When I was in seventh grade, I had an English teacher that everybody said was really strict and mean. He was short and had white hair that matched his beard and mustache. He had a big belly and a deep voice. His name was Mr. Scott.
While handing back our first graded essays, groans and huffs filled the room — Mr. Scott was no easy grader. When he stopped at my desk, I held my breath. Smiling, Mr. Scott leaned down so that we were eye level and said: "You're a good writer, the best in the class." Then he put down my essay, with a big fat A written on it in red ink, and walked away.
It was the first time I thought I was smart.
Several years later, when I was sixteen and a junior in high school, I read aloud to my sister and brother a letter I wrote to the governor of Nevada, protesting being mistreated by the foster care system. I felt I was being punished for being removed from the home of an abusive, prospective adoptive family because I spoke up about it. Why should I have to live in a group home and change schools, when a teacher at my high school wanted me to live with her? She passed all the background checks and was willing to enroll in foster care classes; it just didn't make sense. (There's a lot more to this story, but for the purposes of this blog post, this information should suffice.) After I finished reading the letter, my sister Rachelle paused for a moment before saying "You're a really good writer, Nikki. You should be a journalist." My sister didn't throw compliments my way often, so I was thrilled by her praise, yet I scoffed. "Journalist? No way, I'm going to be a lawyer. (Also in the same vein, in middle school, I had a friend who I thought was NUTS because she wanted to be an author; why would you want to spend that much time writing when you have to do it in school?)
Fast forward to college — by this time I was used to being praised by most of my teachers. I loved writing, for any class, as well as getting complimented by my professors for my skills. It gave me a confidence that I didn't have in many other areas of my life, and eventually I changed majors from political science to journalism.
I had always loved reading, but hadn't found a book series that pulled me in as much as "Harry Potter." After being bugged tirelessly by a friend, I finally read "Twilight." The movie had just come out, so I went and watched it immediately after finishing the book. I had a voracious appetite for the series, it turns out, and read all four books rapidly. When it was over, I felt empty. I finally was excited about reading again, but the books were over. What should I do next?
For some reason, this spurred me to want to write. I started by writing about my life, some bad choices I made at nineteen years old, and the next thing I knew, I had one hundred and eighty pages. I tired of the story and set it aside. About a year later, I came up with the idea for my novel, "The Desirables." I had never thought I'd write a novel, but here was this idea — I'll save that story for another blog post — and it seemed as if I had no choice but to write about it.
That was about four years ago. I've come a long way since then. I have a wonderful, successful mentor helping me with my book, as well as an agent interested in helping me improve it and possibly represent me. I'm also a journalist, so I guess Rachelle was right. I love writing and I can't imagine a life without it. I feel fortunate that I don't have to.