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Some writers start in their youngest years by writing down stories, others begin first scripts that later turn into Broadway plays. I’ve know a few who began as illustrators with witty dialogue. I imagine many young authors these days start out as bloggers.

I wrote poems. My first was published when I was seven. For a gay kid with a huge nose and ears trying to figure out how he fit in anywhere, poems, like tennis, were a refuge, my escape, a safe place to work through my thoughts, sometimes with rhymes.

People read my poems. The awards that started coming in were nice, but poetry and I became friends for life after I had bungled a line in a school play rehearsal and was called a fag. I went backstage to lick my wounds. An adult volunteer whom I had never met introduced herself and asked who I was. I told her my name. She smiled beautifully and said, “Oh, you’re the poet! I love your writing.” I remember thinking at the time, “Well, my face may be ugly, but my poems aren’t.”

Those moments helped me get through my teenage years. I grew into my face although my ears could still fly me across an ocean. I now am grateful that I’m gay. And I still write poetry.