Responses To My Readers
To those of you who wrote to congratulate me on my daughter’s wedding: thank you for your good wishes and prayers for a happy marriage. I was very touched to read what you said, and for your loving comments. And to those who wanted to see a picture of the bride—-we don’t have the wedding pictures yet, but when we get them, I’ll try to find a nice one and post it later. She was a beautiful bride!!!
One of you asked if I ever teach classes. And I actually used to be a teacher. My first job ever was as a translator, in French and English. My second was in advertising, as a copywriter. And my third was as a teacher. I taught English and Creative Writing to High School juniors and seniors, mostly seniors. It was a major learning experience for me, and what I discovered is that it is not enough to have a skill, that doesn’t mean you can teach it. Teaching is a whole other talent, and I have enormous respect and admiration for teachers. And to be honest, at the time, I was a lousy teacher!! I taught in two private high schools in San Francisco, for three years. And I was actually too young to do it. I was about 23 years old then, and my students were only five years younger than I was. Do you remember how there is always some poor teacher who is being badgered by her students and unable to control them? That was me. I started dreading going to my classes. They teased me, they talked throughout the class, they didn’t do their homework, they flirted with me. And more than once, a kind and very experienced teacher who had the classroom next door came in to rescue me from my students, scold them into behaving, and then of course, all hell would break loose again the moment she walked out the door. She had an amazing talent for teaching, and I didn’t. And I had absolutely no idea how to control my students, and they knew it.
There were times when I enjoyed it, but not often. Most of the time, I just tried to survive it and prayed they wouldn’t humiliate me. I enjoyed the writing assignments and some of what they wrote. And a few of my students had real talent. And I hope that I taught them something useful. One of my students actually went on to become a writer, and has very kindly attributed his early interest in writing to me. (Ethan Canin). But I think very few of them would have said I was a good teacher.
I used one interesting tool to try to illustrate to them what writing is about: a trust walk. I divided my class into pairs, blindfolded one person in each pair, and told them to walk around the school with their partners. It was the job of the un-blindfolded one to explain to the blindfolded one what was happening around them, who was there, who was talking, what they were doing, what the room or hallway looked like, who was in it, where they were going. The un-blindfolded guide would forget to tell them major details, to watch a step, or a staircase, to watch out for a sharp corner or a wall. Within minutes the student with the blindfold would be frustrated beyond belief, confused about who was around them, what they were doing, and who was talking, and sometimes the one wearing the blindfold would get angry at their guide, over the lack of information. A few even stumbled and fell, for lack of better information and guidance. And when they all got back to the classroom, I explained that the guide is like a writer. If a writer doesn’t give you clear information and good descriptions, the reader has no idea what’s going on, gets confused, loses the thread of the story, and gets frustrated as they “fall down stairs and walk into walls”. The reader is like the blindfolded person, and if you don’t tell them what’s going on, it’s no fun at all. Their writing actually improved after that, and it brought the point home to them better than anything I could have said. That was probably the only clever tool I used in my teaching. Beyond that, I was a pretty unexciting teacher. I just didn’t have the experience or the skill to do it well. I’ve often thought that I’d like to try again, now that I’m all grown up and the students wouldn’t scare me. But my talent still doesn’t lie in teaching. I’m a writer not a teacher, and I think I’ll stick to what I know best, and leave teaching to the people who really have the skill and talent to do it, far better than I could. And I’ve never taught a class since then. After my teaching experience, I decided to go into full time writing. But now and then I run into someone who was one of my students. And seriously, hats off to all of you out there who are teachers!!! That’s a tough job, and hard to make it exciting, and make a subject come alive to the students. I had some great teachers when I was in school, and I still remember fondly the subjects they taught me. In my French school, two years of Latin was required, and I hated the first year, but the second year I had a fabulous Latin teacher, and as a result, I took 7 years of Latin. Now THAT’s a teacher!!!!!
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I like the blindfold idea, I am an artist an every detail of the subject is important to the outcome of the painting and how it will be perceived.Not only with the use of colors but how you apply them can change the mood or emotion.If an artist did not pay attention to such things the viewer may not find your painting interesting and pass it by. I think maybe in a class room setting you may not want to teach but perhaps your teaching skills are still there in your writing. I have learned from you, your willingness to be so open and honest with your life and share your most treasured family with all of us. As you know, your book you wrote about Nick has touched my lifes heart and I am sure so many others too. You are a great teacher and a treasure to our world.I just started reading your books and I write down words when I run across one you use that I don’t know.Its a gift how your use of words flow so smooth that we forget were reading and not really there in the story.I think I have signed up for your class and along with all your readers we are learning something new from you.I guess you are a writer but you have something more than that in how many lives you touch. You make make words come alive and exciting,when others use words to hurt or bully.So you have long graduated from the class room and now have “students” around the world. You get an A+
Hi Danielle. Wow…that blindfold analogy is an excellent illustration. I never thought of writing that way!! Too bad those kids were’nt paying attention, they could’ve learned a thing or two from you. Also, I’m still curious about the ‘outlines’ you talk about in your previous blogs when writing your books..what does it look like on paper? (It sounds tedious.)
On another note..would love to see your family photographs. And I still love reading your books. I really think you’re gonna keep writing books until you drop. You crank out so many books! LOL 🙂
Have a good day,
Hi Danielle, Wow! 7 years of Latin-I managed 1 semester and nearly flunked that!! I did manage a good profession in nursing however.
Really enjoy your books.
Please take a little time away from writing to enjoy your life. Jean
Can my stories be of value to you?
Dear Ms. Danielle Steel,
Nice to write to you, and glad to know your daughter, Vanessa Traina’s wedding. Congratulations!
1) Vanessa Traina’s photos
Already saw her photos on the website. Really beautiful as her mother. Thanks.
Interesting to know you were a teacher.
(1)” I actually used to be a teacher.”
What a great teacher it is! I wish I’d been the student under such a great teacher.
(2)” My first job ever was as a translator, in French and English.”
What a great translator it is! I think this experience greatly contributes to composing a novel, isn’t it?
(3)” My second was in advertising, as a copywriter.”
I’ve found such characters in your novels.
(4)”My third was as a teacher. I taught English and Creative Writing to High School juniors and seniors, mostly seniors. It was a major learning experience for me, and what I discovered is that it is not enough to have a skill, that doesn’t mean you can teach it.”
Deep meaning inside. Your students had been lucky and I’d like to know their impression under your teaching.
(5)” Teaching is a whole other talent, and I have enormous respect and admiration for teachers.”
What a valuable comment on teaching it is! Moved by your honesty and modesty.
(6)” Do you remember how there is always some poor teacher who is being badgered by her students and unable to control them?”
Sorry to hear your story, but some of them could have perceived your talent even at that time.
(7)”A kind and very experienced teacher who had the classroom next door came in to rescue me from my students, scold them into behaving, and then of course, all hell would break loose again the moment she walked out the door. She had an amazing talent for teaching, and I didn’t. And I had absolutely no idea how to control my students, and they knew it.”
It means a life experience rather than teaching technique, isn’t it?
(8)” I enjoyed the writing assignments and some of what they wrote. And a few of my students had real talent. And I hope that I taught them something useful. One of my students actually went on to become a writer, and has very kindly attributed his early interest in writing to me. (Ethan Canin). But I think very few of them would have said I was a good teacher.”
Glad to hear that. You are a great teacher even for me. Recent one – “Betrayal” is a masterpiece for us, readers. You are digging into the depth of human beings, and look at them from the core.
(9)” I used one interesting tool to try to illustrate to them what writing is about: a trust walk.”
What a great idea or tool it is! Let me know how you’ve got it. The secret?
(10)”I had some great teachers when I was in school, and I still remember fondly the subjects they taught me. In my French school, two years of Latin was required, and I hated the first year, but the second year I had a fabulous Latin teacher, and as a result, I took 7 years of Latin. Now THAT’s a teacher!!!!!”
Now, can you imagine Danielle Steel is a great, great teacher for me? Sometimes I murmur to myself, “What a lucky man I am to have met Danielle Steel who is a great teacher on how to compose a novel! Now I’ve got it’s originated from “Trust Walk.”
So much for today, and congratulations to your daughter’s wedding and your family.
With the utmost respect and friendship,
Your friend and reader,
September 8, 2012
Dear Ms. Steel,
Congratulations on your daughter’s wedding! This is so exciting and I’m sure you had a wonderful time!
I was thinking of you and your family all day on that Saturday. I live in San Francisco (we moved here from Switzerland a bit more than 1.5 years ago and we LOVE it :-)..). On the day of your daughter’s wedding we had to go to Target to do some shopping. So I asked my lovely husband if we could drive by your house, ’cause I hoped to get a glimpse of the bride. Forgive me for “having been a stalker”… So we just drove by your house on our way to Target. Your front gate was open so that I could see the beautiful white pergola – GORGEOUS! On our way back (around 7pm) we saw candle light on wooden branches behind the pergola and it looked wonderful.
My thoughts were also with you because I could only imagine how much you all must have missed your beloved son Nick and also your husband who passed away. I’m sure they were all there looking down at the beautiful bride, her wonderful family and most of all, her gorgeous mother – you! I’m convinced they are proud of you up there.
I wish your daughter all the best and may you, Ms. Steel, be happy and loved!