This week we finish off our January postings with two more open letters to those who tried to discourage our writing. I think you will enjoy these two and hope you catch up on reading the others posted all month. I am sure all the authors will appreciate any comments you leave for them at the end of the posts.
Pat LaPointe’s “Any Other Questions?”
Many years ago you asked, “Why do you sit there writing? You really think anyone wants to read it?
At first, I thought you were probably right. A mother would know, wouldn’t she? But I couldn’t help it. I wrote in secret and hid pages and pages in a drawer. In school, there were times I had to write. Then it was OK to do it. It was required. The teacher and sometimes even my classmates applauded my essays and book reports. I lived for essay exams.
I was first published in a university anthology. Many people read what I wrote. I assume at least some of them liked it.
In college and grad school, I co-authored psychological research papers. For years, and maybe even now, people are reading them.
As a therapist, I wrote hundreds of therapy reports. Professionals used my work to help their clients heal.
When I took a break from being a therapist, I found a surprising way to have my words read. As the manager of a real estate marketing department, I was required to summarize statistical data and write about trends, etc. for three annual publications. Thousands read my writing. I restarted my therapist role, including writing reports and client assessments. When I retired, I really missed writing. So, I joined women’s writing groups. Every month six or seven women read my submissions. I received wonderful, supportive feedback for my writing.
I have my work published in journals, on blogs, and in several anthologies. I published an anthology of women’s stories. It received very good reviews. I facilitated online and onsite writing groups. Apparently, my writing experience was valuable to others. I’ve written a novel. Hopefully, many will read it.
So, Mom, need I say more? Or have I finally answered your question?
Your Daughter, The writer.
Marie Hartung’s “Open Letter to My First Grade Teacher”
Dear Mrs. Theisen,
Remember me, from the back of the class, the only girl in that row bookended by two boys on each side? You arranged us by height. Remember how you used to say my name – at that time, “Marie” – with extra emphasis on the “ee” sound whenever one of the boys shot a spit wad past my head? Remember too when those same boys made farting noises with their hands cupped in their armpits or folded paper into triangles, shooting them over my desk for a long field goal? The flippy-flap of the paper football hitting linoleum followed by the protest of the metal chair feet as a boy would toe it back so he could flick it again? You remember right? Maybe you remember all the mostly blond girls with fabric bows in their pigtails, the pens in their desk aligned by the colors of the rainbow, the skinny ones in Jordache jeans and Holly Hobby sweaters? They were up near the front where they could giggle quiet or smile their semi-toothless first-grade grins when you spoke, and you’d give them double gold sticker-stars on their artwork, cooing at every ounce of their perfection. It was probably easier to see them than me, way back there with the good-for-nothing boys who brought worms inside at recess and put them in my desk, waiting for my squeal, waiting for you to shriek my name. It’s true sometimes I’d laugh at their antics, but what was I supposed to do? You put me back with the boys and by recess, those boys were all I knew since you never let me sit near the girls so it’s true that Toughskins from Sears were grass-stained by lunchtime.
Mrs. Theisen, it was one thing for you to hold me accountable for those noises in the back of the class, put a checkmark by my name on the chalkboard for each instance, and keep me in from recesses. I know you thought I was like the boys and worse, an unruly girl who did boy things. Don’t you think some of that is your fault? I’ve let most of that go now, happily smug with dirt in my fingers, stains down my shirt from dribbling juice, and still knowing how to make a paper airplane that flies far. But Mrs. Theisen, do you happen to remember the worst thing you did? Remember writing time, those huge brown newsprint papers that always tore when you tried to erase on them? Remember when you saw me – or so I thought – and asked me to come up to the front of the class with my paper. You asked me to turn the paper around and show everyone. All the pretty girls with their bows did that thing with their face that girls learn how to do when they want to look like they are smiling and also show they hate you in one single expression. Still, I was so excited to be picked.
“Show the class your writing, Marie.”
I proudly turned the big brown paper around, holding it as high as me.
“Now class, look at her paper. I want you to look at this example of how not to write. Your handwriting should all be better than Marie’s.”
Did you hear me crying in the back of the class, Mrs. Theisen? Could you hear me over the boys’ snickers?
You thought it would break me. No one had any idea computers would be on every desk in the world someday. How could you know they would be? I want to thank you for impeccable typing skills because I hated the pencil after you. These fonts are so easy to read. I thought you’d like to read something I’d written.
Let me turn this paper around for you,