writing workshop

Burning Stories

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“Mrs. Hubbard, last night I had my first t-ball practice!”

“Mrs. Hubbard, my mom is getting married this weekend and I am the flower girl.”

“Mrs. Hubbard, I am going to the water park tomorrow and I got a new bathing suit and my friend Julie is going and…”

And it goes on. Stories. So many stories. Do you ever just have a story and want to tell it so bad you just have to write it down? That is how I felt the other day. I sat down to write this piece and all I could think about was this story I wanted to tell, but I didn’t have a teacher to run to or a friend nearby. Everyone around me had experienced the story, so it wasn’t new to them. I had this burning desire to write it. It reminded me of how my students walk in with a burning desire to tell and write stories. How it is now rare for my students to be void of a topic. They have become thinkers and writers who see and notice stories all around them and I noticed a story two nights ago that I must share here today. It goes like this…

It’s Friday night and I am sitting in a set of bleachers surrounded by my closest family members. We await the graduation of my niece, Mary, anxiously and listen as Pomp and Circumstance plays in the background. There she is, smiling, glancing only for a moment at our smiling faces as she walks past. We watch her find her seat and listen to the countless inspirational speeches from her classmates. I only see the back of her head now, but notice it bob up and down as she looks around herself at her peers. She is a light. One of those kinds of kids who grew up loving bubbles all the way into her senior year. One who would blow them with her little cousins while they beamed at the wonder. As I look at her now I see imaginary bubbles arising from her, bubbles of her accomplishments, bubbles of pride and happiness.

Throughout the event, I found myself glancing over at my sister. I kept thinking, that will be me in eight short years as I watch my son graduate and then a short two years later I will watch my daughter go across a similar stage, a stage toward adult-hood.

I watch my sister. She is strong, beautiful, and courageous. She is the epitome of a dreamer and the most thoughtful writer I know.

It is moments like this that make me think of inspiration. It makes me reflect on what inspires me and I am reminded of moments like this that I have had the pleasure of experiencing. First moments. Moments like walking across a stage and hearing my name called as I graduated high school. Moments like getting married and hearing my husband and I share vows of love and loyalty. Moments like my parents holding my first born and seeing the glint of a tear. Moments like these that shape us and hold us together through the struggle. Moments that grow us.

Mary, you will have moments of struggle, but you will have moments like these too. Cherish them. Hold them tight. Love these moments that grow you. One day they will only be a memory. Don’t let your stories go untold.

10 thoughts on “Burning Stories

  1. Beautiful story. Thank you. Does anyone have the exact citation for the Maya Angelou quote? Which book? What page? It is all over the web, but I’m needing the original citation.
    Thanks in advance.


  2. I’ve been writing a pb manuscript with a burning story I’ve been yearning to tell for years. I am almost there. Your post is giving me the proverbial kick in the tush to move forward with it.


  3. Betsy, The story of your niece brought tears to my eyes!!! I love how you framed it. We all have stories to tell and to write. You inspire that in your students everyday! Happy Graduation to your niece!!!


  4. You touched me this morning: thank you. Often times I’ve allowed my writing to reflect only on the moments of intense sadness. It’s time to look at the moments of celebration.
    Writing often reveals that we might just a bit overzealous with ourselves. Don’t we deserve the same compassion we demonstrate to others?


    1. Terrie, what you say about letting your writing also be about the moments of celebration is something I told my daughter when she first started working: that was, to keep a notebook of all of her accomplishments and all the things that she did well, and whenever someone complimented her on how well she did her job. She’s a librarian, and now, 15 years later, she recently told me she was passing on that advice to some of the younger clerks who work in her branch. She told them it’s easy to remember the things that don’t go well and harder to remember what does go well, so it is helpful to write down the good things, the accomplishments, the rewards. Writing helps cement them into memory.

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  5. I love the way you framed this piece around your students and their need to tell stories. We all have this need. Writing helps us share and connect. This story could not be anyone else’s story even though we all have these moments. Using specific details (love the bubbles) makes your story unique and special. Thanks for sharing.


  6. I love this post. And yes, I’ve had that same feeling- I have to write this story out. Your words about cherishing these moments and how they sustain us through the struggle are so wise.


  7. As I was reading your story, I was thinking how this isn’t just anyone’s graduation story. It is your story proven by all the specifics you added to make it your story – something Lucy reminds us if as did Shana Frazin at her Spring Reunion Sat writing workshop.

    I just finished teaching memoir with my 5th graders where we annotated many memoirs to notice the narrative parts and the essay parts. As I read yours I easily could annotate all your narrative and essay craft moves making your piece so strong.

    Finally as I finished reading I was thinking about who must read your piece – your sister and your niece.

    I am honored that I got to read it too! Thanks for sharing a story that only you can tell.


  8. Betsy, this was so lovely! The description of your niece as a light and the image of bubbles floating around her conjured innocence, goodness, irredescence, and the sense that she was chosen to do something special. What I love about writing and what I hope my students learn is what you said about sharing your story, catching the moments. I used to think that “real” writers were the published ones but the truth is we all have stories worth telling and moments in our lives that burn with importance, begging to be remembered and reflected upon. Writing allows all of us to capture those moments in time and tell our story as only we can. Being a writer is not about being published but about saying what you need to say when you need to say it. I’m so glad you had such a special moment that made a burning story. Hope Mary loved reading it!


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