a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Your Story, You Reading My Story

“The tiniest story in your life can deeply touch another.  You cannot know the effect your story might have.” –SARK

This magnet clings to a file cabinet beside my desk at school.  Its sentiment is not new to me. But new to me is the depth to which I embody this message as a teacher of readers and writers.  New to me is the strength with which I impart this message to the readers and writers in my classroom.

Following the NCTE convention, I could feel the power of story everywhere I went.  I carried it with me.  Story settled itself deep inside me—in the marrow of my bones.  

I returned to school after the NCTE convention the day before we were to be off for our five-day fall vacation.  With the power of story pulsing through me, I presented my 8th grade students with a challenge (I prefer challenges to homework, myself): Collect a story during the five-day weekend to share upon their return to school.  No writing.  No worksheet.  Just carry the story back to school with you in your heart.  Be ready to share it with us. 

I answered questions about what the story had to be about.  Anything that you connect with, that has meaning for you.  I explained that talking and (better yet) listening to family members was a great way to gather stories.  I didn’t have high expectations, but I sure had high hopes. 

Upon our return to school, we spent the first day back sharing stories.  Sharing our stories.  We laughed when J described his father goofing around by putting on his brother’s graduation suit, which was way too small for him.  Our mouths watered when R told his story about eating his grandmother’s tamales.  We got teary-eyed when A talked about her first Thanksgiving after being separated from her brother.  We got goosebumps when K told how his uncle survived during the Vietnam War by hiding under a solid oak table, the only structure that didn’t collapse, during the bombing of the building where he was stationed.  

We shared our stories.

The power of these stories has lasted far beyond that day of sharing.  These stories deeply touched people.  These stories were raw and humble.  They were not polished or spectacular.  And yet, these stories deeply touched people.  

Today, I got to the point in the book Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally where I was charged with my first ‘Do It Now Challenge.’  After dancing for two minutes like a 5-year old (the first task on the list—a task for which my husband spontaneously joined me), I was prompted to write for three minutes nonstop about what brings me joy.  Although dancing with utter abandon was clearly on my mind, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the power of story to build connections.  Connecting with people—really being present and connecting with people—through story is what brings me pure joy. 

This, today—this slice of life opportunity to share and be shared with—this is what brings me pure joy.  This is what deeply touches me.  Your story, you reading my story deeply touches me and brings me joy.


  1. I, too, agree with your sentiment: "Your story, you reading my story deeply touches me and brings me joy." So true Christy! Love this slice and we all have a story to tell, even the tiniest to share, to touch us. I love reading your stories. Your stories (and comments!) always make me think deeper, growing as a reader and writer. The book you are reading sounds great -- will have to check it out.

  2. Life is a Verb has been on my wish list for awhile! I will now have to get it, I think!

    I absolutely love your last line. Beautifully written. Powerful. It should be the tag line of your blog!

    Thanks for all the comments this year on my blog. You are a friend of the soul and I love sharing your stories with you.

  3. Lately everything I've been reading (professional texts) has talked about the power of talk to enhance learning. Your challenge to your students taught them so much more than jotting a quick idea during their break.
    I'm with Deb, your last line could be your tag line.

  4. Thank you for the book link; looks like something sweet to do!

    In P*Tag, a poetry tag book filled with great poetry for your students (there are 3 similar that just came out this fall) and can be downloaded, I just read a poem today called Beach Glass, by Sara Holbrook. And I wrote the beginning of a post from a line in that poem & the post had to do with 'story' permeating our lives everywhere. Christy, my post is different, but I was flabbergasted when I read your words, because of the connections. I love what you did with your students & it seems that they did too. What power you gave them! Thank you much for your end line, the compliment. I feel the same, love this community of writers, & so look forward to what might happen in 2012. FYI-the line I loved in that poem is "It takes slow-walking patience to fill a pocket full of untold stories." As I think of your talk of your challenges & triumphs this year, it feels like you have had that 'slow-walking patience'.

  5. I loved reading this post. I loved that you didn't have high expectations but that you had high hopes. I loved that everyone found joy in the stories shared by your students. And, I particularly love the quote that started off this Slice of Life.

  6. Storytelling needs trust and time. To create an environment where the students are not pressured by grades and time is not that easy at school. You did it. I believe that your students remember the experience of storytelling as much as you, and they understand the power stories have.
    Thank you for sharing your stories and reading/listening to mine.