Another Page: ‘A Farewell to Arms’
This is the book that did it. The one that made me want to write fiction.
No, this is a love letter not to Papa but to the woman who compelled me to read him for the first time: Janelle Eklund, my junior-year English teacher at Richland High School, whose assignment of A Farewell to Arms absolutely changed the way I read.
She and her husband, Rolf, my U.S. history teacher that year, were absolutely born to do the work of high school teachers. It wasn’t just about imparting a curriculum or teaching us in a way that maximized our performance on standardized tests. The Eklunds stretched their students’ imagination and challenged them to develop critical-thinking skills. Twenty-three years clear of high school, I find that I’m much better served by the ability to think and engage than I am by the simple regurgitation of facts. More than anything else, that’s what I remember about the Eklunds. They prepared their students for life beyond the classroom even while giving them an education in it.
I’ve published two novels now, and both of them have been read in first-draft form by Janelle. (Rolf, rest his soul, left us several years ago.) She doesn’t wield the red pen the same way she did all those years ago, but that’s okay. I offer her the words as a way of thanking her for inspiring in me a love of writing and for caring what happened to me long after I left her stewardship.
I’ll never, ever be able to repay her.