Letter to Amy Hudock, our wonderful instructor
(I’m reminded of the song, “To Sir, With Love”
but I don’t write song lyrics, just haikus.)
To our dear Amy
Thank you for this course
Now we can write short memoirs
You’re a great teacher
What a gifted teacher you are. Thank you for one of the best writing courses I’ve ever taken – and I have taken a lot. My other best course was a non-graded creative writing course I took in Ohio. One of the reasons I liked your course so much was that I came to feel comfortable with you and the rest of our small group. I felt I could be me and be accepted. I have not always felt that way at work and in life in Charleston. As you know, even though Charleston has a lot of great qualities, it is sometimes hard to live in such a conservative area.
I appreciated your mini-lessons every day – even the one on writing dialog – that was the most challenging for me. I was particularly enthusiastic about the mini-lesson on writing for publication our last day because I teach this topic too. My focus is on writing for professional journals and that’s not what I want to do anymore and not what most of my students want to do. I loved getting new information and plan to steal (oops, I mean, creatively borrow) your lesson plan and adapt it for the online writing class I’ll start teaching in August. I also plan to submit something if you think anything I’ve written this semester is ready. Your suggesting “Teaching Tolerance” for my piece on my father made me feel good because I know and respect that journal. Writing about my father was so hard for me because I felt pressure from myself to “do him justice”. Actually, almost any kind of writing, except haikus and journal writing, is hard for me because of the perfectionism /procrastination factor. I wrote a children’s book more than twenty years ago and have revised it several times and still have not submitted it. Maybe I’ll do that soon.
The books and our discussions of them were helpful. I was relieved not to have to do a great big creative group presentation on them. In my view, in a two-week intensive (and intense) writing course, we should be spending our creative energies on writing, not on teaching.
Teaching still scares me even though I’m good at it now. More than thirty years ago, shortly after our daughter was born, I interviewed for a junior faculty position in the Biomedical Communications Division at Ohio State where I was going to graduate school. The interviewers looked at my resume (English major, master’s in journalism, course work toward a Ph.D. in educational communications) and said, “Do you think you could teach our course on medical writing?” I said “yes” with confidence on my face and enthusiasm in my voice and fear and terror in my heart. I had never even taught a college course, much less medical writing. I was intimidated and scared. In addition, I had extreme speaking anxiety about teaching. I had taught junior high school English, English as a second language, and social studies on the Lower East Side in New York City and it was the hardest job I ever held. (A few years later, our daughter said, “Everything’s hard when you first try.” I have always loved that quote.) Well, I had six months to get ready for the course and I did it and did it well. Could go into more detail about how hard I used to work on my teaching but that would make a good memoir. Suffice it to say that I used to write my “spontaneous” humor in my lesson plans.
Now that I have retired (graduated) from academic life (except for an occasional course and some consulting), I’m looking for my next passion, my next obsession, and your course helped me along the way to finding that. The feedback and support from you and my classmates helped me want to work on “finding my voice”, which has been covered up a long time. Although I am not entirely happy with the papers I’m passing in to you, I am much happier with the “final” drafts than with what I originally wrote and that is thanks to the feedback from you and my response group and the thinking you all made me do about my topics.
Thursday, when you brought me a list of emotion words while I was reading my piece, I had mixed emotions – pun intended. On the one hand, you singled me out – I felt like I should go back to remedial memoir writing, not a graduate course on memoir writing and wondered why I ever thought I might be able to write memoirs. On the other hand, you singled me out – I felt like I was special to you and you cared whether I learned and improved in your course and knew that if I worked on it, my writing could get better. Life is often gray to me. That’s my personality type. (By the way, you seemed to feel bad when I spoke to you about this in class. Please do not feel bad and please continue to give that handout to your students. It’s helpful.)
What a high it is to have my own blog and to be on Facebook. I’ll probably change the name of my blog at some point so it won’t be limited to writing, but I loved learning how to do it and hope to show my students how to do theirs. If I had not taken your course, I don’t think I would have done a blog or joined Facebook for quite some time. I’m also happy to be able to see my classmates’ and your blogs and to be able to stay in touch with you.
Giving us feedback all along was great. With such a small class, I think you could have joined our response group earlier, sharing early drafts of your own work as well. At the beginning of the course, I felt sorry for you and us that we had such a small group. Now I’m so glad we did.
Thank you again. I hope you and your daughter have a wonderful summer.
Fondly and with great appreciation and respect,
P.S. You already saw the following at the bottom of my kaleidoscope piece. I wrote it on the porch at our table at The Citadel beach house.
Thank you, Amy, for making us write a memoir about an object. I gained insights from it. Not finding my kaleidoscope to bring helped me be more specific about why I say I am a kaleidoscope because I had to bring items that represented my kaleidoscope and I did not have any trouble finding 750 words for this assignment and writing in first person. I’m finding a little bit of my voice. Of course, it also helped that I am looking out at the ocean, which I love. I plan to use my pass to come here some more during the summer – a comfortable place for writing.
P.P.S. I’m looking forward to our get together later in the summer.
P.P.P.S. I’m sorry this is so long because I know you have a lot to read. It is not the first draft. I did edit it somewhat. My husband read it and thought I said “thank you” too much. Oh well, they are sincere.