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Until five years old, I was cute. I went to kindergarten at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey where I learned to share, color inside the lines, recite the alphabet, and steal kisses underneath the slide.

Then, I entered the first grade in a new school system where most everyone had learned the rudimentary methods of reading.

I was no longer cute, I was stupid. I was in the Blue Jay reading group, when all of the smart kids were Cardinals. God, how I wanted to be a Cardinal.

My embarrassment at being slow translated in repeatedly wet pants and lost hopelessly huge pencils.

Then, my teacher Mrs. Barnes saw my struggle, and kept me after class one afternoon. She encouraged me to be unafraid not just of reading but of life.

I learned to read and began to read everything. Then, I began to write.

And, I graduated the University of Virginia with an English BA–fearlessly.

Thank you, Mrs. B.