I remember my first rejection. I was six years old, and I’d just written my first thank-you note. For my birthday, my aunt had sewn me a groovin’ wardrobe for my Chrissie doll—perfect itty-bitty mini-dresses, mini-skirts, and halter tops. I was so in love with those outfits that I didn’t mind writing the note, which I proudly handed to my mother. Unfortunately, upon reading my note, she burst out laughing. What did I, a first-grader, know about homonyms? “Dear Ant Bernie…,” I’d written. What parent wouldn’t giggle? But I was devastated.
A year later, I cried because I spelled the advanced word wrong on my spelling test: beautiful. I remember the kid next to me raising her hand, “Mrs. Quentin, Lisa’s crying.”
Aside from the obvious fact that I was a crybaby, I was also a girl who cared about words. I filled many of my recreational hours with Scrabble, word jumbles, crossword puzzles, hang man, and word searches. I tried to teach myself Spanish by looking up words in an English-Spanish dictionary. I wrote rhyming-word lists, horse-name lists (because I loved them and wanted one), and geographic lists (state capitals, world capitals, countries, you name it). I stopped this obsessive scribbling when I received my first diary. Or rather, I started scribbling in a new way.
About the time I got my first diary, I also began snitching paperbacks off my mom’s bookshelf. I read such classics as The Exorcist and The Andromeda Strain before my tender brain was ready. They may have warped me, I don’t know. On the other hand, my mother also owned certifiable classics such as Rebecca, which is still one of my all-time favorite books.
Beneath it all, I’m still that word-lovin’, scribbling girl who loved to read for hours at a time, starting with Nancy Drew mysteries and graduating to Agatha Christie by sixth grade. I also remain a girl who loved her quiet and solitary pursuits.
I’m still the girl who lost herself in the hills of her extended backyard, and let her imagination roam as far and wide as the vistas.
I’m still the girl who enjoyed a good cemetery, who loved pondering the names engraved on the gravestones, who wondered what mysteries and intrigues the deceased had gotten up to in life.
I remember my first serious creative writing effort—a Shakespearean-style sonnet—and how thrilled I was when my English teacher gave copies of it to everyone in class and then read it aloud. My writing! Most especially, I remember almost fainting when the senior I secretly loved waylaid me after class to compliment my sonnet called “Amidst the Shades of Mine.”
I remember the girl who strived for good grades in all her classes, even chemistry, and who only relished kudos for her written work, whether it was for that sonnet or the essay her freshman teacher deemed the best she’d received. Or even way back in third grade, when she won the fire-prevention poster contest—and let me tell you, that girl must have created a great slogan because her drawing skills were quaint at best.
That’s me, the girl embroiled in an ongoing love affair with words.