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Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Mary Shelley
     No...Not me. The first piece I wrote was a poem about New York while I was in Elementary School. The teacher liked it but I received my first rejection from my fellow students—what, I thought, do kids know about criticism? In High School, my first attempt at writing romance was crushed by the teacher and became my last. He printed the following in CAPS, in red ink, “THE WORST STORY I EVER READ.” I thought he should have given me credit for not writing about “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” I picked myself up, kept writing and years later the first story published was in a little magazine called The Villager—the story loosely based on my family. When I received my copy and held the magazine in my hot and sweaty little hands, I reacted by running around the apartment screaming, “I’m a writer, I’m a writer.”
     I’m no genius and under no circumstances would become a child prodigy—I was long past my salad days when I began to be published—never a would-be Mary Shelley or her Percy. I would never emulate the frail Alexander Pope who published his sophisticated verse Pastorals at the age of sixteen and went on to translate Homer’s Iliad or Stephen Crane who wrote his first known story “Uncle Jake and the Bell Handle” at the age of fourteen. By the time he was twenty, he had 14 stories published in the New York Tribune and his The Red Badge of Courage, published at 23 and stayed on the best seller lists for four months. Then there is Jane Austen—who I read over and over again—Jane  began writing novels at 15 and by the age of 23 had completed Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. Wow!
     Now I know we’re all too modest to claim the title of genius or child prodigy but I am curious: When did you begin writing? Receive your first rejection and saw your first article, story or novel published? How did you react?


Anne Marie Becker said...

I wrote the usual school projects, but the first thing I remember getting published was a poem about a tumbling leaf as it was blown about in the autumn wind. That was for "Parnassus" - my high school's annual literature journal.

I began writing romance in about 2000, and didn't finish my first story until 2003. Finished several more but wasn't published until 2011, and am currently working on book 6.

Looking forward to reading the comments and seeing what others' journeys have been like...

Anne Marie Becker said...

Oh! Just remembered that I had a piece of artwork (a drawing) published in the local newspaper when I was in second grade. Guess that counts. ;)

Elise Warner said...

Do you still have the poem and the artwork, Anne Marie?

Rita said...

I was a storyteller before I could write. Then I put them to paper. Got in troulbe for telling lies and writing trash and filth. (that was my 4rh grade teacher Sister Cecilia’s critique of a story about a blues singer in Chicago) Wrote a play for a HS class. Started writing again in late 2007 cause there wasn’t anybody around to stop me and here I am.

jean harrington said...

Won an essay contest in 9th grade. Prize was a $25 savings bond. Still remember going up on stage to receive it. Heady stuff!

Elise Warner said...

Rita: I'd love to read about your blues singer in Chicago.

Elise Warner said...

Jean: Did you frame the bond?

Anne Marie Becker said...

Elise, I wish I knew where the artwork was! Maybe I'll find it someday as I sort through my parents' things. I do have the published poem somewhere. I think I actually had two poems in that "magazine."

J Wachowski said...

My first wiff of trouble was having my letter to the editor printed in the Weekly Reader magazine/newsletter. Mmmm, an audience!

Btw, that teacher of yours ought to have been retired or fired, against a wall, probably. That is a horrible way to talk to a student!

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