My love for writing began in elementary school. One day my third grade teacher, Mrs. M. asked us to cut photographs from magazines and bring them to class. Mrs. M. had a cardboard box sitting on her desk and we all obediently placed our pictures in that box. We did that over several days, not knowing what she was going to have us do with them.
Finally the day was here, Mrs. M. told us to choose a photograph from the box and write a story about the picture. As my hand went into that box of photographs I remember the fear starting to set in. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to write about anything. As I sat there looking at the picture I felt my body relax. The usual panic subsided and all of a sudden I started to write a story. I looked forward to those days when we would pick a picture from that old cardboard box.
If only I had kept all those stories. I would love to be able to read what that little girl was dreaming about so many years ago. Mrs. M’s writing assignments woke up a creative part in me and from that day on I wanted 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 been writing for a few years, I was no longer in the third grade, I was now sitting in my 8th 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, but instead write the last chapter ourselves. I wasn’t even intimidated about finishing John Steinbeck’s words; it didn’t even occur to me until now that I am writing this! I just remember being so excited to get started!
I did what I was told and closed the book right before the last chapter. 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. As I shifted in my seat I looked up and the teacher was looking straight at me. 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 I was sitting 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. From that moment on all I could hear was the loud pounding of my heart in my ears.
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!
I will be forever grateful to Mrs. M. for always encouraging and praising us. I do not fault the other teacher, I can’t even remember her name. I suppose if I had been in her shoes I may have thought the same thing. Although, I would have handled it differently, it was my decision to stop writing and pursuing my dream.
Do you remember a time that changed the course of your life?