Today, I was thinking about the next entry for THE WHY DO I WRITE series, and I started thinking about an experience from high school, from my sophomore honor lit course. Each year, we had a project that was due toward the end of the semester. The project for our sophomore year was to write a paper on a career we wanted to pursue, and it was mandatory to include an interview with a person currently in the job you wanted.
We had to notify our teacher before we started the paper as to what job we selected. When I told my teacher I wanted to be a writer she reminded me about the interview portion of the paper. I guess I should mention I grew up in a very small town. The most exciting thing in town was the Super Wal-Mart, and since I worked in the Wal-Mart pharmacy, Wal-Mart held no excitement for me. I digress. Since we lived in a small town, I think my teacher thought it wouldn’t be possible for me to interview an established writer. In fact, she recommended I change my topic from writer to journalist and interview someone from the local newspaper. (I think this might have been the first time I vomited a little in my mouth and had to swallow it because of something said to me.)
I don’t remember how I finally avoided the situation and made her think I was going to write about being a journalist, but I did and immediately set to work at trying to reach a writer. At that time in my life I was obssessed with Oprah’s book club selections. I was reading Pearl Cleage’s What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, and I wanted an interview with Cleage. I stayed after school one day– my high school journalism teacher/FBLA advisor/go to teacher let me use the department’s phone to start my quest.
I was able to get in touch with someone at Harper who in return got in touch with someone in the Cleage camp. A couple of days later I spoke with Pearl Cleage, and I faxed her my questions. She mailed her responses back to me and autographed every page. I made an A+ on the paper, and I still have the interview stored away to this day.
You can’t listen when someone tells you can’t.
You can’t listen when someone tells you to set your sights lower.