Probably the questions I'm most often asked is, "When did you start writing, and who planted the first seeds?"
Some writers may not be able to pinpoint an exact event or pivotal point. Not so with me. It was my fifth grade teacher, Miss Mary, as we students called her. She was my catalyst. Otherwise a shy child, I loved to write book reports and read them aloud. I would end with a cliffhanger, and several classmates scrambling to be next in line for the book.
One day after giving a book report on a popular mystery, Miss Mary's face beamed, and she announced, "One day, Laurie will be an author."
Those words stuck somewhere in my subconscious. No one had ever told me that I could become anything. So I tucked her words away in the depths of my heart and clung to them for years to come.
But, even though Miss Mary was an encourager, she had a knack for keeping her students in line. One day I found out that I was not exempt from her discipline. Our class had been assigned to write an essay describing the perils Columbus must have experienced on his journey to discover The New World.
The rest of the class groaned over the extra homework while all sorts of crazy ideas spun around in my head. Where could I go with this story? Oh, the possibilities!
I have tried to pull the essay from the recesses of a child's mind and fill in the blanks to give you a vague idea of what my fifth-grade teacher was up against. My Columbus essay went something like this... I have titled it "Columbus' Catastrophe"
Once upon a time there was a man named Christopher Columbus. They called him Chris for short. Chris just knew the world was not flat like a pancake. But how could he prove that it was round like a globe? Especially, when he couldn't find anybody who would back him, or give him ships, and the supplies he would need to cross the Atlantic Ocean so he could discover the New World.
Finally, after traveling to several countries to beg the kings and queens, Queen Isabella of Spain gave in. She agreed to give him whatever he needed, but only if he promised to bring her bushel baskets of gold. Chris loaded down the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria with food and water. They couldn't take milk or orange juice since refrigerators had not been invented yet. You see, this was before Thomas Edison was born. And because they didn't have any oranges on board, some of the crewmembers died from scurvy. That's when you don't have enough Vitamin C. Chris and the others had to toss the bodies overboard so they wouldn't stink up the ship.
One night the Nina was destroyed in a raging storm. Waves as high as the Empire State Building struck the ship and tossed it about. On the morning of October 12, 1492, Columbus Day, a man on deck spotted sea gulls flying around the ship. Then another man saw something green in the distance. He yelled, "Land Ho!" Everyone on board had a party. They started dancing around, and yelling, and jumping for joy. Then the Pinta and the Santa Maria docked in the bay of the West Indies. (Remember the Nina had met her Waterloo.)
The commotion was so loud that the Wakoochie Indians on the island armed themselves with spears and raced toward the shore to investigate. By that time Chris and his men had shimmied up coconut, banana and pineapple trees. They needed some fruit to cure their scurvy. Once they got to the tops of the trees, they started shaking them really hard. Coconuts, bananas, and pineapples, fell like huge hailstones, and bounced off the Indians' heads to knock them out cold. The more fruit that fell, the madder the still-conscious Indians became, until only six braves were standing. Those six rattled Chris' banana tree until his teeth chattered and he couldn't hang on any longer. He let go and yelled, "Tim-ber!" right before he smacked the ground flat of his back. When he opened his eyes, he looked up into six pair of vicious ones staring down at him. The Indians had red and yellow war paint smeared across their noses. They grabbed ole Chris by the arms and yanked him up.
In the meantime, Chris' crew scrambled down from their trees, arms loaded with fruit and high-tailed it to the ship. They must have had yellow streaks down their backs because they pulled up the anchors and shouted, "Ship Ahoy!" Then they raised the sails and pointed the ship toward Spain, righ before a big gust of wind blew them out to sea. Chris looked forlorn as he watched his friends desert him. But, he didn't have much time to think about it.
The Wakoochie Indians shoved him along at spear point until they reached their village square. One last push and Chris was inside the chief's tee-pee. Big Chief Kookamunga was a round, pot-bellied man. He was finishing off a pineapple and the juice dripped from his heavy jowls onto his protruding belly. He wiped his face with the back of his hand, then gave the command loud and clear. "Raka!"
That must have had something to do with fire, since the Indians wrapped a rope around Chris from shoulder to ankle and dragged him to the center of the villag to tie him to a stake. Two braves were busy striking flint rocks when Chief Kookamunga jostled out of his tee-pee to yell, "Oola! Oola!"
I guess that meant, "Wait! I just got a better idea," because the chief grunted and pointed to a large cannon on the beach. The Indians then pulled Chris from the stake and hauled him over to the cannon. They stuffed him inside, feet first and belly down. He tried to struggle and protest, but it was of no use. They had stuffed his mouth full of bananas and the ropes were really tight. The Indians turned the cannon toward the ocean and aimed it up. Chief Kookamunga fired the shot that propelled Chris up into the sky like a missile, while the other Indians stood by and watched him grow smaller with every passing second.
To this day no one knows what happened to Chris. He was never seen again. But, if on some clear, moonlit night you happen to see a shooting star cross the sky, stop and salute. Because it just might be Christopher Columbus still orbiting the earth.
Do you think he knows it's round by now? (The End)
Before I finished, the class was in an uproar. The girls giggled, the boys slapped their knees and hee-hawed. I was beaming, sure I had just earned an A+, when a voice behind me harrumphed and said a little gruffly, "Laurie! I want you to re-write that story. And this time...make it a little more realistic."
I could feel my face burn. I thought the story was perfect the way it was. And the class loved it! Besides, I didn't even know the meaning of the word "realistic." That day I reluctantly added it to my 10-year-old's vocabulary. Not that I used it very often. LOL
I give Miss Mary the credit for spurring me on, but I have to give her credit for reining me in, too. Just remember, one can never know the power of his or her words. And though Miss Mary has been gone for three decades, her son made an appearance at my alumni book signing, Easter weekend. Just to meet the student who wrote a dedication to his mother, crediting her with planting a seed that eventually sprouted.
Have you had a similar writing experience? Post a comment and tell us all about it. I'd love to hear from you. We can all learn from each others' experiences.
JOURNEY TO FORGIVENESS: received 5-Star reviews on www.amazonbook.com www.whiterosepublishing.com and http://yougottareadreview.blogspot.com
Purchase a copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or an autographed copy from the author. Contact Laurean at email@example.com