Any writer would do well to reflect on those in the past who had a part in molding his or her understanding of the written word. After all, without teachers, where would any of us be? So today I wish to honor a special lady who made a tireless impact on a multitude of Michigan students in her English classes for forty-four years.
When I look back at my youth and reflect on those who especially encouraged my early interest in being a writer, after my parents the next major influence was Delores Forsmark, who went home to be with the Lord on September 9th. I felt so sad when I heard the news, and then memories took over from there.
“Mrs. Forsmark” taught me English and literature at Genesee Christian High School in Burton, Michigan, between 1983 and 1987 (she taught at GCS a total of twenty-two years). But that’s not all. She took an extracurricular interest in my fiction writing and encouraged me to paricipate in a few writing contests.
Anyone who has pursued creative writing knows what I’m talking about. I was just a scared kid who liked to put words together, but I didn’t know what to do with this interest. Was my writing any good? (Or did it stink and nobody had the nerve to tell me?) Was this writing itch worth scratching? She helped provide some direction when I needed it.
Above all she was encouraging. I remember submitting a particularly bad short story called “The Curse of Greed” for one of the contests. Of course, I didn’t win the contest or even get a ribbon, but Mrs. Forsmark was positive, cheerful, and supportive—always highlighting what she thought I did well. And that’s really what I was looking for at the time—someone knowledgeable in English or writing to confirm that perhaps I had some talent in this area and to encourage me not to give up on it just yet.
And I didn’t give up. Eventually I won first place in creative writing at the Michigan Association of Christian Schools fine arts competition—definitely a pivotal moment in my history (to God be the glory). Without people like her along my path, I might have given up on my dream of being a published novelist or really any type of writer. I’m very grateful that God uses people like her to be our cheerleaders along the way.
When I close my eyes and remember Mrs. Forsmark, several qualities come to mind: her cheerful spirit, patient smile, and long-suffering dedication, particularly when my classmates and I struggled to understand the difference between gerunds and participial phrases. Or when we reluctantly read Hamlet aloud, stumbled through the Elizabethan English, and surely butchered any semblance of what Mr. Shakespeare must have had in mind. I think the experience provoked more giggles than any true appreciation for the bard.
But she knew those trials of quizzes, tests, term papers, and read-aloud Shakespare would serve us well on our journey to adulthood—and life is much richer because of them. And why did she do this? Certainly not for monetary gain; I know those teachers didn’t make much money. For applause? No, I’m sure she wouldn’t have wanted to be the center of attention. Perhaps she knew God had called her to make a difference in our lives. And so she did—quietly, in the background, like a true and faithful servant of God would.
If so, I’m Exhibit A.
Even today, as I edit another book in my home office, I can’t help but appreciate one of the important people who was such a big part in encouraging my love for words. Without that love, planted by God and nurtured by special people in my life, I surely wouldn’t be a writer or editor today.
Years after my classes with Mrs. Forsmark, God led me to pursue print journalism in college (I didn’t see how I could make a living with a creative writing degree), and I’ve been a professional editor since 1991, working with two companies for fourteen years and working independently from home since 2006. And nope, I never gave up on fiction writing.
After God opened the door for me to publish my first novel, after being out of touch with Mrs. Forsmark for a good many years, she sent me a note:
I just completed reading your novel, Fatal Illusions. I was excited that I knew you way back when you and Jim [her son, a classmate] were in my English class.
Congratulations on your exciting page turner. May many be saved and God glorified by His precious blood by means of reading your work and seeking Him in His word. Congratulations again.
Encouraging, as always. And there’s another vote from someone I highly respect to keep the meaning in my suspense. Of course, God gets all the glory, but Mrs. Forsmark gets my thanks as well. She will be sorely missed.
What about you? Can you look back at your life and identify the cheerleaders who encouraged you during those tough times along life’s journey? Maybe you know someone in your life who needs a cheerleader today. Why not pass on that encouragement to someone else?
- Sorry, no post today due to editing demands
- How Can I Be an Editor Too? Part 2