Reflection by Mary E Latela, @LatelaMary, November 6, 2016
I began to write seriously because I had a wonderful English teacher in the eighth grade, the late Elizabeth Connellan. Besides all the readings and memorizing vocabulary, our teacher emphasized good writing, including creative writing. In the fall New Haven, (CT) used to have a Harvest Festival, which centered on the big football game between Hillhouse and Wilbur Cross High School, the rivals of that era. Along with the game were poster contests, poetry contests, and the Thanksgiving Prayer contest, which was especially for junior high students. One day in class, Miss Connellan gave us our assignment, to write a Thanksgiving Prayer, which – after review at school – might be sent in to the citywide contest.
I WON! I WON! I WON! I was flabbergasted! A reporter from the New Haven Register interviewed me and their photographer took some lovely pictures. Dad accompanied me, as I was asked about my family, my favorite subjects, even about piano lessons. I was featured in the official program book for the weeklong celebration.
Then we went on with life as usual. However, I had opened myself to something very scary, but very exciting. I started writing for contests, civics, speeches, debate club. I even started writing creatively after my cousin Andy died. I know that I idealized him after he was gone, and that it took a long, long time to accept that he was a very good kid, almost another brother, who was stricken with cancer before there were effective cures. I wrote a 12-15 page set of essays and some poems. I kept them with my diary, which was another type of writing altogether.
At home, my voice was silent at home or silenced. I was not thought to have anything worth saying. Later on, in a religious community, we were told that reading novels or writing poetry was frivolous and worldly. After this twisting of my insides, I was bursting from my shall. It wasn’t delicate like a chick hatching from its egg. It was Like an oozing, dripping wound, which never closed.
I wrote steadily. Years later, after the children came, I decided to take up my writing again and see where it Led me. I wrote poem after poem, about serious subjects. My interior life, which had been full to overflowing, thrived on the writing.
When I was married, my spouse hated and resented my writing. He thought reading was a waste, forbade it (but we all know how to secretly read what we want to read.) He thought writing wouldn’t bring in any money. Then I shifted into longer manuscripts, the “inspirational booklets.” Hubby would not let me buy typing paper (even though, who do you think typed his thesis on that unnameable chemical he favored?) He wouldn’t let me buy stamps. My friends gave me paper which they bought for me; I “stole” stamps from the big rolls we kept. I sent out manuscripts with SASE (self-addressed stamped envelopes), mailed them at the mailbox down our driveway, and hoped against hope that the returns/rejections would arrive on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, so that he wouldn’t see them. By some good alignment of the stars, Hubby was on a business trip when I received the Letter of acceptance about publication of my first book. The kids, Mom, Dad, and I went out to lunch.
The bottom line is that I write what I write, because I just do. After the divorce, I wrote a little booklet in a month and it was grabbed up quickly – one of my best. These days I have quite a number of projects in mind, and feel a need to prioritize. It is hard work; I love it; sometimes it makes me VERY happy; other times it exercises my critical thinking; once in a while, it is like a “feather on the breath of God.” And I have to write. It is my gift. I do not compare with others, or judge others, and I try to be patient with myself.
It would be really nice if my dear ones cared more about my writing, but I can’t help that …. I do not do magic.