"I jumped into my time machine and suddenly…"
That was one of the sentences Mr. Lee wrote up on the chalkboard one day. Our job was to finish the sentence and accompany it with three paragraphs. Mine ended up being more than six pages long that day. Most of my classmates were struggling to come up with more than a paragraph, but I couldn’t seem to find the right ending to my story. It grew and grew! When the time was up, Mr. Lee asked for all of the work to be turned in.
“What if it’s not done yet,” I asked him, holding up my five pages proudly.
“How much more are you going to write?”
“I don’t know, but it’s not done yet.”
“Let me see,” he said, holding out his hand. I gave him my pages and stood proudly, the nerd that I was, before my class. “This will do for now, and if you want to write more once I give it back to you, that’s fine.”
When I finally gave my story back, Mr. Lee had written on the front in red ink, normally a bad sign. I guess that was the only color he had that day.
“When you are finished, please turn it in again. I would like to read what happens. A+”
I glowed. He had liked my writing! That was the first real encouragement I had ever gotten for my writing. Even now, I post blog after blog, and it’s often several days or weeks before someone comments on my writing. No criticism, no remarks, no praise, no words. I get a few kudos here and there, and I appreciate it, but it’s the original praise that keeps me writing. Mr. Lee liked my writing, so it had to be worth something.
When finally I finished that story and was ready for a new chapter, I turned in the twenty-five pages. He began reading them right away! When he turned those back in, he wanted to know what happened to the Dinosaur and the Neanderthal. I told him as soon as I got done with the next chapter, I would turn that one in too.
I read through my own story, as I often do with my own work, after he gave it back to me. He had little red marks here and there indicating paragraphs, spelling and grammar mistakes I had made, as any true teacher would. He even gave me extra credit. At the end of the story, he wrote a special note just for me on the last page.
“You have a great talent. Keep it up and you will be famous.”
Ever since then I wanted to be a writer.
Mr. Lee may have been the first person to really encourage me to write - but all of you reading these words right now (yes, you too) are the ones who keep the dream alive.