I recently read an interview with American poet Rita Dove who shared that she had no inspiration to be a writer because she “had never met a writer and didn’t think of writing as an occupation or something that a living person did or that someone like (she) could do for a living. To (her) every writer was firmly frozen between the covers of a book. And most of them were white males. It wasn’t until (she) was in eleventh grade when an inkling of that possibility began to emerge in (her) thoughts. The very first day (her) English teacher walked into class and dissected the first paragraph of Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native. She showed the class how the music of that paragraph matched the mood of the heath. No one had ever shown (Dove) how the power of writing was built by the author.”
The teacher then arranged for Rita Dove and a few classmates to go to a book signing by John Ciardi. Rita Dove didn’t know who Ciardi was. He was in town to promote his translations of Dante and so she met her first real, live author. She talked to him, saw his name on a book and saw the author himself-and realized he was a normal person.
This is where it dawned on her that writers were normal people. And she might become a writer herself.
I was much older when I had a similar realization. I had been teaching for five years and I was helping a teacher move her classroom at the end of one school year when this teacher said in a sort of mock way, “I should give this all up and write children’s books.”
That was the first time I thought “You can just do that? You don’t have to be a certain kind of person to be a writer?” I never had WordsWorth when I was young and so I never met a writer until I was much, much older.
I am happy to be able to share this spectacular opportunity to meet nine writers in one week this summer at WordsWorth. Nine writers to show you they are normal, yes, extraordinarily hard working and talented, but normal. Perhaps one of them will be the teacher you will credit as the one that inspired you to be a writer yourself.
(from the article Worlds To Explore An Interview with Rita Dove, Teachers and Writers Magazine. Spring 2012)