How to Begin a Book

To write a book, I had to begin. But how?

Just start writing. This is what they said at the writers’ conference, what my author son told me, and what I read in my growing collection of books about how to write.

So I started . . . And my writing took me back. I was, once again, in first grade at Yoder School, where work seemed like play as I learned with Amish and Mennonite classmates and where I decided to become a teacher one day. As I wrote, I relived the shock of moving from a Mennonite community to the rustbelt city of Flint, Michigan, where paddles hung in classrooms, where you read the third-grade reader, even if sixth grade books fit you better, and where I wondered how I’d ever learn to be a good teacher if I didn’t have one.

I wrote about my excitement when someone offered to pay my way to Lancaster Mennonite High School for my senior year of high school. Finally, I had thought, I’ll be back with my people. Only, when I got there, I didn’t feel at home anymore.

I wrote about how in all my classes along the way—through elementary and junior high and high school and then a community college and a university, I had kept looking for a glimpse of Yoder School, hoping to find a learning so full of wonder that I couldn’t tell whether I was working or playing.

My pages filled as I wrote about how I had finally found this liveliness of learning again, at Antioch College, a haven for philosophers, artists, and left-over hippies in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

When I finished that first long draft, I realized that I understood my thirty years in the classroom in a fuller way. I could see more of why I taught as I had.

And, I thought, I have nearly completed my book.

(More later)

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