Get It Right

May 31, 2011
What have I done? I wish I could run
Away from this ship goin’ under

“Oh, stop freaking out, Addie. You’re good at English. You got an A in APUSH and Stats. You’re fine,” Ricki said. I could see her roll her eyes from her end of the phone in my head and I sighed.

“But you just don’t get it! It’s—”

“It’s what?”

“Stressful! I never have to worry about English!” I said, exasperated. Ricki laughed, and I heard her drop something.

“Uh oh, listen. I gotta go. I don’t have a day off tomorrow like you do, and I gotta go finish my homework!”

“Okay. Have fun with it. I’ll be here. . . watching TV. . . stressing out!”

“Bye, Addie,” Ricki groaned. I heard her hit the end button on the cell phone and the call end.

Now to wait.

Just tryin’ to help, hurt everyone
Now I feel the weight of the world is
On my shoulders

I got a D.

A D.

A. D. On. My. Final. Exam. In. English.

My brain raced, the tears laced the brim of my eyes. I hastily wiped them with my sleeve before they could spill out.

“Addie! What did you get!?” Hannah asked. She looked at me with an eager face and I tried to say something.

But for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a rant. I didn’t have a pile of words just waiting to come out of my mouth. I couldn’t say anything with the words I knew so well.

I showed her the dim display of my iPod Touch screen. But for her, the letter D did not stand out.

The letter B+ next to final grade didn’t stand out, either.

She just saw letters and words.

“What am I looking—”

And then I knew she saw it. She saw the 2 letters that made me doubt everything I ever knew. The 2 letters that made me want to run back to Middle School, where my English grade was praised and coveted.

I wanted to go back to being good at English.

I wanted to change what I did to deserve this.

What can you do when your good isn’t good enough?
When all that you touch tumbles down?
‘Cause my best intentions keep making a mess of things
I just wanna fix it somehow


My phone buzzed in my hand. I looked at the screen and rubbed my eyes which were tired from crying. I felt like I needed to pour in a tub of Visine to replenish the tears that wanted to come out. I just didn’t want to explain.

How could I? Was there an explanation? How could the same girl who got an A on Mrs. Rowley’s infamous and impossible open-ended questions on her first try explain getting a D in English?

I couldn’t explain what I couldn’t wrap my head around.


I tried to focus on my Chemistry homework, but my mind kept wandering to the dim iPod display that changed everything. But, within seconds, my phone rang. I looked at the flashing screen and pressed talk.

“Hullo?” I said hoarsely.

“Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry,” Ricki said. I didn’t say anything. “But how? How did that happen?”

Again, I said nothing. I couldn’t answer the questions I’ve been asking myself all day.

But how many it times will it take?
Oh, how many times will it take for me?
To get it right
To get it ri-igh-ight

“Mrs. Roberts. I’m here to find out why I did so badly,” my voice broke on the last word. I set my pink backpack and empty purple water bottle down one of the empty desks. Mrs. Roberts looked up from her computer screen, and nodded.

“Yes, Addie. It’s hard to see you this upset, but I think . . . . First, why don’t you look at this paper?” Mrs. Roberts suggested. She held out my essay, and I looked at the D written in red ink. I inhaled sharply, glanced at my mistakes, and sighed.

“Do you understand what you did wrong?” Mrs. Roberts asked, studying my face. I nodded slowly and took a deep breath.

“But why?” I asked. I understood what I did wrong, but I didn’t understand why my best subject was no longer my best.

“It’s like this. It’s like my first D on my college essay. But that woke me up! I got better, and better after that because I understood that you’re not always going to be the best at everything forever. There’s always room for improvement,” Mrs. Roberts explained. Again, she studied my face.

“English is the last class I thought I’d do bad in,” I started to say. Tears glazed my eyes, but I continued, “And I’ve had my fair shares of doubts about so many other classes. But English has been my security blanket.”

“I understand that. But, there were elements missing, and . . . .” Her voice trailed off.

Can I start again with my faith shaken?
‘Cause I can’t go back and undo this
I just have to stay and face my mistakes
But if I get stronger and wiser
I’ll get through this

I crumpled another sheet of paper and tossed it into the pile of papers that overflowed from my trash can.

Maybe writing wasn’t for me. Maybe that’s why I got a D on the paper.

But a small voice in my head told me that writing’s what I do best. Writing is the constant. Writing is what a cookie is to a toddler. Writing is… well, writing.

“Argh!” I growled. I tried to ignore that little voice in my head, but I looked at the stack of papers in front of me. Then, I looked at my memorary (is that a word, haha?) copy of the 7,000 word story I wrote in 5th grade about Girl World. The place that was so vivid in my head and I absolutely knew that iPods grew on the trees there.

I took my pencil and lazily scribbled it on the paper in front of me and smashed it between my sweaty palms. I began another sentence on another paper and stopped midsentence. I glanced at what I wrote and crumpled it up again.

What can you do when your good isn’t good enough?
When all that you touch tumbles down?
‘Cause my best intentions keep making a mess of things
I just wanna fix it somehow

June 26.

Exactly three weeks since the incident.

I flicked off the TV and opened my laptop. The laptop whirred to life and the heat from the dusty fan burned through my shorts. I opened a new word document, and typed BUILD BRIDGES, NOT WALLS across the top of the page.

It’s been three weeks, I repeated in my head, If you still can’t write it, it’s done. Writing isn’t for you. Finito. Move on. But if you can…

Slowly, I began to type out the story that had been boiling and bubbling in my brain for months now. With each word that came out, I felt like I was dancing through a meadow of white daisies with the sun warm on my face and the weeds tickling my bare knees.

I ran my hand across the trickle of sweat that slid its way down my temple and onto my ear.

The words came faster now. My hands couldn’t keep up with the stream of thoughts my mind was commanding.

Suddenly I realized what was happening. I was writing again–without any effort.

But how many it times will it take?
Oh, how many times will it take for me?
To get it right
To get it ri-igh-ight

“So what do you think?” I asked Rici. I looked at her face from across the table and saw shock. “Was it that bad?”

“If you think that is bad . . . . I’m going home and burning my story!” Ricki’s voice broke the silence of the library. Everyone looked up from their work and glared at Ricki. I felt the smile spread across my face and consume any traces of angst that had been there. “Addie! If you don’t get this to a publisher. . . .”

“You really think so?” I asked. Ricki scoffed.

“Just give me the rest when you’re done writing!”

“Ricki, I don’t know if you’re just saying this. And to be honest, I don’t care. But you have no idea how much that means to me.”

“Oh gosh darnit. Stop talking to me, and please go write me some more!” Ricki smiled. She passed back the thick stack of papers and stood up from the table.

You know that moment that comes after being so wrong so many times, when you’re finally right? You know that clichéd moment you should avoid as a writer?

Yeah, this was that moment.

So I throw up my fist
I will punch in the air
And accept the truth that sometimes life isn’t fair

I bravely walked through the door frame of the room that truly made me feel like I walked into my own coffin just months ago. But today, it made me feel like I was literally walking through a new era.

The air smelled sweet like you walked into the Baskin Robbins on a sweaty summer day, to the sweet smell of sugary, frozen treats

I set down my books in a new desk—it was time for a new year. Fresh starts from a new dress to a new desk. No one was in the classroom yet; everyone was buzzing in the halls excitedly about their summer adventures.

Mine wasn’t in Daytona Beach or Texas or the Caribbean or Prague.

Mine was in the thick stack of papers, gripped in my sweaty palms.

I made my way up, slowly, to the desk. The teacher in the seat looked up from her computer and smiled warmly.

“Addie,” she said warmly.

“Mrs. Roberts,” I began, “This year will be different. And to show you that, this is the proof. A draft of a 72,000 word novel I wrote. I’d like your opinion on it,” I said.

I felt like a mother parting with her child on his first day of school. I took one last deep breath and handed her the stack.

“I’d love to,” she said.

Yeah, I’ll send out a wish
Yeah, I’ll send up a prayer
And finally, someone will see
How much I care!

It was not for another good month that I didn’t think or hear of the novel yet.

It was Halloween. I’d decided to get into the Halloween spirit and dress up as a very creatively thought up witch. I walked into my English classroom, feeling oddly flamboyant. Well, certainly not oddly. The night before, Ricky had just returned the copy of my novel will a grin on her face.

I set down my books on my desk and turned on my heal, getting ready to make a quick trip to the bathroom before class started.

“Addie,” I heard Mrs. Roberts’ voice call out. I turned around slowly and felt my breath catch in my throat as I saw her holding a stack of papers in her hand.

I felt like I was drowning. Like someone had just pushed my head under a giant pool of trusting someone with your baby creation and seeing it again after it had been riddled with someone else’s opinion.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Is that a good or bad thing?” I asked lightly.

“Certainly a good thing,” Mrs. Roberts said. I felt my heart spring miles into the air. “Now, I have a friend who I showed this to and would certainly be interested in sending this to a publishing company—“


“Well, you need to make changes, of course. First drafts are never good enough!”

“Publishing?” I repeated.

“Look at my suggestions, and we’ll get this to a professional soon enough.”

I took the stack of papers into my hand and blinked back tears as I thought of what had been the mood just a few months ago as I was standing in this very area with a paper marked with a bright red D.

What can you do when your good isn’t good enough?
When all that you touch tumbles down?
‘Cause my best intentions keep making a mess of things
I just wanna fix it somehow
But how many it times will it take?
Oh, how many times will it take for me?
To get it right
To get it ri-igh-ight

Two years later, here I am, standing backstage of Good Morning America. Standing here, about to tell the whole world of how getting a D on an English paper led to some things that led me to being an author of a bestselling book.

Two years later, here I am, touching my dream because of a D on an English paper.

Who would’ve known?

Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback