I have always had a therapeutic relationship with poetry and song lyrics. Writing free verse poetry helps me work through loneliness, worries, and tell my story creatively. My thoughts were always being written on paper, even as far back as when I just began to write. When I was in High School, writing seemed to help me better relate to the world and people around me. I had a stressful home life, and mostly kept to myself. I felt writing was a way to share a little about me with others. I read poems to friends, sang songs with lyrics I’d written, and was a self-taught guitar player.
My senior year in high school, a special teacher who taught business and typing, recognized that I had a passion for writing poetry. I sat in his class typing my poems while I was supposed to be typing a sentence over and over for a time and accuracy test. It was something like, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”
Noticing that I was not following the assignment, he told me I needed to do the time test to pass the class. I replied, “I took this class to learn how to type and I can type now.” I wasn’t as concerned about the grade. I was typing about 35 words per minute, which I thought was pretty good for a recent beginner. Rather than flunk me, he went to the school board to get permission to pass me if I could type the required words per minute, even though I was not typing the prescribed lessons. They gave him the permission, and he made a template and had the whole class type my poems. I didn’t know it, but he had a plan in mind, and gave me a priceless addition to my education. My classmates typed inside the borders of the template so it would all be in a uniform fashion. I remember feeling as though this teacher was the first person to give me a chance to be creative and pursue my personal interests, and it helped that the class seemed to enjoy reading and retyping my work.
The teacher and I discussed the possibility of having this collection turned into a book. He told me he had an acquaintance in Sanford, Maine who was involved in printing. It was something I was definitely interested in. I asked a friend if she would do some illustrations for both the cover and inside pages, and I titled my book, The Heavy Side. My teacher then hand carried my new manuscript to the printer and made several hundred copies. To pay for the printing up front, I sold copies pre-publication. I remember feeling a little nervous, yet excited when we sent a copy of the book to the library of congress for official copyright. A local newspaper reporter interviewed me, and I was written up in an article including photos of me in school. Some of the teachers were also asked about me, and their observations and impressions were included in the article.
My book gave me a great deal of satisfaction and a new outlook on meeting people. A lot of people who had never really known me other than by reputation suddenly seemed more open and friendly. I approached local gift shops and did a positive sales pitch about myself and my book. I was surprised with how pleasant they were to me and their willingness to put my book out for sale. I took a box of copies with me to college and sold them to fellow students from my dorm room. I was asking a $1.75 per copy. I only printed 300 copies of the book but felt like I had many more. At the time I was hoping to make a few dollars but primarily wanted to be known and respected for my creative words. I was told by one of my former teachers that I was the first student to publish a book while attending high school in Chester. That lifted my spirits with some pride for sure.
Creativity is something I believe can give confidence to anyone who is true to what inspires them. What comes out of their efforts displays their feelings, their thoughts, and gives them a sense of being themselves. Those who know them and appreciate their creations become closer.
Over 45 years later, a friend mentioned to me that she wanted a copy of my book. I have none left but told her it may be on some obscure list of books somewhere for sale on the internet. She wrote back and said she’d found a copy on a rare book site for over 200 dollars. She said it was categorized under “Hippie Love”. It gave me a chuckle, but was an exciting bit of news for me to hear. My first book was still out there, being read, and for sale.
(c) Rick Wyman