Day 1: Thank you, Mrs. Douglas

Written by on January 9, 2018 in Conversations on the Journey with 0 Comments

Day 1 from Gabriela’s Book Club diyMFA. 

When did I become a writer?

Happy the Sad Dog of Dogtown — don’t remember what spurred me to write that story, my first attempt at a chapter book. I just remember the joy of writing it as I labored over the steel keys that stuck out from the black Royal typewriter. It weighed more than I did. I was in the 3rd grade.

My father had recently taught me how to type, basically where to place my fingers on the keys, and this chapter book would be the first creation to come out of my new relationship with this marvelous tool.

I loved words. I read them wherever, whenever I could. My greatest joy next to the Sears Christmas Catalogue was the Arrowhead Book Club. It was the best part of school. I eagerly searched through the thin pages, some in color, others black and white, breathing in the smell of dried ink, reading summary after summary for the books I would beg my parents to buy for me.

My mom always got most if not all the books I asked for, probably taking the money out of her babysitting and housecleaning jobs. I didn’t think of that back then but I am grateful now.

Her money wasn’t wasted. I devoured those books, especially the ones that were about people overcoming great odds, the ones who were not believed in at first, even ridiculed, but went on to become great scientists and politicians, and in the case of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor.

I loved words in detail, including the letters that made them up. I studied cursive like the student artist studying Michelangelo or Monet. I experimented with writing in the classical tradition and then went all Picasso on it as to be barely legible.

But the typewriter… Even haltingly, as I know I was in the beginning, I saw the potential to harness racing ideas in words typed at the speed of thought.

Happy the Sad Dog, my first book. Perhaps my first attempt to hint that things were not as they seemed, that people weren’t who they said they were, that behind a happy face lived a very sad little girl? The story remained unfinished as my attempts to tell had been unsuccessful. But it didn’t stop me from writing.

The story was awful. But the process was glorious, and I was on fire.

Until indifference from those around me put it out and writing became something I did in private, only showing a piece or two I knew would be approved.

Until Mrs. Douglas, in the 8th grade. Somehow I had shared a piece with her, and her reaction encouraged me to share another. She asked me if I had more. She asked if I would read them to the class. So I did. I was terrified, choosing not just the short prose praising my father which he loved dragging me in front of friends and relatives to read, but something I had written about a little Native American girl caught in a sudden storm in the desert.

She loved the piece, held it as an example of good writing, a scene that suggested a larger story, not yet written but worthy to be.

That’s when I realized my words meant something. That what I wrote had value in and of itself and not just to the extent it served or flattered another, that I could tell a story and make something come alive and move people.

My first incomplete novel in the 3rd grade introduced me to the joy of writing. Mrs. Douglas seeing me as a writer made me realize I was one.


~ Keeping the Dream

About the Author

About the Author: Demian Yumei, author, singer/songwriter and artist activist, using spoken, written word and original songs in her human rights activism. Demian is a traveler on the healing journey with a lifelong love affair with the creative process. .


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