1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”
Without knowing it, I began following Stephen King’s first rule in my teens. In fifth grade I discovered poetry did not need to rhyme. This revelation inspired me to start jotting free verse. These early poems were my way of processing my feelings about nature impressions, personal thoughts, with no intention of sharing.
Starting a Diary
When I was thirteen, I read “Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl” and discovered I was the same age Anne had been when she started her diary, shortly before entering the Secret Annex. She named her diary “Kitty.” I followed suit until I decided I was being a copycat and changed the name of the imaginary person to whom I wrote to ‘Anne,’ in honor of Anne Frank. That launched my additional addiction, to writing. I wrote all through high school, not for any publication. I did not join peers in writing for the school paper. Instead I poured most of my writing into my diary.
I did write some essays in addition to school papers. I even won an honorable mention for an American Legion Essay contest about the meaning of being a citizen.
One of my favorite assignments in freshman English class was weekly vocabulary. I still remember learning words such as ‘surfeit’ and ‘banal’. My mother’s retort whenever any of us kids used cuss words was “With so many words in the English language, I am sure you can find more creative ones to use than that.”
Reading Aloud to Children
In addition to my own reading addiction, my mother read aloud to her four children even after we were able to read for ourselves. “Brighty of the Grand Canyon,” and “The Wind in the Willows” were two of my favorites.
I took that experience to heart when I became a teacher. Even though I taught upper elementary grades, I made sure I read aloud to my class every day. No matter how shortened the class time might be by weather, conferences, or assemblies, instruction may be shortened, but read-aloud time always happened.