By: Emily Ge ’15
Senior Emily Ge ’15 reflects on how serving as a columnist at the Tacoma News Tribune has improved her writing and changed her perspective on the craft as she heads off to college.
Before I first started writing for the Tacoma News Tribune, I hadn’t really put any thought into what the character of my column would be—I was beyond excited simply to see my name in print every month. Only when my editors at the TNT advised me to set up a second email account for reader responses did it dawn on me that for the first time in my life, I would be writing for more than one person. Tens of thousands of strangers in print and more than a million online would be reading my work. Suddenly the stakes were much higher than a bad grade in English class; people I had never even met would be reacting to words I had written.
Now, almost a year after my first column, I can look back and read my work without too much cringing. The first few columns were rough, but I started to hit my stride when I took more care to develop the topics of my columns; as they became more personal and specific to my life, I could see the risks paying off in my writing. I also began to see a huge spike in reader responses, which was amazing. Now, I get emails and handwritten letters from all kinds of people. One of the most special packages I received in the mail consisted of an assortment of photographs that the letter writer’s father, a producer on the original Star Trek TV show, had taken with the entire cast. The feedback I receive on the column is fantastic, and I feel incredibly fulfilled that people other than my mom and my English teacher can have an emotional response to my writing.
Almost a year ago, I never could have imagined that my column would be where it’s at now. I never would have guessed that I would write about everything from my grandparents to Star Trek to Elgar’s “Cello Concerto in E Minor” Without this column, I never could have known just how much I was capable of in my writing. This experience has helped me to understand the perils and joys of writing outside of my comfort zone, and I would definitely not be the writer I am today without it. Whether I’m writing for myself, the TNT, or for an English teacher, I can truly say that now I am more willing to take risks, and I’m also more able to write about myself, which is always a challenging task. I know now that no matter what I study in college, writing is something to which I can always return, and furthermore it is something to which I will always want to return.
I am also indebted to the education I have had at Charles Wright; since the very first day of junior kindergarten, I have had teachers who have cheered me on and who have pushed me to grow as a writer and also as a human being. I know now that with every poem, short story, or typed-at-midnight-the-night-before analytical essay, I was taking a step to becoming the writer I am today. The English teachers I’ve had at CWA have all been extremely different, and each has been exceptional in their own way. They’ve been alternately wise, kooky, demanding, and mind-blowing, but each has had an indelible imprint on my writing. My English teachers have never been anything other than supportive; they were the ones who first noticed how much I love to write. They were the ones who lent me volumes of poetry and short-essay anthologies (many of which I have yet to return—I promise I will before I graduate!). They were the ones who gave me the confidence to even consider submitting my work to the TNT in the first place.
To every teacher, English and otherwise, whom I’ve had the pleasure of encountering at Charles Wright: a resounding thank you from the depths of my being! What would I have done without you? More importantly, who would I have been without you? (Don’t worry, I’m not ending an essay with a rhetorical question—or am I?) Most of all, thank you for teaching me the rules and then for letting me break them, for showing me that the power of story means more than adverb clauses and thesis statements. Marcel Proust once said, “the voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” Thank you for lending me your glasses.