Stories are as unique as the people who tell them, and the best stories are those in which the ending is a surprise. At least, that’s what Travis Parker recalled his dad telling him when he was a child. Travis remembered the way his dad would sit on the bed beside him, his mouth curling in a smile as Travis begged for a story.
— Nicholas Sparks, The Choice
The importance of stories is always on the fringes of my thoughts. I believe in the power of story and I’ve come to realize how important it is to share our stories. This morning I opened The Choice by Nicholas Sparks (one of Stacey’s favorite authors) and these words greeted me, leading the idea of stories to the forefront of my brain and away from the fringes.
In my school district there are several retirements, among them one of my dear friends and colleagues, Tammy Hess. Tammy is the first who made me slow down and intentionally recognize the power of story. It is because of Tammy that I learned about Writing Workshop early in my career. We started our first writers’ notebooks together. We attended massive hours training. We began living as writers. We shared our stories.
Like the opening words from The Choice, I”m struck by the way our stories are unique and yet similar in significant ways. I’m continually blessed when Tammy shares bits of her life with me. Her stories impact me and they help me understand my own story better. Tammy’s stories make me a better teacher and a better wife and a better mother. Tammy titles her notebooks Clay Fragments. She has volumes.
I like this title for writers’ notebooks. Tammy says the bits of life she collects in her notebook are much like clay fragments. They could be passed by, tossed out, but she chooses to keep them. Eventually she spins the fragments together to make published pieces of writing. I hope she continues collecting Clay Fragments even after she stops showing up to school every day at 7:30.
“The best stories are those in which the ending is a surprise . . . ” Watching as Tammy’s career comes to an end, I realize the surprise in the ending. This is what I know because of Tammy: Her story will live on, because she has shared it with me. Even though Tammy only has 11 more days of school, she’ll continue to influence the lives of students for many years through those she has shared her story.
I hope I can be like Tammy and share clay fragments with others so this world can be a better place because people have shared their stories with each other.