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Kissed by a Muse

Life was a blank page just waiting for the stroke of my pencil.

By the time I was eleven I had decided on and similarly discarded several career goals. Santa never did bring me that plastic medical bag I always wanted and being a princess pretty much flew out the window when Prince Charles wed in July of that year.

Since I loved to argue my family figured I'd end up being a lawyer, which sounded just as good as anything else at the time. I didn't know where I would live or who I would marry, but I knew I could get good grades and go to college. It was one big life decision wrapped up in a very safe, predictable package.

That idea pretty much came to a screeching halt in October of 1981.

I was a typical sixth grade student at Alice Landergin Elementary in Amarillo, Texas. I was a good girl who did what I was told and colored inside the lines and was an exceptional student. That made what happened when Mrs. Adams handed out our Halloween writing assignment even more unusual.

The assignment itself was pretty straight forward. It was a Halloween story we had to create based on a plain black and white illustration of a house. It was the first time I had ever been asked to write a story that I can remember, but since I was such a good student I didn't anticipate any real problem fulfilling Mrs. Adams' expectations.

How hard could it be to write a story?

My mind churned as I stared at the picture. I knew I was expected to write something scary, but there was nothing inherently spooky about the house the way it was drawn.

My pencil took on a life of its own as it scrawled across the wide-ruled notebook paper. The story unfolded about a man who loved his bride so much he wanted to build her a classic two-story home big enough for loads of children. As the many years passed the loving couple found that they were unable to have the family they had so wanted, and their house became a ghost of their unfulfilled dreams. When they died the house was turned into an orphanage, to fill that once empty home with a love so strong it could be shared from beyond the grave.

I colored the picture with bright, cheerful colors, attached it to the story and turned it in without a second thought. In fact I was rather excited to see how well I did on this new challenge. It never occurred to me that I would fail... until the day the graded assignments were handed back to us.

My excitement soon gave way to anxiety when I realized my teacher had given the assignments back to everyone else but me. The more I thought about it the more I just knew that I had screwed up. I hadn't fulfilled my teacher's expectations for a spooky Halloween story, which is what I knew she wanted.

I had colored outside the lines.

My knees shook as I scooted out from behind the desk and made my way up to her desk. I'm sure my voice trembled when I asked Mrs. Adams where my assignment was, though I wasn't sure by then if I really wanted to know.

Mrs. Adams gestured over her shoulder to the bulletin board behind her desk. Pinned to the cork board was that bright, happy picture with one noticeable change – an “A+” circled in bold red ink .

It was as though the sun parted through the heavens and a chorus of angels began to sing. In that one moment I knew what I was born to do. I had a talent – a gift – that made me special, that made me stand out. I couldn't know then what that pivotal moment would mean for my future, but suddenly going to school for years to become an ordinary ol' lawyer didn't hold the same appeal it once did.

Little did I realize that one day I'd ultimately make my living as a writer, or that I publish my own books or get optioned to write a screenplay that was far scarier than that first story could have ever hoped to be.

But I did know I would never look at a piece of paper the same way again. Life became a blank page just waiting for the stroke of my pencil. The whole direction of my life changed in one moment in 1981. I was kissed by a muse and I never looked back.


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