Early encouragement and guidance can lead to immeasurable effects on a young writer. Some people are lucky enough to find a mentor early on that provides a spark of inspiration to a burgeoning young author. I was lucky enough to have a dynamic teacher who nurtured my love for writing and literature.
Mr. Wernopfsky was my eighth grade English teacher. He had way of making writing and literature fun. He was also the P.E. teacher and when we were reading “Romeo and Juliet” we named our gym class football teams the Montagues and the Capulets and had epic junior high battles on the grid iron. He also used a Grammar Race to guide us through the tedious grammar exercises necessary to help us learn proper punctuation and spelling (I won my class race, not to brag).
His innovative teaching techniques brought to life pieces like “Young Goodman Brown” and we learned that the theme to all the literature we covered that year was “death.”
Beyond his interesting lectures, he provided very detailed feedback on our writing. I got more than “this is excellent” on our essays. He would pull out specific passages and ask questions that would make me think more deeply about the piece. He also circled particularly strong turns of phrase and would not only say they were good, but would point out what kind of reaction they created when he read it. He was the first teacher that made me think I could be a writer; a real writer that could get an audience someday.
I went on to high school, then moved a few years later, so I lost touch with Mr. W. But his impact has stayed with me. In my new high school, I joined the school paper and started to consider a career in journalism. The path I took to finally becoming a “real” writer was long and winding, but when I look back I know where my journey really started. So thanks, Mr. W, wherever you are.
Do/did you have a writing mentor in your life? Comment below.