The first thing I ever wrote that was actually published was a single paragraph.
In 1967 I was 12 years old, and a subfreshman at Uni High. My English teacher, Charlene Tibbetts, gave us a class assignment to write a paragraph starting with a topic sentence followed by supporting examples (or something like that; I’m not sure of the details.) Anyway, I turned in this paragraph about eating spaghetti.
I was surprised a couple of years later to find that Mrs. Tibbetts had liked my little paragraph enough to include it as an example in a book she was writing, “Rhetoric in Thought and Writing.”
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As you can see, she paired my spaghetti paragraph with a paragraph by philosopher Susanne Langer about the function of language. I’m not sure what conclusion readers were meant to draw from the comparison. Langer’s writing is rather challenging, and while I can now understand what she’s getting at, to my young teenage self it was completely impenetrable.
Anyway, it was a thrill to have some of my writing published in an actual book. I suppose that’s something you never get tired of.
Here’s the text of my paragraph:
Everyone eats spaghetti in a different way, but there are several main kinds of spaghetti eaters. First, there is the winder. He winds the spaghetti around and around and around on his fork. Either it falls off or it is so long that when the winder is finished winding there is too much spaghetti on his fork, and he can’t possibly stuff it into his mouth. Then there is the scooper, who tries to scoop the stuff up with his spoon. This person scorns the winder and thinks that he (the scooper) has a much better way. But to the scooper’s dismay, the spaghetti usually sticks to the plate. By the time the spoon reaches his mouth, most of the spaghetti has slithered back to the plate. Another way of eating spaghetti is the way of the sucker. This person manages to get the tips of two or three pieces of spaghetti in his mouth and slowly sucks them up. Besides being very unpleasant to watch, this way of eating often produces a loud, irritating, hissing sound and the sucker is usually excused from the table. From these three main styles I have made a conclusion: there is no really good way to eat spaghetti.