There's something I've been keeping from you all:  I am a published poet. 

(And I'm not just talking about the sexy-ish haiku I wrote for creative writing in college that ended up in our class's self-published thingamagig that could still in the GRCC library to this day for all I know!  Although, that part is true, too.)

No, you see, when I was ten years old, there was a contest where the fifth graders at all the elementary schools in my town had the opportunity to write a poem about George Washington.  It was a competition!  There was one winning poem selected per school and a total of four or five schools.  I don't know about the other teachers, but mine made it a homework requirement that we write and submit the poem.

To compose mine, I pulled out the encyclopedia to learn a few things about Our Nation's First Pres and then put together a selection of words which included a fictitious conversation, flippant comments about the original G. Dub's dead mother and new stepmother (WHAT), and historical inaccuracies galore.  The only thing it had going for it is that it mostly rhymed.  ("Stones" rhymes with "Washingtons," right?  And  "die" rhymes with "apple pie"?)

I liked my poem well enough at the time, but I knew I wasn't going to win.  I didn't want to win.  All I wanted was to get credit for turning in the homework and move on with my life.  But win, I did.  First place.  I took the gold.  (A gold-colored George Washington metal, that is.)

The moment it was announced that I'd won was one of the most humiliating moments of my life.  It's been twenty-two years and I still haven't recovered.  I had to stand up and read the thing in front of the judges, my classmates, and my teachers.  (A total of maybe fifteen to twenty people.)  I was so anxious that I giggled the whole time I read.  Which meant that no one could understand me, and then the kids all made fun of me for days afterward.  Ugh.  It was worth it, though, because I would have much rather have been mocked for laughing through my own reading than for the actual words I'd written.

Part of winning first place meant that my picture and poem were published in the town's newspaper.  It was a pretty big deal.  I was glad enough about it because my mom seemed glad.  She curled my hair and had me wear a matching sweater and skirt for my photo shoot.  As the years went on, though, I realized more and more what a horrible poem I'd written as a ten-year old.  I cry a little with embarrassment whenever I think about it.

(One thing I realize now, it was an early glimpse of what would become my colloquial writing style for homework.  My poem started with the words "Today I thought how it would be..."  See?  I made my poem about my own experience in learning about George Washington instead of having it be all about him.)