Feb 22, 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway!

You know when you align yourself with someone, hoping that maybe, just maybe, some of their amazingness will rub off on you, that some of their character traits will maybe sink in, or as I like to say, that you really want to be like them when you grow up.  That's how I feel about my first (!) guest blogger.  

J.A. Bennett was one of the first bloggers that I *met* and immediately thought she was amazing.  I loved what she had to share, how she came to my very new blog and made comments.  She is a genuinely nice person.  Then she deleted her blog for a bit and I was seriously so sad.  I felt like a friend had just moved away, I missed what she had to say and even though she kept coming by my blog, I wanted more (I'm sometimes a little selfish that way).  

But have no fear - she's back with a beautiful blog and she just wrote her 200th post.  And I just passed 200 followers.  So we thought it might be fun to celebrate the 200's, be guests on each others blogs and throw in a giveaway (details at the end).

Here is the story of how J.A. Bennett became a writer.  

It was the last semester of my senior year of high school and I was the girl who was trying too hard. Seriously. If you had asked me then if I wanted to be 'cool', I would have said no. But it would have been a blatant lie.

The previous semester my classes had consisted of art, and foods, and teacher assistant positions. No real work was involved. So when my mom pushed me to take an English 1010 class and get it out of the way, I grumbled.
I wasn't sure I even wanted to go to college. I didn't feel like academics where my thing, and English -- forget it. I couldn't spell. Surely that I meant I was terrible at English, so I took a seat at the back of the classroom.

My high school had this thing where you could take a regular high school class and get college credit. I was in the class with twenty some-odd other high school seniors, and I didn't want to look like a dork. Plus there where rumors about the teacher -- disciplined, tough on students, and lots of homework. To say the least, I wasn't looking forward to the class.

Mr. Downs was his name, and from the moment he got up in front of the classroom I started to hyperventilate. Maybe it wasn't too late to switch classes; maybe my mom would understand if I didn't go to college.  Then again, maybe not.

The first thing he had us do was write about what kind of we saw ourselves as. I took the opportunity to pour out all my misgivings and hope that he would take it easy on me if I mentioned my weaknesses. We finished and handed the papers up to the front.

The class was far from over, and I wondered what else we could be doing that day. You can imagine my shock when Mr. Downs stood up in front of the class and started reading each paper. He kept it mostly anonymous,  but every once in awhile he would jab a student on a point of grammar or spelling.

When he got to mine I was trembling in my seat. I expected him to pick out a dozen mistakes, but he didn't. He read it calmly and seemed to sympathize with what I had written. I had written so many stories before that had never seen the light of day, but that was the first time anyone had read my work aloud. The way he spoke, the words just flowed. It felt real and honest. I felt like a writer. He looked at me like I was writer.
That day was only the beginning, he taught me more about writing than anyone had in my previous 11 and 1/2 years of high school. He taught me that good writing comes from the heart, and he taught me that I was a good person just the way I was. I didn't need to be 'cool'. I just needed to find myself. He helped me get there.

Since that class, I've never stopped writing. Never would I have believed that I had any talent before that day. He taught me that with hard work your dreams can be realized.

That's why I'm here, because one teacher believed in me enough for me to see my dreams. 

BIO: J. A. Bennett is a stay-at-home mom of a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl (with one on the way). Besides writing, she has a passion for cooking and good movies. She blogs at J. A. Bennett about writing and life musings. She is currently working on a young adult novel that involves time travel, world destruction, and the awkwardness of teenagedom.  She is also on Twitter, Facebook, and Google plus.

She's amazing!  Now, for the giveaway.  You don't have to be a follower (but that would be awesome if you wanted to).  All you have to do is jump over to her blog and leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for Midnight in Austenland.  While you are there you can find out what I'm giving away too.  But, if you leave a comment on BOTH our blogs, you get entered into a drawing for a $20 gift card at Amazon.  You have until Friday, February 24th to comment.

Thanks for being amazing readers!  I love this online community beyond words.


Kyra Lennon said...

What a great writing story!

Annalisa Crawford said...

How scary to have the work read aloud. I suppose you should be thankful he didn't make you read it!

Scott Niven said...

Hi there, Tasha (and J.A.!),

I just spend some time wandering around your blog and really liked your article about facing your fears. It made me realize just how many "writer" fears I have sitting in the back of my head waiting to cause me trouble!

Kelley said...

Congrats on so many followers!

And that is a great writing story.

J. A. Bennett said...

I'm totally blushing right now! You flatter me too much! And I only came to your blog because I like it :)

Nisa said...

Oh, I am so glad you had a teacher like that. If you weren't writing, we never would have met. How sad would that be? Um, sure, it would be sadder if you weren't writing period, but I'm selfish like that. ;)

Angela Cothran said...

Jen is awesome!!! Midnight in Austenland was also awesome. Love Shannon Hale.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

You guys are so cute. And BOTH of you are SO AWESOME! Love you both. :)

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

What a simple and beautiful gift he gave you. I hope that I can nurture the talent in other like that. I pray that at the very least I don't discourage people from growing their talent.
I didn't know you were expecting! How did I miss that? It almost seems like everyone is expecting right now! Not me! Five might just be my limit ;)

Wonderful choice in prize! You both chose fabulous books.

Peggy Eddleman said...

That story made me cry! I love it!

Anonymous said...

Excellent story. Reminds me of one of the more inspiring writing teachers I've had. And then he went to jail for sleeping with a student. Ahh...high school memories.

Emily R. King said...

Hi, Jen! It's fun to see you here at Tasha's blog today.

I agree that if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams. Thanks for sharing your story. : )

Jessie Humphries said...

I had a similiar thing happen to me in high school with a favorite writing teacher, Miss Naegle. She sort of broke my heart when she ran away with our married principal, but whatev! I loved your story.

Ruth Josse said...

Ah, high school english teachers. I'm sure there are a lot authors who owe their start to them. Including me.

Love your story, Jen! You wrote it beautifully. :)

Nicole Mc said...

What a beautiful story. I love how one amazing person—so often a teacher—can change your life!! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You endured the first reading of your work better than I would have!

Coleen Patrick said...

Thanks for sharing that story! A teacher was also the first to encourage me.:)

Sophia Chang said...

Yay! Thanks for sharing this story - it's so true. Sometimes just one person can start you or keep you writing.

Cortney Pearson said...

This is a fabulous story! I had a band teacher in high school who was my champion, he really helped me get through some tough teenage times, and I'm so grateful he was there! It's so great how influential a really good teacher can be!

Jen R. said...

It's so inspiring! :D Seriously, congrats on everything! :)