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.