Years ago I took an adult ‘Writing for Publication’ class. Attending weekly required the
juggling of work, family, pets, etc. so it was sometimes difficult to complete assignments. Frances Rockwell, our delightfully wacky teacher, usually understood. She taught us about all the genres available to writers.
With little free time, my reading was selective. I enjoyed, as I still do, history, classics, biographies, and novels. I once tried reading six romances with the idea of writing some, but decided if you can’t read it, you can’t write it.
One assignment was to write a piece for the ‘Confession’ market. I didn’t bother. This time, for some reason, Rockwell chose to ask me, as I left with a whole group of women, why I hadn’t turned it in. Why did she pick on me???
Had I not been so young and stupid, I’d have apologized and said I hadn’t had time. She would have accepted that. That wasn’t what I did. Oh, no! I had to open my big mouth! (Maybe I needed a lesson I’d never forget.) Instead of being wise, I chose to be a smart-ass.
‘I’m not interested in writing that kind of crap.’ I announced. Oh, oh. That did it!
‘You’re not interested? Indeed, if there is anyone in this class who could bend a little, it’s you. NICE ladies don’t write interesting stuff. It would do you in particular good to climb down from your pedestal. It would do you good to write a Confession piece.’
I deserved it, but why didn’t the floor open up and swallow me at that moment? I would have been happy to have breathed my last breath if only it would. I was embarrassed, humiliated — and humbled. Right there In front of everyone I had been properly cut down. Demolished.
I’m sure that wasn’t the last time I allowed a thoughtless, stupid comment to pass my lips, but I’ve never forgotten it. I sheepishly crawled back to class the next week and completed the course.
You know I’m too neurotic to forget something like that, so years later, when I finally had some time to write, what was the first thing I worked on? Right. I did that darned assignment and sent it off to ‘True Story’ in New York.
Lo and behold, our telephone rang while we were breakfasting weeks later. They wanted it! They paid me $250. (The most I’d ever been paid for anything at the time.)
Susan, a very clever teenager, looked up over her Cheerios. She had no idea what it was I’d sold. (I hadn’t told anyone about it.)
‘Can I read it?’ She asked. How could I say no? She’d think that strange so I got it for her and she read.
‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this,’ she almost stuttered, and again ‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this!’ Susan, usually so verbal, was almost speechless.
Afterwards, I sent a published copy to Mrs. Rockwell, with a note saying I’d finally done the assignment she had dressed me down for, and that I was sure she would find it satisfactory — since I’d sold it.
Her response was a total surprise. Not being as neurotic as I am, she didn’t recall the incident. However, she wrote if she had done so, it was because she felt I was someone especially talented enough to make it. Interesting, I hadn’t realized that.
Well, the ‘Confessions’ genre is long gone. Young people today have no need to read about it — they’re busy doing it themselves. And no. I didn’t choose to write another.