A Writer's Identity
The opening quotation from
Don Murray is on a laminated card that hangs above my computer. Hundreds, maybe
thousands, of writers received one during his long tenure as a writing teacher
at the University of New Hampshire. The day he handed it to me, I felt as if I
had been awarded a very special honor. Don Murray helped to shape my identity
as a writer.
If others help shape (or destroy) our identities, Don earned
my gratitude decades ago.
In the late 60s, I met Don not in person but by
reading his book A Writer Teaches Writing. It was a text assigned in a
graduate course taught by Robert S. Tapply who, after reading one of my papers,
said, "You ought to publish this." Me, submit a piece? Was it good enough?
Did I have something important enough to say? Bob Tapply thought so, and if this
brilliant teacher thought enough of my work, then perhaps I should, too.
the 50s, my high school English teachers believed in entering student essays into
every available competition. Since then, I have never gotten over the thrill of
receiving an author's copy from whatever journal has accepted my work. That feeling
began with my high school teachers submitting my work.
In the 40s, one of
my favorite school assignments was to use our weekly spelling words in sentences.
I loved to read, so I could create sentences that made the way-too-easy spelling
word spin around itself. My teacher would walk up and down the rows, checking
each student's work. I can still see her face as she read the sentence where I
took the risk of using the word "endeavor" in a sentence. She asked
me to say it to her, and satisfied that I knew what it meant and pronounced it
correctly, gave out a pleased "Yes" and told me how to spell it. I was
The writing tasks keep coming at me regularly and I meet the deadlines,
even the self-imposed ones. There is no genre that frightens me. I might fail.
I will regroup and try again.
Thanks to these fine teachers and many more,
I am grateful that I am still able to sit down and scribble lines (or walk around
and say them), move to my word processor, and find joy in the word.