Dear Mrs. Steube,
I know this letter is a couple decades late, but I just realized something rather important in my creative life that I didn't have the foresight to know in your 8th grade reading arts class. I'm sure you don't get many letters from former students, so please know that this letter is half a confession and half a thank you note.
First the confession. I know that 1986 was a long time ago and you probably don't remember me from your home room, but during the semester when you made us read Ray Bradbury's 1951 book The Illustrated Man, I spent most of our discussion time doodling in my notebook and drawing cartoony things on my Trapper Keeper folders instead of taking notes and working with my classmates.
You see, that book with all of its strange science fiction stories was over my head at the time, so I took comfort in unleashing my creativity in black and blue ballpoint pen doodles while keeping watchful eye on the clock, counting down the minutes until the bell rang. I know, I know, those C's I earned on my tests reflected poorly on me, but in hindsight I can see that it was fate that directed me away from The Illustrated Man and towards becoming an illustrating woman.
As a junior high school teacher, I'm sure you can appreciate what good that cartoony doodling did for my developing adolescent self. It:
Now the thank you. You'll be happy to know that my "C's" eventually turned into "A's" in college, and I've always been a voracious reader (I regret missing out on appreciating Ray). Best of all, the doodling I did in your classroom seeded my creative garden with artistic possibilities that went on to inspire more satisfying creativity in my life.
Yes, when I found myself inexplicably DRAWN to doodling on my office dry-erase white board, I took it as my sign to leave the corporate ladder in my cloth-walled cubical and take up the profession of graphic arts. Now I'm a creatively-fulfilled graphic designer, writer, and creativity enthusiast who published "You Can Draw Cartoony Things!", and I want to give it away to anyone who wants it.
So thank you, Mrs. Steube, for making us read Ray Bradbury. It gave me a consistent space each weekday afternoon to practice my creativity in your classroom and went on to serve me well in life.
The Illustrating Woman
Chris Dunmire is an artist, writer, and humorist and founder of the award-winning Creativity Portal Web Site. Her books include the origami Dollar Bill Folding Fun! Money Plant, and "World's Hardest" April Fool's Joke Puzzles. Her work and projects has appeared in Writer's Digest, Northwest Quarterly, Money by Sandra and Harry Choron, and Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper by SARK.