The first time I got in trouble at school prompted my first incident of writing in earnest.
I was in 4th grade. A classmate snagged me in the girls’ bathroom and reported that a playground supervisor had been mean to my younger brother. I said, “That bitch,” and someone eavesdropping reported me, for I was summoned to the principal’s office and made to look up the word ‘bitch’ in the dictionary. It means a female dog. (No modern dictionary back then.”
As punishment, I had to call my mother and tell her what I’d done. Then I had to read three thick books and write book reports. I can’t recall the books specifically, but they were historical novels meant for upper classes. What I do recall is I loved the books. I devoured them and wrote long reports eagerly.
I had a deadline, which helped immensely. I had three interesting subjects. I could write whatever I wanted about them. I had the satisfying sense the principal realized my punishment was no punishment.
I wish I had copies of those book reports.