Nothing like being fashionably late! I was tagged in this meme almost a week ago, but I couldn’t just let it slide without adding my contribution.
Perhaps a good excuse for my tardiness is that I really had to think on this one for a while. After all, I’m still young (if I do say so myself), and having only been out of college a few years, my career path has been rather varied. I’ve had three major employers, all quite different, and even took a “year off” at one point in which I worked a series of temp jobs in an effort to figure out where I wanted to end up.
The only constant in my career has been writing. Regardless of what kind of job I was working, I’ve relied on my writing and editing skills to set myself apart. Even during my in-between year, I always blogged or wrote privately to keep those skills sharp—I knew that no matter what I ended up doing, keeping my writing game intact would be essential. So who had the biggest influence on my writing?
That’s easy: Jeanne Provencher, my 11th grade AP English Composition teacher. Up until I arrived in her class, teachers had gone out of their way to inform me that I was a “gifted” writer. My essays were always read aloud in class, I always won the Young Author awards, I always got A’s (I am aware how fully obnoxious this sounds, but just wait). AP English Composition? “Hmph,” I thought, “that’ll be an easy A for my college applications!”
The first thing Mrs. Provencher taught me was that I knew nothing about good writing. Nothing. My grammar was pathetic, my sentence structure weak, my paragraphs nonsensical and my transitions nonexistent. Don’t even get me started on comma splices, passive voice and dangling modifiers. I got a C- on my first paper, and almost stayed after class to tell her she’d made a horrible mistake. I couldn’t believe I had failed at the one thing at which I’d always excelled.
Seeing that paper covered in red was a wake-up call that perhaps I still had quite a bit to learn about the written word. I ended up working harder for her than I would for any teacher before or since, snagging an A on the biggest research paper of the year and never forgetting that no matter how much I write, there’s always room for improvement.
We sing the virtues of better writing in public relations quite a bit on this blog, so it’s only appropriate that I single out my favorite writing teacher as the person with the greatest influence on my work thus far.