Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Molly Mahoney Matthews

I was not the kid who read under the covers with a flashlight. The pink plastic journal with My Diary embossed in gold that I got for my 13th birthday had a total of three entrees.

I suffered through English essays in high school, barely showed up for term papers in college, and the first memo I ever wrote was returned to me folded in half and stapled. When I ripped it open my hands shook. The note, scribbled by my boss across the top of the paper, said, “Molly this is terrible writing – it’s disorganized and makes no sense – please rewrite.”

Fast-forward several decades. I become a voracious reader. I can’t stop because I am so drawn by the power the author has over me. I envy these writers. I want what they have. They don’t even know me, yet they are changing me, challenging me, connecting with me.

I sign up for a class called The Writer’s Toolbox at the Writer’s Center. I have no idea how terrible I am. If I had known I would not have read my first few submissions out loud.

The class doesn’t point out that my writing is full of clich├ęs or that I include absolutely no dialogue, nor do they note that I use 5 words when one or two would do. They do respond to the heart of my story and especially the scene I’ve written about my father’s teasing me when I gain the freshman 10 pounds in college. I had some capacity for dialogue by then and quoted Dad saying, “Molly, another few pounds and a permanent wave in your hair and you’ll look exactly like your grandmother.”

After class a woman follows me to the parking lot. She is in her 80s, and I know she was a refugee after WWII. “Molly,” she said, “I have to tell you I really related to what you wrote. Do you know that I weighed 90 pounds at the end of the war? My Dad made fun of me too when I put some of the pounds back on -- and it was humiliating. I just wanted you to know.”

OK, not the Pulitzer or the Booker prize, but I had written something that evoked a response in another person. Wayne Dyer on PBS says you’ll see it when you believe it. That night in the parking lot on Leland Street, I became a believer or at least considered the possibility that I could be an author.

Since then, I’ve joined a writer’s group (we came about thanks to another class at The Writer’s Center and are all sharing our experience on this site during member appreciation month). You can learn more about our experience at http://www.sixgreatbooks.com/ Thanks to The Writer’s Center and my writing group for keeping the faith.

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