I want to thank The Buffalo News for publishing the My View column. This space allows writers all over Western New York to opine, to vent, to reminisce, to tell their story. I’ve been able to do this over 20 times, and it gives me pleasure to reach so many people, to often get feedback and sometimes even be recognized by a stranger in my hometown.
What makes me write? Perhaps it’s partly something most of us have in common. When we have an idea, we can’t wait to put pen to paper (eventually to computer). At least, that’s why I write. It’s simply because I have to.
When did it all begin? I believe I have to thank my mother, who read to me. She started when I was a baby, with nursery rhymes. I became entranced by words and that early beginning has remained with me always. I love words.
I started writing when I was 12, poems first, with meter and rhyme. Maybe a throwback to those early nursery rhymes. I lived in Detroit, and the Detroit News printed children’s poetry every Saturday. My first poem was rejected with the curt reply: “Count your meter.” Ever after that I counted the meter carefully. I don’t write poetry much anymore, but if I did, I’d count it.
Fiction came next. But even as a teenager, I soon realized that real life was far more interesting than anything I could dream up.
Perhaps here I need to tell my own real-life story. I was a nerd, plain and simple. I began wearing glasses at age 5, braces at 10, and my hair was still in braids at 12. Most nerds are also introverts. And introverts have problems talking with other people, so they may turn to writing in order to be heard. Anyway, that’s what happened to me.
I learned two valuable lessons in writing when I was 18. At that time, all the social studies classes in the high schools had to write an essay on citizenship for a contest sponsored by the Civitan Club in downtown Detroit. I still remember sitting at the big Royal typewriter at home and writing an elaborate first paragraph, full of clichés. It stayed there a minute until I tore it from the typewriter and started over, making a decision just to put down why I loved my country in simple words.
My essay came in second, but the boy who won refused to change two or three sentences. So, by default, I was first. And I, too, was asked to change a couple of things. My belief, even then, was that writing is a process, always in flux, the first draft never written in stone. So I changed the required words and they sent my essay off with the other high school entries. It was something never to forget, because I won first place, and along with it a $500 scholarship. Back in 1946, that was really something.
So, today, years later, I still write. I’m still basically an introvert, hoping for an audience. I have to write. There’s always a waste basket closer by to hold the rewrites I crumple up and discard. I’m never completely satisfied.
I’ve been published in several magazines and have written a book about the students I taught at NCCC for 23 years.
Finally, I hope that by writing this I’ve spoken for many of those who appear in this space. They are not nerds, I hasten to say, nor maybe even introverts, but I believe we are all still motivated by an idea, a memory, a story, a strong belief and we have to type it up and send it in to The News where we’re given the opportunity to be heard.