You may have read this already, so this is for those of you who haven’t heard my story. I suppose this is mainly for me too, because I haven’t fully processed what as happened in the past 2 1/2 years.
After a hard day’s work, I woke up from a nap one evening to find the beginnings of a book. It was resting on my lap, saved in the hard drive of my netbook. It was then the idea donned on me, like a revelation from a dream that I just had, except that I hadn’t been dreaming.
“Huh, I should turn this into a book.”
There you have it. That is the story, as far as when I decided to become a writer. Sure there is more to it. I obviously didn’t wake up with a terrible rough draft sitting on my lap like a late payment from the Tooth Fairy. (By the way, still waiting on the cash for my wisdom teeth.) No, the actual writing of the story started with my students.
My kids are suppose to read for at least 30 minutes in class, but they didn’t want to read. They never wanted to read. No matter what I did, I could never get more than 10% of my class to read for longer than 5% of the allotted reading time. Yes, I actually did the math. That is the type of thing you do as a coping mechanism 29 days into failed reading time. As I approached the monthiversary of my job without a single successful reading period, I decided to get ambitious rather than pernicious. I decided as a last resort to try and write something the kids would be interested in reading.
I already had a story in my head, I always have a story in my head. So I jotted down some characters and I wrote out the most intense, g-rated, attention grabbing introduction that my imagination and limited vocabulary could supply. When it came time to read it to my students I was terrified. I still don’t know why I was so scared. These kids already hate me, they cuss me out and at times throw chairs at me. I always bounce back, much to their dismay, and show up the next day to work. For some reason, despite our close relationships, I was afraid to read to them.
“Ok guys,” I said. They could already tell by the tone of my voice what was coming next. “Put your stuff up, its time to read.” I would tell you their response, but I like I said I have a limited vocabulary and I still don’t know what some of those 4 letter words they were saying mean. This time, however, I was able to trip them up in their normal routine. In the midst of their weeping and gnashing of teeth I said, “you won’t need your book this time.”
It was stone silent, they looked at me inquisitively. “Are you going to read today Mr. John?”
I will never forget the looks of some of their faces as I whipped out the few pages of printer paper that had the beginnings of my future novel. Though I had no plans for my story at that time other than to get these kids interested in reading, I still felt a little swirl of pride bubble up in my belly. It was so picturesque, just like the movies. Where the teacher decided to put in some extra effort after so much strife and pain with difficult students. This is the point in the story I would win them over! I took advantage of the quite atmosphere. With as much charisma as possible, I read my story. I not only read it to them, I was selling it to them!
They hated it.
“You wrote this?”
“Don’t quit your day job.”
“Actually, please quit your day job.”
I would be lying if I told you that my feelings weren’t hurt. God’s grace, however, meets me in my classroom EVERY SINGLE DAY! That is the beauty of this story. To be specific, it is the beauty of every story. You just have to look for His grace, and praise be to God I found it. No, He found me!
“What happens next?”
One of my boys asked. All of his other classmates looked at him as if he had just landed on earth for the first time.
“I mean, don’t get me wrong. It sucked, I just wanted to know what is next,” he said to save face, but it was too late. The encouragement had already been done. He wanted to know what was next. So I stayed up till 3 the next morning to make sure he will know what happens next.
Guess what? They still hated it, but they were quite. They listened. They were not going to admit it, but they listened. From there I was able to ask them what I should have done different. At first I thought that was a mistake, but once we got past some of the suggestions that demanded more sex and violence, I realized we were getting somewhere. They wanted to know more about the characters.
“Why were they mean?” one of the kids asked, referring to the villains. “You should tell us more about that. You should describe that more, or describe him less, etc.”
This went on for about 3 months. It got to the point where I could not keep working on it every night. So I threw a haphazard ending together and we finished it one day. I wish I could say it was their story, but if that were the case I would be publishing a graphic novel filled with violence and soft porn. BUT! Even though it came down to me to create the story, we discovered it together. It was exhausting. It kept me awake late some nights. I spent way too much money and time at the local coffee shops, but somewhere along the way I got a few boys and girls to sit quiet for 30 minutes a day and listen to me read. God also somehow got me to sit quiet and to dream. Dream of ways to combine his calling with my love of story telling. Then one evening after a hard day’s work I woke up to find a terribly written, rough draft on my lap with the beginnings of a story. Obviously, not from the Tooth Fairy.