The first writer I ever met was Robert Cormier who came to the Westerly Public Library during my senior year in high school. But the first writer I ever spoke to was John Ball. He sat beside me in advanced fiction writing during the spring of our senior year. I’d taken a few writing courses but John was the first person I met who wanted to be a writer, who stated his intentions clearly. I’d read one of his stories in the campus literary magazine, a magazine that had routinely rejected my own prose, and I’d loved it. I had no crush on John, nice as he was, nor did we spend any time together outside of class, but his in-workshop friendship thrilled me. It made my own aspirations seem so reasonable, so concrete.
On the final day of class, he said to me: “I can’t decide if I should get into a graduate writing program or get married. What do you think?”
Until that moment, I had no idea you could go to graduate school for creative writing. The idea seemed as absurd and as miraculous as marriage did. I hope I wasn’t so desperate for a boyfriend that I told him to get married, but the truth is, I have no idea how I responded. I’m sure it took me a while as the idea that school didn’t have to end here, that, in fact, at the next level, the opportunity to immerse myself even further in the world of writing, derailed my thoughts.
But here’s the point: for the first time in my life, a life in which I always knew I wanted to be a writer, I understood how valuable another writer could be: Writers know stuff other writers need to know.
For this reason, I have started a new feature on my blog called Weekend Write-In (I will also continue the personal essays I’ve been writing this past year). I’ll be offering my own advice to writers, sharing tips and encouragement, but I’ve also invited several writers, artists, musicians, architects — all kinds of creative types — to guest blog on topics they would like to share with a community of creative people.
And if you have an idea, I’d love to hear from you! You can message me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t know what happened to John Ball. I tried googling him but, wouldn’t you know, there’s a very famous crime writer of the same name (but much older) so my search turned up nothing. I hope he did continue to write. I hope he is happily married. I hope all his dreams came true.