I think I was in second grade when I started writing. The teacher put these lines up on the blackboard and told us to finish the poem.
“Where are you going little leaf/I hope you don’t meet any grief.”
Most people added a single couplet. Some added two. I added twenty couplets and a four-line ABAB stanza. It was shown all around school, and put on the bulletin board for a PTA meeting. I may still have it somewhere. My mother was pleased.
A few months later I was sitting in my father’s chair with the lapboard, writing something. My mother asked me what it was. It old her it was a poem. She said, “You’ve written one poem, why would you want to write another?”
Several years later I was writing stuff, ideas for stories, lists of things, I don’t remember. I wrote a lot of lists. My father asked what I was doing, and I told him I was working on a story, that I wanted to be a writer. He said, “You’re not Ernest Hemingway and you never will be.”
Many years later I actually read something by Hemingway. It could have been the first pages of “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” I never got any further. I remembered what my father had told me, and if he had been still living I would have told him that he was right. And that I was grateful that I would never be like Hemingway. Because I did not like the way he wrote. Not at all. And I still don’t.