lundi 3 décembre 2007

one of the best days of my life in writing

While studying for my horrible test, I remembered one of the best days of my writing life which cheered me up.

Junior year of high school in my AP English class. Right before passing out our essays that we had written in response to Susan Sontag's essay "On Photography", my teacher and my first writing mentor, Mr. Powers, handed out a photocopied paragraph of someone's essay that he had particularly liked.

It goes without saying that every girl was in love with this teacher. Rather, every girl with raging hormones. I regarded him with total curiosity as he was the most interesting and tallest man I've ever seen in my life. Hitting over 6 foot 5 and rickets thin, he was someone I would definitely liked to have met (and date) in my future college years and proofread my papers, if I would ever meet a boy like that in college. (I never did.) But I didn't have a crush on him, in fact, I was terrified of him in the same way one is terrified of that smart looking boy sitting in the corner of your class and reading a book on string theory.

He was terribly honest. On your paper, and in your face. He had an aluminum baseball bat that he would hit your desk with 2 minutes before an in-class essay was due. He stood looming over my best friend as she rushed her last and final sentence on his final. His laugh boomed through our corridors and hallways always causing us to ask ourselves, "What was so funny?" He was attentive. He listened to you. He cared about you. (That scared me the most.) He was like our father when our own fathers took a vacation from our pubescent and post-pubescent phase. He told us that boys only want one thing and that if you sleep with a guy on the first date, the cost of dinner was the cost of you. He was a no sex before marriage kind of guy, and his wife was a no sex before marriage kind of girl. I met her, she's really nice. He was a rarity, pure and simple, and I appreciated rarity.

Back to the classroom, he handed out the paper, and then read the paragraph out loud in his soft, warm voice that was perfect for reading poetry but not good enough for Shakespeare. He stopped at certain points explaining why this sentence was particularly good, or why the structure of this body paragraph supported the essay. He ended with, "I don't remember who's this was, but it's a perfect example of strong writing."

I smiled to myself holding the photocopy of my essay, my second body paragraph to be exact. There was hope. I was getting better, and someone recognized. And he didn't remember whose it was, that it was me, that fat (I was really fat in high school) shy girl second row to the right. The anonymity kept me on my toes for that year and the next and didn't give me a big head. I thought of him walking to the copyroom, making copies for his classes. I was famous. Anonymously. And it felt good.

Thinking about this made me feel better about not doing well on my French exam. It actually wasn't so bad. I helped me come to terms with the fact that I can't be good at everything unless I really tried. I just keep hoping for this prodigious miracle that one day my French will be spot on and I can understand everything, but that's not going to happen unless I work harder. It's the same with writing. I used to get B- on my papers in Mr. Powers's class until I wrote more and more and got better. Moral of the story? Practice, practice, practice to infinity. Then one day, someone won't answer you back in English.

After the exam, went to BIA in the Marais with Lily and Romina. This Ralph Macchio kind of guy was working. Totally dorky and 80s cute. We were outside waiting for a table to be free, and he came out saying, "These people are crazy. Someone just asked me if we could toast her pancake." Hilarious.

Tonight will hang out with Kathy at her new place near l'Arc de Triomphe. We're going to watch When Harry Met Sally, which I've never seen and eat some glorious food. It's going to be great.

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