It Had to be a Mistake!

That’s what I thought when the letter came in the mail. It was so official-looking, written on classy custom stationary and signed with actual ink, not just a stamp. I stared at it for the better part of a half hour. I thought about not opening it. However, curiosity will be my downfall one day. I tore open the envelope.

About four months before this, I had walked into my English teacher’s class just like I did everyday. I was a Teacher’s Aid for her for an hour in the morning, and then I had one of her classes that afternoon. Written across the whiteboard, in her loopy flawless teacher cursive, read “CONTEST ENTRIES DUE TODAY!!!” She had asked a few weeks beforehand that each of her students turn in a work of poetry for a national competition. Winners of the competition would be published in the America Library of Poetry’s yearly compilation of student works. It was a huge honor to be considered, let alone published.

I had only written poetry for me. It was scribbled in the margins of my math notebook, between dates in my history binder, and on random sticky notes in my locker. I would write them down in a small leather notebook I carried when I got the chance, but they were just for my eyes. I did not think that my writing was worth anything. My palms would get sweaty and my heart would begin to race when I turned in a simple paper. My poetry was sacred to me. Aside from a trusted few, no one ever saw it.

I had been drafting poems whenever I got the chance for this contest, but none of them seemed to good enough to send in. I gave up and shoved the due date from my mind. So when I saw that reminder on the board, I panicked. While I was making copies, I slipped into the computer lab, typed up the first poem I turned to in my notebook, printed it, and, when I walked into my afternoon class, turned it in. I was terrified. Some random stranger would be reading a piece of my life. I could barely breath thinking about it.

I held that letter in my hand. The letter of congratulations saying that I would be published in the next edition of the America Library of Poetry’s journal Accolades. I was shocked. There had to be a mistake. My work was not good enough to be published on a national level! What cruel trick was this?

I keep a copy of Accolades on my desk, right above my computer. I see it every time I  look up from a frustrating paper, and I remember. Every time I think I am not enough or my work is not good enough, I remember.

That was the day I became a writer. It was not just a dream anymore. It was reality. People were buying that book and reading my work. Eyes all over the country could see what I had dared to pen. I realized that I have a voice. I have a voice with ideas that deserve to be heard, no matter who hears them. My teacher sent in that poem despite the pit in my stomach and the breath I could not catch. I thought I was chosen by mistake, but it was the push I needed to realize that I could become a writer and that my work was worth reading.

That poem launched my writing career. Two years later, I was writing for a national journal and interning at my university, managing their blog and social media and writing articles for them. It showed me that being a writer is possible for anyone who is willing to trust their work. Writing takes courage.

If you want to write, do it. Let someone read it. It could change your life.



Add yours →

  1. Lauren McCrillis February 2, 2016 — 7:18 am

    I enjoyed talking with you about this touchstone writing moment in class! I am so glad something so amazing happened to you when you were younger. The story is full of confidence and encouragement, especially how you have written it here on your blog.


  2. This is inspiring Beth, the attention to detail and the matter of fact storytelling drew me into the telling of your story.


  3. Beth,
    This touchstone moment is very relatable. I think everyone feels that same fear of failure before sharing their work, especially writers. Writing does take courage, and sharing your writing takes even more courage, but fear of failure should never keep you from sharing your work. Writers need to be bold on the page and off.


  4. I agree with everyone above! Those details you included–the sweaty palms and random sticky notes in your locker–really made your argument sing. And now, best of all, I feel inspired to write!


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