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The wound has since crusted over but I still remember it like it was yesterday.  I was taking a college writing course and our assignment was to write a poem about current events in our lives.  It was right before the holidays so I was immersed in baking, buying, and wrapping and that “inspired” me to dash off a stupid poem about the hustle and bustle of baking, buying, and wrapping (I know, meaningful right?)  It wasn’t my best work.  Heck, it might have even been my worst work.  When I got my paper back there was no grade on it at all.  At the top of the paper was simply one big, fat, phrase written in red ink and underlined several times for emphasis: Who Cares?  My heart fell when I read it; I was crushed.  Up until that moment, the idealistic I-can-do-anything young writer in me had been thinking I might actually have some skillz.  I certainly got smacked down a few hundred notches.  I took it really hard.  I was too embarrassed to even ask what my actual grade was and I left that day with my tail tucked securely between my legs like a cub cuffed by her patriarch.  I went home to my cruddy one bedroom apartment to lick my wounds, raging about my mean and unjust crotchety professor.   Between the curse words and the tears I started to think; what if he’s right?  Would E.E. Cummings care about this drivel?  Would Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson or Poe want to read it?  Who would care?  My answer was clear; virtually nobody-probably not even my own mother.  This experience, while harsh, has stayed with me until this day whenever I write and although his delivery mostly sucked eggs, his message was unmistakable; look for my audience and write for them.  Who will care about what I am saying?  Say it to them.  What will they care about?  What should be included?  What will they want to know?  Who will they fall in love with?  Who will they despise?  And on…and on…and on… There was also an underlying but no less important note about quality.  He was telling me in not so many words that I needed to keep my crappy un-thought-out puff pieces to myself and only release my best out into the world.  My reputation would stand upon it.  I will never forget this professor (although I have blotted his name from memory) for giving me this harsh criticism.   From now on I will know my audience and they will know my character.  I am eternally grateful for the two red, cold words he impressed upon me that day.  Sometimes a blessing comes in a cold, spiky, disguise and I wish I could go back and give old Prickle Puss a big hug for shaking me awake.

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