When I was a senior in high school, I took a fiction writing class.
For one assignment I wrote a short story about a little girl riding home in her father’s pickup truck after spending the day with him.
The class after the story was due, the teacher asked to speak to me. After complimenting the story he asked if I had plagiarized it. Although, I don’t think he used the word plagiarized. He wanted to know if I had copied it from somewhere.
Thinking back on it, I should have been flattered. This was back before the internet so he was, in essence, suggesting that the story I had written had been published in a magazine or book because those would have been the only places I could have found it.
But the teenage me was devastated. I was always highly sensitive to teacher’s opinions and I assumed his accusation (Maybe accusation is a little harsh. It was more an inquiry.) meant first that he didn’t trust me and second that he thought I wasn’t capable of writing a short story of that quality.
He took me at my word that the story was original and the issue was dropped, but I never forgot about it.
And I wonder now why, if he indeed think the story was so good that had to be plagiarized, he didn’t encourage me to write more.
Maybe he thought that the story was a flash in the pan, that I was the high school literary equivalent of a one hit wonder. But he might have had a future Pulitzer Prize winner sitting in his classroom and he just let the opportunity pass us both by.
Ok, so I probably wouldn’t have been a prize-winning, or even published, novelist anyway, but he didn’t know that.