Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thank You Mrs. Barr, Wherever You Are

Monday, August 22, 2011 was the first time I felt like writing is actually my job. At last my aspiration has appeared. It only took twenty five years.

I decided I wanted to be a writer while taking Marla Barr's "Writer's Workshop" class at Milburn Junior High in 9th grade. On the last day of school, Mrs. Barr put her arm around my shoulder. Remember: I was a little Ally Sheedy Breakfast Club Weird in junior high, so I froze when she touched me and I looked at my black grannie booties. She turned her face to my ear but she did not whisper it: "You're going to be the next Erma Bombeck, Becky!" At the time, I was humiliated. I knew who Erma Bombeck was. The old lady who wrote witty stuff about her family. Blah. She was one of my mom's favorite authors. But she was most definitely NOT Harper Lee, my idol. I loved Mrs. Barr, though. She was one of my favorite teachers. So I forgave her for saying it.

I also forgave her when she told me that I had talent but I lacked discipline and that I reminded her of her best friend in college. They were dorm mates and both Creative Writing English majors. Mrs. Barr had to write diligently every day, revising, revising, revising. Staying focused. By this part of the story I had raised my eyes from my grannie booties to the window where I could see girls outside playing soccer.

Since I was only half-listening at that point, I think Mrs. Barr said that her friend, although she had much more talent than Mrs. Barr, she let it go to waste. She'd write brilliant stories the night before they were due, but just think of how much better they could have been if she had worked on them longer? So Mrs. Barr ended up a creative writing teacher and her friend ended up a waitress at a truck stop and never really finished anything she started writing. I think that's what she said. I could have just made that truck stop waitress part up, but that's how I envisioned Mrs. Barr's slacker friend.

Mrs. Barr smiled at me the way I now smile at Katie when she says things like, "I don't want to (insert anything I've asked her to do). I want to watch TV!" I smiled back, a little sad I would never see her again since I was heading to high school in the fall, but also a little proud of her confidence in my talent. Regardless of the lame-o author comparison.

I haven't seen her since. Milburn Junior High no longer exists. I don't know where she went when they closed the building.

So thank you Mrs. Barr, wherever you are. I hope you know how much you inspired me. Ok, I'm still a total slacker, but at least I'm writing. I'm not getting paid to write yet, but at least I'm not serving cinnamon rolls at BETO Junction, although I'm sure I'd be doing that job by now if it weren't for the love and support from not only the usual suspects, Will, Katie, my family, but also my bosses and co-workers at work who are cheering me on as I cut my work hours at the Library so I can have more hours to spend working on getting my book published. Evidently I need to work on shorter sentences.

I feel as excited and nervous about this new endeavor as Katie does about kindergarten. Like there's this long path ahead of me, and I can't see the end of it yet, but it looks really amazing and I'm curious. I'm scared. I'm brave. I'm anxious. I'm doing this.