Friday, May 2, 2008

I just posted a new Hub about one of my first award winning articles for my high school newspaper. It has me thinking about people who inspired me to write, particularly those who inspired me to write well. I'm sure I'll forget to name a few, but here's a little tribute to the first that come to mind.

I know I started early, though I don't remember the whys. I have a large manilla envelope full of early childhood crayon drawings, and a "book", that I gave to my grandfather, Don Campbell. DauDau, our grandmother, graciously accepted our artwork and taped it to her kitchen door, but Don saved these little gems from me in his own private collection. I received the momentos back after his death, and I don't remember anything about the specific experiences of drawing and writing those particular items for him. The fact he saved these things all those years is testament to me that he had an early influence on encouraging my creativity.

In later years, DauDau collected every article I ever had published by my our hometown weekly paper, The Roanoke Beacon. I started in junior high school as reporter for my 4H Horse Club. Our high school newspaper was actually a page in the regular newspaper, and in my senior year I landed a job as feature writer for the the Beacon. Today, handed down to me after my grandmother's death, that scrap book is my most comprehensive "portfolio" of my early writing.

Much later, several high school teachers had a huge impact on me.

Our freshman English teacher, Ginny Garrett, made us diagram sentences EVERY SINGLE DAY. We also journaled every day, sometimes writing about whatever we wanted, sometimes responding to prompts. Surely the daily journaling influenced by adult habits, but it is the diagraming that I appreciate more than I could ever have imagined. Often when I cannot decide for sure if something I've written is grammatically correct, I mentally visualize the diagram, the perpendicular line separating subject and verb, angled lines beneath for modifiers, etc. (I should probably sketch that last long sentence out right now and see if I need to edit!)

My beloved journalism teacher, Susan Wellborn, got me used to red pens :-) I am sure I never turned in an article that didn't come back thoroughly--and expertly--scratched with copy-editing marks. I would then re-write (or type) the article using her suggestions for improvement. This practice was not only invaluable, it got me used to criticism. At least when it comes to my writing anyway ;-) And of course having weekly writing assignments also helped firm up my regular writing habits.

Mr. William Morgan, my advanced placement history teacher, taught us the art of the essay. Bing, Bang, and Bongo (was that it? my memory isn't so good!). My best grades in college were always earned with written assignments, and I know I owe it to Morgan's formula-driven assignments.

If I had put this blog together before I re-read my article about visiting Poet Ellen Johnston, I probably would not have thought of her as an inspiration. I don't recall actually being in one of the classes she visited. But reading the article, I realized how familiar her motives seem to me. She had a drive to inspire. Deep down, I think I feel the same way. As a child, I wanted to be a writer simply because I wanted to offer others the same inspiration, the same escape into magical worlds, that other writers had given me.

I wish I could thank everyone who has inspired me, but I suppose the truth is that everyone has inspired me! Maybe everyone hasn't encouraged equally, but I'm grateful nonetheless.

1 comment:

Donna Campbell Smith said...

You are on my list of who's who in my inspiration department. Don and Dau Dau, my mama and daddy, gave me the love of story telling and reading. My comp teacher in college planted the notion that getting published was possible.

But, you, more than anyone, taught me HOW. I have always felt blessed by your honest editing and the knowledge you've shared with me.

Love you,