Yesterday, while leafing through my new May issue of the Atlantic (which I found worryingly slender) I spotted an unusual letter to the editor in response to Sandra Tsing Loh’s altogether entertaining essay “Sympathy for the Tiger Moms.”
Mike Shatz of Brookline, MA writes, “I do have a perspective on Ms. Loh’s writing that I suspect few of your readers share, since I first encountered it in grading her homework and exam papers when she was taking sophomore physics. It has improved tremendously since then. Surely that is in part because of her practice of her craft. But I have no doubt that much of the improvement comes from writing about what interests her rather than trying to please her father.”
I thought this letter was interesting even for those who have not been following (or could care less about) the tiger parent brouhaha. Although most writers I know write for themselves, or an interested but unspecific reader, it’s also true—and fun to imagine—that an authors’ work may well end up in the hands of her high school physics teacher, or any of a host of the people “who knew you when…”
So in light of Miriam’s recent post about the importance of teaching writing, my own suspicion that my posts are a far cry from the well-ordered essays my sophomore-year English teacher taught me to construct, and the humbling gaffe I made using “stationary” for “stationery” last week, I’d like to solicit tales of teachers. I’d love to hear about your early writing mentors—people who encouraged your love of words—or alternately, teachers who might be surprised, even shocked, to note that you are a now a writer. No need to use whole names here, indeed, probably best if you don’t.