Writing, Steinbeck and Stolen Dreams

Ever since I was a young child I loved to write.  I think it started back in the third grade.  Our teacher would have us pick pictures from magazines and we would have to write a story about the picture.  I remember the first day we did this assignment, I was so scared.  I didn’t know if I would be able to write about anything.  I looked at the picture I chose and all of a sudden I started to write a story.  It actually was fun! I looked forward to those days that we would pick our picture from that old cardboard box.

I wish I had kept all my writings, as it would be wonderful to read what I was thinking back then.  It was so much fun sitting at my desk in my room creating magical plays and writing so many stories.  One of my dreams was that I was going to write a novel.

However, in just one quick moment all those dreams would be taken away.  Why would I allow that to happen?  I had now been writing for a few years, I was no longer in the third grade, I was sitting in my 9th grade classroom.

We were reading OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck.  Our assignment was to take the book home and finish reading the story and stop right before the last chapter.  We were not to read it, just close the book and write the last chapter ourselves.  I wasn’t even intimidated about finishing John Steinbeck’s story, it didn’t even occur to me until now that I am writing this post!  I just remember being so excited to get started!

I did what I was told.  I sat and wrote what I thought should be the ending of this amazing book and the next day handed it in to my teacher.

A few days later the teacher handed out the books to all of us and we were to read the last chapter silently.  As I was reading the ending my stomach began to knot up, I know I must have changed several shades of red.  I had written an ending almost word for word, identical to Mr. Steinbeck!  Instead of being proud and excited, I was sick as I knew I was now in trouble.

To this day I remember that old desk that I sat at, the American Flag to the right of the chalkboard, the posters on the wall and even the aromas coming from the cafeteria, as it was soon going to be lunch.  My heart was pounding out of my chest.  I didn’t know how I was going to explain this, no one was going to believe that I hadn’t cheated.

The teacher then said those dreaded and expected words, “Someone here decided not to follow directions and copied the last chapter of the book.”  She also continued on with a long discussion about plagiarism.

Inside my head I was screaming, “No, I didn’t cheat, I swear, those were my words, I didn’t read the last chapter!”  I knew no one would believe me, I just sat there speechless, sickened and sad.  I had never cheated or lied in my life and to be accused of something that I hadn’t done was devastating.

My dreams were stolen that day.  I never wrote again until now, almost 40 years later; as I write on this blog. Would I have written that novel by now if that hadn’t happened?  I will never know, but it’s never too late!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Faded Rose Between Pages by dan

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Lisa Ladrido (66 Posts)

Lisa is an R.N. Mom Blogger and the author of Mom Blogger Buzz. She writes about Social Media, Technology, Product Reviews, Blogging Tips, Travel, Family and Health. She and her husband live in the Seattle area. They have 5 sons, 4 grandchildren and 3 furry four legged children!

15 comments for “Writing, Steinbeck and Stolen Dreams

  1. Suzanne Bogue
    August 28, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    When I was in the 6th grade a teacher accused me of cheating because I made the highest grade in the class on a math test. According to him, girls couldn’t do that because they weren’t smart enough. In 9th grade a different teacher became angry because I was trying to explain his recent lecture to another class mate because she wasn’t understanding it. He told me that I would never succeed at anything. After that I gave up on trying to succeed in math and science. I had better teachers in English who encouraged me and got some things published in the high school literary magazine and later on in college. But I quit writing and quit my art when I had kids, no time or money for frivolous pursuits. I was encouraged by a young man to take an adult creative writing course at the local community college. I have been writing ever since. That’s more than twenty years. Publication has come harder than it did back in the early days, because I am branching into new territories, but I have won awards and I am proud of what I can do. I guess the moral is: Don’t let other people’s opinions of you and your abilities squash your confidence and your dreams. It’s your life and your dream and there is always time to prove your critics wrong–even if they will never know it.

    • August 29, 2012 at 6:08 AM

      You give me hope Suzanne! I am not sure why teachers would do this to their students. Thankfully these are few and far between. I am glad you were able to continue writing!
      lladrido1 recently posted..Writing, Steinbeck and Stolen DreamsMy Profile

  2. August 28, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    I can’t express to you how much this post spoke to me. As a former student, I remember the desire to excel. As a former teacher of Of Mice & Men, I recall the anticipation most students feel to finish the novel and what it’s like when they discover the heart-wrenching ending. As a former budding writer who had my own bouts of self-doubt, insecurity, and embarrassment, I know exactly how you felt that day when your creativity was squashed. The teacher in me wants to rewind for you and give you the opportunity to speak to your teacher. I wonder if it would help at all to send this post to your former instructor (if you can)?
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    • August 29, 2012 at 6:11 AM

      Thank you Gretchen! I have forgotten the teacher’s name, I wish I could remember her. I would love to go back and talk to her as I hope that I was the last student she did this to. I wish I had the security to stand up to the accusations.
      lladrido1 recently posted..Writing, Steinbeck and Stolen DreamsMy Profile

  3. Gerry
    August 28, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Oh Lisa! Imagine if you could track that teacher down now and have a conversation with her. She probably has no idea that she changed your attitude towards writing.

    The morale here is not to let anyone stop you from doing anything. When we’re young, we’re easily crushed by what someone says to us.

    There is no stopping you Lisa. When do we have the pleasure of reading your book?

    • August 29, 2012 at 6:13 AM

      Hi Gerry! It would be great to track her down. If I were a teacher I would have approached it differently, maybe speaking to the child in private first. I have many ideas in my head for a book, but have just touched the surface!
      lladrido1 recently posted..Writing, Steinbeck and Stolen DreamsMy Profile

  4. August 28, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    Oh boy, Lisa, this was like a punch in the gut! We’re always thinking of new ways to teach kids, but why not get new teachers, too? They are supposed to nurture and develop regardless of sex and race, yet all too often we hear stories of the opposite. Those years are certainly times that can make or break a kid and I am so sorry you lost your passion! I guess in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter that this happened to you…you still had the desire to write and you do it well! Thank you for sharing this story with us!
    Beth recently posted..God Still Protects in the Midst of ChaosMy Profile

    • August 29, 2012 at 6:15 AM

      Beth, It did feel like a punch in the gut for sure. I didn’t even tell my parents about this. Maybe if I had they could have helped me through it. I am glad that I have the opportunity to write on this blog and hopefully write a book at some point!
      lladrido1 recently posted..Writing, Steinbeck and Stolen DreamsMy Profile

  5. August 28, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    You’re right… it never is too late. I hope you write and write some more. Write that novel! It’s amazing how a teacher can so easily change the path a student may take. A teacher told my sister once when she was in 3rd grade… “that’s a stupid question.” Ever since that day my sister says she lost all self-confidence and never asked questions. I think it held her back from believing in herself and what she is capable of. I’m glad you began writing again… the world will be better for it.
    Victoria recently posted..Melynda Fleury Book Fair Giveaway EventMy Profile

    • August 29, 2012 at 6:17 AM

      Thank you Victoria. That is so sad that a teacher would say that to your sister. Do they not realize how important they are in the lives of children? I hope she has gained her confidence back.
      lladrido1 recently posted..Writing, Steinbeck and Stolen DreamsMy Profile

  6. August 28, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    It is so amazing how experiences we have as children can shape and mold our path in life. It sounds like you have come to a place of great insight into this experience and can use it to fuel your future writing endeavors. I can relate as I have always loved to write but felt compelled to choose a career that was more “job oriented”. I feel like my blog has presented the opportunity to me now!
    Sarah recently posted..Dr. Robin For Kids: Sunscreen and Skin Care GiveawayMy Profile

    • August 29, 2012 at 6:19 AM

      Yes, Sarah! Parents, family and teachers can make or break a child’s spirit. I also took the career path, but inside I have more of a creative spirit. I am glad that you have your blog and hopefully you will continue your path to writing. Thank you for your comment!
      lladrido1 recently posted..Writing, Steinbeck and Stolen DreamsMy Profile

  7. Sue
    August 30, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    I had a dream stealer, too! I had an awful history teacher in high school who called me out for writing a report “too well.” He said my writing was so good that it had to have been plagiarized. He said I didn’t “talk like that,” so I couldn’t possibly “write like that.” He was judge and jury.

    It, too, kept me from writing for decades. My only solace is that years later, I wrote about it in my book, and I’ve had others share their similar experiences. Teachers take heed!
    Sue recently posted..What Shampooing Your Hair Has to Do With HealingMy Profile

    • August 30, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      That is too bad Sue. I am glad you were able to finally write your book. It is a shame how many people this has happened to. I am so glad to see you here!
      lladrido1 recently posted..Writing, Steinbeck and Stolen DreamsMy Profile

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