“Two things happened yesterday that reminded me why I’m a writer and a teacher. Over the past thirty years, I’ve published a dozen books and taught thousands of students to write. I’d known since third grade that all I wanted to do with my life was to teach and write. The path I’ve taken hasn’t always been smooth or straight, but I’m one of the lucky people who has actually done with my life what I hoped to do.
“Yesterday afternoon, a student I haven’t seen in twenty-five years called me. A good writer and great student, Susan is now a doctor and a mother of three. Her thirteen-year-old daughter, Maisy, is an avid reader and writer, and Susan wanted to talk with me about how she could encourage Maisy. My answer, though stock, is true: read and write every day. A writer writes, and only a reader has some sense of how writing really works. Maisy writes poetry and has recently begun to write longer fictional pieces. Life at her age is inherently confusing, and any reflective writing has got to be both helpful and healthful.
“I learned to write, in large part, by keeping a journal. For me, the journal was more a notebook than a diary. Though I did include my emotional responses to events in my life, far more often I tried to describe whatever had happened. Scribbling in journals taught me more about writing (flowing language and following ideas and finding salient details and catching people’s voices) than did all the papers I wrote for school.…”
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