Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Welcome Wednesday: Meg Kassel's The Honors English Club

I am beyond thrilled to introduce our first guest blog by this year's Young Adult Golden Heart nominees. Meg Kassel's entry, The Silent Sister, sounds very intriguing. Best of luck in the Golden Heart, Meg! Now, tell us how you're Hot for Teacher...

I cannot think about high school without one particular teacher popping to mind. I can honestly say she changed my life. In fact, if it weren’t for her, I wouldn't be a writer today. She was my 9th grade English teacher (let's call her Miss Austin) and she really, really didn’t like me.

Miss Austin was a very pretty and very fresh-out-of-college teacher. The boys drooled over and the girls looked at her and thought, "it might be okay to get old (as in, over 20) if I could look like that." Miss Austin wore oversized cardigans with designer heels and enjoyed a perky gang of fangirls who loved her, Mr. Darcy, Volkswagons and all the versions of that song, "Big Yellow Taxi.”
No offense to Colin Firth. He’s actually quite dishy.
But I, having never been skilled at the art of pointless adoration, did not belong to this club. Miss Austin did not inspire me to stay after school to discuss, A Tale of Two Cities, for fun. My general sullen disposition along with dark-ish essay topics earned me more than one wrinkled nose and sarcastic comment from her. So, I really should have seen it coming. I should have expected that despite my straight A’s, she wouldn't want my introverted, cynical self in her class the following year. I was denied my one goal: Honor's English. I know, my goals were nerdy even then.
Ah yes. I got this look a lot.
When Miss Austin posted the Honors English list, and I wasn't on it, I ended my fantasies of being a writer and resigned myself to plain old English with everyone else. What was the point? If I wasn't good enough for Honors, I certainly wasn't good enough to hack it out there with all those amazing authors who wrote my favorite books. Luckily, my art teacher did like me. I was accepted into the elite "studio track" art classes, and that was that. I was an art girl. Writing was just for fun after that.

But that wasn’t the end of the story, obviously. Eventually, I got over my first true rejection, but it took a long time and a lot of personal growth. The thing is, writing a book is hard. The business of writing is even harder. It takes endurance and an almost obsessive determination to keep going through rejections. To keep learning more and working harder. Back when I just got out of college, I didn’t have it. I had too little confidence and too much drama. I would have folded, like so many others do. I know this.

So wherever you are, Miss Austin, thank you for sticking me in general English. You inadvertently set me on a course that I am thrilled with, humbled by and eternally grateful for.

A Jersey girl, born and raised, Meg lives with her husband and daughter in Maine. She is a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist in the YA category and is represented by Sara Crowe of the Harvey Klinger agency. You can learn more about her at website and on twitter.

So Meg's got a question for you, gentle readers, did a negative experience ever turn out for the best in the end?


Lea Nolan said...

Thanks so much for visiting with us, Meg! This was great. I can totally imagine Miss Austin. And I must confess, I LOVED the song Big Yellow Taxi (the original version by Joni Mitchell, of course). Though I wasn't in English honors, I guess that makes me a geek ;)

Meg Kassel said...

Ha! I like the song now, but at the time, if it wasn't The Cure or Nine Inch Nails it was "like, so lame." I could still do without the Counting Crows version, tho. ;)

Thanks for stopping by, Lea!

Sonya said...

I had an English teacher who was so awful. She was sarcastic to the students and uber stuck-up. BUT, the drama teacher led us all into a lot of creative writing exercises and she let each of us express ourselves however we wanted to-with art, with words, with music. There was so much freedom to create. She was great.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Great post, thanks! I wonder if my English teaching career ever helped anyone become a writer...but I hope not in a negative way. I always tried to be positive with my students.

The negative experiences I had in my last few jobs encouraged me to try new things, which led to where I am today. So I am grateful to be (gradually) pushed to the full-time writing status I have now.

Ellie James said...

Terrific post, Meg! Isn't it funny how life sometimes plays? I've definitely found that the majority of challenge I've sweater bullets and obstacles that seemed like Endings have taken me (sometimes through a long and twisty road) to a better, stronger place. Knowing this can make the ride a little less traumatic :)

Congrats on the GH! It's a fun time :)


CareyCorp said...

Thanks for sharing Meg! As for my negative experience, my YA didn't win the Golden Heart in 2010. But I became close friends with the other nominees and I was ecstatic when Erica won. So I won several times over. Best of luck in the Golden Heart!

Melissa Landers said...

Thanks for visiting, Meg! I'm surprised your teacher was the one responsible for assigning students to honors level classes. When I was in school, the guidance office (and students' test scores/grades) made that call.

DT Tarkus said...

I was an English class Neanderthalic performer, hated literature, and got a D in typing. Science guy all the way. The wordprocessor allowed me to make mistakes and quickly recover (sending white-out fluid to the extinction bin), and I learned type as I think. Didn't start writing until I was 40. Viva la late bloomers.

Meg Kassel said...

Thanks to everyone for stopping by and leaving a comment, and thank you to the awesome gals of Honestly YA for inviting me to guest post! It was fun hearing about everyone's high school experiences––good and bad. Those four years sure make an impact!

Meg Kassel said...

Melissa, I soooo loved your post! It cracked me up. I honestly don't know if Miss Austin made the Honors decision on her own. She was head of the English department, but who knows? I was a cranky freshman. All I know is, I held her responsible (and still do, dangit!)

Kimberly said...

What a great post. It's like the old expression of making lemonade out of lemons, right? :-) I'm with Carey about the Golden Heart. We were all winners in that group. If it hadn't been for the 2010 Golden Heart experience, I wouldn't have such a kick-ass group of YA writing friends!
I can't think of a truly negative experience, but in college I had a professor for Ethics. In all of his philosophy classes, it was an EASY A as long as you followed his books. So, sometimes I didn't attend--although I loved him. He was sociable. He was fun. He was hip.
And then came the day (after I had skipped more than four classes in a row) that I went to class with one big pimple in the middle of my forehead. When there was complete quiet in the classroom, he took the opportunity to point it out. I think he (who was from India) said (to the very white, American girl), "Kim, it's so nice of you to join us again. Did you take some time off to go to India?" And then there was a long pause while everyone paused to look at me. And then he pointed to the zit on my forehead. Everyone laughed.
I never skipped that class again. :-)

Anonymous said...

I love how the negatives in life turn out to be positives:-) gOOd luCK with the Golden Heart~chEErs!