Q: Who is your greatest literary influence?
My reading and writing choices are so eclectic that it’s hard to pin down one writer who influenced me most. That being said, the person who influenced me most and got me to write was my 11th grade high school teacher. By the time I reached the 11th grade I had been in two high schools and several summer schools. In the first week of school, she told the class that we had learned enough English rules and now we were going to put them to use. We were going to write. A story a week. Make it up. Make it a part of something real. Use your imagination. Write.
That summer, after summer school I traveled the state with a small carnival. That’s what I wrote about. The day came when she handed the first assignment back. She read some really bad ones and asked the class to guess who wrote it. Then she read what she called the best one she had read in a long time. I realized she was reading mine and I thought it was a joke. And so did everyone else when she told them who wrote it. I got the first A+ I had ever received for anything.
Next week, another A. Then another. By then my friends were asking me to help them or in most cases, write a story for them. Seeing a golden opportunity, I agreed….for Three dollars a story. Several stories and weeks later….BUSTED.
Instead of discipline, I got encouragement and I never forgot it. I didn’t act on it for several years and unfortunately, she passed away before I could thank her. I will always remember her encouragement and I try to do the same in my classes.