Friday, May 25, 2007

Guest Post from Restaurant Gal

A couple of months ago I was given the opportunity to guest blog on Restaurant Gal’s site (see Spreading My Seed).

At first it seemed like quite an odd idea. Blogs are such personal places the thought posting on someone else’s was like being asked to share their toothbrush and dressing gown when you’d just popped round for a coffee. Still, once I got past over my initial British reserve, I felt quite honoured, like I’d been trusted with a sacred space.

Today I feel equally honoured that Restaurant Gal has responded to my request for a reciprocal post. Not only does this give my regular readers a chance to experience her warm, engaging and absorbing writing style first hand, but it lets me off the hook of thinking about another post for the weekend.

Outwith the boundary of her own site, Restaurant Gal has moved away from eateries to recalling a formative experience in her early writing years. It was clear from the outset that she was destined for great things and I’m sure in years to come she will look back fondly on this post and see that blogging here was one of the major steps towards fame and fortune…

Read, enjoy, and add her to your favourites if you haven’t done so already


FIRST WRITES

The first time I saw my name in print, I was eight years old, and it was attached to a poem I had written. My brilliant piece of writing had been selected to represent a third grade writing project. I was quite astounded by this, actually, and read and re-read my printed piece that had been mimeographed in lots of a hundred for all the parents and teachers to read.

Today, I only remember the punch line of the poem about a volcano, which is what I am sure won me the honor of being published in the "Babbling Brook" literary journal: "Lava, spilling over, like red hots." That's right, red hots--my preferred candy of the day, the tiny pebbles of cinnamon candies packaged in tiny boxes. Even then, I was a candy freak.

Truth be told, I liked seeing my name in print far more than the poem I had written to get it there. And, more importantly, from that moment on, I fancied myself a "real" writer. Not because I had been published, but because writing was so easy for me, so effortless for me to produce. I lived for the writing assignments in school, because I sure as hell wasn't getting the "new" math or whatever barbaric science they were teaching us at the time.

Throughout fourth and fifth grades, I discovered that I could write about ANY subject and get away with seeming like I knew something about it. It was heady and scary at the same time. By age 10, I felt like I might be living a lie because I convinced my teacher that my extraordinary short story about rocks should count toward the earth science block I was failing. Turns out, I was just that good at two things--writing and sales.

By sixth grade, I had an honest-to-God great teacher--the teacher who changes your life and who I will name if I ever become famous. I had the teacher we are all lucky to have once in our school lifetimes, and we know them when we are with them. And this beautiful young teacher, fresh out of teacher school, loved reading and writing projects. I am quite sure we did a minimal amount of math that year, and absolutely no science, but we read and read and read, and then she inspired us to write every single day in our stapled-together journals.

What we really learned from her was how to write from our hearts. And I have never forgotten that lesson.

By the end of the year, this incredible teacher challenged us all to enter a national writing contest. The national contest gave a prompt for a short story, which we would then complete. Classes would vote for winners, schools would send those winners on to regional contests, and regional winners would go on to finals. Which was all an unimaginable reality away from the Tuesday assignment that our teacher handed out and told us we had to complete by Friday.

I dove right into it, of course. I got two things about this--I would be judged by my peers, which meant I had to write for my audience; and my teacher had the ultimate vote, which meant whatever I wrote for my peers had to be damn good. This was a lot for a skinny, pre-hormonal, 11-year-old girl wearing braces before anyone else had them to get. But I absolutely got it.

The prompt had some kid driving in a car with his family, and he is snoozing in the back seat, when suddenly, a flash of yellow jolts him awake. "Hey, boys and girls, what happens next?"

I wrote what I knew was drivel, but what I also knew would garner me the most votes from my classmates. I had this poor kid from the prompt trapped in cartoon-land with the Flintstones, Yogi Bear, and Huckleberry Hound (I know, this kind of dates me)--the superstars of my era and the pre-cable, four-TV-stations-and-that's-it networks.

The field was narrowed to two stories--one by me and one by a too mature, very beautiful girl named Lisa. Lisa was also a writer beyond anyone's ken, and about 20 years beyond her time. Lisa was, in fact, the real deal that I hoped I might someday be, but that I was faking for now. Yeah, I knew that, even at age 11.

Our teacher read our stories aloud to the class that Monday. Laughter, pounding on desks, a standing ovation was the reaction to my story. Silence, puzzlement, and a few yawns met Lisa's. Except that I was astounded by Lisa's story, mesmerized and completely taken in by the description of broken bits of yellow glass on a beach and a young boy's struggle to fit the pieces together as he mended the broken parts his life. My throat literally ached by the end of Lisa's tale.

And in the end, when the votes were counted, my story garnered 24 votes, and Lisa's got one--from me. This did not make me some kind of great selfless kid. I simply voted for the best story.

I don't know that she ever knew I voted for her. I don't think she ever knew that I knew what a talented writer she was. I don't know what she does with her life, or if it involves this incredible writing talent she had when she was 11-years-old.

I do know that my crazy-cartoon-capers piece never made it beyond the regional contest. I have no idea what story ultimately won the national award.

Here's what I do know: Every now and then, when one of my blog stories seems to write itself, when I have mined an honest chamber of my heart to tell it, I know I am getting close to the talent that Lisa had, so many decades before.

I hope Lisa is still writing. I hope I can continue to try to catch up with her.

13 comments:

Eryl Shields said...

Wow! that's a marvellously told story RG. I haven't made it over to your site yet but I certainly will now. Rather flattered that Kim has put me in the same category (mug of coffee) as you.

Kim, this guest blogging thing is all rather interesting: a sort of adaptability test. From what you say it seems that RG has adapted her usual style to fit the style of your site. It makes me think that it would be quite interesting to provide a remit. Kind of like 'will you guest blog on my site about lemon squeezers' don't you think?

Kim Ayres said...

Eryl - RG hasn't adapted her style, only her content. With a title like Restaurant Gal, as you can imagine the vast majority of her posts are about life in and around restaurants - the one she works in and the ones she frequents, the staff, the customers, the behind-the-scenes life.

For this post she chose a topic not related to restaurants, but as you'll see if you visit RG's site, it is very much in her style of writing :)

savannah said...

the best lesson: write what you know. well done, r-gal! i could see you at 11, that moment when you decide to write what you KNEW, but writing to win...and then listening to someone who had written for the sheer joy of it...i felt that awe you experienced instantly. brava!

super idea, kim, to do the exchange!

Brave Astronaut said...

Two of my favorite bloggers in one place! What's a Brave Astronaut to do?

Kim, it was because of RG that I discovered you and found a kindred spirit across the pond.

With RG, I found someone close by who speaks volumes about the things I think about, and does it far better than I.

Now to know that she and I are both writers (again with the knowledge that she does it much better than me) makes my daily "blog touring" that much more fun.

But don't think we are letting you off the hook for a blog entry. It's Memorial Day weekend over here, so there better be something memorable from you. I need something to do whilst I sit in traffic this weekend.

Cheers!

Sayre said...

Oh, RG, I can so relate to your feeling that you were "faking" it in school. I was an "excellent student" but never really applied myself because I could write my way around it. I got the grades, but not the satisfaction. If I'd known then what I knew now, I'd have been the best student ever.

And sometimes when you have a talent, you recognize it more easily in others. YOU understood Lisa's story, even if no one else did. I hope you find her, and have more to read from her. It would be a shame if that contest put an end to her writing.

quinn said...

HI kim..thanks for swinging over.
Carmachu is a smart cookie.

Mary Witzl said...

Good, inspired teachers are worth their weight in gold. I had one such teacher, a Miss Lustgarten, when I was 15. She was old (in her sixties), and rather sarcastic and opinionated, but kind to me, a shy, gawky teenager. I loved and admired her and wonder what happened to her to this day. Adolescence was rough for me, but it would have been hell without Miss Lustgarten.

I too had a poem published at age 11, in a religious magazine called Wee Wisdom. Problem was, I'd written the poem two years earlier, and they went and got my name wrong. Still, it was a heady moment, seeing my poem there for all the world (or so I thought) to read.

restaurant gal said...

Eryl--Please vist soon, and often. Coffee is on me.

Savannah--Yes, you totally got it!

Brave Astronaut--All who hope to convey their feelings in writing are writers--in blogs, in handwritten journals, in all kinds of media. Thank you for your kudos about my writing.

Sayre--We need to talk more, over coffee or a glass of wine!

Mary Witzl--If you and I ever have a chance, let's be sure to let these special teachers know how much they meant to us. I know they would smile.

Kim--You, my friend, are wonderful to let me take over your space for this day. I truly thank you.

PI said...

I enjoyed that and feel glad for RG but sad for Lisa. Lets hope she carried on writing.
I recognise that joyous feeling when the story writes itself and also the passion when one is writing from the heart. Will be around to pay a call shortly!

eg(scotland) said...

RG - I loved that piece - so easy to read and the content was amazing. Sounds like you were pretty clued-up at 11 years old yet so honest in heart.

EG

restaurant gal said...

PI--With luck, we don't need to feel sad for her. That kind of talent at such a young age should have successfully played itself out for her in some realm.

EG--Thank you! And for the record, I was pretty much of a brat at age 11--clued-up or not!

Kim Ayres said...

Thank you once again, Restaurant Gal, for writing an entry for my blog.

And thank you to everyone who took the time to comment and visit RG's own blog.

I hope some of you now have a new blog added to your favourites :)

jennifergg said...

I have been captivated by the power of words throughout my life, over and over again...thank you, RG, for reminding me of that, and thanks Kim for sharing your blog for this post!