This is the first of what will likely be several posts about the hands that molded me into the writer I’ve become. For each post I’ll focus on a specific mentor from my past or present as a way to recognize and thank them for all their help.
Today, I’d like to talk about Mrs. Layton.
I met Mrs. Layton when I took my first creative writing class in high school. She was the creative writing teacher, as well as the senior English teacher, at my school.
Her assignments were varied in that first class (and every other year I took it). We learned to write Sonnets and Villanelles and short stories, and any number of other creative pieces. We talked about novels, but we didn’t try to write them for class. That was way too much for a sophomore in high school anyway, wasn’t it?
I decided it wasn’t and wrote my very first novel that summer.
One of the first people I told about it was Mrs. Layton when we got back to school the next year.
She was so excited for me, and so proud. She read it for me, and gave me encouraging feedback. She had me read the first chapter to the creative writing class that year as a good example of a hook. She even had me enter the novel in a contest for new writers.
In short, Mrs. Layton validated my ability and gave me the confidence to move forward and keep writing.
Looking back, that novel is pretty awful, even if the first chapter is a pretty great hook. It’s full of coincidence and deus ex machine solutions and way too many characters, but it was fun to write and I learned a lot from it.
But that novel gave me something that was very important. It gave me the support of a teacher, an English teacher, someone who knew about writing and reading, and all that. That novel was something tangible for Mrs. Layton to point to when she told me I was going to be a great writer one day.
Mrs. Layton has since retired, and I’m sad to say I didn’t keep in touch, so I haven’t had the chance to send her a copy of my first published book. If by any chance you think you know her, leave me a message somewhere so I can try to get in touch. And if by some miracle, Mrs. Layton is reading this, know that I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far as I have without your early faith in me, and drop me a line so I can send you a signed copy of my very first book.
*Title Image Courtesy of Ashbrook High School