Mr. Riehl, my fifth grade teacher, sent me home with an assignment. Write a story using all twenty spelling words. The only rules were that I could not use all twenty words in one sentence, and the story needed to be at least one handwritten page.
After school, I jumped off the school bus, ran across Bobby Jones’ yard, skidded through the front door and went to work. My story was titled “Black Lightning”. It was the story of a dog named Dim, who noticed the lightening was black, not yellow. He had to figure out why. It involved evil snakes, worms and masterminds. Using all twenty words was a piece of cake.
The next day, Mr. Riehl asked for volunteers who wanted to read their story. I arched my back, stretched my fingers toward the drop ceiling making “ooh! ooh!” sounds.
He chose me!
Grabbing my assignment, I strolled up to the front of the room and read my title. Then the first page. And the next. And the next… several pages in, my teacher stopped me. He asked how long my story was. I admitted it was twenty-five pages. Shaking his head, he sent me back to my seat.
In junior high, I filled those free notebooks we got at the beginning of each school year (imagine that, schools supplying what students needed for class) with novels. Some were written by me, some were collaborative works. Writing novels was way more fun than learning economics!
As much as I wrote as a kid growing up, I didn’t pursue writing in higher education. I assumed I had to go to college and be tortured with grammar and sentence diagramming. I thought I’d have to proclaim undying love for Shakespeare and other classics that, frankly, bored me to death. I mean, for the love all all things bookish, what was wrong with Agatha Christy and Mary Higgins-Clark? Now those were authors I could get into.
So, writing was shoved into a deep, dark storage unit in my brain. Every now and then it would creep out and tantalize me. Focused on undergrad and graduate studies, I kicked it back into its place.
While teaching at Sheridan High School in Southwest Denver, I found myself writing stories about my special education students to engage them in class and teach them to read. I discovered what made them laugh out loud, and wrote about it. I wrote about one girl finding stinky socks in her locker which were planted by my para while she was at lunch. Much of my planning time was devoted to writing stories.
One day as I read my latest adventure aloud, a colleague of mine yelled across the room, “Darcie, you missed your calling. You’re a writer. That’s where your passion is. Why are you here? Why aren’t you home writing books?”
Why wasn’t I writing books?
“I hate grammar. I got bad grades in English class and hated writing research papers.”
She spun away from her computer to face me. “You’re making a mistake if you don’t write.”
By then, I had started The Plot Against Mr. Plank on my lunch breaks. I had some plot points scribbled in random notebooks, and a few chapters on my computer at home.
Why wasn’t I writing?
My health failed due to the stress of my job. At the end of that year, I resigned from my teaching position to become a writer.
A lot has happened since 2004, when I made that decision. But now, thirteen years after The Plot Against Mr. Plank was born, it is now being released for sale on September 20, 2014 as Spin.
I am a writer. Looking back to those days at Lehman-Jackson Elementary school, seems like I always was. Just needed to embrace it and act upon it.