The obvious answer to this weeks question is: my first editor. But, because I have previously posted about what I learned during that time, allow me to step back even further, to a time before writing was a career and lingered still in that space where hopeful peeople stash their dreams.
My senior year of high school I returned to public school after six years in a private religious school. It was at this time that I met Mr. Grandy, my creative writing teacher. It was a great class; instead of the standard English class with increased difficulty offered at the private school, I finally had a class where what mattered was applying what I had learned bby diagramming all those horrid sentences.
It lasted only the last semester of the year, but it was the best part of school. We wrote and made a movie, we followed class prompts for assignments, and we got to work with fiction. The teacher took note of my work which tended to be much longer than the assigment dictated, and after we talked some he asked if he could take a look at what I had written. Delighted, of course, that someone wanted to take a peek at my words, I said yes.
This was the first time someone other than family or friends had read my work, and since he was a creative writing teacher I figured he knew what he was talking about, so when he came back with nothing but encouragement, I was happy, stunned, and motivated.
That stayed with me for years.
Before my first book was released, the publisher sent me two advance copies. I jumped through some hoops but found and contacted Mr. Grandy. It had been 17 years since I'd last seen him, but he remembered me and he agreed to meet me at the local Barnes & Noble. He brought his wife. I brought my mom. I gave him one of my two copies, signed on the thank you page where his name was first. We had a fantastic time that evening, talking, catching up. It meant the world to me to share one of my advance copies with him because he was the first person who made me feel like I really could do this.
I will always be grateful that he went the extra step and took my work home to read over the weekend. He didn't have to do that, but because he did and because he encouraged me, I held on to that.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your nearest and dearest, and I hope that you remember those who encouraged you and that you take it upon yourself to offer genuine encouragement to others.