On Writing

On Thursday I dropped Mikey at school and instead of going back home as I usually do, I carried on walking further down the street. I had booked a short writing class, earlier this month, that was taking place walking distance from Mikey’s school. I had just enough time to get there after I had dropped him off, and then made it only a couple of minutes late, running the few blocks to pick him up after both of our classes had finished.

The class I attended was Motherhood and Words at StoryStudio Chicago, with instructor Kate Hopper. I had already read Kate’s book Use your Words earlier this summer, it sits on the bookshelf next to my work area, it’s pages already well thumbed and divided in places by brightly coloured post-it notes adorned with my own messy handwriting.

The class was wonderful and it was very inspiring to be a part of, even if only for a couple of hours on a Thursday. But the reverberations continue into this Friday morning and I’m feeling more inspired to write. Sometimes I think that although I write here, I don’t often write. I’m even toying with the idea of taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, I haven’t taken part for 2 years and I have never actually completed the word count in the allotted time before. But perhaps this is my year.

I wanted to share though, a piece that I wrote in the class as part of a 15 minute exercise. We were asked to write a description of a family member, after talking about character development when writing about real people, I did choose Mikey to write about. Please excuse that it is still a little rough, I haven’t had chance to revise it since the class.

Each step placed on the sidewalk is manifested in dance or a jump, skipping in and out of shadows cast by the trees until he is in the sunlight again and sees his own shadow. He stops. He bends down until his face is almost level with the concrete, as if pausing to examine a bug or a leaf but he whispers softly into the concrete, “Don’t copy me, shadow.” Then he is off again.

He runs back under the shade of a nearby oak tree and begins hunting for acorns in the dirt, stuffing them, along with handfuls of leaves, soil, and any small bug caught unawares, into every available pocket. He turns and hands me a small rock, to keep in my purse since he has run out of room. His mock exasperation, “I just don’t have that many hands!” a phrase that sounds familiar, but not from his mouth. And he is gone again, chasing a squirrel along the grass until it shoots up a tree into the high branches. It looks down at him, chattering angrily.

“Oh!” he looks at me and lowers his voice, “The squirrel must be angry that I took his acorns.” He begins to pull acorns from his pockets, showering dirt over the grass, placing all of his treasures at the base of the tree. Before he can finish, he notices something and whirls around, “Hey shadow. Don’t copy me!” He breaks into a run, the laces on his grey converse are beginning to come untied. The stars on the side of each shoe that he was so taken with when he chose them are now a muddy brown instead of their original white. He is running further down the sidewalk, jumping from concrete to grass, shade to sunlight, yelling, “Shadow! Don’t follow me! Don’t copy me!” and he is laughing.


  1. Oh Rebecca, this is gorgeous. I can totally see him. I love his commands to his shadow. I have tears in my eyes!

    It was so wonderful to meet you yesterday, but I wish I had known it was YOU. (Where was my head?) I’ll just have to come back to Chicago (or you’ll have to come to Minneapolis) so we can sit down and have coffee and chat.

    I’m grateful for your words!!
    Kate´s last post ..Comment on time by Sara

    • Thanks so much Kate.

      I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself better. You might have noticed that I’m the quiet type, but although I don’t inject myself into discussion as much as others I still got so much from the class, thank you!

      Let me know next time you’re in the area and maybe we’ll have time to get coffee? Sorry I had to rush off to pick up my son from school, I did want to stop and say hi afterwards!

      I’m looking into your writing retreat, trying to work out if it’s something I’d be able to do (both money and travel-wise) because I would love to attend.

      Thanks again!

  2. Vóvó

    I enjoyed reading your short story of Mikey. It was lovely and I could picture it in my head.

  3. Veronica

    So inspiring and beautiful. It’s like his soul is in that paragraph. Love the photos too. This is so wonderful. Please keep sharing. Character development is a massive challenge of mine. I’m going to pick up that book you mentioned and if you do NaNoWriMo ill do it too 😉
    Veronica´s last post ..Currently.

  4. I loved it. That’s wonderful you took a writing class. I know what you mean about feeling like even though you write on your blog you don’t really write. I am always extremely impressed with people who participate in NaNoWriMo. I would love to, but I honestly don’t think I could finish, so I’ve never started. Maybe that’s not the best mind-set 🙂

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