One year old
Whereas my sister possessed a decent vocabulary by age one, I couldn’t talk for the first couple years of my life. Instead of using my voice, I would simply cry. My confused and concerned parents bought books on sign language from which I learned basic terms. These helped me communicate with my family.
I often played “school” with my sister. She would be the teacher and I the student. I remember her handing out spelling quizzes and grading them. One word I recall her teaching me how to write is “dragon.” In later years, I taught my stuffed animals using similar lesson plans. Sometimes I read them stories or assigned writing drills.
During free-time, my favorite station was “post office.” Here, I would write letters to pen pals and family on wide-ruled paper. One day, my teacher noticed that I held my pencil incorrectly and attempted, like all subsequent teachers, to alter my form. I argued that I could write faster my way and continue to hold my pencil in a five-finger grip to this day.
My mom read to my sister and I every night when we were growing up. Since my sister is two years older than me, sometimes the books my mom read to us were darker or more complex than intended for my grade level. Some of our favorites included The Giver quartet by Lois Lowry and everything by Kate Dicamillo.
I often accompanied my dad on trips to local yard sales. We rarely left them without a book. My dad liked to buy old, yellowed poetry collections. He’d read me poems from The Rattlebag and gave me a collection of Emily Dickinson. I didn’t understand much of it at the time, but later came to admire her verse. I still have her collection up on my bookshelf next to other of my dad’s poetry collections that I’ve found in the attic.
In third grade, my mom read Little Women to my sister and I. I fell in love with not only the characters but also with the author, Louisa May Alcott. I remember visiting her house in Concord as well as Fruitlands where she lived for a year. For a school project, I made a scrapbook about her life and decided that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
I started writing more poetry, often using rhyme. I liked how all of the sounds fit together and contained rhythm like a song. My favorite time of the school day was “writing,” when I would sit on the carpet scribbling poems into my notebook. For the most part, teachers supported my enthusiasm toward creative writing, although my fifth grade teacher noted on my report card that I “sometimes got too creative with answers to open response questions.”
Although I’d always kept diaries, I started carrying around what I called a “writing notebook” in middle school. It was small enough to fit inside a pocket so that I could take it with me everywhere I went. In it, I would record personal ramblings, write poetry, and jot down ideas. I’ve been using similar notebooks ever since.
My seventh grade English teacher Mr. Zierk revitalized my love for the written word. Every day I went home inspired. I began writing more routinely and started to fill a binder with analyses of poems. He made me feel more confident in my writing abilities and reinstated my dream of having a career in writing. I still visit him to talk writing and to thank him for everything he’s done.
The summer before ninth grade, I attended a three week “young writers’ fellowship” at Grub Street, a writing organization in Boston. There I met a community of writers and was introduced to workshops and open mics. The intensive but fulfilling experience led me to participate in other writing programs. They’ve all pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me important lessons about creative work.
In the past couple years, I’ve tried to make reading and writing regular activities in my daily life. Everyday I write something “for fun,” no matter how short or poorly constructed it may be. I’d like for reading and writing to be major parts of my future. I plan to major in English or creative writing, and continue to apply to literary magazines and writing programs.