Who am I and why do I write?

Hello everyone, my name is K. L. Phan and I’m an addict. My drug of choice? Books. My method of use? Reading. Anywhere, anytime, on anything. Digital or print, makes no matter to me, I’ll read it. Perhaps one of the best addictions to have for a writer.

I was born and raised in South Texas with a healthy appreciation for books. A librarian and a card catalog system were my best friends growing up. Everything you’d expect from the classic book worm, that was me.

At a young age I felt inspired to get ahead of my peers. My father just bought my family a computer with a printer. I considered it with the zeal only a child can appreciate. You see, my teacher wanted us to write a Christmas story and hand it in the next morning. That was our assignment. Those pieces of paper tumbling out of the printer with holes along the edges were magical. I wanted my story to look as pretty as those glorious pages he stacked on the desk. Pages just like a book.

With a grave expression, I told my father I wanted to do that too. My father took the paper I had carefully written my story on and taught me how to do what he called “typing”. Letter by precious letter I rewrote my story. I turned in my paper the next morning glowing with pride at accomplishing something so magnificent. At least in my own eyes. The teacher looked at it, gave a sad expression, and shook her head.

I was devastated later to realize she gave me a zero. A zero. In red pencil at the top of my paper. My beautiful piece of hard work was tarnished and I was worried my story wasn’t good enough. I think I cried. 100s were what I always received, what I learned would earn me an A+ sticker. What was a zero? More importantly, what would my father say about it? I used his precious paper to print out my homework and got a bad grade. That was a nightmare. So many self-doubts consumed me. Later she explained that I shouldn’t hand in something I didn’t do myself. Memories are fleeting things at best, but I remember how angry I was. She said she would call my father and we’d have a parent-teacher meeting because she didn’t believe me when I said I wrote it all on my own.

When I went home I cried my frustration out to my father and told him the whole story. He said he would take care of it. Being an adult, he tells me this story years after I’ve forgotten most of it. About how young I was, determined, and the shock on the teacher’s face when he explained I had written and typed it up all by myself. The story doesn’t quite resolve itself so well. Though I showed initiative and learned something new, it was decided that my method of completing the assignment was unfair to the other children whose parents couldn’t afford a computer and printer. The real hero of the moment was my father, a Vietnam veteran with a modest career and several of his own children to look after. To level the field for everyone and so my assignment would count, he brought a computer to the classroom for everyone to use. Not just me.

It’s a special memory for me, one very private and not often shared, but it was the start of a long road to learning what I love most is writing. The gift of sharing a story capable of evoking a lingering, emotional response. To give someone the chance to take from my tale an aspect of life they may never have reflected over before. The road to writing is a hard, grueling adventure. It takes dedication to put yourself out there and accept criticism when it isn’t always constructive.

After hitting a wall in college over my first choice of career, I reflected over my strengths and weaknesses. Throughout my college education at the university, I experienced more motivational support from those in the liberal arts department than in the sciences. Therefore, after discussing things with a professor named Dr. Janis Haswell, I decided I would become an English Major. People such as her, Dr. Diana Cardenas , Dr. Vanessa Jackson and the late Dr. Robb Jackson were great supporters of my decision to rethink my life. I always felt pressed to follow the norm, to strive for a high paying, science driven career “to make a living” in this world. However, what makes me happiest is writing, and folks, it’s precisely what I do.

9 comments for “Who am I and why do I write?

  1. Michael Lee
    September 22, 2013 at 4:18 am

    I really loved the story about you writing when you were younger. I can so see myself saying something like ‘I will take care of it’, to my children. Your Dad bringing a computer to your class so everyone could use, that is a noble and honourable act.

    Thanks for sharing this :)

  2. Michelle Packert
    September 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    You’ve always inspired me to want to write, even if it seems like I don’t really have anything to say. Although, it helps that I enjoy reading what you write. Your writing style is smooth and unique, I guess something that comes to mind is also quirky, but in a good way.

    Anyway, what I guess I’m trying to say is that you have a lot to offer the world in terms of literature and I’m hoping that your writing gets noticed and spread around. If anything I want you to do well so I can be selfish and tell my son, “You see that lady? I know her, and she’s a badass author”.

  3. Jon Hemphill
    September 12, 2013 at 10:25 am

    I too really enjoyed this story. I can see it in my mind’s eye how you were as a little girl when you first saw that computer. I can probably even guess that it was one of the old workhorse Epson MX-80 (I think if one were to look up “dot-matrix printer” there would be a picture of one of them). I can also imagine how distraught you were when you gotten the zero from the teacher.

    Thanks for sharing this with all of us!

    Jon

  4. September 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    “It takes dedication to put yourself out there and accept criticism when it isn’t always constructive.”

    I agree with that, and I find it applies to many aspects of life. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • September 11, 2013 at 10:22 am

      Thank you for the feedback.

      I’m glad you agree. College trains you to respond to peers with constructive criticism, but in the real world that is not always the case!

  5. Edworthy Farms
    September 8, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    ” it was decided that my method of completing the assignment was unfair to the other children whose parents couldn’t afford a computer and printer.”

    This is what I find upsetting. Even if you actually did the work, it was still considered ‘unfair’ because other children couldn’t afford a computer and printer? Get out of here. This teacher must have been teaching because she couldn’t have done anything else in life. Printing something out on the computer wasn’t diminishing the other kids’ grades so it makes no sense why this was ‘unfair’.

    It sounds like she found out she was an idiot when your dad informed her you did write the paper so she threw in the ‘but it is STILL unfair…’ to salvage her own ego. Idiot woman.

    • September 11, 2013 at 10:26 am

      Consider it an antiquated method of teaching. Now at days, you hear the same case though. It’s “unfair” for a student to take advantage of something he or she has available to them that not all of the students in his or her class have to utilize. Only in college does this practice seem to be acceptable, but that’s an entirely different discussion there.

  6. Susan Lee
    September 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Awesome entry and a good story I had no idea had happened to you. As I read this, I was curious about how you did the assignment, then furious as I read the teacher’s actions (the gall of the teacher to say you didn’t do it on your own, and then when confronted with the testimony that you had, she had to save face by declaring it unfair – makes me wonder how she worded her assignment prompt).

    • September 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      You have to consider this was something done a very long time ago. First or second grade rather than high school or college. The instructions were very simple. Not that I could tell you word for word what she gave back then. All I remember and all I have through my father’s retelling of the story is that the assignment was to write a Christmas story.

      As a child, I can’t imagine it impressed anyone other than myself. And how precious that was to me at the time.

      I did not want to sidetrack myself with adding time frames to this. Dot matrix printers are fairly antiquated. They are the ones with the linked pages that have holes along the edges you “peel” off. Most consumers purchased them in the late ’80s. Computers and printers were very expensive, which is why my father providing the school with one, specifically my classroom, was such a big deal. Later before I was in 5th grade, that school conducted a trial program to provide personal computers to students with certain TAAS score. It was very specific and very few students hit the magic number. I was one of those students enrolled in the program to test whether or not computers were beneficial as a whole for educational purposes.

      By 5th grade, our library ended up with a few computers and even a rudimentary computer course to teach students how to use them. I feel my father helped impact a great number of children at that time, but the story I wanted to tell wasn’t that, it was my first brush with letting someone else read my “story” and what inspired it. :)

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