I can remember when I first realized that I had the heart of a writer. I mean, I always kept diaries or journals when I was growing up, but somehow, that didn’t feel like writing to me then. It felt like a much needed escape from the world that obviously didn’t understand me. How telling about writing, right?
I was a freshman at Marywood College, now Marywood University, in Scranton, PA. I was naive, and gullible, and so willing to learn. I had a class that year, called Writing Skills, that all freshman students had to take to get the basics of writing and literature set as our foundation for four more years of learning. I was privileged enough to have the master, Barbara Hoffman, as my instructor. She changed my life that year.
The first day of class, she arrived in a clown suit, and she had a trunk in the classroom, full of trinkets and things to inspire us all, and to help us to fall in love with writing. She even popped a bottle of champagne for us all the sip, the celebrate the magic of the written word. She was extraordinary.
The types of assignments that she would give us were not your typical reflection papers or academic essays. She had us bring a mirror to class, look at our own reflection, and write about it. She had us write about the closet that we imagined of our favorite famous person (at the time, for me, Elton John!). But the essay that I wrote that solidified my love of writing, was writing about the Hershey’s Kiss.
She brought kisses to class, and had us write madly as we examined, ate, and savored those kisses. Write about the total experience, she advised us. Get present to this object, and taking it in, and write it all down. It was really one of the most profound experiences of my life, getting present to my life experience, AND recording it.
What kept me writing, was that she saw my gift, and she absolutely cherished it. When I would get any paper returned, it was covered, top to bottom, in scrawl of blue or red, commenting on almost every sentence, and then ending it with a full paragraph of advisement, on how to take my writing to the next level.
She was absolutely brilliant, and a gift to me and my world.
I hadn’t thought of Barbara for a very long time, until today. She passed away five years ago, quite suddenly, and I felt her passing deeply, although I had not had contact with her for over twenty years. Her presence in my life deeply impacted me, and awoke the sleeping writer in me.
So, Barbara, today I salute and honor you, in all ways that you should be honored, for showing me what I had within myself.