Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why I Write: A Literacy Autobiography

It might be easier to define my life in terms of what it would be without being literate, than to describe myself in terms of being a literate person. Reading and writing are so much a part of who I am, that without my love for them, I could not possibly be the person I am today. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I venture to say that I am so much a reader and writer, that to take away literacy from my life would be to take away my self.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read and I have loved stories in all forms. It may have started when my grandmother read to me as a baby, and when a few years later I “read” the books myself, making up stories to go with the illustrations. Some may have thought it unlikely that I would care so much about reading, and later on, writing. My father, after all, was a very bright man, but he was illiterate. And while my brothers and my childhood friends would be scrambling around outside engaging in any physical activity they could find, I was more often than not planted in the corner, nose stuck firmly in a book. Of course I have other interests, but whenever I have to fill out any kind of form requiring me to name my interests, reading and writing are what I list first, without even thinking about it.

Therefore, since literacy has been so ingrained in my lifestyle for such a long time, it’s difficult to pinpoint “milestones” which led to this quality’s importance to me. I won local library’s summer reading contests by reading anything and everything I could find, I had an original poem printed by the local newspaper when I was nine, I wrote (mostly crappy) poetry all through high school. I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone when I decided to major in English and education in college. I was so carried away with my identity as a writer, that during my senior year, I actually switched my major from the reliable field of education in order to concentrate on my literature classes and add a creative writing minor. I went on to attend graduate school and major in Rhetoric and Composition, winning a teaching assistantship and writing all the while. Of course, when I decided to start my family, I was fortunate enough to be able to go into public school teaching despite my somewhat unorthodox college background--being a starving artist tends to work out better if one’s daughter isn’t starving alongside beside you!

To date, I’ve not been published (unless you count that brilliant fourth-grade poem—“A Christmas Tree Mystery”), but I have completed one novel, and several short stories, so I hope to see my name in print someday. However, if that’s never the case, I am still a writer—I write because I need to write, not because I need to impress an audience. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to develop my love of teaching as well—I’ve taught everything from English 101 at ********* University to Inclusion 10th Grade English at ****** High School. I’ve taught Honors World Literature to high school sophomores and Basic Writing to community college students. The constant for all of these experiences is my joy of passing on my love of reading and writing to others—be they aspiring writers such as myself, or struggling readers with learning disabilities, such as my father, who passed away three years ago. Despite his difficulty with reading and writing, my dad loved a good story—who among us does not? I believe that all of us, regardless of past experiences, innate ability, or any other factors, can relate to each other and better understand ourselves through a sharing of our stories.

I know that’s why I read, and why I write. And I am a writer—regardless of whether or not I ever sign a contract, or get to choose the cover of that first novel. I am a writer, because if I was not a writer, I don’t know who I would be.

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