I worry sometimes that I go on and on too much about my students. But I get so excited when they’re published, thrilled that they’ve had the courage and tenacity to stick with their writing, to rewrite and to put their work out there with all the risks of rejection. My worry struck me in a class of new students recently when I was telling them about all the amazing triumphs of previous students – novels being published, children’s books, and essays – lots and lots of published essays. I suddenly felt like one of those obnoxious mothers who reels off her children’s successes as listeners roll their eyes. So I asked my new class if they were getting really sick of me talking about this. To my surprise, they said no. They found it inspiring to hear about published students, it gave them the feeling that they too could do it.
So I’ve taken their generous response to give myself carte blanche to continue crowing about students’ work. For instance: a few weeks ago I was reading the My Turn essay in Newsweek, “Still Haunted by What Could Have Happened”. It was so well written that I checked the byline - Kathy Sena from Manhattan Beach, California. The same Kathy Sena who took a night school class I taught fifteen years ago. In class she’d written an essay about green chili stew and was determined to get it published. She found a chili magazine in New Mexico, sent off her essay and sold it. Then she wrote a list of all the things she could do, wrote about everything on her list, and got everything published, including the idea of the list itself. This was such a brilliant idea that I turned it into a class exercise.
Kathy emailed me back when I congratulated her about Newsweek saying she’d tried to get her essays in Newsweek for years. All the essays they turned down she sold to other publications. I love her tenacity.
In upcoming posts I’ll continue crowing about my talented, tenacious students, in hopes that you’ll be inspired.
To Do: Kathy’s Exercise: write a list of things you know how to do. (Nothing’s too humble or too heroic to list.) Choose one and do a five minute brainstorm. During the week write about one thing on your list every day for five minutes. At the end of the week see if any of your brainstorming pieces could turn into an essay or personal article.