I sat uncomfortably in the hot gym, squirming on the wooden folding chair and tugging at the end of the dress my sister let me borrow. I leafed through the program of events for the night and saw my name under “Yearbook” and “Academic Achievement in English.” The last page of the program listed “Young Authors”, a contest I’d entered months before. My name was one of those listed, but there were too few names on the page for everyone who entered to be listed. I turned to my friend Sarah whose mother was in the English department at the junior high and had helped with Young Authors. “What does this mean?” I asked her, pointing to my name. She smiled and said, “I can’t tell you.”
Later that night, after the other awards were given out, I sat anxiously in my chair. Could it be that I placed? Did I get third? Second? There was no way I could have gotten first. The short story wasn’t that good. They announced the short story category last and when they did, they announced the places in reverse order, starting with third. Sarah got third, not me. Lindsay got second, not me. Then there must have been a mistake, I thought. I wasn’t good enough to get first. I looked up at Sarah’s mom, who was presenting the awards from behind a podium on stage. She looked at me and smiled. “And first place for short story goes to Liz S. for her story ‘Flight One o’ Seven is Being Hijacked!'” I couldn’t stop smiling.
Throughout my eighth grade year, I had to write several poems, stories, and essays to put together in a portfolio, something I had never done before. My teacher praised my work and gave me A’s. One day, I was sitting in the first row and she was handing back our short stories. As she handed me mine, she told the class how well I did and that if I was willing, they should read my story. I blushed.
For my twelfth birthday, Grandpa S. gave me my first diary. It was light blue and had angels on it. I played with the lock for an hour after I got it. I wrote in it every day, marking down events (“I saw Mike in the hall today and he looked at me!!!”) and kept it locked, in case Mom ever found it.
Samantha gave me a journal for my thirteenth birthday. The cover had pink and red roses on it, but there was no lock. I still wrote in it religiously, though. Year after year, I continued writing in journals, but I did so as if they were diaries, recording only events and rarely feelings. Each time I started a new journal, I told myself that I would try to get my feelings down on the page more than the year before. The problem, though, was that no one had shown me how to do it, so I thought I didn’t know how. It was a challenge. Slowly but progressively, I was able to figure it out on my own.
Another time during eighth grade, I had to write a five paragraph argumentative essay. When the teacher handed my essay back to me, I quickly flipped to the back page to see what grade I’d received. Two hundred points out of two hundred points, an A plus plus. The extra plus jolted me. I had written an argument on why we shouldn’t have to read one of the books we’d read for class. She didn’t count of for me speaking my mind. I felt I could get away with murder.