Anyone who knows me understands that I’m all about helping people reach their potential and goals. Lord knows I had enough negativity with losing pageants and dance contests when I was very young and very fragile.
A lot of that junk stopped in high school. I hadn’t grown into a reedy five-eleven supermodel nor did I resemble Cindy Crawford in the least. I was five-three, had the typical teenage bout of acne and wore glasses. Too much reading, I suppose. In any event, I wasn’t on my way to Hollywood or the catwalk.
Because we lived in a pretty bad neighborhood, my parents sent me to an all-girl school in a ritzy part of the city. It was overwhelming to have to make friends again and with rich kids no less. But I was determined to see it through.
One of my first assignments in English was to construct descriptive sentences. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Although I had two weeks to hand in my paper, that night I started to work on it. One of the things I’d always loved about reading was the pictures it painted in my mind. I recall a book I enjoyed as a child—Mystery in Old Quebec. To this day, I remember the scene where the characters are in a room with peeling wallpaper and how the glow from the fireplace cast everything in a rosy light.
Having read many of the classics, Greek mythology, and all of Dickens’ books, I knew I was competing with a lot of talent. Never have I worked as hard. In grade school, I’d always wowed my teachers. I had no cause to believe it would be different at this new school.
How wrong I was. When my paper came back to me there was a huge “F” at the top and an ominous “See me after class” scrawled across the bottom. I wanted to die. How could I have been so wrong? I kept rereading my sentences, trying to determine where I’d failed. My words didn’t seem as bright and shiny as I’d originally thought, but they couldn’t be that bad. I remained behind after class, reduced to the timid soul I’d always been. The teacher, an arrogant older woman, told me I got an “F” because either I’d had someone write the paper for me or I’d stolen the sentences from novels. “You couldn’t have written that,” she said. “You’re not that bright.”
Despite her insult, I assured her I had written every word. I was fourteen and possibly stupid, but well read.
She kept calling me a liar. Then she said, “You’ll never be able to write anything but your own name. Get used to it.”
With that, I gave up on myself, thinking she’d been so brutal and unfair simply because I was such a lousy writer and she didn’t have the courage to tell me. Foolish reasoning, I know, but again, I was only fourteen and practically a charity case at the school. I barely passed her class. I struggled through four years and did graduate, but I never got anything above a “C” in English or creative writing. I figured that was my legacy. She was correct. I was nothing, especially not a writer.
College was now looming and was I ever scared.
Tomorrow: Tina Donahue Day 4: A Glimmer of Hope
Tina Donahue is an award-winning, bestselling novelist in erotic romance, and an admitted chocoholic known to down semi-sweet candy bars in grocery checkout lines. She lives with her family in Palm Springs, California where tires melt in the 120-degree summer heat and an occasional earthquake puts everyone on notice to bolt things down. When she’s not writing her steamy stories, trying to stay cool, or crawling beneath her desk during a trembler, she loves shopping, eating at her favorite Mexican restaurant and meeting other authors. Before she wrote romance, Tina was the editor of an award-winning Midwestern newspaper and worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company.