by Teri L. Kline
It is interesting, to me, thinking about those first nuggets of encouragement or discouragement on the path to identifying as a writer. I spent some time today going back to those earliest days. These conversations stand out in my mind.
MOM: You are sitting too close to the stove with that book, Terry! How many times do I have to tell you?
ME: One more chapter, ok?
LIBRARIAN: Teri, I was just about to lock the door! I didn’t see you behind that counter! What are you reading? Let’s go!
ME: Nancy Drew. Five more minutes?
LIBRARIAN: I loved Nancy Drew, too. OK five more minutes.
MRS SEE: Hello, Mrs. Lee? This is Theresa’s teacher, Mrs. See.
MOM: Yes? Is there a problem?
MRS SEE: Oh no, not at all. We at St. Patrick’s are noticing that Theresa is very quiet at school. She asked to stay in at recess and read. She is always writing stories and daydreaming. Don’t worry, she seems happy, not lonely, but we would like to have a discussion with you and Mr. Lee about starting to think about the convent for her eventually. What do you think?
MOM: My Theresa? A nun? I have never thought about it.
MRS SEE: Well, let’s just keep it in mind as the year progresses.
Christmas Day 1965
ME: (crying) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! MOM, DAD, THANK YOU! I never thought I would have my own desk! I love the lamp attached! Can we set it up right now? Where can we put it? I love it. I love it. I love it. THANK YOU!
Christmas Day 1966
ME: (crying) This is the book bag I wanted! Red plaid! Filled with books and paper and pens and pencils! I love you Mom and Dad! I love it. I love it. I love it.
MOM: Where have you been, it is getting dark?
ME: Trout Brook.
MOM: Yes, why?
ME: I like it there. It is quiet. I sit on the bridge and write poems.
MOM: I’ll never understand you.
ME: I’m sorry.
MRS DELPHINE JOHNSON: Teri, would you and Debi help me with writing a skit for the Family Night Program? I know you are a very good writer. It only needs to be five minutes long? Would you like to do that?
ME: Yes. Yes. I would. I would like it very much. Thank you. Really? Thank you!
MRS WUBBELS: Did you write this story?
ME: Yes. Of course, I did. My name is on it.
MRS WUBBELS: You didn’t copy it from somewhere?
ME: No. I wrote it.
MRS WUBBELS: Is the story true?
ME: No. It is a story. It is fiction.
MRS. WUBBELS. I don’t believe you.
ME: I’m sorry. I wrote the story.
“We are pleased to announce the winners for Wisconsin’s Statewide Eighth Grade Creative Writing Competition: First Place: …… Second Place: ….…. Third Place: …… Honorable Mention: Teri Lee from Hudson, Wisconsin.”
“The Co-Editors for the 1972 and 1973 True Blue Yearbook will be Teri Lee and Debi Iverson! Congratulations!
University of Minnesota: “The winner of the Marjorie H. Thurston Scholarship for Outstanding Writing by a freshman goes to Theresa Lee Kline.”
PROFESSOR HORBERG: Please stay after class, Teri. I need to speak with you.
ME: Is everything all right?
PROFESSOR HORBERG: Yes.
PROFESSOR HORBERG: Teri, our committee has decided that you will be awarded the Marjorie Thurston Award for best freshman writing in the Creative Writing division.
ME: Are you sure?
PROFESSOR HORBERG: (laughing) Yes, I’m sure. Congratulations. You deserve it. The vote was unanimous.
As the years went by, I continued writing and studying and taking classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.
Moving to the Bay Area in 2009 was a huge turning point in my life. The lit community in San Francisco and Oakland is very active. I learned about all the places one could submit work and was supported by this lively group of writers. Attending my first AWP, after having a several pieces published, gave me an opportunity to make more contacts. I am now on the Masthead at Literary Orphans out of Chicago as Interviewer and Reader. I’ve read my work at several locations around the Bay and at AWP HEAT. I have a short story forthcoming in Connotations Press.
I still get nervous when saying the words, “I AM A WRITER,” but there you have it!
Teri Lee Kline, though currently residing in Berkeley California, left her heart on the banks of the St. Croix River in Wisconsin. She studied at the University of Minnesota and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her short fiction has been published in Chicago’s Literary Orphans,Sein und Werdenout of the UK, and in the “Utter Nonsense” Issue of the illustrious Black Scat Review, an international journal specializing in absurdist literature and art, and in Connotation Press. Her literary interview and profile series has highlighted Meg Pokrass, Tantra Bensko and, most recently, Portland’s Dena Rash Guzman.