Monday, July 9, 2018

The Power of Feedback and Risk-Taking by Fran Haley

I finished reading my short story to the group.


There I sat, waiting for a response, having been asked by the facilitator (also my friend) to share some of my writing with fellow educators in our summer writing institute.

Maybe this was a mistake, I thought. Maybe I should have chosen another piece. This one, after all, is heavy; it’s about a daughter picking up her father’s ashes from a funeral home and deciding not to return them to her mentally ill mother.

After a moment, a colleague near the front said, “I’m just processing. I’m not a fan of most fiction, but I would read this.”

I exhaled. Didn’t even know I was holding my breath.

Another colleague: “I want to know what happens to these characters. Especially the mother.”

A murmur of assent from across the room.

A resonant voice in the back—a high school English teacher—called out: “What you really have here is a novel. You have the opening and closing scenes, of sorts, but there’s so much more story to tell.”

Suddenly my colleagues were chattering about the destiny of my characters. Wanting to know their journey; were they going to be “okay?”

Another breath, not so much an exhale as a sigh: When, and HOW, to go about fleshing this short story into . . .  something more?

But I went home and started making notes, thinking about whys, what-ifs, timelines, backstory, realizing that I can write the most vivid scenes in my mind first and string them together later as chapters. I am working on one now.  A whole year later, but I’m writing.

Maybe I’ll read it at the teacher writing institute this summer.

While I celebrate the power of feedback, risk-taking, and reaching for what’s just beyond my grasp.

Fran Haley is a K-12 English Language Arts educator currently serving as a K-5 literacy coach. Writing is her favorite thing to do and to teach; she loves helping others of all ages grow to love writing. She facilitates writing workshop training for teachers in her district and authors the blog Lit Bits and Pieces: Snippets of Learning and Life. Connect with her on Twitter: @fahaley.


  1. Sharing our writing is SO HARD, but it is also so rewarding as we share our words with an audience and get their authentic feedback. Once you do, you’re hooked. I’ve learn d so much about bravery from you, Fran. Keep sharing!

    1. While it is true that we should write for ourselves first, to keep stretching & growing, we must share. I recently saw a teacher weeping at a summer writing session because she was so moved that a colleague willingly listened to & gave feedback on her writing; she said, “No one has ever done that for me before.” It does take courage! If I am brave, it is because others such as you, Jen, have encouraged me to keep putting it out there. Thank you! :)

  2. Thank you for sharing your celebration and your ongoing journey. Good luck!

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Nicole, and for your response. Here’s to your celebratory writing journey as well.

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  4. Whenever I share my writing, I take in that breath and sit wondering how others will respond. It takes a brave calm. I'm happy to hear you are working on a novel. I love your writing and want it to be shared more. Are you doing Kate Messner's Teachers Write?

    1. You captured so well that sense of uncertainty and taking the step of faith anyway, Margaret - “brave calm,” yes! I hesitate to say I am working on a novel. I fear those words will jinx any effort to expand this little story into the one that apparently wants to be written! It’s bubbling in my brain all the time. I am not doing Kate Messner’s Teachers Write, although I am familiar with it & know it’s productive. And, most of all, thank you so much for your belief in my writing; that’s powerful fuel. :)


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