July 11th, 2011 / 6:06 pm

I bet you remember the first person who encouraged your writing. (You probably want to thank them, or kill them.) I bet you remember the first person who discouraged your writing (or maybe even the writing life).

We like stories. Do tell.

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  1. Frank Tas

      My senior or junior year of high school I wrote a piece of flash fiction called “Cocoon.” I called it that because I wrote it while listening to the song “Cocoon” by Bjork. In the story, a guy makes an incision in a girl from the top of her hip bone to the bottom of her ribcage and simulates oral sex on her because the girl was born without genitalia or something. It’s supposed to be a commentary on love without sex or something. Who knows, I was probably a virgin for way too long and was obsessed with overly romantic notions of love, so it makes sense.
      My freshman year at Boston University the school’s lit journal set up an online submission site that allowed students to have their submissions be rated and reviewed by the staff prior to publication. That way students could make revisions to their stories and resubmit pieces if they were so inclined.
      I submitted “Cocoon,” and I remember being really excited about it, because I thought it was a great little story, and a lot of friends of mine had been excited about it as well. But when I checked the comments the next day, one of the Editors-in-Chief left me a message to the tune of:
      So, naturally, I started submitting more pieces. There was one about fucking a girl to death, one about anthropomorphic tapeworms inside of a homeless dude’s stomach, one about Jesus Christ killing someone to get into a maximum security prison so he could rehabilitate all the inmates by allowing himself to be their sex toy until they all learned to love each other emotionally and physically. Then I got banned. When I emailed the other editor about what the problem was he told me that the editor who wrote me the all-caps comment about “Cocoon” was brought to tears and almost threw up after reading it, and she was his girlfriend, so he couldn’t have anymore of that.
      I ran into some people in real life who mentioned my antics and Cocoon. They all read Cocoon in such a way that the dude had literally cut out the girl’s vagina, even though I specified rib cage to hip bone, which I think says more about the readers than it does about the piece, and then three years later I became Editor-in-Chief of the same retarded journal.

  2. sm

      First two writing profs: one was having personal issues and didn’t give anyone feedback; spent most of class reading aloud to us and crying. Second was a debut novelist who taught a night class and clearly wasn’t interested in teaching at all but doing it for the $. Didn’t really have anything useful to say about anyone’s work (except for one lady, who was a personal friend of hers) and refused to write me a letter of rec for grad school. I teach creative writing now, largely spurred on by these first two abysmal examples which (naively but luckily) I refused to take personally.

  3. MFBomb
  4. Leapsloth14

      So, did he give you good or bad feedback? Most people hate him, as we all know.

  5. MFBomb


      I just like the article and feel like it applies to the topic–I’ve never worked with either writer.

  6. Leapsloth14

      Got it.

  7. MFBomb

      Are you talking about Boyle? I have heard that he rubs some folks the wrong way…

  8. Brendan

      People shouldn’t be encouraged to write.

  9. Brendan

      People shouldn’t be encouraged to write.

  10. Leapsloth14

      Yeh, Boyle. Everybody thinks he’s an ass, and a douche (there’s a dif). I don’t know. Never met the guy. I like to give someone a break, unless/until I meet them in person, can verify the word-on-street. Who knows? He can write, though his stuff seems to never change. It can get old. Great to teach, though.

  11. Leapsloth14

      Yeh, Boyle. Everybody thinks he’s an ass, and a douche (there’s a dif). I don’t know. Never met the guy. I like to give someone a break, unless/until I meet them in person, can verify the word-on-street. Who knows? He can write, though his stuff seems to never change. It can get old. Great to teach, though.

  12. MFBomb

      Yeah, I’ve heard the same from a few people.  Maybe he still has a chip on his shoulder from his experiences at Iowa.

  13. Simplicity

      The first person who encouraged my writing was not a person at all but a cat. She said I should write as much as possible. No, I’m kidding. My cat actually dislikes my writing. It was this dude named herocious (he wrote this http://www.amazon.com/Austin-Nights-ebook/dp/B004M8S60C) who encouraged me to write. He lives in the apartment above me and he asked if I wrote and I told him I had a short manuscript. He read it and said it was quiet like rain. Now he’s thinking about publishing it so other people can listen to the rain. But I’m not a writer, I’m a librarian. No one has discouraged me except for myself. I don’t share my work with others much. Every now and then I do. But I’m not confident about it.

  14. Andrew Field

      The first person who encouraged my writing was Mrs. Falbaum, my fourth grade English teacher.  She had huge glasses with huge lenses that increased the size of her eyes tenfold, so she looked some surprised aquatic creature staring out beneath the glass.  She also routinely referred to herself in the third person, as in “Mrs. Falbaum would like for you to wait to use the bathroom,” and “Mrs. Faulbaum does not approve of your using the word ‘butt'”.  But she was wonderful.  Every day before a vacation, she would write on the board “R _ _ _, R _ _ _, R _ _ _”, and we’d fill out the obvious blanks with “e” “a” and “d”.  That’s when I started writing vaguely Twilight Zone-ish stories, and I remember one with the story “The Hardware on the Seventh Floor.”

      The first person who discouraged my writing never discouraged me directly, but he eviscerated my friend’s rhyming poem, which, admittedly, was somewhat atrocious.  This was in college, we were in a creative writing class together, and my friend submitted some rather stupid poem for workshop.  Maybe the teacher was waiting for this “teaching moment” (more like “destroying moment”), but he kind of leaped onto the poem like a hungry vulture and tore it open, (and to shreds), with the beak of his ferocious, insatiable mind.  Ever since that time, I have always imagined my mean internal editor to look just like this man.  Weird.

  15. gold witch

      what grade did you get?

  16. Leapsloth14

      That’s a good call. He writes with a chip on shoulder, no doubt. That’s part of his attitude. It is sort of weird at this point. I mean he is an actual literary writer who makes a good living off his books. That’s like spotting a bison, on your lawn, serving drinks. But he can’t let it go. Very Stephen King (their only comparison–Boyle is a better writer then King, though only slightly [no one seems to notice that King can actually write, on a sentence level]). Anyway, Boyle has met all lit-writers dreams, but can’t let the chip go. That’s fine. More than likely his fuel.

  17. Leapsloth14

      Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.

      Flannery O’Connor

  18. Sally Jenkins

      I’m puking.

  19. Sally Jenkins

      Hey, Sean, where are you getting these sweet photos? Or what are they? Should I know?

  20. David Fishkind

      my high school english teacher was like ‘write’ and so i was all ‘k’ and then my mom was like ‘that story you wrote about killing a dog made me nervous’ and i was all :'(

  21. Danielle Oliver

      I was asked if I plagiarized content both at age ten and eleven, which was discouraging, as I didn’t know what plagiarism meant.  At twelve, I had a teacher who kept submitting my work to children’s writing competitions that I kept winning.  She was ruthless, and used to throw chalk at me when I told her I didn’t want people to read what I wrote.  I was further suspected of plagiarism in high school so, frustrated, I stopped until senior year, when I had a teacher who used to read my poetry aloud to the class without asking me.  He kicked my ass, and despite being confronted again in college re:plagiarism (are you sensing a theme? at least Google exists, now, for exoneration purposes), something stuck and I kept going.  Wonderful bastards, those two.

  22. Samuel Sargent

      In first grade, I wrote a story for a Halloween assignment that contained a fairly advanced plot for a six year old. My teacher encouraged me to write more and it was at that point that I decided I was a writer. She’s no longer a teacher but she makes pretty damn good dip mixes these days.

      And I actually can’t think of anyone who has actually discouraged my writing, aside from editors who reject a piece, and even most of those have been somewhat encouraging for the most part. (Which isn’t so much a signifier of the quality of my writing as it is an indictment regarding how lazy I am about putting it out there.)

  23. Prisoner Golic

      I came.

  24. deadgod

      Doubtfull it stood,
      As two spent Swimmers, that doe cling together,
      And choake their Art:  The mercilesse Macdonwald
      (Worthie to be a Rebell, for the that
      The multiplying Villanies of Nature
      Doe swarme vpon him) from the Westerne Isles
      Of Kernes and Gallowgrosses is supply’d.
      And Fortune on his damned Quarry smiling,
      Shew’d like a Rebells Whore:  but all’s too weake:
      For braue Macbeth (well hee deserues that Name)
      Disdayning Fortune, with his brandisht Steele,
      Which smoak’d with bloody execution
      (Like Valours Minion) caru’d out his passage,
      Till hee fac’d the Slaue:
      Which neu’r shooke hands, nor bad farwell to him,
      Till he vnseam’d him from the Naue toth’ Chops,
      And fix’d his head vpon our Battlements.

  25. deadgod

      Ack.  “[…]  For to that/The multiplying Villanies […]”.

  26. Frank Tas

      Other funny stories about supporters and detractors:
      Got heckled by a white girl with dreads at a reading after using the phrase “black guy” in one of my stories, despite having previously used the words “chink” and “faggot.”
      Got a fruit smoothie thrown at me from the second story of the mall in South Street Seaport while doing a reading at 5 AM, though I don’t think it happened because of my writing. When the drink missed and crash landed right beside me I started scooping up the spillage and drinking it. To win.
      Then there was the time a fan of my work read a short story of mine instead of her own work at an MFA poetry reading, but I missed it because my friend was in a Qdoba burrito eating contest on the same night, and burrito eating contests will forever be better than poetry readings.
      I used to be friends online with a now pretty well known poet who’s been posted about on here in the past. I was in high school at the time, and we used to talk on AIM, and he’d tell me how he was certain I had a big dick. He was three years older than me and it shouldn’t’ve creeped me out but it sort of did.

  27. Leapsloth14

      What types of dip?

  28. Leapsloth14

      I just like photos of confrontation so keep them. This came from a book about photos:

      Focus On Composing Photos: Focus on the Fundamentals

  29. Tummler

      As part of a class assignment in first grade, I once wrote a story about all of the clothing in the world suddenly vanishing from existence, leaving Earth to be one giant nudist colony. The protagonist was a little boy who was determined to find out what happened to everyone’s clothes. On that day we had a substitute teacher who was a scowling wrinkled old bitch and, needless to say, I got in trouble for my creative genius. But even though she had flipped out about it, my parents instead encouraged me to keep writing, so then I wrote a bunch of Goosebumps ripoffs about zombies and sea monsters and shit.

      Then in eighth grade, I wrote a short story about a depressed, impotent father who kidnaps his son’s best friend and keeps him handcuffed to the radiator in the basement. As I recall, the dad ended up swinging an axe into the back of his son’s skull and then offing himself. My English teacher really enjoyed it and also encouraged me to keep writing, so two years later when my tenth grade English teacher announced a class short story competition, I cranked out a 26-page epic about an aging lepidopterologist trying to save his butterfly pavilion and defeat his alcoholism. The teacher told me it was either so beyond him that it was brilliant or so beyond him that it sucked, and he decided that it sucked, which discouraged me at first but ultimately taught me a valuable lesson about taking criticism. Alternately, the same teacher strongly encouraged me to keep writing poetry, so that was something too.

  30. Frank Tas

      “a 26-page epic about an aging lepidopterologist trying to save his butterfly pavilion and defeat his alcoholism”
      I want to read this. This sounds like the best thing in the world. Jesus Christ.

  31. Samuel Sargent

      Chip/veggie dip, powders that get mixed into sour cream or cream cheese. Sweet ones, spicy ones, all sorts of dip. She makes a pretty good raspberry cappuccino mix also.

  32. Shannon

      The first person to acknowledge my writing and then discourage and encourage me was my fifth grade teacher. My friend drew dirty little comics, stick figures with giant boobs and dicks, I wrote in the thought bubbles. Usually things that said OH BABY OH OH OH etc. My friend and I got caught, I got in trouble. My teacher first chided us for giving other students inappropriate notes in class. Then he told me I should write stories without naked people instead.

      I only sort of followed that advice.

  33. Stephanie

      I used to live in Flagstaff, AZ, and I’d had some journalism-type work published. I decided I was awesome, so I sent this work out to big, national papers. I had one editor write back and say “What works in Flagstaff doesn’t work everywhere else.” Many years later, during a semester long fiction writing workshop, my teacher talked about his nervous breakdown (He said: “Do you know that expression ‘your life flashed before your eyes?’ That’s how it started, then the world went black”) and how he had all these piles of his books in his garage just sitting there, just collecting dust, just wasting everyone’s time. On the last day, he said if we gave him an envelope with our address on it (we could slip it under the door of his office if he wasn’t there), then he’d be happy to send us some of books.

  34. Leapsloth14

      My English teacher really enjoyed it and also encouraged me to keep writing

      OK. Sort of digging your teacher.

  35. Guestagain

      I wrote a story titled OI! about the city in decline. A journal was interested in publishing it only if I changed the title, they claimed it was a skinhead salute. I wrote another story about a dancer I once dated. She knocked on the door and showed me a gun, threatened to kill me. I tweeted this – “I coulda swore I had a video of Osama Bin Laden fucking a pig in the ass, but I seemed to have misplaced it.” A fundamentalist group emailed me and threatened to kill me.

  36. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      You win!

  37. Guestagain

      winning! by losing, the new American spirit

  38. Merzmensch

      There were many people, who encouraged my writing. There were many people, who tried to stop me with this. My first language teacher in a small experimental school in Moscow, an old tired woman with huge glasses, asked us to write. Just to write some lines using some specific adjectives and verbs.

      I wrote a text. A little story about a man and his dog, who were dispatched in their boat somewhere middle of the sea. They had no food, and both were tortured by hunger. But neither the man eat his dog, nor dog the man. The boat was found at a coast with two corpses – a man and his dog, who remained friends till their last breath, and famished, without touching each other. So far my text.

      My language teacher didn’t spoke with me many days.
      I understand, I have to write.

  39. Jackson

      no one knows that i write.