The worst story I ever wrote was for Mrs. Massey in 5th Grade. It was about the lights of downtown Atlanta. I think it was my first piece of nonfiction. Up until that point, I had been submitting fantasy stories about talking animals. She liked those kinds of stories better and encouraged me to go back to fairy tales. She was right, and the criticism stung my little 9-year-old ego.
(My experience with the lights of downtown Atlanta would’ve come from weekend visits to see my mother. The drive to her house was like going to Disney World. So it was fantasy, sorta.)
Now everything I write turns into that story. They all turn out dark and serious. They are all about home. Mrs. Massey would be disappointed, but I can’t stop trying to get it right.