Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Who Touched You?

Yesterday I drove to my old hometown in Summerville, South Carolina to speak to a book club. Frankly, I've spoken more to writers than readers thanks to my FundsforWriters connections, so I was looking forward to the experience.

The club consisted of about ten people, seven in attendance due to a horrific storm that settled over the lower end of the state. We opened with food, of course, as any good Southern event does. Enough food for twenty people. They settled my husband in a den with a remote and retro reruns on cable, then we got down to business.

They were all retired teachers, English, Psychology, History . . . to include my tenth grade English teacher, Jan Hilton. And all they wanted to know about is how the story came about, where I found the characters, why I chose the locale, how much stemmed from reality in my own life. All the questions were fun. Even with a room full of teachers, not a one of them wanted to know about sales, agents, or publishing obstacles.

Oh my gosh, that was so refreshing.

In the blink of an eye, time was up. I wanted to stay. I would have stayed for hours. We were talking story, characters, action, purely how the story worked. Third person versus first person. Active voice. Pure writing. the pace of the story. That's what a book is supposed to do . . . draw readers in. And they loved it. ENGLISH TEACHERS loved my book. Oh friggin' wow.

But toward the end they made a more serious point. The head of the club thanked me for recognizing my English teacher, giving her credit for jumpstarting my writing effort. You see . . . I didn't think much about writing until I had her class. She pushed me to write for the yearbook, something I did not want to do because I feared teams/clubs/groups. She led me into it with assurances that I could handle it. I've written ever since. She said right there last night, in front of all those teachers, that she recognized my writing ability from the start. Almost brought a tear to my eye. What if we had not met?

But those teachers thanked me for letting Jan know that she'd impacted my life. They were collectively proud of me as if I was one of their students. Collectively proud of her. A teacher had made a difference, and they loved that fact.

We often forget to go back and say thanks.  Thank you so very much, Mrs. Hilton.

 (She's on the right hand side, in pretty blue, black and white top.)


JL Cooper said...

It is fascinating the power teachers and other authority figures have to uplift or crumble the spirit of children in their formative years. My hat is off to all of the teachers who choose to uplift their students. I have a handful in mind who cheered me on in one way or another. This story makes me think I should add them to my Christmas card list.

Sarah Schlosser said...

Thank you for reminding me...I shouldn't need reminding, but I'm glad you did. :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

First of all, Mrs. Hilton looks young-- more like a contemporary of yours than old enough to be a grown-ups teacher. Perhaps she was a young teacher when you were in her class?

Secondly, you're looking younger (and thinner--I hate you ;)...perhaps all these book signings and talks are good for the body as well as the soul?

Third, teachers DO appreciate hearing they've made a difference. A handwritten note from a student is worth more than any store-bought gift or any gift card. You undoubtedly made many teachers' day that afternoon.

Hope Clark said...

Hah - see what standing sideways and wearing black does? Nope - no weight loss. I wish.

Mrs. Hilton was in her twenties when I was 15, so there isn't much age difference - 10 years, I'd guess. Maybe 12. She does look young for her age.

I'm telling you, last night was so rewarding for me. And what was cool is that every one of them read Lowcountry Bribe on a reader. One was taking her pics on her iPad. Too cool.

Karen said...

Teachers are awesome! I haven't made my living as a writer, but I have to say that my high school English teacher had the biggest impact on my life and career. He taught me to write well and to appreciate good books and stories.

Mr. Russo was the best!

Barbara Techel said...

How awesome, Hope! I was able to thank my 8th grade English teacher for inspiring me. When I was visiting a school two years ago, I didn't know she was the school librarian there. I saw this woman at the back of the classroom as I was doing my presentation and she looked familiar. After I was done I asked the teacher who she was. When she said, "Oh, that is Ms. Phiefer, the librarian." I couldn't believe it! On my way out that day I told her who I was and thanked her. She couldn't believe it was me, either. It is one of my BEST memories of my many visits to schools with Frankie.

Patricia Singleton said...

I have had so many mentors step in to give me direction when I needed it. Thank you for sharing this wonderful day. I loved the majority of my teachers for giving of themselves and for guiding my love of knowledge. They were my first guides in life who had a positive effect upon me.

Anonymous said...

Teachers make a difference (good or bad) but we seldom gat thanks or even to know about it. Thank you for thanking a teacher!! Angie