Reading Made Me a Writer

Recently I was asked what book made me realize that what I wanted to be a writer. While I have my favorites, the honest answer is that it wasn't just one book, but the experience of discovering that books could make a bad situation just bit more tolerable.

By the time I entered the second grade, I was a fairly proficient reader who was unlucky enough to wind up in a class of a very mean teacher. While I remember her name, what she looked like and even what kind of car she drove, I won't go into details other than to say she was a bitch. And, for whatever reason, this woman had it in for me. I didn’t make matters easier for either of us by becoming even more stubborn when I realized how much it annoyed her.

Even though seven is kind of young age to come to the conclusion that you’re on your own, it’s what I realized when the principle and my parents found fault with my behavior and not her bullying. I spent a lot of time at a single desk, separated from the rest of my classmates, doing one ditto worksheet after another, my penmanship growing steadily more illegible.

Bored, I began to read whatever I could get my hands on and I worked my way through the selection of books she kept in classroom. Every two weeks I'd check-out the maximum two books we were allowed at the school library, making sure they were thick enough to see me through until the next visit.

Around this time we were also without a TV set at home. The one we had for years had finally called it quits right before the yearly showing of The Wizard of Oz. We were upset until we found a copy of the book at a yard sale. Our parents, unnerved by all the quite, eventually got us a new set, but it was too late. We’d become dedicated readers even though we managed to catch up on all the TV we'd missed.

All the while, my dealings with my second grade teacher continued to get worse. She became pettier and I ramped up my only defense of being a difficult little snot. Of course, she was in control and started to take my books away. One day, after my mother dropped me off at the gate, I waited in the girl’s bathroom until the yard cleared and walked back home.

When my mother discovered me, hidden in the pantry with a box of Ritz crackers and a book, she marched me into the school office. The principal called my teacher in and they all had a good long chat. After that, my books were largely left alone. At the end of the school year, I cleared out my little desk and walked out without looking back.

I’ll admit to still being the occasional snot, but I’ve never stopped reading and I never will. What I learned in the second grade is as true now as it was then, a good book can get you through just about anything.

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