Sometimes you read something that feels like it was written just for you. That’s how I felt when I read the following quote this summer: “Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When I wrote the first draft of this letter, I was pregnant with our second child. Matilda was born on August 12, at 1:21 in the morning, weighing 7 pounds 6 ounces and 20.25 inches long.
But more than the obvious connection, this quote describes the feeling that I get at the beginning of every school year. The fresh start every August is pretty grand. I feel full of hope and new ideas, and I look forward to making new relationships with students. What makes this year bittersweet is that I won’t be there on that exciting first day. I’m not there to see my past students with new haircuts, a few more inches on their height, and a new sparkle in their eyes. I won’t be there to savor the excitement of the freshmen—some new to Harpeth Hall, some returning, but everyone equally scared and exhilarated by all the possibilities this year holds.
Despite being sad that I’ll miss the first day of school, I look forward to getting my own fresh start on October 20, when I return to school. In some ways, you get two starts this year! One in August with Ms. Noel or Ms. Sevits and then one in October when you and I will get a chance to meet for the first time.
One of my favorite beginning rituals is to sit down in the summer and write a letter to my future students to introduce myself. This is my eighth letter, and now that I have done it this many times, I think I have to keep it up until I retire.
Before I become a little puddle of sentimentality and whimsy, let me get to the introducing part. Hi! I’m Mrs. Griswold and I’ll be your English teacher! I now have two kids (that is so weird to say, still not used to it), Calvin who is two and a half and Matilda who is a newborn! I got a lovey monogrammed for her recently, and someone asked who it was for. I answered, “My daughter,” only to realize that was the first time I had ever said those words.
This is my fourth school year at Harpeth Hall and my husband, Mr. Griswold, teaches at Harpeth Hall as well. For three years he taught middle school science (some of you may have had him) and this year he is moving to the upper school to teach math (some of you may have him). He is also going to be on leave at the beginning of the school year, returning the end of September, so that we can all spend time with our baby.
In addition to our human family, we have a dog named Django and 6 backyard chickens who lay delicious eggs. If you visit my teaching blog (mykindleclassroom.blogspot.com) you can see the letter I wrote to students last year where I talked more about my chickens.
Mr. Griswold and I moved to Nashville from New York City where we lived for 6 years. We both went to New York independently for graduate school, and met when we were both teaching at our first jobs. Before living in New York, I lived all over the world. I was born in Ohio, but spent middle school in Mexico City and high school in Caracas, Venezuela. I went back to Ohio for college but spent my junior year in London. I speak fluent Spanish and conversational Portuguese. If you catch me chatting with Ms. Lund, you may hear me in action.
I have spent a large part of this summer writing a novel. In November 2012, I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month, abbreviated NaNoWriMo. In 30 days I wrote 50,000 words. This has been one of my greatest accomplishments, and like many chance connections in life, it is very wrapped up in my memories of my cancer diagnosis. On November 17, 2012, I found out that a lump in my neck was thyroid cancer. If you have read The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel had thyroid cancer. Hers was much more aggressive than mine, and I had surgery to remove my thyroid in December 2012 and I am currently cancer free.
After that experience I competed in my first triathlon, which was another accomplishment I am proud of. I would probably be doing another one right now, except for the whole, you know, giving birth to a human creature thing. Next spring I hope to compete in at least one more.
Since my activities have been more limited, and I had a little deadline ticking away in my belly, I have devoted myself to my novel this summer. See, you may find this crazy, but 50,000 words isn’t enough for a novel. I’m glad I didn’t know that when I wrote my first draft, because I may have quit or not even started! Actually, you need more like 80,000 or 100,000. So, I wasn’t done after my first NaNoWriMo. I have spent 3 other chunks of time since then working on editing and extending my novel. Believe me when I tell you that the second draft of a novel is harder than the first. The good news is that, at least in my experience, the third draft is easier than the first two! I spent about 2 hours each day this summer reading, writing, editing, and revising.
On July 25, I reached the end of my third draft and I had 75,000 words, which felt like a good place to stop. I printed out all 275 pages of it, and my next step is to edit it with pen and paper. I find that step daunting, so I am letting my manuscript rest for a month or two. I need to look at it with clear eyes, so I gave myself a break.
After editing on paper, I will need to go back and make those changes on my computer, print and edit again. Then sending samples to agents in hopes that they will represent my book and try to get it published. It’s a long road, but one I am excited to walk.
Tag, you’re it! Tell me about who you are. Please write me a letter in response where you introduce yourself. One letter won’t tell me everything about you, but it’s a start, and you know how I feel about beginnings.