This album is dedicated to all the people who told me I’d never amount to nothin’ –Notorious
The 2013 guide to Montreal and Quebec that I helped author for Fodor’s Travel comes out in March and is available for pre-sale right now.
Some write fake Oscar speeches; I fantasize about crafting clever book dedications. I plan to dedicate future novel to my enormous family for well…everything, the Husband for his patience and encouragement and the Dog who keeps my feet warm as I write. And to my Grandma, for her endless advice.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to *actually* dedicate or thank anyone in the travel book because that would be unfair to the other writers, editors, and photographers who worked on it. Besides, I am a writing phantom taking the form of Eugene Fodor, a fascinating Hungarian wayfarer.
Should I ever write a novel, I would be tempted to throw it into the faces of those who spurned me early on when I was just a kid. I probably wouldn’t do it, because bitter ain’t the right shade for me, but it’s fun to think about.
One of my favorite writer bloggers recently wrote an eloquent piece about a teacher who helped influence his writing career. I have a few of those too – wonderful people, who pulled me aside and told me that despite my horrific spelling, I had a knack with words.
I’ve also had the opposite. Miss Bruner, my 7th grade art teacher deserves a failing grade. A teacher should encourage, not manage expectations. Let kids’ dreams bounce above their heads like big red balloons. When the time comes, they’ll clutch some and let others fly. Give them that choice.
Miss Bruner hobbled up and down classroom aisles with a cane. She’d pull your drawing out from your hands, exam it from behind little glasses that sat at the end of her nose and snicker. When we had to sketch George Washington (impossible!), I erased entirely through his eye. I am no Manet. Did Miss Bruner encourage me to learn from this mistake and be more careful next time? No. She put my rendition of George Washington over her own face and peeped through the hole as if it were a mask.
Ok, so maybe I screwed up the portrait. Maybe she was joking, maybe the George Washington incident was part of her teacher schtick.
But later that semester, when I expressed an interest in going to Venice to view art, she barked:
“How are YOU going to go to Venice? It costs a lot of MONEY, Am-an-da.”
Money or lack-thereof posed a problem for me and likely every student in our Jr. High. No one I knew had been overseas. Travel, especially the international kind seemed like an unreachable dream, right up there with taking a field trip to KOOLAID’s Wacky Warehouse or standing-in for a kid on Double Dare.
But I believed Miss Bruner. I envisioned myself, at thirty, one gallon of milk away from bankruptcy. Luckily, I had supportive parents who let me practically live in the library.
Miss B’s words lingered until I nervously boarded my first flight to San Diego, solo at 20.
That night, I went to the ocean for the first time. I stood on the sand, the water swirling quietly before me like a vat of black ink. I felt at home – not home in this particular city; home standing at the edge, staring into the abyss.
I just booked a trip to Paris and Venice in honor of Miss Bruner, who taught me one of life’s most valuable lesson: never believe the naysayers.
Who would you/will you/did you dedicate your first book to?
February 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm
Oh, I remember you mentioning this awful teacher on my blog. Everyone I know who hates to draw had a similar art teacher at some point. And what a shame that is.
Congrats on your upcoming book, my friend! I dedicated my first (and, to date, only) book to my wife. My next will be dedicated to my son, and the third will…hmm…be dedicated to the highest bidder.
February 26, 2013 at 1:20 pm
Yes, your teacher post definitely inspired me to write about my awful teacher. I believe good teachers deserve more praise than they receive, but there are definitely some bad apples. More than one person told me that because a teacher told them they didn’t have the “talent” to “make it,” they stopped creating for years. Years!
If I ever get to dedicate a book it would be to the Husband, as he gallantly bares the brunt of my writer’s temperament.
March 5, 2013 at 9:19 am
I had an art teacher who played favorites–and I wasn’t one of them. I got very little personal attention, and often had to rely on the other students for help.
At the end of the semester, he asked to take pictures of my portfolio as the most improvement he’d ever seen! I certainly felt like he’d only earned partial credit for teaching me.
Speaking of credit, I’ve nominated you for the Shine Award. If, for any reason, you don’t accept awards, no worries. Just take this as a note that you shine a little laughter and adventure into my day. 🙂
If you want to accept it, go to here for the rules.
March 5, 2013 at 9:46 am
Your art teacher sounds like he was secretly trying to get you to improve. It’s interesting to think about how teachers affect our creative process. It’s such a fragile time. I know I had a hard time with criticism in my early twenties – as a teen, forget about it. Cheers to good art teachers!
Thanks for the Shine Award! I enjoy reading about your adventures in reading/writing too.
March 5, 2013 at 6:31 pm
Maybe he was. Who knows?
You’re welcome, you deserve it!
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