Who encouraged you as a kid?

Give it a try(Image found on Pinterest)

Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo and author of a writing resource I really dig, No Plot? No Problem!, asked an interesting question this week.

Who encouraged you as a kid? […] Who encouraged your writing when you were a kid?

Then he gave his answer,

For me, it was a teacher named Judy Barnes. Back in 1991, Mrs. Barnes read a story I wrote in front of the whole class, and I can still feel the glow from that moment today. Her single act of encouragement changed the course of my life.

I got to thinking about this, as one does, and I’m pleased to name not one, but two remarkable people (both teachers, like Baty’s). The latter would not have left the impression he did without the groundwork laid by the former.

When I was in grade seven, I fell head over heels in love with Ancient Egypt. Previous dreams of being a veterinarian if when I grew up dashed, I aspired to a career in Archaeology with a focus on ancient civilizations, Egypt specifically. I knew all of the major deities, obsessed over the architecture and scribbled hieroglyphics on my notebooks, like so many adolescent hearts and games of MASH. My grade seven teacher, Mr. Nieman, helped build a fire within me. He gave me the gift of encouragement, clearly finding joy that he helped to inspire this passion in me.

Fast forward a few years. In grade eleven, I walked into my first English class to greet a new (to me) teacher (my grade ten English teacher, who was outstanding, retired at the end of that year. She inspired a love of Animal Farm and I will forever be grateful for her and her sass), Mr. Haines.

Haines will go down as my favourite teacher. Ever. Full stop. He treated me like an adult who had thoughts, feelings and opinions that mattered. He saw those old embers of passion in me when I would write essays and stories for his classes (I took English 12, and Literature 12 with him as well. I basically stalked him. In a completely non-Lolita way), gave them a bit of fuel, and encouraged them to burst into flame again.

Mr. Haines was, if I recall correctly, the first person who made me believe that “writer” was a viable career option. That people actually got paid to write. That Stephen King wasn’t just an author, he was also a person. He was also the first person who made me believe that maybe I could, with a little bit of work and polish, do that, too. He was among the first people who really, truly believed in me and let me know that he believed in me.

Hats off, gentlemen. You made a difference. Thank you. Thank you for inspiring me, supporting me and encouraging me to believe in my BAMF self.

You are pretty fucking awesome(Image found on rags for riches)

What about you? Who encouraged you in any (all) of your endeavors?

Dio – Holy Diver



8 thoughts on “Who encouraged you as a kid?

  1. This is so funny—I took the approach of “what authors inspired me as a kid” and you took a totally different route! I guess that the idea didn’t even cross my mind. I mean, my mother encouraged me, but I got a lot of “you like writing? That won’t earn you a living,” even as a kid. When I think of who inspired me and taught me, I think of authors.

    I did have one really kickass professor, though, but I was 17 by then and I don’t qualify myself as a kid (Mr. Johnson. No one inspired me like he did, and no one was such a great teacher as he was). There were many professors who encouraged me as a young adult and a newly-adult. But as a kid? Sadly, not really. I drew most of my inspiration from books and authors.

    ALSO big fuckin’ thumbs up to Mr. Haines. Nicely done. That is how it should be done. I’m glad you had someone like that in your childhood—it is so very valuable.

    Now I feel the urge to write another post about the value of great teachers.

    • I love your approach (it’s been a long day. I haven’t been able to properly comment on anything until now)! …and I hate THAT approach. “It won’t earn you a living.” While that may be true in most instances, it isn’t for people like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. So there’s that. I heard that kind of thing a lot, in varying degrees, over varying career aspirations. It hurts to be squished down, especially when you know damn well that you won’t make as much money copywriting as you would as a neurosurgeon, instead of encouraged, even in your lofty goals. I get it. I understand that it comes from a loving, concerned, protective place a lot of the time. But that doesn’t make it easy to hear.

      Yeah. Nieman came into my life when I was 13ish and Haines when I was 17ish. Not really early on. HOWEVER. I am forever grateful for them. Especially Haines, yup! (I have legit stalked him a few times, or tried to anyway. I want so little more than to be able to shake that man’s hand and thank him. He made such an impact and I hold him in a really soft and squishy place in my heart. I hope he knows that he really did make a huge difference, in me.)

      YES. You should! Teachers are great. Professors. (I have a very favourite one of those, too. I am lucky enough to get to “work” with him regularly. …he deserves some blog time someday too, I think.) Grade-school teachers. Yes. Do. It.

      • I emailed an old professor who made a huge impact in my life recently—and he was so glad to hear from me, and it was so lovely to talk to him. 🙂 It’s just crazy what an impact a really good professor can have on the life of a student. Were you able to stalk Haines down or could you not find him? Luckily my old prof still had the same email address and works at the same school.

        I am totally gonna do it. Maybe in the next week or so. 😀 A love letter to good teachers hahaha.

      • I love that you did that! That would be a great email to receive. And alas, Haines is off the (technological) grid, as far as I can tell. I’m hoping he’s still in the area and visits here (my city is kind of a hub of Northern BC) once in a blue moon and I run into him at Costco, or something. 😉

        I’m psyched to read it! Yes.

  2. suzymmarie says:

    I love this post! I’ve been thinking a lot about a teacher recently who has basically gotten me to where I am today and he probably doesn’t even realise how big an impact he had on my life. I really enjoyed reading how you were inspired (it gives me hope that there are wonderful teachers out there and that there are children who WANT to learn and be taught haha). You’ve inspired me to write my own ode to my teacher!

    • I love how much you love this post! AND that you had a similar teacher experience.

      I can’t wait to read your ode. YES. Good teachers are so wonderful.

  3. I guess it was my mother. I was told that she loved reading…her head was often buried in a book. She died when I was three years old, but she read a lifetime of books to me in those three years. From the moment I entered preschool, I gravitated toward the little library. I started reading quickly and it just grew from there. My love of reading fueled my love of writing. As long as I’ve known myself, I’ve enjoyed those two activities immensely. Teachers throughout school encouraged me to read and write as much as I could. Needless to say, English became my favourite subject. With our without encouragement, I would be doing this for the rest of my life. 🙂

    • Tami. Wow. That’s beautiful. I’m so sorry that you lost your mom so young, but what an amazing legacy and tribute! To carry a love of literature and language like that. That’s just outstanding and this comment made my whole day. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this.

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