assignment at this point?) when I became aware of words. Writing about the journey of a kite who had broken free of its owners grasp, string broken and tail flying, I enjoyed the process of composition and storytelling to such an extent that I spent hours working on the short story. I even brought it with me to the Red Lobster for dinner one evening so that I could quickly jot down any new events that the kite might encounter. It was as if I was the kite itself, broken free from the shackles of the ground, guided by a force that could quickly take me this way and that. My mind was the force, the kite was my story, and suddenly song lyrics and television slogans, menu items, and road signs all began to come alive with language that colored a world with connotations and rhythms. The kite soared from dusk til dawn and 4 months later I found myself being called to an awards podium prefaced by mention of my story. Apparently, Mrs. Beer enjoyed the kite’s journey as well and with the nod to my creativity forever noted on a certificate of merit, a writer was born.