NYC250 cover image See all stories from issue #250, January/February 2016

I’m No Sissy
Men can be writers too
Lisuini Palacios

When I started Pre-K I already knew I wanted to be an author. My favorite time of day was the afternoon when our teacher would read us big books like Clifford the Big Red Dog. I remember thinking, “I want to make my own big book.” I particularly liked how Clifford was a character who taught me something.

In kindergarten, I got my first writing assignment. After a trip to the zoo, we were asked to write about what we liked there. I wrote about the lion because it reminded me of Simba from The Lion King. I wrote about how he acted, calm but fierce at the same time.

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When I got home, I went out with my mom and started observing all the creatures—squirrels, fish and crabs (in the supermarket), chipmunks, and even raccoons. I drew or wrote about what I saw.

A couple of years later, I started writing stories in a journal. I made up stories about a superhero and also what I observed around me. The teachers at my after-school program encouraged me. I made up a story based on older kids I saw fighting in the park flashing their guns at each other, holding them close to their waists. I saved the journals and liked putting them aside to read months later.

Writing makes me feel free; unstoppable and relaxed. I feel less pressure from my problems and I’m able to sort through solutions even if the problems are hard to solve. When I write, I feel my mind opening up to the world.

One summer afternoon, my camp group and I came back from the park, sweaty and exhausted from a basketball game and tag. We sat around a table cooling off and our counselor asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. My friends said firefighter, dentist, doctor, basketball player, football player, and mechanic.

I Wrote in Secret

I said I wanted to become an author. My friend Christian said, “Nah, you really gay boy.” My other friend Andy said, “You going to end up like them broke-ass bums sleeping in Prospect Park. Writing’s for p-ssies.” My counselors were interested but the kids laughed at me. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. After that, I kept the thought of being a writer a secret because I didn’t want to get laughed at again. I was already teased a lot because I was the littlest kid in the group.

In 6th grade, my English teacher asked us to write about what we wanted to do when we went to college. I wrote about wanting to be a famous author or have some kind of writing career. My teacher read my paper out loud and, again, most of my friends laughed at me because my passion wasn’t manly. I was embarrassed because most of my friends kept saying, “That’s gay.” I felt a burning sensation in my chest but I kept quiet because I didn’t want to show any sign of weakness.

image by YC-Art Dept

When I entered middle school I felt defeated and fed up, so I told everyone I wanted to be a doctor or dentist and I stopped writing. Since I didn’t do any of my writing assignments in school, my grades plummeted. I started reading more and playing a lot of basketball. By the time I reached 8th grade, I was failing English, the subject that I loved most. It made me feel empty to stop doing something I loved and that I was really good at. I knew I was only hurting myself.

The only essay I wrote was for the 8th grade New York State test because my English teacher said it was mandatory for advancing to the next grade. One day she asked me to stay after class.

“You’re an excellent writer, Mr. Palacios,” she told me. “If you can do this well on a test, I can see you writing your own book some day.” That was all I needed to hear to start writing again.

Writing Is Manly to Me

Writing is a way for me to express my thoughts and feelings. It’s also important to my identity to get good grades in English. I loved getting praise about my writing from teachers. That year I attended a college fair and decided that I want to major in creative writing. I also decided not to let my classmates’ opinions influence me.

It helped that my parents supported me. They encourage me to do what I want as a career. I gradually realized that if I have the support from my family and teachers, I can ignore everyone else.

One day during the first quarter of my sophomore year, my English teacher read one of my essays to the class. After she was done, she complimented me, and my basketball teammates in the class applauded me for my work. Finally after years of getting teased, I was surrounded by more mature kids who appreciated my writing skills.

A lot of my teammates were failing English and you can’t play on the team if you fail two classes or more. The next day half of them asked me for help. So most days before lunch when we had writing assignments, I would help them start their introduction, the body paragraph, and later on, I would ask them how they felt about the topic. Then I’d tell them to write their opinions and statements for their conclusion.

Helping my classmates made me feel good. I liked that they trusted me, and the schoolwork we did together brought us closer. Most of the kids that I helped passed English, and they became supporters of my plan to be an author. This boosted my confidence.

Writing is not just for females and I hope to defy that stereotype. There are amazing male authors such as Walter Dean Myers, Carl Deuker, John Green, Roald Dahl, Dan Brown, and James Dashner. I hope someday I’ll be part of that list.

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