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  • April 30th, 2006 | 7:43 PM
thank you, teachers

Because a teacher has a starring role in my new book project I wanted to give a shout out to some very special teachers in my past. I might have found my way to writing without them, but I am sure they had a hand in helping me find the path I was meant to walk. 

So turn the clock back to when my name was Susan Webb and . . .

At Glenbrook Middle School (Concord California) I had two English teachers who unlocked the door for me; Vicki Hackett (now at Northgate high school) and Joyce Welch (I wish I knew where she was). They read my words and told me I had talent. They encouraged me to keep writing. I became the editor of the school paper. I wrote plays for the class to perform. I stayed after school just to sit in that old school desk in an environment that celebrated words, my words, and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was there, I am sure, that my writer self was born.

At Ygnacio Valley High School (the last year before it split off into Northgate) I had Robert Sillonis for creative writing. Our classroom was out in a portable at the edge of the school and it felt like a world apart from all the other classes. He encouraged creativity in ways that I had never experienced. Kids brought things into class, things they were good at, and did demonstrations. I brought in my roller skates and tried to show them what I did at the rink every day after school. We kept a portfolio of our writing long before they were fashionable in the classroom and we gave ourselves grades on our work at the end of the quarter. Mr. Sillonis said that he rarely had to lower a grade a student gave themself but often had to raise it. Mr. Sillonis was the first one to tell me to dig deep and write the truth but it would be years before I was a brave enough writer to actually do so. Whenever someone comments on me writing the truth, I think about him. After a year at Ygnacio Valley I went back to Mt. Diablo High School (also in Concord, California for anyone keeping track) and had Chuck Foster who continued the push that Mr. Sillonis had started. From him I learned the importance of playing with words and trying to not take myself too seriously. (I would love to find out where he is too. I think I heard he moved to Washington when he retired but that's all I know.)

So thank you to the teachers who have encouraged me over the years. I appreciate the extra effort you made to help me believe in my right to write.

What teachers have mattered to you or helped shape your writing self?

(Tags: )
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 10 comments — Leave comment )
May 1st, 2006 03:24 am (UTC)
This got me really thinking.
The teacher who had the biggest influence on my art would be Mr. Landers my earth science teacher!
Earth Science was my FIRST real science and I wasn't very good at it, so I thought Mr. Landers 'hated' me. He was walking down the hall and saw a painting I was taking home, he said, "wow, that is beautiful."
I was embarrassed, I said, " I guess I am better at art than earth science."
he put his hand on my shoulder and said, " everyone isn't great at everything, you are great at THIS." (pointing to the painting!)
his comment gave me permission to be good at something. silly.
May 2nd, 2006 04:04 am (UTC)
Oh wow...that is a fabulous memory. I wish more teachers would get that message across to kids.
May 1st, 2006 03:44 am (UTC)
Wow, I think you were lucky to have such good teachers! I had some teachers I loved, but no one who encouraged me in writing like that. The closest I came was the director of a small private school I went to for years, who seemed to believe in me and think I'd go on to do great things. But I didn't take creative writing in school, and my English classes seemed pretty generic!
May 2nd, 2006 04:06 am (UTC)
I did have good english teachers. Some of the others though, well, they left a lot to be desired. Of course I probably left something to be desired in all the non-english classes too!
May 1st, 2006 11:17 am (UTC)
I remember hating English class. They never seemed to like anything that I wrote and I never understood what they were trying to teach and I was happy to get C's.

In college I had a great creative writing teacher who loved my work and often told me that it was publishable. Although I kept writing after that, it took me years (and then some) before I began submitting.

In high school, the teacher who had the most influence on who I am today, as a person, a teacher, and a writer, was the drama coach/play director. He convinced me that all the characters were important to the story - even the bit parts. Unfortunately he also taught me how to enunciate and project my voice so well that everyone can hear me, even when I whisper. So, I can only gossip behind closed doors.
May 2nd, 2006 04:07 am (UTC)
Isn't it odd to hate English class in school and then end up loving to write? My son is like that.

Good point on characters. It's all what you do with the part.

LOL on the gossip. You can whisper here on LJ.
May 1st, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC)
Loved reading about your teachers.

I've had some fine teachers in my life. Two stand out over the rest. One was my high school sophomore creative writing teacher. She taught me so much about writing - including the importance of not sensationalizing. She taught me the power of subtlety.

The other teacher taught Spanish (which I was not very good at), and a philosophy course called Theory of Knowledge. She's family to me now - godmother to my girls, and a surrogate mother to Joey and me.

Teachers rock!
May 2nd, 2006 04:19 am (UTC)
Thanks, Haemi. I'm still working on the power of subtlety. I think it's a valuable one. I know that my editor helped me be more subtle in HTR.

And how cool is it to have a fav teacher as a part of your family? That sounds great.
May 2nd, 2006 02:55 am (UTC)
I wish I had teachers that inspired me when in highschool. I can't think of one. I had an art teacher that I wanted to be just like, but honestly, I don't think he noticed my talents or cared. I also wish someone had helped me, or somehow inspired me to read. When I was in school, I wasn't reading anything. Seriously. It is really something that I graduated highschool since reading was necessary to do so. I remember some of the lively discussions in English classses about Greek and Roman myths, Poe, The Grapes of Wrath, Mark Twain. Shoot, I wasn't reading that stuff, really. And did't care. But, now I wish I had. You know, I really hate to say this, but I think it was because there weren't any black authors, or stories that had been introduced to me, not til my early 20s when I discovered Richard Wright, Gordon Parks, then I fell in love with reading.

May 2nd, 2006 04:07 pm (UTC)
I hated English class, too. I didn't like being told how to interpret books, always wondering what made this guy think he knew what the dead author had meant. LOL

My seventh-grade teacher at Moiola School in California, Melissa Housel, has stuck with me (literally) longer than any other. Her unit in Greek mythology is legendary, but even more long-lasting for me were her lessons in grammar. I became a grammar nut after leaving her class. And she was supportive in so many ways. We're still in touch, 17 years after I left that school. In fact, she's in touch with my whole family.

At London Central High School, my Junior year, Mrs. Wilson gave us writing assignments that were actually interesting (concept!). I still have my favorite - to create a creation story in the voice of an ancient people. I was so proud of that, but I still thought I hated writing. I know now that that's when my writing seed was planted. It just took thirteen years to germinate. :)
( 10 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
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