Pat Schneider is one of my heroes. She is a writer, poet, teacher, and wise woman. I found her book, Writing Alone and With Others, in 2004 when I was facilitating a writing group in a women’s shelter in Jackson, MS. I read the entire thing in two days. It was exactly what I had been looking for. Even though I compiled writing prompts and had a loose structure for the group, she gave a name and structure to the method I was already using.
“Fear is close to the center of the first stories we will want to tell….Fear has a good reason for being; understanding it can make all the difference.” (Page 3)
In her book, Schneider quotes a piece by Sister Milagros Sanchez titled If I Succeed:
“If I succeed, my work will be public; I will be public. My work will be viewed by people…who will pry deeper, as if what I have revealed is not enough. They will demand more, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to deliver. They will find out what a big fake I am; I, myself, will find out that I am not THAT deep, THAT profound.” (Pages 15–16)
I have other fears as well. That people may find that I’m not THAT good a writer.
Or even more fear that they will find that I am.
Have you ever seen something, witnessed an event or an action or a news photo that stirs up your emotions so profoundly that you have a visceral reaction to it? And you wrote about it? Well I have. And it won a prize in the Memphis Magazine Fiction Contest last year. I entered two pieces and I really didn’t think that story was the best one of the two. But someone did. And paid me money for it.
What I saw that affected me deeply was a story in the New York Times and the photo that you see here. In the photo in the Times, two people are carrying an old beat up and patched mattress and all you can see are their legs. In the background is a 1950’s version American car sans engine, and people are watching from the balconies of run-down tenements. Envy in their eyes. I was so touched by that photo that I ran to my keyboard and wrote a story about a young couple carrying their marriage bed through the streets.
The story focused entirely on the young couple’s yearning, the envy of their friends, and their fear of being found out.
Have you ever witnessed, heard, or read something that stirred your emotions to the point that you had to do something? And you wrote about it?