This week I mailed out three letterpress editions: one to my cousin, who has been holding off reading the PDF for many months in order to fully experience the whole thing, a second to Clare, the talented illustrator and printmaker in Portland who helped me realize the whole dream, and a third to my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Kevra.
She got wind of my book through a friend’s mom — the parents and teachers of my elementary school were very much involved our collective education. She was our fourth and fifth grade teacher, with a reputation for being hard on students. Since then I’ve realized that the teachers that everyone said were “too hard” were simply the ones who cared enough to push everyone to be their best, and Ms. Kevra certainly fit that description. I remember half-assing one writing assignment and it came back with a big fat zero and a stern note, which cannot recall verbatim but the message stuck regardless: “You can do better”. She called me out on my own laziness and I never forgot that.
I wasn’t exactly sure how to tell Ms. Kevra how much my time in her class meant to me, but then I realized that for all the words I could throw together, Zōsan was concrete evidence of her influence.
Fifth grade is where I learned to really write. Thirty years ago (!) I wrote silly and not-so-silly stories loosely based on all the things I read. The entire fourth and fifth grade classes pretended we were astronauts, pioneers, revolutionary war figures or native americans, and for the span of a couple of weeks researched and wrote as if we were actually living in that time.
I read a lot more then. And like most kids in elementary school, I did book reports. But Ms. Kevra allowed us to do our book reports on tape, and I loved listening to books on tape already, so I jumped at the opportunity. I read many Paddington Bear books and by the end of those audio book reports I had slipped into a inconsistent British accent that I picked up from renting every Monty Python Flying Circus VHS Cassette that the local video store had to offer. I probably did more than a dozen, though only a handful still exist.
It’s funny to me sometimes because I once dreamed of being a cartoonist, and a writer. It seems that you can’t really run away from those dreams, they merely follow you around until you choose to notice them.