This Sunday, January 8, is my father Albert’s birthday. His encouragement is one of the reasons I became a writer. Here’s how it all started:
In our apartment, the dining room was my father’s office. In it was a big black desk anchored like a ship in a small ocean of papers and books. My dad was a writer when I was little and that was where he worked. I didn’t know what working was, but I knew it was important, because when he did it, we had to be quiet.
At three or so, I was just tall enough to peek over the edge of his desk and survey its exotic treasures: Pens! Pencils! Paperclips! Pudgy pink erasers! Pads of yellow paper! Writing had to be fun, that much I knew. Because when you were doing it, you could be very messy and no one gave you a hard time about it. In fact, the messier you were, the more you were working and the harder you were writing.
One day, a miracle occurred. My dad handed me one of his beautiful, brand-new yellow legal pads – the golden fleece, it seemed to me – and a shiny yellow pencil with its very own pink eraser on top. “I want you to write a letter to my editor, Mrs. Pumpernickel. Tell her I need more money!” my father said.
No matter that I didn’t know what an editor was or what money was or where to find Mrs. Pumpernickel. No matter that I didn’t know the alphabet or how to read. I was writing! I took my shiny pencil in hand and set to work, covering page after page of my legal pad with bold, confident squiggles. I finished my letter and handed it to my father. He looked over my chicken scratches carefully, nodding as if he understood every word perfectly. I couldn’t have been prouder if I’d won the Pulitzer! Then he fished in a desk drawer, pulled out a gleaming white envelope, and tucked my letter inside. “We need to mail this right away,” my dad said. What a thrill! I was hooked — and I’ve been writing ever since.