The Day I Knew I Wanted to Be a Writer

The written word is nothing more than black squiggles on a white page, and yet those squiggles have the power to produce physiological responses in the human body. I learned this lesson early, and I’ve never, ever forgotten it. Once, I approached my eighth grade English teacher and told her I wanted to read some serious books, the kind of books that would prepare me for college. But I didn’t know what those books might be. She smiled and handed me the Bantam Classics catalog. “Pick out anything you want, and I’ll order them for you.” I had no idea what to choose, so I picked the ones with the prettiest covers. That’s how I came to be reading George Eliot’s Silas Marner. I was lying on my bed when I came across this passage:

In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child’s.

For a moment, I felt like I was floating an inch off my bed. I decided then and there that that was what I wanted to do—write words and sentences that would make other people feel something.

–From Comeback Season

Cathy is the author of two books, Comeback Season (Free Press, 2008) and The Circus in Winter (Harcourt, 2004). She’s published many stories and essays as well. You can find out more about Cathy’s writing—past, present, and future—by following the links.