My honors English teacher turned me into a lifetime reader. She talked about characters as if they were real, as if to read about them was to be included in their adventures. She introduced me to To Kill a Mockingbird and laughed with me about passing the damn ham. When she asked why I didn’t care for The Catcher in the Rye, I told her Holden Caulfield was a whiner; she grinned.
Reading made me want to be a writer. I’d win little poetry/short story contests, which my family celebrated, but my father didn’t sugarcoat how difficult it’d be to earn a living at it, or romanticize how stressful it is living paycheck to paycheck. He suggested I go into business and wait for a time I could write without desperation.
I went to Babson College, an amazing business school in Wellesley, MA. For my senior honors thesis, I inquired about writing a novella. I didn’t think it’d be approved, and perhaps it wouldn’t have, if not for Professor Carolyn Megan. She agreed to sponsor me if I agreed to twice-weekly meetings at 6:45 a.m. I was so jazzed to get feedback from a real writer that I went for it, much to the dismay of a couple hangovers.
Professor Megan gave me a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, which taught me the importance of purposeful reading, following the story, pushing through the bad to get to the good, and discipline– 2500+ words a day, period. King directed me to William Strunk’s The Elements of Style, where I was instructed to omit needless words. At the end of the year, Professor Megan shared her opinion that I was the real deal. Her words inflated me.
After graduation, I went off to the business world, but the fire had been lit. I wrote on planes, late at night, and on quiet weekends, biding my time until it made sense to go all in. When I finally went for it, I warned my family the chances of publication were slim. My father never indulged excuses. He wisely quoted Taj Mahal: Many fish bite if you’ve got good bait.
It was a piecemeal writing education that I wouldn’t change for the world.
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