Remember the first time you had to stand up in class and recite something or read an essay you wrote or whatnot? You don't remember?
Well, good, because I remember my first time, and thinking about it traumatizes me now.
1982. Bronx, NY, Parkway Elementary School, Kindergarten.
We had to do that repulsive Show-N-Tell and I had a whole spiel ready. But when it came my turn, I froze. Absolutely and irrevocably frozen.
My teacher yelled at me. At 5, I couldn't understand WHY she was so angry with me. So I wouldn't dance like a puppet? Like the other kids?
I cried and stewed in a corner for the rest of class.
Fast forward to junior college, and I'm in the first course in Creative Writing.
I'm about 18-19 years old.
In the past, the only class coursework involving ANY of my stories has been relegated to that short span for which they devote a minute time to the ART OF FICTION (said like a bass-voice narrator speaking through a bullhorn).
Now we are in a circle, our desks to form a ring, and each session, the professor chooses who's to read the next story. She comes to me. It's my turn. My limbs are shaking. I am becoming frozen. My chin trembles so that I forget how to form words. Most every one's gaze is on me.
I can't feel the paper, and I clench it tightly. It's pastel yellow, printer paper that was once used on a dot matrix ('member those?) printer, and later, through an inkjet.
I begin to read.
I'm the only student that writes about gangster dogs in suits and fedoras.
I have a classmate who writes from the perspective of flowers in a meadow, but one can guess I am pretty much the oddball in the class.
My professor, the only one impressed by what she saw as natural talent and skill.
I continue to read.
I finished the scene when my protagonist chases a rival into a New York subway, the rival slips off the platform and into the tracks the same time a train arrives, killing him.
My protagonist looks at his watch and says, "Hm..Well what do ya know? It's right on time!"
I look up. Everyone watches me and I mean EVERYONE.
I swallow as I turn to my professor. My mouth is dry but she nods, her confidence in me confirmed.
A classmate, "Whoa."
I hear, "That was the most incredible thing I've ever heard!"
"I was literally shaking."
"I'll never look at dogs the same way again."
More and more words of praise and admiration.
There's already a hater, who never liked my stuff and often criticized my work before I would even finish. She looked away. I don't care.
The words of encouragement are enough, and thank God, because this was my last stop, pun definitely intended, before I decided I may give up on writing.
From that class, from that experience and many afterwards, I decided to pursue writing, no matter how long it took me.
A classmate explained that as I read the piece, my speech became faster and faster, thereby intensifying the action but also making it difficult for some to understand me.
However, the class heard what they needed to hear to give me feedback, and I walked on air the rest of that day.