I figure maybe I should have something new to share here for those of you coming over from my guest blog stint at Do Some Damage (Thanks Dave!). Over at Laura Lippman’s blog a bit ago she had a discussion going about some of her best and worst teachers and it got me thinking. I’ve had some amazing teachers in my high school and college careers, the sort of life-changing, Dead Poet’s Society inspiring teachers, but I’ve never had a really bad teacher. I’ve had teachers I didn’t like—mostly because they wanted me to try harder or expand my horizons or complete my homework or whatever—but I’ve never had a teacher I hated or who set out to discourage me.
The first good teacher I can remember was Mrs. Hill in 5th grade. She encouraged me in the writing of my first short story about super hero candy bars. The next major influence was my high school choir teacher Mrs. Bomeli. She brought my out of the shell I’d crawled into after several years of junior high hell at a private school. She helped me hone my musical talent and encouraged my other artistic endeavors. She bought me my first copy of Syd Field’s Screenplay which was instrumental in helping me finish my first novel.
When we get to college, I had the bulk of my great teachers at The University of Michigan-Flint. The duo of Bob Barnett and Jacob Blumner encouraged and challenged me in my non-fiction writing. They helped guide my teaching career and what I thought was going to be my academic career. On the creative side, Danny Rendleman accepted the crime fiction I wrote, but also encouraged me to stretch myself and helped me write the first two stories I ever had published. Cathy Akers-Jordan was my first really encouraging beta reader of crime short stories and was the first person I met who shared the same passion for crime fiction as me.
Now that I’m out of college, I miss that relationship with teachers. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do some more teaching of my own and maybe pass along the karma. Or maybe I’ll end up one of those bitter, alcohol and cigarette stained failed writers with a hundred unpublished novels in the drawer determined to take every young writer out of this world with me.