Saturday, November 20, 2010

When I started school I had a teacher called Mrs. Bibby.

She was crazy.

I don’t mean crazy as in ‘Oh, my teacher is so crazy!’ I mean crazy as in ‘We, the jury, find the defendant…”

I wish I was joking. They eventually let her go, quietly, when they found her alone in the library, reading ‘Janet and John’ books aloud to herself when she should have been teaching.

Unfortunately, this was after four years of being taught by her. I don’t know why she chose me, but she spent those four years torturing me.

I’m not exaggerating. At five years old, her favorite things to do was to not let me go to the bathroom until I pissed myself.

The worst thing she did, however, was refuse to teach me to read. I knew my ABC’s alright, we did those as a group, but the way we were actually taught to read was one-on-one. The class would be given something to do and you’d be called up to her desk and you’d read from a book.

My memory’s a little fuzzy on this one, but I think my classmates had been called to her desk on a regular basis for about a year before I was. Of course, when I finally got my turn, she told me to read the first sentence and she might as well have asked me to read hieroglyphics. When I obviously couldn’t, that’s when she spent the next half hour berating me for being ‘lazy’ and making sure the whole class knew what a stupid, ignorant idiot I was.

But hey, I got my own reading book, so there’s that.

I got home that day and I was just excited to have that book. I’d occasionally told my parents Mrs. Bibby was picking on me but, quite reasonably, they assumed I was exaggerating. After all, how many four year olds forget to do their homework or something, get punished and say their teacher is picking on them.

The weirdest thing? As a four year old, I had no idea that this wasn’t normal. I was under constant verbal and physical abuse from this teacher (she loved whacking me across the knuckles with a ruler)…but with no frame of reference, I thought that’s just what school was like.

So, with the help of my parents, I basically taught myself to read.

I’d love to say I was getting revenge. Learning to read just to spite her, but the truth is far less flattering. I learned to read because if I thought I did, maybe she wouldn’t pick on me so much.

It didn’t help. I quickly developed a real love of reading and was reading at high school level by the time I was seven. It didn’t matter. When I could read the books put in front of me easily, then I was accused of listening to other kids reading, memorizing what they said and just pretending to read.

I didn’t care, by the time I was five I’d decided I wanted to be an author. Reading had become my favorite thing in the world and I was completely captivated by the possibilities of writing. I didn’t just have to read these amazing stories, I could write my own.

If I was totally insane I’d thank Mrs. Bibby for setting me on this road, albeit in a sick twisted way… but I think I owe it to my four year old self to know that thanking Mrs. Bibby would be like thanking someone who shot you in the face because you fell in love with the surgeon who put your face back together.

My attitude to reading has never changed. I personally think that reading is the most rewarding thing a person can do. You can learn a lot from books, and fiction can give you a story in a way no movie ever can. Books are powerful. You can tell because people are afraid of them. As far as I know, no government or people has ever had a community TV burning

I wish I could say my attitude about writing had never changed.

I started, like all kids do, just loving to make things. When I got older, the love of the story was replaced mostly by the idea of making a boat load of cash and a metric ton of fans. As a cynical teen, and realizing my chances of getting rich from writing were about the same as winning the lottery…I just about stopped.

Then, I got to college and fell in love with writing again, although from a more technical standpoint. It’s weird, but studying the technical side of writing (things like Subjects, Predicates and Subordinate Clauses) really gave me a lot of the magic back.

It was like learning magic. These simple marks on the page that, when you put them together just right, let me build whole worlds in your brain.

That’s why I write today. Not because I want to be rich and famous, not because I want to make boat loads of cash (although I’d be lying if I said those things wouldn’t be nice)…but what I really want to do is sit at my keyboard and press the keys in just the right order until I have something that effects people.

That’s my goal. I don’t care if it’s popular or profitable, I just want to write something that will make you laugh, or cry, get you excited or make you think. Something that will make you think or see the world in a slightly different way. I want to create characters that you care about and put them through an event that causes you to feel a real emotion, even though you know what you’re reading isn’t real.

I don’t think I’ve achieved this yet, I don’t think I’ve ever come close…but in this case, I think the journey is more important than the destination.

2 comments:

Sunny(aka Lavada) said...

"I just want to write something that will make you laugh, or cry, get you excited or make you think. Something that will make you think or see the world in a slightly different way. I want to create characters that you care about and put them through an event that causes you to feel a real emotion, even though you know what you’re reading isn’t real."

That's EXACTLY what reading does for me. Well said.

MC Etcher said...

Hear hear! Well said. I went through a similar path (without the crazy teacher).

Keep it up!