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A foray into the confession genre

Years ago I took an adult ‘Writing for Publication’ class. Attending weekly required the

teacher

She taught us about all the genres

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???

embarrassed

I had to open my big mouth

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!

teacher scolds. jpg

You’re not interested?

‘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 goofed

embarrassed, humiliated

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.

typewriter

It was long before computers

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.

True Story

The actual issue I was published in

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If silence is golden, is speech platinum?

Some friends are still trying to keep their New Year’s resolutions. However, I gave up making them years ago. I know better. They’ve never worked for me.
For instance, nobody ever suggested I was shy or quiet. Even when I was really little, my oldest sister said all she needed to do was tell me to recite or sing a song and it was like turning on a tap. (I could recite the ABCs before I knew what they even represented and believed “lmno” was a word!)
I’ve always been a verbally expressive creature and rarely hesitate

On our debating team, we were taught to respect differing opinions

On our debating team, we were taught to respect differing opinions

to say what I think although I learned, on our high school debating team, to respect those who disagree with me. (Which doesn’t mean I can’t get really angry when someone is dishonest, or unethical.) I am interested in differing opinions, because I realize I may be wrong, or change my mind about the issue in the future. Through the years, goodness knows I’ve often enough changed my position on things.
We gathered for coffee and conversation every Sunday morning

We gathered for coffee and conversation every Sunday morning

I once made a New Year’s resolution to refrain from talking so “enthusiastically” (ahem!) and to allow others more of an opportunity to express themselves. At the time, I used to meet with friends early every Sunday morning for coffee and conversation. We gathered at the beginning of that January and each and every single one of them noticed my unusual silence.
“Muriel, are you alright?” “Are you sick?” “What’s happened?”
“I’m fine,” I responded, “I’ve just made a resolution not to talk so much.”
That led to a discussion about what “talking too much” meant, and the conclusion was that interesting conversation was not “talking too much”. These friends hoped I would give up my resolution — they expected me to fully participate. They felt I contributed to our get-togethers and didn’t like the “new” me. It was just as well. I don’t know how long I would have been able to keep my mouth shut anyway.
Do I talk too much?

Do I talk too much?

So, you wonder, what made me want to change in the first place? An incident which occurred years before, when a troubled neighbor told me I talked too much. I knew she was not well, but it nagged at me and I took it to heart.
During the next week or so, every person in my life was asked the same question. “Do I talk too much?”
“Talk too much?” my sister said, “Naw, you wouldn’t be you if you didn’t talk.”
“But is it too much?” I persisted, “Tell me the truth!”
“No, you have a vivacious personality — I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
“Do I talk too much?” I asked my friend Hans.
“No.”
“Are you sure?”
“What brought this on?” After I told him, he said: “Definitely not, I don’t enjoy chatter, but you don’t chatter — you’re interesting.”
(Okay, he was the man in my life so what else could he say, huh? And since he was talkative too, we used to laugh about fighting for “air space” when we talked.) This continued with family and friends until I finally let it go.
Still, that one comment stuck around like a ghost reluctant to leave and for some reason, continued to haunt me. Thus, years later, I felt a New Year’s resolution to talk less possibly was in order.
Well, they say silence IS golden. Nowhere in all the reading I had done had I ever found anything that offered encouragement to those of us who are avid talkers. At last, here is one. Hurrah!
Author Jan Struther, 1901-1953, she left us too soon

Author Jan Struther, 1901-1953, she left us too soon


“If silence is golden, then speech is platinum. It spreads wisdom, dispels ignorance, ventilates grievances, stimulates curiosity, lightens the spirits and lessens the fundamental loneliness of the soul.” (Jan Struther, author of “Try Anything Twice” and other books.)
Bless you, Ms. Struther. You left us too soon!

“Helpful” comments that hurt

Pssst! Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? A real shocker? It’ll blow your socks off! Perhaps no one ever told you, and you may not believe it, but it is really true. Honest. Okay? Ready? Are you sure? Are you sitting?

Here it is: Everyone who is overweight already knows it. And, everyone who has gained weight knows it. YOU don’t need to tell them. Believe me — they know. They also don’t need you to advise them to lose weight. They know that too.

Yes, Spiderman knows....

Yes, Spiderman knows….

 You are shocked? You need to recover? I understand. Take a deep breath. You are a good person. You thought they needed you to tell them, that they were not aware of it.  You care and want to help. However, I guarantee I am correct on this. Just tuck this revelation away in that filing system in your brain and hold on to it. Remember it and no matter how much you want to tell them, don’t.

You can be sure, she knows.....

You can be sure, she knows…..

What actually happens is, if they’ve gained weight, their scale tells them. And, if they don’t own a scale, their clothes tell them. Sometimes, their mirror has the audacity to tell them. And, don’t worry, if their lives are in danger as a result, their doctor will tell them. Your unnecessary words only hurt and offend no matter how helpful you mean to be. They are dealing with a very complicated issue, which is far from simple.

Furthermore, if you’ve just met, and (horrors) decide you ought to tell the poor thing he/she needs to lose weight — how would you know if they may not have already lost a whole bunch of pounds and don’t need your advice at all? Get it? Best play it safe and stay out of it entirely — especially if you want to make/keep friends.

Sure, they may have health issues, but remember thin people have health issues too. Losing weight is not a guaranteed cure-all for every health condition we humans encounter. Unless you are a medical expert, resist giving medical advice or opinions to anyone. Suggesting that if only they lost weight their dizziness wouldn’t reoccur, or their sore shoulder (injured years ago) or whatever — will magically be cured is nonsense. Without a medical degree, you cannot know what will cure them. And, even if weight loss would help their condition, leave that to their doctor. It is absolutely inappropriate for anyone else to comment.

And, while I’m in the mood, I’ll go further. How come some of the very people who tell you you need to lose weight will sabotage you by saying  “Oh, one slice won’t hurt you.” when you are attempting to count calories. They really don’t get that it is an unfair thing to do. Be kind.  Just accept the “No, thank you.” without comment.

Something else to clue into: (Will this never end???) People who are very thin, or tall, or short, or different in any way, know it too. They don’t need your clever remarks. You can be sure they’ve already heard them. Let’s face it, if you had red and green skin with yellow polka dots, you’d know it, wouldn’t you?

Enjoy your friends as they are. Celebrate the differences in people and let them be. If you do, everyone will be happier. And me? I’ll be proud of you.

She knows, and she likes it....

She knows, and she likes it….