Feb 21 Written by 

How Embarrassed I Am, Part I

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Every writer has an embarrassment or two somewhere -- the first few publications, things we were so proud of that never should have seen the light of day. My first published short story was about a lesbian rejected by her family. The next was about an African-American woman who loved the blues and Hollywood musicals. I knew nothing about either situation including musicals but figured hey, it's fiction, I can make up what I want, right? Can't I? It's a free country! In my teens I put extra swearwords into a short story after I won a prize for it and got to read it aloud to a roomful of fellow students. Several years later I witnessed another young writer doing the same, and felt about 50 percent better, although my embarrassment is still such that 35 years later I will not attend class reunions. And what a firebrand I was, writing editorials for the student paper, so much so that I got taken to the woodshed by the faculty advisor. All I can say is: Wow, I had nuts! It was the 1970s! The first poet I ever saw was Nikki Giovanni, who wrote about cleaning her gun, for Chrissakes. I was reading feminist poetry in The Hand that Cradles the Rock and Mountain Moving Day. I don't recall that I ever read any short fiction before producing my own.

I was going to say how I can't forgive myself my premature publications and missteps, but realized that writers grow up in public, more so, than say, business or pre-med majors. There is still every chance that a fire will consume the archives. I wonder how it'll be for the young writers growing up online. I sure am glad there was no Internet when I was 19.
1490 Last modified on Monday, 21 February 2011
Catherine Rankovic

Writer, with 30+ years' writing and publishing experience, 20+ years' teaching experience. Last book read: Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton.