Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Since I was an English Major in college, I took several Creative Writing Classes, as you might imagine.  The focus of this particular class was writing short stories that were true (aka non-fiction).  The class would break up into small groups of three or four, and read/critique each other's work.  I remember ONE of those stories twenty years later.  I can recall it in fairly accurate detail.  Let me share the bare bones of the story with you...

It is the story of an 11 year old girl who wants so much to grow up.  She wants to do grown-up things.  She has been yearning for the day when she can shave her legs with the razor that she has seen her mother use.  She knows how to do it.  It is merely squirting out the foam and then gliding that razor up the leg in precise movements.  Until all of the foam and hair is gone.  That act will define her as a woman.  She will leave the hair and childish things behind  her.  Today is the day.  She is finally squirting the foam and using her mother's razor to strip away childhood.  This day isn't the way she planned it.  There is none of the joy that she expected to feel.  None of the freedom.  There is no song in her soul.  After the act is done, she puts on the black dress hanging on the back of the door, and joins her father.  Today is her mother's funeral.  After they come home, her father surprises her with a kitten.  He knows that today was a difficult one.  She nuzzles the new friend to her chest and decides to name her Zoe, meaning Life.  The end.

I was crying by the end of that piece, which was actually several pages in length.  I had nothing for it by way of critique.  It was wonderful.  Until that story, I had never even thought about the impact of a non-fictional short story.  After that, I did.  I knew that a short story of no more than two pages, if it was well written could pull a punch.  It could land one right in the gut.  The fact that I remember that story is a testament to its power.

Will I ever write anything, long or short, that impacts a person the way that story did me?  I don't know.  However, this blog is me exercising my writing muscle so that it doesn't get flabby.  I might not knock out gems here every day, but I try to write *something* every few days just to stay toned.  That way when I jump back into the Writing Game of Life I will be ready.  Thank you Christine (the writer of the awesome paper) for the inspiration.  Thank you, too, Zoe!

Rating: Life Lesson

Who has inspired you to be a better writer?  What stories do you still remember twenty years later? 


  1. I don't remember a specific story, but I remember a teacher who taught me how to appreciate short stories, how to look for the deeper meaning in literature. I took Mr. Mueller's short story class as a junior in high school, and I'm forever grateful to him for showing me the power of words.

    Great job with the Challenge Robin. Your posts are thoughtful and engaging. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  2. That is a powerful story, especially since it's true.
    Will I ever write such a story? Probably not, but hopefully I can impact in other ways.
    You however, stand a very good chance of writing such a story when one considers the impact of the words you write here.

  3. Two signs of a good story....it brought out emotion in you, and you remember it so many years later.

    I've got a file drawer of started manuscripts that I doubt I will ever get around to finishing....sadly I lost the writing bug during my fourth decade (was fairly prolific up until then).

    I hope you stick with it-you may just be surprised at the impact you will have on a reader!


  4. I love short stories, to be honest. Maybe it's because it's all the time I have, or maybe because I think it's actually more challenging to fit all that plot into a shorter story, so every word is sacred...

    whatever it is, they speak loud and clear to me. I remember my mom reading me Ray Bradbury's short stories to me when I was a kid. And they were amazing.

    Thanks for sharing the sweet, sad story of Zoe. It was beautiful.

  5. A lot of people have inspired me. The first short story I remember reading that inspired me was The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.

  6. Forgot to say congrats on completing a great A-Z. I'm glad we connected, and I enjoy your blog a lot.

  7. Tim ~ The best teachers bring out about an appreciation for something new and wonderful, like short stories. If a teacher can help you find the deeper meaning in Literature that is priceless. There are not enough Mr. Muellers out there. Lucky you.

    Alex ~ You already impact so many people with your blog. I see it happening daily/weekly/monthly. People might not remember everything you say, but they will remember how you made them FEEL.

    Larry ~ You never know when you will get that second wind, so don't throw those stories away... I am waiting on mine. I am certain there is a novel (or two or more) in me somewhere!

    Phoenix ~ It is always a pleasure when you drop in. Short stories are challenging for all of the reasons you name. Yes, every word is sacred. The writer must pick and choose wisely because there can be no waste. I didn't come close to doing Christine's story justice, but Zoe lives on, no?

  8. The funny thing is, we never know just how something we write will affect another. I mean, someone might read something of mine and say "That's pretty cool!", while another might say "That's utter crap!".

    Either way, I think we all that potential to come up with these little gems...we just need to be in the right frame of mind.

    Congrats on finishing A to Z and it's been fun to meet and discover your wonderful blog. I've truly enjoyed it, so thanks! :)

  9. I remember a poem a friend of mine wrote that hit me like that. Hooray for you exercising your writing muscle! I but it feels stronger now! Congratulations on a great accomplishment!

  10. I remember an essay I wrote in high school that my very strict impossible to please teacher used as an example of good writing in our class. I was horribly embarrassed but years later, his praise helped me believe I could be a writer.

  11. I love the picture on your blog and the saying, I LOL every time!Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting, I truly appreciate it. Good story. I still remember the day I first shaved my legs, I was eleven.

  12. The best writing always comes from your heart. That's the best piece of advice I can give any writer. Always write from the heart and never lie.

  13. Other writers always inspire me to be a better writer. But when I was in the 12th grade, my English teacher had a huge impact on me. She is the one that kept encouraging me to write and gave me a voice. I will always remember her for that.

  14. Robin
    I've enjoyed all of your posts, as I've told you before, you write with honesty about your heart-feelings. Just keep spreading the truth with your stories.
    Congrats, kiddo.... you completed the A-Z and placed some extra love upon the Universe. Another good job.

  15. There is a story I remember from 7th grade...it was a short story about children who lived on another planet...and one little girl had spent her time studying the planets cycles...they lived on a planet where the sun only came every 7 years (or something like that). The kids didn't believe her..and they locked her in a closet...and the sun came...and all she got was a single strip of sun...the unfairness of that has never left me...all the kids who didn't believe her...watching the sun....they let her out of the closet..and they felt terrible..but it didn't bring back what she missed. It impressed upon me the idea that you should never take something from someone else that you can't replace.

  16. What a powerful story. It is amazing the power one can deliver in a small amount of time and words.

  17. I can't imagine anyone wanting to grow up so they can shave their legs. Are you sure this is a true story, Robin? Will you ever write anything, long or short, that impacts a person the way that story did you? Maybe you already did. I sure will remember this story.

  18. Hi Robin,

    I can most certainly understand how that deeply profound story touched your heart and touched your writing.

    Life stories do indeed inspire my writing. A tale of a brave dog from over twenty years ago still touches my heart. And the story of a little boy I knew who died of leukaemia and brought such joy to all who met him. He was five years old.

    Congratulations on completing the A to Z, Robin.

    In kindness and goodwill,


  19. Mark ~ Perspective always plays a part in this process. We each have a lens through which we view things. Of course, I agree with that. Some people read this blog and take a pass and others say, "Yes, that is something I want to read." You and I do that, too, every day. No one can read everything. We all have to be selective. So we choose what is hitting our Interest Factor the most.

    Liza ~ Maybe some day I will be sitting where you are with books written and query letter out there. Who knows?

    Susan ~ That is *the best* sort of embarrassment. Believe in you.

    Cathrina ~ I think every girl remembers that moment. That is what made that story so painful. It is this rite of passage that is looked forward to with anticipation. And then ~ bam ~ the kicker. I had no idea her mother was even dead until that story. People carry around so many things. We just don't know people. At all.

    Steven ~ I agree. I think that is why this story was so darn powerful. Everything you get here is HONEST. That is why I call it Blog Therapy. If you are looking for a Shuck and Jive, there are other blogs.

    Yvonne ~ Great teachers are powerful. I am glad you had one.

    Manzanita ~ I really don't know any other way to do it...

    Christine ~ That is a powerful story with an equally powerful message. My mom has lately been talking similar talk about not taking something away if you don't have something to replace it. In other words, it may be bad news, but if you don't have an idea on how to fix it, I don't want to hear about it until you have at least one suggestion. When you have something to bring to the table, then we'll talk. I know that is not precisely the same thing, but it is a real way of applying the subtext in the real world.

    Rebecca ~ I am coming to the conclusion that so many events in our lives are actually just short stories. And they affect us in extraordinary and profound ways, Ergo, there must be a way to transcribe that experience into the written word.

    Grumpster ~ All I can say to this is to talk to your wife about this one. This is a girl thing. Most young girls look forward to the day that they can shave their legs and remember that first time FOREVER.

    1. I'm always amused by sixteen-year-old guys showing off their first mustache. Add to this two gallons of enough Giorgio to further damage the ozone layer and they're in business.

      Angie threatened to throw again her ladyshave.

  20. Firstly, I want to congratulate you on making it to the final letter.

    So many influences for me. I discovered Flannery O'Connor 40 years ago when I was in college and have reread her stories many times. A story that really grabbed me when I was in high school was "Descending" by Thomas Disch. Not quite the emotional impact of the story you recount, but the scenario and the telling totally captivated me and is something I think of often. Also, the poem "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold is a powerful piece that gives me chills when I read it or just think about it.

    Interesting what inspires each of us.

    Tossing It Out

  21. Aw, this is so touching - and I'm sure you will write something that poignant if that's what you want. Wishing you every success! :-)

  22. I have no doubts you'll write many stories like that. Your style of writing is evocative and meaningful. I'm inspired daily by bloggers' (you included) posts. I'm also inspired by so many others stories, I can't begin to list them.

    Keep faith, Robin.

  23. Robin: Ask and ye shall receive. I wrote a nonfiction story on my blog just for you.

  24. For all you know, you already have. Writing is like teaching in that regard. We put it out there hoping to make a difference. It usually does, most of the times in ways we never see. Funny thing is, if we saw the positive effect of some of our work, we might lose our creative edge.

  25. Arlee ~ Thank you for thinking up this Brain Child of a challenge. I have read some Flannery O'Connor, but I will have to check out the other short story you mentioned. "Dover Beach" sounds familiar, though I may be thinking of another poem entirely. Hmmm. I will have to look that one up, too.

    Lexa ~ Thank you. Right back at ya:)

    Robyn ~ So many bloggers inspire me, too. I am so glad I found yours!

    JJ ~ I just finished your piece. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    M.J. ~ You make a very good point!

  26. Powerful stories feel like they're so hard to capture--they seem deceptively simple when you're reading them.

    Congrats on finishing the Challenge!

  27. You have a great blog. I have nominated you for the Liebster award. Please see my post for May 2,2013 for details/instructions.
    Take care and look forward to more great posts.

    Patricia, Sugar & Spice & All Things ? Nice

  28. First - the dog picture at the top of your page cracks me up every single time I come here. That story would stick with me too! "Will I ever write anything, long or short, that impacts a person the way that story did me?" Absolutely. You are a beautiful writer. I really enjoy reading all of your posts. I've been trying to incorporate more protein in my diet to cut down on headaches after reading your X post. That post resonated with me. ;)

  29. Golden Eagle ~ I agree. They are difficult to write. They have their own nuance for sure.

    Patricia ~ Thank you Patricia!

    Kimberly ~ I hope more protein helps. If not, don't give up. There is an answer out there for you. Thank you for the compliment on the writing.


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