A scholarship fund has been established to fund a writer who would really benefit from attending Summer in Words. Her name is Holly Lorincz and I know she’s going to be a fabulous addition to the conference. Here’s her biography in her own words.
“I grew up with cardboard in the bottom of my shoes, fighting with my twin sister, reading in trees, mainlining salmon and venison while not-so-secretly wishing for McDonalds. We were poor. I didn’t know it, not really, not until I realized my lunch tickets were a different color, strobing fluorescent pink indicating free lunch. In middle school, kids mocked me for being a dork (reading while walking down the hall, wearing a beret) but not for wearing Goodwill Bargains. Well deserved, my friends, well deserved. God, I hated middle school. But I kept reading and writing.
I used my voice to get through college, honored with a full ride scholarship as I competed for the speech team. Then I became Editor of the college literary magazine Perceptions, which thankfully snagged me another scholarship. I earned first an AA in journalism, then a MAT in secondary education/language arts. Never in my life will I regret my time teaching about literature and writing and speaking skills to teenagers. I loved every minute of my time on the stage in front of those kids. Well, ok, there was that one time, but that’s a story for a different time . . .
Now I’m mother to a charming, six-year-old deviant named Auggie. I’m married to a man who never sits down, a man who has turned movement into an art form, another charming deviant named Andre. And I’m a high school teacher on hiatus. I’ve had to change my identity; I’m not really a teacher anymore. Oh, I like to say I am. I want to be. But I’m on medical leave thanks to some kid sneezing on her essay and handing me a page full of mononucleosis. Today, mono is Chronic Epstein Barr/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a virus that steals my energy and my mental stamina. This year I turned 40, flew to Indonesia, walked my kindergartner to the bus on his first day of school, sobbed on my resignation letter, and finished writing a novel.
It’s been one hell of a year. But better than last year, which was spent mostly in bed, often too dizzy to lift my head or too tired to take a shower. Better than last year, which was spent wandering in the darkest recesses of my foggy brain, decrying the loss of my health and more importantly, so I thought at the time, my identity. Better than last year, which was spent watching multiple seasons of tv shows within a week’s span, coming awfully close to suicide, Mad Men urging me on. Oh, yes. A shameful, whiny dark time.
Auggie saved my life. “Get up, Momma. Play with me, Momma.” A blog saved my life. “If you do nothing else, get up and get dressed, get out of those disgusting pajamas. Then go get the mail.” A friend saved my life. “Get up. Let’s work on this writing project together.”
I couldn’t face another year like the last, so I let them save my life. I get up everyday. I get dressed. I call myself a writer. I write. I’m fatigued, nauseated, fuzzy headed, sometimes slurring like a drunk. I write.
I waved to Auggie as his bus lumbered down the road on that first day of school. I wanted to be in my own classroom, on my own little stage, staring down seniors on the first day of school, handing out copies of Beowulf and writing process flow charts. I taught language arts at Neah-Kah-Nie High School for fifteen years. My greatest love was teaching writing, and coaching the speech and debate team. I earned the Oregon Speech Educator of the Year in 2007, plus two national educator awards from the National Federation of High Schools (2007, 2008). My speech team won the OSAA State Speech Championship three times; I’ve coached six kids to individual State Champion trophies. I started my team from scratch, in a tiny rural area. It surprised me as much as anyone else when the team eventually grew to be larger than the football team. (Those weren’t our best years, actually, since I couldn’t keep track of so many speeches . . . or so many kids. Shhh. Don’t tell.) I was also deeply entrenched behind the scenes of a number of speech tournaments, including the State Tournament. I took my role as a role-model for students and a leader among my peers seriously, working hard to deserve the responsibility.
Then came the phone call from my doctor. “You have mono. You’re infectious. And your spleen is about to explode. Go home.” Oh my god, I was so grateful to her. To hear that I had permission to go to bed, to relax, to give up the reins for awhile. Seriously
Seriously, I laugh now when I think about how happy I was to be told to leave. Who knew it would be forever?
Obviously, I had no idea how bad my symptoms would get, that many of the symptoms seem to be permanent. I’ve learned how to pace myself, to parcel out my energy like it’s the last salt grains in the world. I’ve also learned I can survive without being known as a teacher or leader. I can be a writer. A novelist. I left Auggie on that bus and came back to my desk, started writing a book. Some days I write one sentence, some days one paragraph, some days I’m willing to pay for the energetic ten page burst. Some days I edit, or think, or read, or (cough) watch Law and Order. My creative juices have always been lavished on students; I don’t regret that at all, but I have to admit I am loving writing for myself. I don’t have the energy to share any of the creative juice, I guard it jealously. Recently I’ve had two poems published in a local literary magazine, won 19th place in the annual Writer’s Digest poetry competition, had over 3500 hits on my new blog, and finished writing my first fiction novel, Smart Mouth.
I am getting better. If you see me on the street, holding Auggie Mar’s sweet little hand, I look normal, act normal. Well, depends on how you define normal, but I look healthy. I can sustain a conversation now. I can maintain focus longer, I know when to stop pushing. And my writing is getting better, stronger. The universe has stolen my paycheck but given me time to practice clouding up a page with ink.”
Despite Holly’s illness she’s planning on teaching a writing camp for teens at the Hoffman Center which is in Manzanita, Oregon. We are holding a raffle which will benefit the Hoffman Center, Holly’s class and the Writer in the School program in Portland.
I see my role in life to inspire and help writers.
Could you please help me?
Donations can be made through PayPal and by sending them to Summer in Words, P.O. Box 820141, Portland, OR 97282-1141