I was one of those kids who wasn’t ever satisfied when the teacher got to the end of the story with a “happily ever after.” I would always wait to see if she would continue and let me know what happened next. Like there would be a sneak peak into what the characters did once their current situation was resolved.
I remember once, in my first grade class, urging the teacher to turn the light blue end pages of the book she had just read to us so we could get to the ‘next part’. When asked what I meant, I proceeded to explain that I wanted to know what the characters did after they got what they wanted. Were they still nice to one another? Did they cook dinner? Did they do laundry? Was there any more trouble from the villain/monster and how did they fix it this time?
When told that was it, I felt a deep sense of loss. How could that be it!? How did the characters just disappear after all the time we had just spent learning about them, getting to know them? How could the closing of the book be ‘The End’?
I think I, subconsciously at that point, decided that the only way I would be able to break this code (for surely there was more to the stories than what the teachers were letting on) was if I learned how to read and read the pages of the books myself. That way, I would be able to know for myself, all the things that the teachers and adults had left out either because they were tired of reading to me or because they thought I didn’t need to know.
Cut to the point in first grade were I am learning about Jane and Dick and how repetitive their world was.
Jane has a hat.
Dick has a bat.
Jane and Dick sat on a mat.
Definitely not story like at all. Never mind the fact that they weren’t brown like me. I was more curious about why Jane had a hat. Where did it come from? Why does she have one? Did she like it? I wasn’t interested in Dick and his bat because I wasn’t sure what a bat was or why someone would have one or need one.
I remember pushing the Jane and Dick book away and telling my teacher that I didn’t want to read that one, that I wanted to read ones like what she read to the class. Imagine my dismay at finding out that I had to suffer through Jane and Dick’s ridiculousness before I got to the juicy good books with magical worlds and those hidden After pages. My world felt like it went grey as my eyes glazed over and my mind went numb from Jane and Dick and their stupidness.
But I persevered. Until I got to Dr.Seuss. I thought my brain was gonna implode. There were words like that?! That sounded alike but were different? What did they mean? How did you learn to say them? Who ate green eggs (where did you get green eggs?) and what was ham?
Fast forward to fourth grade, where I was a solid reader at this point, learning about planets, science and sports figures like Pete Rose and Darryl Strawberry. As long as there were words, sentences and some type of story line, I was in.
And then I was asked to write a story.
What? What do you mean write a story?
Imagine some place or something and then write about it.
And so I thought, long and hard. The blank page of my black and white composition book staring back at me, waiting for my mind to spill forth and populate its lines with my ideas. So I wrote. Pages and pages. About elves who lived in a tree and who had conflict and cooked dinner and cleaned but didn’t want to and there were problems with the tree and… and…
My patient teacher, Mr. Patrone, had to reign me in and help give my story structure. What do you mean I can’t put all that in there? But it’s my story and this is what the elves do! But alas, I relinquished and cut my story to four pages… of college ruled paper. I felt intimidated about using the ‘special paper’ and a pen (!) but I took my time and used my best penmenship.
Mr. Patrone put my story up on the bulletin board, where people would read it (!!!) after I got done reading it to the class… and at the assembly of other classes. It felt surreal, for teachers to pat me on the back and to tell me that I did such a great job of stringing words together and making a story.
It still feels weird today when people tell me that something in my poem or stories called out to them and then pulled them in. I get numb when I see someone purchased one of my eBooks online. I always hold my breath, wondering if they’ll think it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read and wonder why I bother to write.
Artist fears. But I still keep writing, about the ‘Afters’, about the struggles, about the thoughts and actions beyond the blue end pages. Those stories need to be told to.