Fifty-one years ago, I was a junior in high school. (This is my junior class picture.) We had an assignment in English class to write a theme paper. Mine was titled, "Home". When we got our papers back on Friday, October 23, Mr. LaChapelle discussed them with each one personally. He told me mine was very good and he would like to put it in the school paper (he was also the Journalism teacher) after I had worked on it and re-written it some - which I did over the next two weeks.
On November 11, 1959, I stayed after school to finish typing my essay for the Smoke Signal. I was nervous about it being published because of some of the things I wrote - like "not understanding the giggly airs of the town girls" so Mr. LaChapelle asked me if I would like to use a pen name. I chose Paula Shane - like everyone wouldn't find out that it was me!!
I wrote all about it in my diary including, "I'm so thrilled! But only secretly." The one thing I did not want to change about my essay was the title. I liked the simplicity of "Home" but the teacher thought it should be more sensational. Thus my first published writing was titled: "My Home Is Devoured".
First quarter report cards came out the next day. I was so shocked when I got a B in English! I had gotten almost all A's on every assignment and test, including my essay. He explained that he didn't give A's unless we did extra (unassigned) work. (I got A's the rest of the year.)
I felt like I really learned during my Junior English year. LaChapelle was a tougher teacher than most. I did go on to take Journalism my senior year and write for the school paper. I might even have pursued a career in journalism except for one thing my favored teacher said to me: "I can see you someday writing for the women's section of a newspaper. I was ahead of the times - women's lib - and he was behind the times. I didn't want to write about fashion and society and teas. I wanted to write news and editorials and features.
I no longer have my copy of the school paper and my first published piece, but I haven't forgotten about being Paula Shane and the thrill that came with being a writer.
I haven't forgotten.............