Early criticism

Trains of thought are funny things. I was driving home from book club, thinking about a caption I wrote under a photo of Leo on Facebook. I wrote, “Leo smiles more ever since Mia joined the family.” I wondered if maybe I should delete the “ever.” Yes, I actually copy edit myself after I’ve posted things online, and think about diction while driving. When I catch errors in old FB posts that I cannot change, I cringe and worry that people will think less of me. I think less of me.

The phrase “ever since” triggered a memory. I want to say I was in second or third grade when I was assigned my first book report. I’d heard of book reports, of course; I have an older brother. And I’d read books about kids who had to write book reports, like Anastasia Krupnick and Ramona Quimby. I don’t remember who the teacher was, or what the book was. Looking back, I don’t think we were even assigned to do “real” book reports. We were given half-pages of paper and were supposed to write back cover summaries. I read a lot, so I knew from back cover summaries. I wrote something like, “Ever since Susie Q started her new school, she suspected her classmates were really witches.” I was pretty proud of myself. It read just like the back covers of my books.

The teacher (might have been a teacher’s aide) was displeased with many of our book reports. She read an example of one that was especially egregious. Mine.

She didn’t name names, but I was really embarrassed and had no idea why mine was an example of what not to do. We weren’t supposed to start with “Ever since”? Was I supposed to write, “I read a book called Blah Blah. The main character’s name is Susie Q. Blah blah blah.”

This happened nearly 30 years ago, and I’m still scarred. What a shitty teacher. Sadly this wasn’t the last time I was told by a teacher at a fancy private school (who ought to know better) that I didn’t know how to write. Which reminds me of the time Anastasia Krupnick wrote a poem that she thought was wonderful, but got a bad grade because it didn’t rhyme. Her poet father disagreed with the teacher and changed the F to Fabulous.

Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

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