I spent three fun-filled days at the Texas Library Association conference in Houston last week. I had the chance to meet some of my favorite authors, including Lisa Scottoline and Harlan Coben. Squee! I also attended an interview with the iconic Judy Blume. Alas, I achieved no benefits from the “I must increase my bust” exercise from her book Are you there, God? It’s Me, Margaret. I am, and will forever be, a hopeless A cup.
Kicking off the conference was a general session featuring author Brad Meltzer (www.bradmeltzer.com). He’s written two books about heroes – Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter. The theme of these books and of his speech as well was that ordinary people change the world.
He spoke about a librarian who’d introduced him to the wonderful world of fiction. He also spoke about a teacher who’d noticed his talent and encouraged him to write. He’d looked the teacher up recently and told her how she’d inspired him all those years ago. She’d burned out and been contemplating retirement, and was thrilled to learn she’d been a catalyst for his writing career.
As Brad pointed out, those who inspire others may never know the wonderful things they’ve done. The results of the inspiration may not come to fruition until years later, and it may be difficult to find those who have inspired us and to give them the thanks they deserve.
After hearing his speech, I decided to dedicate my next full-length book, Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria, to two teachers who inspired me.
The first, Ms. Fall, was my 8th grade teacher at Noel Grisham Middle School in Austin, Texas (GO GRIZZLIES!). She required our language arts class to write in a journal for the first five minutes of class each day. Journal time was my favorite part of the school day, and I wrote like my pen was on fire. When she later noted to the entire class that I had a good journal, I remember a hot blush of embarrassment on my pimple-pocked face as the other students turned to look at me. But I also remember feeling very proud. It meant a lot to me that she thought I had talent.
The second teacher, Ms. Anderson, was my sophomore English teacher at Westwood High School, also in Austin, Texas. Ms. Anderson assigned us a character sketch. At the time, I worked at a Kmart store. Yep, I wore the sea-foam green smock the store was famous for at the time. Trust me, that color looked good on nobody! I wrote my character sketch about one of my co-workers, a guy named Jeff, who had the amazing ability to remain good natured and positive regardless of what life threw at him, including a younger sister dying of cancer. Jeff inspired me to write about him, earning me an A+ that, in turn, inspired my teacher to note that I had written a good character sketch. Ms. Anderson’s positive feedback gave me encouragement and pride that I still remember now, decades later.
Who has inspired you in your life? Who have you inspired? Do you agree that ordinary people can change the world? We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories of inspiration. Please share!