Fifth and Sixth Grades at Holgate Elementary School in the fifties featured a combined teacher rotation that was brand new to us. We had come through the first four grades to begin a more mature experience.
In the fifth grade, I reached that hotly pursued pinnacle — writing stardom.
My first stories were about animals, primarily horses and dogs. Perhaps that wasn’t so surprising coming from a farm girl whose life involved the world of animals — although we never had horses — and who was attending a rural farm community school. As far as horses were concerned, I think the Grey Ghost of Sagamore had a lasting impression on me! (Many years later, I would write about horse racing at the Internet’s Suite101 article-writing site 2007–.) A few of my girlfriends also wrote stories about animals, and we would read each other’s papers.
While my stories had four, or five, paragraphs in that small beginning of storyland, my classmates wrote two, or three, paragraphs. I had words, lots of words, that flowed onto the paper in first drafts. I never thought to perfect sentences, or paragraphs, in first attempts to create a story. I enjoyed the editing and rearranging of thoughts and words, and of finding better words for describing situations, all of which I reveled in — and still do — after a story was completely written.
I knew I was a writer when my story-report on our fifth grade class trip to a caverns state park was chosen by our English teacher to be read in front of the class. My story wasn’t a first version. Our teacher was angry — an emotion he was prone to display in the classroom — at our first weak efforts on our essays.
In the first version of my story, I didn’t use the words stalagmites, stalactites, and “however”. I did, however, in the second (final) version, letting the feelings and sights and excitement of our trip soar from my head and glide down through my pencil to splash onto the paper. It was a creation, not just a bare bones story-report, and I discovered in those moments — never to forget — the true exhilaration one could experience in the passion to write down words in an entertaining manner.
When our teacher read my presentation — particularly when he paused appropriately at my use of the word “however” and surveyed the classroom in a mini-second of emphasis — I shivered with a sublime tingle. My story was the chosen one.
I was in Heaven!