When I was in fifth grade at Mercy Middle School on Okinawa, I lucked out. I got Miss Capuson for my teacher. And every day after lunch she read to us for thirty minutes. One of the books she read aloud was Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – the first in a series that’s come to be known as the Little House on the Prairie books. I loved the story and read the whole series in the next few weeks, immediately deciding that I should write my autobiography, which would be the start of my literary career. I settled down at a small desk in the bedroom I shared with my sister and began the story of my life, using my best cursive writing on clean notebook paper. But I was stymied when, after a page and a half, I couldn’t think of anything else to say! Not exactly an auspicious beginning, but a beginning, nevertheless.
I continued writing, turning to poetry for several years, which I wrote in class when I was supposed to be doing assignments. I produced a lot of bad poetry through junior high school. My 7th grade teacher, Ms. Gulickson, was particularly forgiving, even encouraging my flights of fancy and creativity.
And finally, in my mid-teens I started writing fiction. My first short story was a mushy, melodramatic love story told from the boy’s perspective. Why, I don’t know. I submitted it to a number of magazines and was stunned when they turned me down with form rejection letters.
I wrote and produced a one-act play in college, wrote more poetry and short stories, attempted a screenplay some years back, then wrote a number of children’s stories, hoping to get them published as picture books. But I eventually settled on the novel as my literary art form. I enjoy creating a world and the characters within that world, and then creating a storyline that I hope will be entertaining and absorbing, while also sending a message about issues I feel strongly about.
So I’m thankful to Ms. Capuson and Ms. Gulickson for being wonderful teachers who encouraged their students to be creative. And a shout out to all the teachers who make a difference in their students’ lives.