My mother returned from the mental hospital and, through my three “junior high” years, I asked my home room teacher, Mrs. Hill, to grade for extra credit papers I wrote on the religions, legends, and myths of Crete, Greece, Rome, the Middle Ages, Celts, Renaissance, and Native American cultures. Working on these projects encouraged my mother to connect with me around topics she and I loved; it helped her stay more stable mentally, and the house was more peaceful. One day my mother commented to Mrs. Hill that she thought I had a lot of ancient history homework. Mrs. Hill didn’t even blink: “But she does such good work and I think you both enjoy it.” Mrs. Hill’s silence on the work being invented by me, her protection of my position, was my first experience of a creative ally. There are many since who encourage my work and protect my motivations.
In Senior High I studied with Harold Keables, an international award winning teacher of Creative Writing. He had one spoken message: “Write What You Know.” His unspoken message was discipline:
- Turn in a story every week.
- How you feel is irrelevant. Sometimes when he turned to write on the board the chalk lattice of the full iron back brace he wore was outlined on his suit.
- Know your grammar (you would get error notations like C1a, which was Comma Error, 1, in our English Grammar Book; you had to write the sentence three times correctly and turn that in with your weekly story.
I decided I like the stories I wrote for him, and they are found in the little book One is a Lonely Number. Each one has a character transformation theme; let me know if you think they still are relevant or if you have a story about high school now.