If Old Praise is All I Have Today

I was going through an old box of stuff not long ago and found a diary I had kept while in high school.  In it was an entry made after my family had moved from Brooklyn to a suburb just north of Detroit when I was about 15.  A former classmate in our honors English class at Fort Hamilton High School told me that our teacher had stopped abruptly in the middle of class one day and asked, “Whatever happened to that wonderful writer, Mary-Jane?” I was startled when I read it.  I had forgotten all about it; but there it was, some 35 years later, written in my own hand.  It made me a little emotional.

I thought about other teachers through the years who had complimented my writing skills or encouraged me in some way.  The first was Mrs. Burgio in the third grade.  She was a wonderfully creative and kind teacher who inspired me to write my first poem.  There was Mr. Pelkonen at Fort Hamilton who taught the remedial English class.  I had been placed in his class because I had to take remedial math and the geniuses at school thought I was probably just all around stupid and placed me accordingly.  Mr. Pelkonen gave us an assignment to read a poem out loud in front of the class.  I recited Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” from memory.  Mr. Pelkonen looked at me and said, “What are you doing in this class?”  The next day, I was transferred to the honors English class taught by his wife.  Mrs. Pelkonen took every opportunity to praise my work.  For our final exam, we had to write an essay about To Kill a Mockingbird.  While the rest of the class scribbled away for almost an hour, producing page after page, I wrote a page and a half and put down my pen.  Mrs. Pelkonen held it up in front of the class and said, “Now THIS is writing!”

After moving to Michigan, Mr. Voorhees at Lake Shore High School gave us an assignment to write a short story about a futuristic society.  While the rest of the class went for the utopian model, I wrote a much darker tale.  Mr. Voorhees wrote in red pen, “Terrific story! I even read it twice!”  I still have it here somewhere.

We face a lot of rejection as writers.  It can be hard to keep your head up when the message always seems to be “not good enough”.  I hope you’ll take a few minutes this week and think about the people who have inspired you, the ones who said you had talent.  If they saw it, some day some agent or publisher will too.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jessica
    May 02, 2014 @ 15:01:53

    I find your writing (so far) eloquent and clear. Sometimes people over-compensate with words that make your reach for a dictionary (or these days google, I suppose) and it comes across like trying too hard. Writing for me is about conveying a thought or feeling or story so the reader can understand, intuit or picture it all themselves.

    Some writers get between the reader and the message, while others create a direct link.

    I’ll subscribe, and come back to read more of your blog. 🙂 Seems to be the best compliment a reader can give in blogosphere. I’m new around this world, but glad I came across you…


  2. Jessica
    May 03, 2014 @ 06:41:49

    OK, I think there’s a widget for subscribing somewhere, but for now I just bookmarked your blog cause I couldn’t subscribe cause I’m on blogger not WordPress shhhhh but I’m thinking about converting. I love freshly pressed, and every blog I find seems to be on here and blogger community seems hard to find…the only reason I went there was cause Dream Follower was taken here and I even looked they only wrote one entry…years ago!! *pout* sorry for venting all over your comments section. You can delete or edit if you want 😉


  3. MJ Belko
    May 04, 2014 @ 14:42:44

    No problem, Jessica! I’m just happy you’re reading my blog. I get frustrated with technology too, but I can blame that on the fact that I’m 51!


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