I was born to be a writer. I loved words from the time I could speak and form sentences. I loved their beat, power and transformative qualities. On my seventh birthday I asked for a typewriter, wanting to simplify and “clean up” the pages and pages of prose that littered my bedroom. Stories burst from my head, wild, imaginative supernatural tales of ghosts and crows. I taught myself to type (in French first) and soon my fingers flew across the keys faster than I spoke. I had developed a “marvelous skill” and would make a “great secretary someday.” But I didn’t want to be a secretary. I wanted to be a writer.
Years later, after several hundred pages of half completed novels, I announced my life’s ambition: to be a poet. My family collectively cringed. Visions of poverty loomed large in their thoughts. The average poet earned a dismal $10 dollars a poem. But I didn’t want to make money. I wanted to be a poet. My family gently suggested a Plan B.
I decided on The Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, a ridiculously competitive program that only accepted eight candidates a year. The application required a portfolio, (a what!) ten poems for consideration. I only had five. The deadline fast approached. Maybe you should apply for a community college, just in case, those close to me nudged, concerned I might fall and fall hard. Then I heard it, the phrase that changed my life, that fueled my ambition and passion, that taught me the most important lesson I ever learned—be your own champion—you’ll get in to that school when pigs fly!
I slipped the five poems into a manila envelope, licked the seal, handwrote the address and placed my future in the mail.
PS One week later I received a call, “Congratulations! We look forward to having you.”