They said it couldn’t be done. “You never get your first piece published. Be prepared for rejection and try, try, again.” When I submitted my first written piece to a publisher, I didn’t know that axiom. I sent it off and hoped for the best. Not receiving an immediate reply, I shrugged my shoulders and forgot about it.
A few months later, I received a check for $7.50 in the mail. The publisher had bought my poem – my first submission of creativity on paper. I was so overjoyed I promptly treated the whole family to a round of sodas at the local ice cream shop. I was only 17. Almost ten years passed before I submitted anything again. The non-fiction how-to article was immediately accepted. Lucky or blessed, either way, it encouraged my love of writing.
I have always enjoyed making up stories dating as far back as grade school. By fourth grade, my writing skills developed enough to win a reading contest. That’s right – reading, not writing. The challenge was to read the most books within a month, writing a summary on each one. The teacher made a tiny mock book cover for each book read and pinned it to the bulletin board under the reader’s name. The whole class could view the progress of each reader in the contest.
There were two more days left in the contest, and to win I only had to read one more book. I was a fast reader, but not that fast. There was no time to read a whole book in two days. I decided to make up a story.
“Susie’s Summer,” my final book report, summarized all Susie’s fun experiences, which were many of my own experiences. I picked a name from the air for the author and turned it in, shocked at my own deviousness and urge to win. The next day, I saw the mock cover pinned up on the board putting me in first place. I had won the Reading Contest. I shivered with nervous excitement. I was delighted to win, but yet I was also afraid. I had lied. I had deceived the teacher into thinking I had really read the most books. Should I tell her? The quandary began to boil in my young soul. My conscience finally won out within a week, and meekly I crept to her desk.
“I didn’t read that book, Miss Palmer,” I whispered, not wanting the other kids to hear.
“What book?” she asked absentmindedly, still grading the papers on her desk.
“You know.” I gritted my teeth. I hated to admit my guile. I felt so ashamed. “You know – the last book report I turned in?”
“Oh, yes.” Miss Palmer fumbled with the stack of papers on her desk to find my report. She perused the summary again. “Susie’s Summer” – a very good book report. How could you write a summary if you didn’t read the book?” she wondered aloud.
“I made it up,” I confessed softly, looking down as tears mounted in my eyes.
“You wrote that story?”
She sat quietly at her desk looking at my report, thinking hard for what seemed like an eternity. I shifted my feet. I studied an imaginary spot in the carpet and tried desperately to shake off the flood of tears threatening to spill out. Would I get an F? Was she going to turn me in to the office? Would she tell my mom?
Finally she spoke. She patted my quivering hand. “Though what you did was not acceptable, or even fair to the rest of the class, I still think you deserve to be the winner! You showed great creativity. Good job!
“Class? Listen up. I want to read you a story….”
This story won 2nd place in the Springfield Writer’s Guild Annual Literary Contest in 2011.