Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thank You Mr. McCourt

I end this day with a heavy heart with the sad news that Pulitzer Prize winning author Frank McCourt had passed away at the age of 78. You can read about it here.

He is best known for his Bestselling hit Angela’s Ashes and then the blockbuster movie that followed. But for me it is hard to think of him as Frank McCourt. You see he’ll always be Mr. McCourt to me. The Irish Lit and creative writing teacher from when I was in Stuyvesant High School. The 50 minutes of excitement and brightness to an otherwise dull day.

His class was the class where my imagination would soar and my creativity would thrive. It was where I started to really love the written word and started to crave the writer’s life. Only Mr. McCourt could make suffering desirable. Hell, you were going to suffer in this life anyway you might as well do it doing something you love.

I remember clearly the day I was coming down the steps in the old building, looking down and mopey, as I was often doing during that time, and he was coming up and asked what my problem was. I said I was broke (who wasn't?). He told me to follow him to the schools job board. I did. He looked over the board pick pointed to a job and told me to call. He said, “You’re a smart girl you can do that job.”

Well I did. And I kept that job clear through college. And also met my DH on that job. All thanks to Mr. McCourt.

Years later my DH and I were taking the twins to the Museum of Natural History. The twins must have been about 4 or 5 years old. It just so happens Mr. McCourt was doing a reading and had a huge crowd, but I wanted to go and say hello. I had just left fashion design and had written my first hot mess of a book.

The crowd finally parted and I went up to him. I asked if he remembered me. He did. I told him the story of the job board and the kids. I joked and said that he was responsible for my Dear Twins. To that he responded, “No Way!” with his infectious laugh.

Then I told him that I was now writing and his eyes lit up. He asked what I had written and I told him quickly about my hot mess of a first romance. And this sweet man always looking out for his students gave me the name of his super high powered agent (no he didn't frown at romance. Ha!). And told me to query her and say that he sent me.

Also to keep writing.

Well I will keep writing Mr. McCourt. Until...

Thank you.

P.S. you can read my past post where I wrote about Mr. McCourt here


pve design said...

What a nice homage to Mr. McCourt. Teachers can leave such indelible impressions. You were so lucky to have him as a teacher. Now make him proud and keep writing. He would want that.

Debra said...

Such a nice tribute to a great writer. What a wonderful connection you had. I think I need to read Angela's Ashes again.

Anonymous said...

That's a wonderful tribute. I loved Angela's Ashes, and as a 10th grade Eng. teacher taught a segment of the book to my students. They were gripped by it and many went on to read the entire book as well. I can well imagine what an inspiration and a force McCourt must have been as a teacher. How lucky you were.

Christina said...

Very nice tribute blog.

Janice Kuechler said...

Well said and well done. You were so very fortunate to be able to tell him how much he inspired you! With the job, husband, kids, etc. but mostly the writing!! I'm sure that no matter how many accolades he received, knowing that he inspired another writer probably was more important to him. Write On my dear, what better way to keep his memory alive than to continue your writing.

sula said...

that was lovely, kwana. keep on writing. that's the best tribute to your teacher. :)

David Dust said...

Kwana -

That was absolutely lovely. It is amazing how certain people in our lives show up and seem to steer us in the right direction.


Laura said...

Such a lovely tribute. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. I was just wondering what it would have been like to have him as a teacher. Well, he left you with the highest compliment "You're a smart girl ..."
That's high praise coming from him.
I guess the best way to honour him as he makes his way to heaven is to keep writing.
God Bless you and Frank McCourt.

Amber said...

Very sweet and kind words about Mr. McCourt. Thanks for sharing this other side of him.

Ina in Alaska said...

What a sweet post. I LOVED Angela's Ashes. You were a lucky student to have had Mr. McCourt for a teacher and inspiration!

What a weekend. Walter Cronkite too. I am of the generation where we watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite every night! That was the way it was then. If Walter said it, you knew it was the real story!

Joy said...

I remember your other post about him and thought about you when I heard about his death. He lives on through his words, children, and students like you.

Frau said...

Sadden by his passing I love his books. You are so lucky to have had him as a teacher and to have inspired you as so. Wow what a wonderful story and memory.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

WHAT? I didn't know he died and I can't believe you were lucky enough to have such an amazing teacher! I know I was lucky to have some amazing teachers as well who had positive influences on me and encouraged me to use my creativity and go against the flow -but none were world famous authors!

Megan said...

Great post! Another Stuyvesant student also wrote about his memories of Mr. McCourt here:

Legallyblondemel said...

What a touching tribute. I'm sorry for your loss, as well as for the loss to the literary world.

It really does just take one teacher like this, doesn't it? For me, it was my 7th grade English teacher who opened up an entire new universe for me. I can relate to the feeling of having turned the page (pun intended) at that point to a different and wonderful life.

Kwana said...

Thanks for all the kind comments today. It is really appreciated. Mr. MrCourt would be so happy at this outpouring of kindness. Great teachers make such a difference.

Ricardipus said...

Thanks for the nice post... just visiting via a comment somebody else left on another blog (long story, but he left the link to your post).

As I mentioned over there, it's disappointing news to hear - but the literature is the legacy, both his works, and those that he inspired in others. Like you.

Kristin said...

Aww. Sweet. Teacher's like that make the world a better place. Nice tribute to him.

Anonymous said...

How lucky you were to have such a man as a teacher! Came to your blog from Laurie's blog, glad I did.

Loved "Angela's Ashes" and "Teacher Man." He seemed one-of-a-kind. My husband is teacher so it's wonderful to hear stories about them. Your writing is his legacy, too!
- Grace

miss alaineus said...

i got sent here by david dust.

i just finished reading 'teacher man' and hope that someday, the stars will align and i can have the kind of influence on my students as mr. mccourt had on you and your classmates.

ps your dog is adorable!

xxmiss alaineusxx

chuan said...

His "Angela's Ashes" and "'Tis" brought me back to thoughts about my family.

"Teacher Man" brought me down to earth, that I understand my students, like me, are humans, with their own stories, and sorrows.

TP Chuan

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