Letter to a champion

by Rebecca A. Watson on August 7, 2011

in adolescence, Thanksgiving, the artist's way, writing

When was the last time someone complimented you or encouraged you? Lately, for me, it’s been a feast, which I really appreciate. And I welcome it, because it wasn’t always that way.

I was given a book recently called The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Initially I was a little turned off by the whole thing — calling myself an artist is a new thing for me, and adding spirituality into the mix made me nervous. But considering the book fulfilled several parts of my mission statement in life and was dropped in my lap (twice), I figured I’d give it a shot.

One exercise it suggested was to write a letter to someone who had championed the artist part of me, someone who encouraged me in my art. There isn’t a doubt in my mind who that person was: my high school creative writing teacher, Mark Tonyan.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to send him a letter for years to thank him, but even in this age of Facebook and LinkedIn, my searches have come up short. I’m not surprised, really.

open minded neighborhood

So instead of wasting my time trying to find him online, I figured I would thank him (and ALL the champions of artists everywhere) via blog:

Hi Mr. Tonyan,

I hope you’re doing well and life has blessed you. It’s been awhile since I’ve spoken with you, probably since 1998 when I graduated from high school and went on to community college hoping to be a math teacher. Perplexing choice, I know.

The reason I’m writing is to say thank you, thank you thank you, for being a wonderful writing teacher and a great encouragement in my life as a writer. Honestly, your class opened me up to a world that I would’ve otherwise never been exposed to. And I wasn’t even supposed to be, really. It went against what I was taught to skip the AP English class in favor of a creative writing class (Do you know what that will do to your GPA?), but I’m fairly certain it saved my life.

If I hadn’t had an outlet for what I went through my senior year — heartbreak, knee surgery, being kicked around by a group of insecure guys, and then just the usual high school BS — my life would’ve probably turned out very differently. In fact, before a few years ago, the only time I really wrote was during the difficult periods of my life.

Writing certainly wasn’t on my radar in high school, or even in college, but somehow I graduated with a journalism degree, which gave me opportunity to write, although newspaper wasn’t really what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until I lived alone and started writing again like you taught us in creative writing, that I really got it.

My spiritual awakening came while I was writing. My soul joined my body in the middle of a rant about Led Zepplin and mythology, which would later become the basis of my first novel, written in a month with NANOWRIMO. I would have never done that if it weren’t for you telling me my writing was good, that I was talented.

I’m pretty sure one of the first amusing quotes I ever wrote down came from you: “Staplers come and go in this life…” Now I’ve got books of quotes from people that crack me up. I’ve always got a notebook in my purse to record the ridiculous things people say. It helps create dialogue in my novels. That’s how things like: “I’m in dousche-bag rehab,” end up in my writing. You just can’t make that up!

Deep down, I was meant to be a writer, but without your class and your encouragement I don’t think it would’ve been as obvious to me. (I mean, even with your class it took me years to figure out.) Thank you so much for encouraging me and teaching me how to be a writer. And thank you for all you’ve done for other students over the years. I know that my life wasn’t the only one you touched.

May your life be filled with love, light and blessings from all the good you’ve done for others,

Rebecca Watson


Has someone given you encouragement or helped you be the person you are today? Say thanks!

High five!


Even if it feels like it was the smallest thing, I think it’s important that people who are doing good hear it. And it feels good to say it too. Thank you to everyone that has encouraged me and helped me on my path as an artist. Your words and deeds are welcome changes in the landscape that can often be long and lonely.


You can read another letter I’ve written to my 18-year-old self, if you’re so inclined.

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