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.