You Go Girl

If I was precocious as a child, then I was obnoxious as a college student.

Remember when that first heady taste of freedom met unsupervised hormones and the basic tomfoolery that accompanies the teen years? It's really a miracle any of us survive higher education at all.

I knew some serious students back in the day. Mostly I knew they looked at me funny. I'm trying to remember if I cared. No matter how I may have denied it, I cared what my professors thought, one in particular. Dr. Sandra Ballard.

She scared the PASHAZZ out of me.

I visited Brandywine Museum in Pennsylvania my junior year in high school, and the first time I saw Dr. Ballard I was convinced Andrew Wyeth had based his Helga paintings on her. She perpetuated this theory by being partial to braids.

I can still hear her voice as clearly as if it were yesterday (dear Lord, I sound old). She possessed a very calm, controlled demeanor, ice blue eyes, and a stare sharp enough to cut you. Jennifer Lopez on Saturday Night Live Cut You.

When she leveled that gaze at me, one thing was perfectly clear.

She was SO ON TO ME.

The year I graduated she gave me the book THINKING OUT LOUD by Anna Quinlan. When I read the inscription, I laughed. Dr. Ballard? Enjoyed my writing? What the hell? Was she kidding? 'Cause I was pretty sure she'd hated me.

Years of retrospect have changed that opinion.

I think she simply expected more from me than I gave. I think she saw something underneath all the obnoxious that had the potential to go somewhere bigger.

All these years later? She still does.

Guess who I emailed when I got my first request for a full? The offer of representation from Awesome Agent Holly? The book deal from Egmont USA?

Dr. Sandra Ballard.

She gives me advice, too. Here's some of the most recent:

"Be yourself--that's worked for you always."

I always wondered if "being yourself" really did work. I've come to learn that being someone else definitely doesn't.

Dr. Ballard signs her emails "Sandy." Maybe the terror from all those years ago translated to respect, but I can only be so casual as to address her as Dr. B. Besides, she's the Editor of the Appalachian Journal. She's all respectable and stuff.

She taught me so much, and she still does, about how to be a professional and a class act. And anything I didn't learn about punctuation is no fault of hers. I take full responsibility for my apostrophe problem.

So Dr. B? Thank you. And You Go Girl.

(That phrase is the one thing I taught her. It works even for respectable women, don't you think?)

Everyone else? Look around. Your greatest encourager might be hiding behind a pair of braids and an icy blue stare.

Don't miss it.


  1. Thats soooo sweet! I loved my college professors:-)

  2. I'd like to have had a college professor. I was lucky enough to be encouraged by old farmers and WW2 veterans. It looks very professional here; some renovations and new decor. Love the colours. Simon.

  3. That is so wonderful that you kept in touch with her. Two professors from college stick out in my mind that I learned the most from. But I don't think they'd remember me after all this time.
    YOU go, girl!

  4. That's so inspiring! Every writer should have someone like that in their life. For me it was my high school English teacher. He recognized a talent and love for writing in me and pushed me to get better. I'll never forget him.

  5. Myra ... I saw remember Dr. B, though I didn't have her. For me, I still talk with and go to Dr. Sheridan Barker. He's always been there for me offering encouragement, cheering me on and helping me find my way. You know what, I think I'll give him a call today.

  6. What a beautifully written tribute. It sounds like she believed in you, even while she expected more, which is a high form of praise.

  7. Thanks, Myra. You're still full of surprises. Now that you've outed me, I guess my modeling days are numbered... though I appreciate your kind words and reflections on college days. Thank you for a lively, lovely tribute.

    I continue to enjoy your writing.

    Still learning,

  8. Great post, Myra. I have a professor who I think saw potential in me, but to my 20-year old self, she was gruff and unapproachable. Looking back, it was my respect and fear of her that kept me from getting to know her as a person.

    I had a poem published in an academic publication while under the direction of this particular professor. I cared so little about it that I didn't even know it until she told me a semester or two later when I visited her office to collect some papers. But she noticed and cared enough to tell me.

    I wish I'd kept in touch with her.

  9. Awesome post.

    And even awesomer (Heck, yes, that's a word!) that she commented on it.

  10. I was also quite convinced that Dr. Ballard hated me. And my writing. But everything in me wanted to impress her. I gave up when she gave me a B- in Advanced Grammar and Comp. Then a year ago I found out that one of my high school friends taught with her. One of MY friends was her PEER and FRIEND. She said, "Do you know Sandy Ballard?" And I said, "ummm. no. i know DR. BALLARD." So, to have her praise and affirmation - I get it, girl.

  11. Oh - I have professors like that. Two of them are even brave enough to be my friends on Facebook. :) So exciting!


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