10.20.2009

Happy National Day on Writing!!

Visit the National Gallery of Writing

I am a writer. There. I said it. It has taken me years to be able to say this about myself, though, truly, I always have been. As a senior in high school, my English teacher Mr. Callis said my final analysis paper was "stupendous" and that some of the analysis was "awe-inspiring." Coming from him, who did not lavish praise just for the sake of doing so, this meant everything to me. Still, I had no confidence as a writer. In Advanced Comp class in college, one piece I shared had my professor and classmates rolling with laughter, asking to hear more. Still, I didn't think I was any good.

Then came the National Writing Project. I stalked this organization for 7 years before finding a local site, and was accepted into their Invitational Summer Institute in 2007. It changed me. Professionally. Personally. Finally, I was starting to see myself as a writer. In 2008 an essay I collaborated on with my graduate Shakespeare class was published in a scholarly journal, and finding an audience for my work became important, but still scary for me. It's hard to share something so personal as writing with people. I wrote a memoir for my final graduate class that caused my professor to claim "I was wondering why a rhet comp person was taking a creative writing class. I get it now." Most of that piece was eaten my by computer, and I could cry about it at pretty much any time. Still, Dr. Rigby was the only person to read it.

That same semester my Advanced Comp teacher from so many years before stopped me in Cherry Hall. "I had you in class, didn't I?" he asked. "You write that wonderful piece about the tire swing and loving language..." Validation. It had been 8 years since that class, and yet he remembered it. He who read hundreds of student essays a term. My writing had made an impression on him, and that simple comment changed how I respond to student work and made me seek opportunities to publish.

And so this summer during ISI, I finally wrote about my experience with epilepsy. When the time was right, it wrote itself. I'm so proud of this piece, as it was the first time I consciously tried to incorporate the styles of mentor authors (Laurie Halse Anderson, specifically, If you haven't read her, go to B&N NOW), and really worked at revision even though little changed in the end. And though I wrote it for myself, others appreciated it, too. My friend Shannon, who I regard as one of the best writers I have ever known, told me my writing was some of the only work she was able to listen to aloud without her mind drifting. The comments on the NWP eAnthology were glowingly supportive.

And then, in late July, an email came asking me to submit my piece to the National Gallery of Writing. I have no idea how many pieces were solicited, but I was and am honored to have been asked. Today, the first National Day on Writing, my memoir "Falling" is published in the gallery for all to see. I hope you will read it. I hope you will write today. Writing is thinking. It is therapy. It is essential.

3 comments:

Shyla said...

Excellent piece, Heather! Congratulations, though I'm sorry the inspiration came through such difficult circumstances (to say the least.) I've never talked with you much about what it was really like. I'm so glad I got to hear it. Great job.

Gavin said...

What a great piece of writing. Thank you for sharing this genuine memoir. --Gavin, NWP Online Content Manager

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