Last Wednesday night, my home writing class resumed. The newest member started during the summer. Most have been in the group for years.
One woman, who has been writing short first-person pieces, is taking a leap with a long third-person story. It shows real growth. Another, who had been writing in the third-person, showed up with a first-person essay about her new empty nest. It resonated with everyone. The newcomer fit right in. His work, as I had expected, was well-received as was a longtime student’s op-ed piece. She’s been majoring in rants.
One long-timer fell last week, had hip surgery, wasn’t in class, and isn’t sure when she’ll return. I’ve been emailing her, urging her to write what she can about the hospital, her rehab, and anything about the experience she wants to share. She’s observant. Funny. She writes funny. I’m working with her now in a different way.
My Wednesday nighters present small surprises. The quality of their writing isn’t one. It’s consistently good.
The last huge surprise was in my New School seminar ten years ago. A student wanted to dance her story. She put on her tap shoes, got up on the conference table with her manuscript and read it as she tapped away. Although Twinkle Toes’ dancing was more memorable than her writing, watching her tap was fun.
When I was in school, I found most of it boring. My interactions with other kids surprised me more. For example, during the first half hour of first grade, I reached across the aisle to the adorable girl, Inez, who smiled at me when she sat down. I recognized her from her picture in her father’s office—he was my family’s dentist—and asked if she wanted to be recess partners. She did. We went to recess together. And everywhere else for years. Our classmates called us ‘the twins.’ We’re still friends, still in touch. She posts comments here.
Other encounters in the playground and on walks home (eg. Richard Smolev’s Mother’s Day rhyme) touched and changed me more than anything I can remember from the classroom. Now how about you?
Here’s the contest: Did something or someone (eg. a teacher, another student, several students, an event) surprise you at school? It can be from your early childhood to the present. Or if you’re a teacher, has someone or something surprised you in class? Good or not. Strange. Pleasant. Shocking. Awful. Sweet. Life-changing. Or it might have just caught you off-guard.
In 40 words or less (but not one word more than 40), write about the surprise as a student or teacher in the comment section. Entries must be in by Oct. 10. Two people–my impartial judges–will read them. I’ll announce the winner here on October 14 and send him or her a a prize.