Deep in my junior year at Hunter College in New York City, I began the semester with a new professor in the Creative Writing department. By then, we students had all been through a course or two: yes, we had scripted a play and plumbed a poem or three.
“For your first assignment in this class,” she announced, “I want you to write in a genre you had never tried before. Try something new.”
I took the assignment seriously, realizing with a start that I had never written an essay, so write one I would. Opinionated as I was, it seemed a natural. I do not even remember my theme. But I do recall her words several days later as she was returning our submissions.
“I received two essays,” she stated, “and they were not good, not good at all.”
When I look back on it, I distinctly recall, or, given my over-active imagination perhaps, that she dramatically crossed the room and tossed the offending pages into the wastebasket beside her desk. I got the point. This from a teacher I thought I would like. After all, hadn’t she declared on that first day of class that “I climbed into bed last night with John Updike,” and gave an impish laugh. Well, did she or didn’t she? I had harbored thoughts that this woman had possibilities of holding our attention.
So much for getting out of one’s comfort zone. Now I was really uncomfortable.
Once in the publishing game, though I worked as a journalist for years, I kept my focus on writing feature articles for newspapers and magazines. Very few essays saw the light of day on my keyboard. Scared away? Youbetcha. It seemed strange then, that when we moved to Western New York, the “My View” section of the Buffalo News attracted my attention. I grew to look forward to reading those homespun tales of hometown heroes, travel anecdotes, aha moments and family reminisces, all encapsulated in 600 words. They ran the gamut of Life as We Know It.
Being very much up on my venting, pouting, and yes, sentimental skills, I have written and published more than a few “My Views.” I even ventured over to other columns where the paper featured “Another Voice,” “Women’s Voices,” and “Viewpoints,” Many times readers press me on whether or not every word I write is true. “Of course,” I answer. “Why would I take the time to make things up when real life is so much more interesting?”
It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.