That was the question Rose Chandler Johnson posed to me when she interviewed me this week for her blog, Write Moments with God.
I love that when I answer these questions I am not only telling others my story, but I’m learning more about myself along the way.
What started me on my journey?
My mother taught me to love books. She taught me to read.
My second grade teacher told me I was a writer. She published one of my stories in our school newspaper. (It was a pretty big deal when you consider the school was big—housing classes from first through eighth grade.)
Then, when I was a senior in high school, our English teacher was on a leave of absence. We had a substitute. Not just any substitute. She was a writer. She had us write every day. She selected one of my essays to read to the class. She smiled.
She told me I was a writer.
So of course, with all of that affirmation you would think I would have majored in creative writing. Nope. I listened to my mentors. I valued their words. I trusted them. I wanted to be just like them.
I wanted to be a teacher.
Actually, I wanted to be an actress, a detective, and a writer at various times in my childhood. I decided I could play all of those roles as a teacher. I studied hard. I worked hard. For almost twenty years I taught children in the primary grades. After I received my doctorate from the University of Cincinnati, I taught at Cincinnati Christian University for another 14 ½ years. (Wow! I sound old!)
During my tenure in the field of education, I took several graduate courses and read all too many research papers. I may have this wrong, but I believe it was Peter Elbow who said something to the effect, “Learners can learn without teachers but teachers can’t teach without learners.”
It was humbling.
Now I am on the sun-soaked side of retirement: chasing the warm weather with my computer tucked under my arm. I will forever be a teacher. And now I am a writer. I’ve decided that as a writer I can be an actress, a detective, and a teacher.
On my way home from a book signing last night, the words of one of the women I met rolled around in my head. She said, “I’m not a writer. I love to read, though, so you keep writing those books.”
Hmmm…. A writer can write without a reader, but a reader can’t read without a writer.
Maybe even more humbling.
By the way, the interview I did with Rose Johnson is posted all week. Read it, leave a comment, and you could win a copy of Breathing on Her Own.
And one final question: What do you want to be when you grow up?