How I Became a Writer
When I was in the fourth grade at Westgate Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska I was a terrible speller. In fact, if my memory serves me right, I never did pass any of my spelling tests. It was a real point of embarrassment, and of some great concern to my teacher, Mrs. Miller, and my parents. If I interpreted their tone correctly, I was destined to be a failure and would probably be lucky to get a job digging ditches.

When Parent/Teachers Conference came around Mrs. Miller suggested a possible way to get me on track with my spelling. She had noted that I was a good artists (at least by crayon and finger paint standards), so she suggested that I be allowed to draw and paint to my hearts content. Then, once a week, I was to select one of my drawings and write a short paragraph describing it. My mother was to then review the short text and underline the misspelled words. Next, it was my task to look up each of those underlined words in a dictionary and write down the correct spelling. That part was not much fun, although it did introduce me to that source of words, and I think my vocabulary increased more than my skill at spelling.

The side effect to all of this was that I took so much joy in writing those little paragraphs about what I had drawn that I soon stopped drawing and just wrote the stories based upon what was in my head. And, of course, my mother praised my efforts, which encouraged me to write more, and, as they say, the rest is history. I have been writing prose every since.

In college I took narrative and expository writing and eventually gained the courage to try creative writing. In that class one of our assignments was to produce ten outlines for ten stories by the next session. We had discussed the process in class and so I set about my task, jotting down various thoughts for story lines and plots, each in a succinct, no nonsense manner, trying to capture the essence of each potential piece.

Sitting in the student center, with my outlines spread before me, I attempted to rework them into a more formal outline structure. As it would happen, a friend stopped by to talk. He noticed my work and picked up a few of the sheets to see what I'd written.

"I didn't know you wrote poetry," he said.

"I don't," I replied.

"Huh. This looks just like poetry. And it's pretty good."

"Naw. Just outlines for stories ... for my Creative Writing Class."

He laid down my sheets and prepared to leave. "Don't know. Think you're a closet poet ... and you don't know it." He smiled and departed.

But he got me thinking. So I showed some of my outlines to a few other literary types that I knew. And sure enough, they each thought they were reading my efforts at poetry. So, thus encouraged, I tried my hand at that genre and took a poetry class the next semester and later, I attended the Community Writers Workshop at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and got a few pieces published and became a "poet."

Over the years I've bounced back and forth between the two styles and enjoy writing both prose and poetry. And you'll have to be the judge if I've been more successful in one vehicle over the other. Or, for that matter, whether I've been successful in either.