Saturday, June 11, 2011

Old Friends, Good Times, & Lessons Learned

Hello, friends! I hope this post finds you happy, healthy, and enjoying your summer. I know I sure am! As a matter of fact, this summer is shaping up to be one of the best I’ve had in a very long time, and not just because of all of the publishing excitement. (Although, I have to admit that it is the cherry on top.) I’ve been able to catch up with some old high school friends (calm down, ladies…I don’t mean you’re literally old) that I haven’t talked with in quite some time. I’ve even been able to meet with a few of them for lunch.  Until our reconnection, I hadn’t realized it had been ten years since high school. TEN YEARS, people!!! I can’t believe it. I keep wondering where the time went. Where did all of that energy go? Where is that body? What happened to all of the free time I used back then to enjoy friends and find “myself?” (Okay, I’m moving on. If I talk about this much longer I’ll end up with a gallon of ice cream further deteriorating that body that has been M.I.A. for quite some time.)
Yesterday, a couple of us got together with one of our favorite high school teachers.  This teacher was special to me for many reasons, but for the sake of this blog, I’m only going to tell you about a few that are directly related to my writing. She happened to be my Creative Writing/English teacher. Whenever I think back on my school days, some of my most enjoyable moments involve her and the assignments she gave. I know what you’re thinking.
Amy actually enjoyed assignments?
Well, yes. Yes I did, and I’m convinced you would have enjoyed them as well. One particular assignment comes to mind as I type this. We were required to choose a year. (My year was 1969.) Then, we had to research the year we chose and pick one prominent event that occurred during that year. (Everyone expected me to choose Woodstock, but I chose the Charles Manson murders to throw them off.) Then, we were to find out everything we could about that event and create a journal written as if we lived during that year and experienced that event. (I wrote my journal from the perspective of one of Charlie’s girls/followers.) This assignment really forced me to step out of my comfort zone. I had to place myself in my character’s shoes and write as someone else that I was completely unfamiliar with. I had to let go of my own writing habits, tendencies, and beliefs and write journal entries that sounded as if they were actually written by a brainwashed teenager capable of committing murders. Talk about a lesson in “voice.”
I didn’t know it then, but the lessons learned from that assignment would stick with me long after I graduated high school. I didn’t know I’d use what I had learned to write a novel or eventually have that novel published, but I now realize that I couldn’t have done it without the skills learned from a wonderful assignment given to me by an even more wonderful teacher.  
That leaves me with a question for you. What teachers, assignments, and experiences have helped you to become a better writer? Are there any that stand out in your mind? How have these influenced your writing? We’ve all had things like this happen in our lives. Tell me about yours!



    Sorry. It's just that I love hearing about special bonds between students and their teachers. :) Then I know I'm not the only one out there. Anyway, I LOVE this assignment your teacher set up. I think I'm going to try it! Do you know if she gave any other assignments? (Now I'm wishing I had HER as a teacher! Not that I wanna be ten years older than I am. . .)
    Isn't it great when you learn something from someone. . .especially when it helps you later on?

    What was this teacher like, by the way? Was she REALLY close to you or . . .did you just love her for the assignments she created or did she help you in other things?

    To answer your question, when I was in middle school, I had a teacher who taught me many things. I don't remember it right now but I do know she has strengthened me as a writer. It was great being her student!

    By the way, I have a totally unrelated-to-this-subject question: How do you pronounce your last name?

  2. Hmmm…. Were there any other special assignments? I distinctly remember a scrapbook that I still have somewhere. We were to write one page essays answering, in detail, questions that the teacher gave us. Ex: What is your earliest memory and why is it special? Who is your best friend and why? What is currently your favorite song and why does it have special meaning for you? Tell me about your first love. Who is your favorite author and why? What is your favorite poem and why? There were lots of questions, at least ten, if not more. Then, we compiled these in a scrapbook with pictures and other memorabilia. It’s funny, because during our lunch, our teacher mentioned this assignment and one of my friends who was eating lunch with us. (She’ll die if she reads this, but I won’t mention names. I just have to share it.) My teacher said she learned so much about us through those scrapbooks - more than she really wanted to know. She mentioned my friend and said she remembered that she had written a one page essay about her favorite pair of thongs in response to the question, “What is your favorite item?” That just cracks me up!

    Let’s see…the only other thing that stands out is the culminating presentation to the 1969 journal that I mentioned in my blog. We all had to dress as our character and do a little presentation in front of the class. I dressed as a hippie and acted psychotic. I totally freaked my classmates out, and it was awesome! lol

    To answer your other question, I had a VERY special relationship with this teacher. She was like a second mother to me and she will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart. She was the kind of teacher I’d meet early at school to talk to when I a problem.

    Finally, it’s pronounced “Michelle.” :)

    Thanks so much for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. that should have said, "when I had a problem."