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A Writing Professor Throws a Spark

Education is about lighting a flame. “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
~William Butler Yeats

Last week I asked esteemed author Audrey Vernick to share her thoughts on why teachers are important. She sent back the following story:

“When you’re a beginning writer, you have no idea where you stand. You are so hungry for things that are still years beyond your reach while at the same time being terrified of taking any meaningful steps toward that goal because of how steeply the odds are stacked against you. A creative writing professor, an older man, called me into office hours, and we talked and he told me it was time for me to start sending my stuff out. I was flabbergasted—because I was still a punk student, a college sophomore. I thought we would all put in our time in college, then [for] a few years after that, and maybe then work toward having enough nerve to submit to a literary magazine.

He knew I needed to be told, I think. And when I look back, I wonder what he saw. And if there was anything to see, or if maybe this was a talk he gave all his students. It makes sense—developing the thick skin needed for all that rejection should start when you’re young. And it hardly matters. Because that moment—being told by a highly esteemed writer that it was time for me to take my first step toward joining his ranks—it was so important, so validating, and so deeply appreciated.

Vernick’s next book, First Grade Dropout, is illustrated by Matthew Cordell and due out in July.