Moving to England
I barely remember my first few years of school. My mother told me that I used to watch Sesame Street and she used to make flashcards for me and play reading games with me and my father used to take me to the library and read to me every night. I went to preschool at four years old and then I went to Stewartstown Elementary. I moved to England in the middle of second grade because my dad got a job offer there. I went to a private school called Daneshill. I had a hard time. Cursive writing was totally different there than what I had started learning in Stewartstown. Spelling was totally different. Several common words like "trousers", "trainers", "jumpers"-simple commonly used British words were slightly confusing at first, but I caught on to the slang pretty quickly. Comprehension was not my strong point; I always needed extra help. The teachers had no problem giving me help-I was "American", I was different, I was not as smart as the "British" kids.
Although this is true, I had to read every night and have my parents sign for me. I really enjoyed reading, when I understood the story. Math was particularly hard for me-seeing as they were teaching multiplication in second grade. I started learning French my second year in England. My interest in French culture and language grew. I took French all throughout High School and visited the beautiful country several times and I became a French minor in college. French has not really influenced my writing up to this point, but it may in the future. I struggled academically, (except for French), but I learned a great deal about the British culture and have a great appreciation for the country. I did not realize my passion for writing until Middle School or High School. I now feel that language is truly everything. It doesn't really matter how you learn it, just that you learn it.
My Early Passions
At first, my dreams where a little more extravagant than being a writer. When I was younger, I dreamed what all young girls dream-to be an actress or a singer. I wanted to be rich and famous. I wanted everyone to know my name. As the years passed, I learned many things about being in the spotlight. During my years in Daneshill, I performed in several school plays. I don't remember the first play because I didn't have many lines, so it was no big deal. The second play I was in, I played a raven. I was so nervous that I threw up before the performance. My mother was there to help me. In my third play, I played two parts; Sporty Spice and Bee Jackson. I threw up before that performance too, but my mother wasn't there, so a friend of the family had to hold back my hair. My stage fright did not end there.
In Middle School, my boyfriend at the time convinced me to join Choir to raise my self-esteem. Although I was reluctant at first, I agreed to join and enjoyed it. In fact, I sang the Concert Choir all four years of High School. During one of the Christmas concerts, I passed out in the middle of "Deck the Halls". The last thing I remember is hearing "Fa la la la la, la la la la." The conductor stopped the concert until I woke up and was escorted off the stage. I was so embarrassed. Since then, I had to make sure I ate enough food and was properly hydrated and did not lock my knees when performing. Even though I really enjoyed acting and singing, I realized those petty dreams of becoming a musician or an actress were unrealistic and not what I was interested in doing.
How I Learned I Was Good At Writing
I was always creative when I was younger. In England, I was part of the writing staff for "Pupils Planet", the school newspaper. I had many articles and poems published in the small monthly paper. Mr. K, the director of the paper, said that my writing was so prolific and creative that he wanted to add a segment to the paper called "The Weird and Wacky World of Shannon Prusak". My third grade teacher, Mr. Bond, always thought my writing was interesting to read. I wrote a story about a burglar who breaks into my house while I'm home alone and I kill him with a shotgun; this shocked Mr. Bond because people in England don't typically carry guns, in fact, the police officers don't even carry them. However, Mr. Bond really enjoyed my poetry. I wrote a poem about our class trip to Italy and he told me that it was amazing, for a third grader anyway. Those were the days when writing came easy because I was not worried if people would criticize my work or not.
Things changed for me when I moved back to Pennsylvania. The grades were totally different in England than here, a 50 was considered good. When the school directors saw my report cards from England, they thought I was an "F" student. They did not understand the British grading system. My mom tried to explain it to them, but they still put me in lower-level classes. Because of this, I would always second-guess myself and had a low self-esteem, until I hit Middle School. Mr. Terney, my Middle School English teacher, helped me to recognize my writing ability, and he did not criticize me. My poems were dark and gloomy at first, but as the year went on I started writing happy poems about cats and singing and Christmas. Mr. T brought out the best of my writing. He challenged me. He encouraged me. He made me realize that I should not give up, even when things seem absolutely hopeless. I guess I owe everything to Mr. K and Mr. Bond from England and Mr. T from Middle School. They helped me discover my writing abilities and encouraged me to keep on trying.
Authors That Have Influenced Me
I read a lot when I was younger, partly because I had to for school. I used to read RL Stine's "Goosebumps" series almost every day. His books are very suspenseful and he uses a lot of foreshadowing, which kept my attention. I have a whole bookshelf of his works. His stories helped to spark my interest in writing. I was introduced to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series my Senior year of college and it has helped show me that I am passionate about Young Adult Literature. My research paper for this class explains why Meyer is so successful and what I need to do to write like her. I hope to write Young Adult Literature as effectively as Stephenie Meyer one day.
How I Write
In Middle School and High School, I realized that I write better when I am stressed. A lot of my poetry has been therapy for getting my thoughts together and solving problems. I usually write my rough drafts on paper first for poems and fiction. With my academic nonfiction papers, I usually start typing on my laptop right away; if I get stuck, I take a half an hour break to clear my head. After I finish my first draft, I take a longer break. When I come back to it, whether it is an hour later or a day later, I fix spelling and grammar mistakes. I read the paper several times until I can't find any more mistakes or changes. Most importantly, I usually drink coffee to keep me awake and alert. I should probably use this process when writing fiction. If it works for nonfiction, it should work for fiction. This process would not help me with poetry though, usually after I finish writing a poem, I love it so much that I don't want to change it. Even if I find something wrong with it, I never know how to change it. Poetry is more personal to me; I hate the thought of changing my feelings to please others. I guess I'm just stubborn. However, Professor Walters has showed me how editing poetry can be a positive thing. I am convinced that the attitudes toward changing poetry that I had at the beginning of the year were wrong.
A Glimpse at the Future
I hope to be a famous and well-known writer one day. I want to write amazing stories that will amaze the public. I don't have a specific genre in mind; I enjoy writing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry equally. I want to be one of those authors that students learn about in literature classes. I know that I have a long way to go. I really hope that one day I can fulfill my dreams, but I know I won't get there right away. I still don't know exactly what genre I want to write. I hope that I write something that changes lives. I want to challenge what people think is right and force them to think in a different perspective. I want to ask the hard questions and I want to force people to face the harsh realities of the world. If I can change the opinion of even one close-minded person, then maybe that person in turn will change the minds of those around them. It feels empowering to know that one day I can make a real difference.