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Friday, December 9, 2011

I Wrote This Post Fifty Years Ago

         Before I ever knew that there would be an internet or that I would have a blog, I wrote this post.  I was just a kid--in the fourth grade.  It was 1960 it was.

          I alluded to the writing sample that follows in my post on Monday 12/5.  As I explained in that post, my teacher at the time, Mrs. Kingston, showed us a picture that she had taken from a magazine and told us to write a description of it.

           As I recall, the illustration of what was probably a scene depicting a nighttime sea battle during the American Civil War showed a massive fiery explosion in the water.  Men in a dinghy near the blast are drawing back in terror and shielding themselves from the powerful force of the eruption.  At least, this is what I remember and I will have to rely on this memory since I don't have a copy of that picture.

          Mrs. Kingston gave me an A and some encouraging compliments. She then mounted the paper on a larger piece of yellow construction paper and after reading my paragraph to the class, she passed it around to the other classes in the school and eventually mounted the paper on a bulletin board outside the school office. I experienced my first thrill of having my writing read by others and hearing the words spoken in public.  It was a writer's high that I never wanted to lose.

          The following is the collection of adjectives, metaphors, and similes that was the paragraph that set me off on my course of writing aspirations.

                            Burnt and Salty


       There is a smell of fire and smoke.  You can taste salty water from the ocean.   It was fire from the ocean.  It was like a volcano from the bottom.  It looks like a huge ghost coming out of the sea.  The sky looks like the heavens are on fire.  The sun fell into the sea.  A sea dragon is shooting flamey fire out of the rough water.  It feels like a steaming hot furnace.  The sea looks like thousands of geysers shooting water.  Even though it is dark it is light.   It is a geyser of steaming flamey fire.  You can feel water and fire shooting into your sweaty face.  Your clothing is shabby.  Your face is burnt and scarred.

          So from my fourth grade self here is some sort of insight to my writing style perhaps.  I'm not sure what was influencing me at the time, but I do recall reading a great deal back then.  I'm not sure whether to thank her or curse her, but Mrs. Kingston, you played big role in why I blog today.

           Do you have a particular teacher who influenced your desire to write?   Have you saved any of your old schoolwork or writing samples from childhood?   Did you have aspirations to become a writer when you were a child?



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47 comments:

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A wonderful post for one so young.
Would you believe at school I hated poetry, I always ended up outside the door for not attempting to write a poem. I was more interested in music, well now I have combined the two. Strange how life turns around.

Have a good day.

Yvonne.

esbboston said...

Very cool, no, oops, I mean, HOT!

I love wandering through my children's things finding surprises in their words and photos.

YeamieWaffles said...

That's absolutely amazing Lee, even that you still have that, wow! Great post buddy, it sure is crazy what you can find.

Sarah Pearson said...

Your handwriting is beautiful too :-)

I have saved a couple of pieces from school, but they're from later, in my teens.

Richard said...

I'm impressed. You captured both the mood and fascination you had with the picture, and your writing looks almost flawless.

Laura Marcella said...

That's so cute! What wonderful descriptions. You can see you had talent at such a young age!

I wanted to be a writer since I was really little, too, ever since I learned how to read on my own. I loved books and reading so much that writing my own stories seemed like a natural step. The more I read and the more I wrote, the more I wanted to!

I still have my old stories and writings from when I was little. They make me laugh now!

jabblog said...

I have no writing from my childhood but my children's books amuse me. I kept a good proportion of those.

Word Nerd said...

I wish I had some of my childhood writing, but I didn't save any of it. From about 3rd or 4th grade on, I wanted to be a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. I worked as a daily newspaper columnist for years, but never for the Trib.

Arlee Bird said...

Yvonne -- I think many times we don't appreciate things as much when we are children and learn the value later in life.

esb-- So cool to see you here with a comment! An honor to be visited by one of my favorite writers. I've probably kept some of my children's schoolwork too. I agree that it's fun to see what they do--well, sometimes, but that's another story for another day.

Matthew -- A few years back I got rid of most of my old school papers, but I did keep all of the writing.

Sarah-- I was kind of impressed with my handwriting too. I can't write that well now, but I rarely write by hand anymore either. They don't really teach cursive writing like they used to.

Richard-- I guess the teacher thought so too.

Laura -- It's interesting to think about where our little minds where back when we were children.

Janice -- I don't think I kept any children's books that I had back then, but I do have a few regular books that my parents gave me when I was a kid.

Word Nerd -- I used to be fascinated with newspaper writing when I was a kid--faithfully read the paper. I wouldn't mind writing a column. I guess blogging is almost like having my own newspaper column.

Lee

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's really good for a fourth grader! My mom might still have some of my old papers. Ironically, I had no plans or desire to be a writer or author one day.

DEZMOND said...

ooh, there's a dragon too? :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Lee, that was wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

I have a few old stories from when I was kid, back before my handwriting became illegible. :) My first published piece was a poem in Highlights Magazine, in the back section with poems and drawings by other kids. I was nine and I was thrilled. Okay, I'm still thrilled and I am waaaay older than nine now. :)

Karen Walker said...

Lee that's wonderful from one so young. I'm jealous that you have things from your childhood. My parents saved nothing from my school days except a group photo from kindergarten.
My favorite teacher was 10th grade, Mr. Justin. English, of course.
Karen

Suze said...

Lee, I can't tell you how much I love this post-- from the markedly elegant slant of your nine-year-old handwriting to the idea that the you who wrote this had no concept of the world in which the you who posted it would share it with us to the questions you posed at the end.

I'm just bowled over by the emotions this is all making me feel. Thank you so much for putting this together, a true gem of a post.

Let's see, as for teachers who inspired me to write. I wrote all of my life but I was interested in so many other disciplines, it's not like I have early memories that have to do with writing in particular. I did have one teacher in the gifted and talented program in elementary school who gave me low marks for not being able to follow 'instructions' despite my 'creativity.' That's an INTJ, for you, I guess.

kirstenlopresti said...

Not bad for a fourth grader. It's so nice that you saved it. I have a few old papers, but not many.

Stephen Tremp said...

My influence came from my Art teachers. I really thought I could make a living off art. Turns out all that creativity I developed manifested in writing. So I give props to my Art teachers for helping me be a better writer.

walk2write said...

Yes, yes, and yes in answer to all three of your questions. I love that little paragraph. So glad you pressed on.

Arlee Bird said...

Alex -- What can I say--I'm a packrat.

Dezmond -- I was definitely cover all dramatic bases.

Madeline -- Ah yes, Highlights --used to read it in the doctor's office. I didn't mind the wait since I wanted to read it from cover to cover.

Karen -- My mother saved a lot. I probably got my saving habit from her.

Suze -- I appreciate your words. The combined influences of many disciplines helps us to become better writers and better at living in general. A bit of creative rebellion is a good thing.

Kirsten -- There's only so much worth saving. If we saved it all we'd be covered up and be on one of those hoarding TV shows.

Stephen -- Art is valuable in helping us to look at the world in different ways and translate our vision into something for others to see. Writing certainly fits into that creative mold. I always loved art though I wasn't always so great at the visual arts.

Lee

Arlee Bird said...

Walk -- Yes, you and I both know the importance of not letting go of ones dreams.

Lee

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee .. I don't think anyone realised I had a creative bone in my body, let alone the ability to write .. so it's sort of filtered very slowly out of the woodwork.

If my mother hadn't had her strokes and lives on .. but has been able to talk .. then I'm not sure I'd be writing to this day ..

Strange world .. cheers Hilary

Jenn June said...

I did have a creative writing teacher in high school who was very impressed with one of my assignments and read it in front of the class, much to my embarrasment since there was no forwarning. It's a great memory, though. I worked hard on it. It was a short fantasy piece about a girl waking up on a strange planet and trying to escape a montrous snake. The surface of the planet turned into quicksand and she didn't get away in the end. My mother saved it but I think it's lost now. When we moved, I believe it was left behind. Too bad. I'd like to go back and read it now.

Thanks for sharing your piece from childhood. It's really amazing what kids can come up with! You were obviously already developing your writing chops way back then.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

McARLEE BOID ~
Man, what really impresses the hell out of me (other than your neat handwriting) is that in fourth grade you correctly spelled "geyser" and "scarred".

At that point in my life I probably would have left one "r" out of "scarred" and might not have even put in the "e". And "geyser" - oh, God only knows how I would have spelled THAT one, but I guarantee you it wouldn't have been even within shouting distance of correct.

Yeah, when I was young I was an atroshus speller, but over time "I got better". (I still look like a newt though.)

>>...Do you have a particular teacher who influenced your desire to write?

Well, not to write necessarily, but to read... which of course eventually led me to write. MR. OLDHAM - I had him in 5th grade and loved him so much that my parents requested he be my teacher in 6th grade also, and he was!

He died of some rare disease the next year, when I had gone from elementary school to junior high.

Gosh! That was the first time "death" came to anyone I knew and really cared about. And I can still remember where I was when I learned of it: I was walking home from school when I saw my Ma's car in the parking lot of the local grocery store. I went in and found her in the card section, looking through sympathy cards, which prompted me to tell her that some kid in school that day told me Mr. Oldham had died, but I didn't believe it.

She told me it was true, and that's why she was buying a sympathy card. I broke down and cried right there in Royal Market.

In fact, on that most recent 3-day trip I made back home to L.A., I went into Royal Market (now "Bob's Market") and took a picture of the spot where I learned of Mr. Oldham's death. It's no longer a card section but a refrigerated case for beverages.

>>...Have you saved any of your old schoolwork or writing samples from childhood?

Oh, hell, my Mom saved EVERYTHING, and so, yes, I do still have some of my old schoolwork and writings. Maybe I'll post an old short story from back then on my blog also. (Perhaps you should have made this an actual Blogfest for those who can to participate in. That might have been a fun one.)

I know right where my old writing garbage is, too - I could have it in my hands in minutes. I remember there was some short story about twin boys living in the Ozarks, or somewhere in the South, that I got a pretty good grade on. I know that's still there with the other crap, but I think it might be a little later than 4th grade. I'll have to look and see.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

POSTSCRIPT: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I deliberately misspelled "atrocious". You know I can't resist a bad 'n' cheap joke.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Hey, SUZE ~
Another INTJ here!

As a youngster I think I tried to follow instructions to the best of my ability. It wasn't until I got a little older that I burned all the rule books and struck out on my own path...

Hmmm... Maybe I should have stuck to the rules a little more 'cause life is HARD out here on my own, and I think I've become hopelessly lost (but I'm making good time!)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Arlee Bird said...

Hilary -- We can never predict when life's circumstances will inspire us into unexpected action.

Jenn- It sounds like you were doing some pretty creative story-telling.

StMc-- Thanks for the kind words and the great comment. I was gonna say that I see an excellent blog post in this story. You ought to expand on it. I hadn't thought of the blogfest idea but it would be cool. And I know what you're saying to Suze--I'm in the same boat and now I'm trying to patch a lot of leaks so I don't go under. Rules suck, but consequences can be even worse.

Lee

S. Stauss said...

I love this! What a great link to the past and what beautiful writing for a 4th grader. Well, for anyone, really. Glad I stumbled upon your blog. I love your writing.

Nicole said...

What a paragraph! The description kind of puts readers in there, at the scene and I can't get enough of that line "You can feel water and fire shooting into your sweaty face." Alrighty then! :)

Yes, I have a particular teacher who influenced my desire to write. Her name is Ms. Satchel, my English teacher during my sophomore year in High School. She used to tell me to save all of my writing and she used to stress this, like life itself depended on it or something...I mean, she would be so serious and the tone of her voice would be so matter-of-fact, that it was scary. I would think to myself "what's the use?" because I had no interest in writing, as a profession.

At the time, I also had no interest in saving ALL of my writing...I mean, who in the world is going to want to keep dozens of floppy disks laying around the house, you know?!! However, I did listen to her and Yes, I did save my work and writing, on loose paper, notebooks and disks, etc. whatever I had my writing on, I would keep it.

No, I did not have aspirations to become a writer when I was a child. My aspirations were in Fine Arts, specifically drawing or illustration of some sort and them my interests moved into film and video.

Therefore, I find it quite interesting that many years later, I appreciate Ms. Satchel for making me realize that writing is important and should not be taken for granted.

The Madlab Post

Tracy Jo said...

Lee! That is so awesome. I can't believe you wrote that in 4th grade with such wonderful descriptions and detail. So cool you still have it and what a wonderful memory.

LD Masterson said...

While I was enjoying your post (the old one), I couldn't help but look at the original paper and think what a shame it is that many schools aren't even teaching cursive anymore. They say it's obsolete. I think it's beautiful.

Carol Kilgore said...

No. No. And no.

However, I've always been an ardent reader. And I have always had stories, characters, narrative, and dialogue floating around in my head. Very little of it went together, and rarely did anything make a story.

I thought everyone had thoughts like that. I mentioned it to someone once and they said they didn't. That's when the light bulb came on and I wondered if I was supposed to write it down.

Maybe I'm a slow learner.

Karen Lange said...

Congrats on being "published" so early! Things like that are kept, as my Mom would say, "for posterity's sake".

I had an English Lit teacher who told me I was a good writer. That gave me a real confidence boost.

Have a great weekend!

Arlee Bird said...

S.Stauss -- So happy you came by and I hope you will return often.

Nicole --I'm glad that Ms. Satchel impacted you so greatly. Now we know who to thank for your wonderful comments and blog posts.

Tracy -- It's in the roots of my writing. I'm glad I kept that one. I might have some other samples from back then but I haven't run across them.

LD -- I agree. If nothing else it's a discipline and kids need more activities to help them focus. Kids minds flit around with too much diversion these days.

Carol -- I tend to have thoughts like you describe. My mind is a flurry of different things. Sometimes I just have to write them down.

Karen -- Sometimes the simplest little word of encouragement can have the biggest effect on a person's life. We never know what it is that we say that will influence a child for the rest of his life.

Lee

Emily said...

How cool!

Eve said...

Hey Lee, What a terrific post! It's wonderful that you still have those things from when you were a kid! I saved a bunch of my kid's stuff too.
I remember always wanting to write, although I don't remember having any major influences other than books I would read.
I remember wanting to write a kid's book when I was around 9 or so..it was going to be a chapter book about a family of river otters whose home is being overtaken by developers. (Please hold all laughter until the comment has come to a full stop,lol!)
I thought that since I was a kid, I could write it so kids would want to read it. It proved to be too lofty a goal for a nine year old, and so was eventually scrapped. I wish I still had some of the chapters I'd worked on, it would be neat to read now!
You did have remarkable hand writing, and your use of metaphor is remarkable for a child...it's no wonder you became a writer!
Hope you're having a great run up to Christmas!

Donna Shields said...

That's some serious awesome writing coming from a 4th grade you. You were destined to write :)

cleemckenzie said...

Mrs. Kingston had a knack for spotting writing talent lurking in those fourth grade metaphors.

I was lucky to have two teachers in school who inspired me to use my imagination. I dedicated my second book to them and if I knew where they were, I'd so love to send them each a copy. I also wish I had a sample of some of my early writing. It would be wonderful to reach back to that time and remember.

Pat Hatt said...

Wow 50 years ago, surprised you even kept it or that it lasted haha. You and your magic psychic powers must have really saw this post coming..haha

Donna Hole said...

I have a couple things from when I was a child; and I still have my first "novel" attempt from freshman high school.

Interesting to see how far we have come as writers now.

........dhole

bucksaver said...

Amazing! Felt like I rode a time machine to see the origins of the great writer we know today. I actually wanted to get into entertainment when I was younger. I did write a little book in the fifth grade. We bound it and everything. Struggle for Survival was the name. Guess I still carry that flair for dramatics now. Thanks for the flashback!

Paula Slade said...

It's so cool that you still have this writing sample! (I must admit I'm a bit of a pack rat too!)

It's obvious that at a young age, you were embracing thoughts and feelings with words and were building your "voice" to share. A great beginning Lee. How fortunate you were that your teacher recognized your gift!

Kelly Robinson said...

"Flamey fire" is worth a giggle, but it definitely shows promise for a 4th grader! You were clearly on the path.

DiscConnected said...

Lee-

Sorry, just getting around to reading this.

There was a teacher who inspired me to write-Thomas B. Williams, my tenth grade English teacher.

His first assignment was a short story, and he encourgaed us to be creative about the boundaries for such an assignment.

Then he played a song, "Singring And The Glass Guitar," which was an eighteen minute piece on the second side of an album called "RA" by a band named Utopia.

Who happened to have a guitar player named Todd Rundgren.

So not only did Mr. Williams inspire me to be creative, but he introduced me to a musical passion that would continue for the next thirty-five years and counting.

Thank you, Tom.

LC

DiscConnected said...

Lee-

Almost forgot.

While my mother may or may not still have the early stuff tucked away somewhere (she's been in a home for five years now), I have a few boxes with everything from high school on, which includes a whole bunch of starts on science fiction & fantasy novels, mystery noves, and several binders full of song fragments and completed lyrics.

Whoever has to clean out my house after I leave for the Great Gig In The Sky will have a treasure trove of ideas at his or her disposal!

Or at least a lifetime supply of bird cage liners.

LC

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

The first teacher that made me see others might be interested in my writing was Mrs. Metelko, a teacher I'd had for several different English courses in high school. I've always hoped to see my books in print so she could read them someday.

I think it's lovely you're able to trace serious inspiration back to this. It's really good work!

Arlee Bird said...

Emily - Thanks for stopping by.

Eve -- I think a lot of kids with writing aspirations may tend to write above the reading levels of their peers.

Donna Shields-- I have always been interested in writing.

C Lee -- It would be so cool to find those teachers and give them autographed copies of your book. I'm sure it would make them feel good.

Pat -- I've always had the personal museum philosophy of you never now when something will be needed.

Donna Hole -- I like to see the comparisons. I think in many ways my writing from college is better than what I write now, but it was probably due to all of the academic exposure.

Buck -- It's fun to see our roots and maybe we gain something from it.

Paula -- As I've heard somewhere, teachers are making an investment in our futures so hope they invest well.

Kelly --Not sure where I got the word "flamey", but I liked it well enough to use it more than once.

Disconnected -- You should find a use for all of those old ideas. It's good when a teacher offers a fusion of ideas beyond the normal required curriculum. Mrs. Kingston used to play a lot of music for us--I learned a lot about classical music in her class.

Carolina -- It was good that you were able to establish a long running relationship with a teacher in high school. I was able to do that in college. We didn't have many choices of English classes in high school other than the basic ones for each grade level.

Lee

Trisha said...

Great post, Lee! As for teachers who influenced me, probably my year 8 teacher who let me hand in a story 2 weeks late 'cause it still wasn't finished (it was dubbed "the novel" even though it was only around 5k in the end).

Carol said...

Great post! I don't have any samples of my writing from back then, or really any memories of particularly encouraging teacher. I wish I did.

Arlee Bird said...

Trisha -- Pretty lengthy story for an 8th grader.

Carol-- I surprised that you don't have at least one influential teacher. I had some really good teachers. I feel like I was given a well rounded education.

Lee