Sunday, May 15, 2022

It Takes a Village

Who sparked your younger self to love writing? What would you tell them if you could meet them again? Is there anyone you consider a mentor now? 

Brenda Chapman here.

I love this question! 

My younger self was inspired by every book read to me, and every book that I read once I acquired the skill. This really was where I learned my love of language and stories, where my imagination flourished.

But there were also teachers who nurtured my creative side, the most memorable being Mr. Nestor Trach, who taught me in grades six, seven and eight (his wife Dora also taught me in grade three) (small towns!) I grew up in the era of rigid education - desks aligned in rows, strict obedience or the strap threatened, an emphasis on the basics, which meant a lot of math and science, spelling bees, cursive writing ... and my happy spots ... reading, and creative writing (only on Friday afternoons). 

Mr. Trach had a box full of photos he cut out of magazines and mounted on thin cardboard. We got to select a photo and write a story about it. I waited all week for him to bring that box out. There were other writing assignments. I'm not sure if it was Mr. Trach who assigned writing a log as if we were stranded on a desert island or another teacher, but I like to think it was him. I still remember creating that other world and imagining myself living there. He encouraged us to dream and fostered our creativity, even in a school system that didn't allow for a great deal of fun or free time in the classroom.

In high school, I had the same English teacher for four years named Mr. Kruger. He was young, anti-establishment, once arriving with his tie cut in half to protest being forced to wear one. He was also a very good teacher and I learned a lot from him, including a passion for literature. I do recall, however, that he liked to slip into his lessons that men were the superior half of the species - I'm quite certain he didn't believe this - and perhaps it was to get the girls to try harder. What he did get us girls to do one morning was walk out en masse after one of his comments, and that was the end of the jabs. He married a cop and followed her to a new city for her job in later years, I telling action if there ever was one.

I also had a university English professor whom I found to be interesting, smart as all get out, and a terrific teacher. He also reminded me of a short Clint Eastwood (from the Good, the Bad and the Ugly days), and I made sure to enrol for one of his classes every term :-)  I sent a Christmas card and note to him every year until his passing a couple of years ago.

As for a current mentor, I've had three in this writing business. The first writer to take me under her wing was Alex Brett, who sadly has stopped writing after two solid mysteries. She gave me so much good advice, and we had many chats over coffee about the business. Mary Jane Maffini has also been a wonderful friend and support, hosting two of my book launches and taking a road trip with me to Muncie, Indiana for a book conference. This past year, Judy Penz-Sheluk has also kindly taken me under her wing to shepherd me through the publishing process, giving me hours of her time.

Many others have left a mark on my life and my writing career, and I am grateful for each and every one of them being part of my journey.


Twitter: brendaAchapman

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Susan C Shea said...

I love this answer and those early teachers who encouraged such creativity. Most of all, I love that you can remember their names.For some reason I remember the name of my third grade teacher, but nothing else about her. And I remember the name of the high school "girls' dean" who taught me how to drive when my father refused to, but didn't intervene when the math teacher told me I couldn't take physics, because girls didn't take physics. Your excpderiences were more positive!

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Susan - growing up in a small town, if I forget a name, someone else always remembers :-)

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

It was my pleasure to help you. It really does take a village.