There are many teachers in my life whom I owe great thanks, starting with my parents, Dr. & Dr. Jones. But I think I will spend this post expressing my deep appreciation for my eleventh grade English teacher, Patricia J. Ramon, who was the first person to encourage me to write fiction.
I was a junior at Benjamin E. Mays High, the flagship public school of black Atlanta. It was a good school, but it was a math and science magnet and I was neither a mathematican or a scientist. In addition, I was a lonely kid, much younger than my peers. I felt like the new kid even though eleventh grade was my second year at the school. I played in the band, only because my brother was in the band, but in truth, I was terrible at the flute and hated it. (I tried over and over to lose my instrument, but someone kept returning it to the bandroom.) In the age of “Precious”, these highschool complaints seem pretty minor, and in truth, I was hardly scarred for life. But still, I was a baby writer, full of stories with no idea what to do with them.
Somehow, Mrs. Ramon noticed little me. One day she gave me a flyer advertising a short story contest. Would I like to enter? She asked me in private, after class had let out. I felt so special and, for once, seen. The story, The Pursuit of Michael Thomas, became my whole reason for living for nearly two weeks. The story was based on my incredible on a talk lanky member of the drumline. Once I finished the draft, my mother went her her job on the weekend and typed it up for me on the IBM Selectric.
On Monday, I handed my story to Mrs. Ramon, hoping she would think it was worthy of submission to the contest. Oddly enough, I wasn’t worried about winning or losing the competition, being chosen by Mrs. Ramon was prize enough. I didn’t even know when the winners would be announced, so imagine my surprise when I received a letter in the mail a few months later informing that I had won the contest!
I don’t think there was any money associated with winning, but there was a celebratory reading. My mother sewed me a new dress– pink with a white collar. My father made a special trip home form DC. My sponsor, Mrs. Ramon, also attended. The ceremony was in the evening; Mrs. Ramon was off the clock. Further, she had three young children and she not only brought them, but they were all dressed up like they were going to church in matching dresses and ribbons. She must have rushed home after the last bell, fed the kids, dressed them up, and then loaded everyone in the car to help me celebrate my special day.
So, here’s to you Mrs. Ramon! In celebration of this day, I looked up her address on line and I sent her a copy of Silver Sparrow. I also sent her this, a copy of my prize winning story. I hope that she will remember me.