The Stories You Tell Again and Again

Today I teach the Advanced Writing students about writing their “Signature Stories” for their professional development. It’s such a fun and meaningful assignment. We look at the key stories that have shaped our ideas about work and adulthood.

They choose one life story, and they craft the tale in five pages of vivid verbs, varied sentence patterns, sensory detail, dialogue, and tension. We talk about how to present an unanswered question that promises a delayed revelation. We talk about creating mood and mystery. We talk about important characters in our stories.

We talk about why this story must be told.

I tell them a few of my own Signature Stories like the Neighborhood Fitness Group, my decision to write a daily blog, the day I became a teacher, or the day I knew I was meant for graduate school.

I have sets of stories about overcoming, about finding love, about parenting, and about learning. At my age, I’ve collected cautionary tales, adventure stories, and even my own ghost stories.

Life is story. We tell the story, and we pass on wisdom, warning, insight, or just a good, hearty laugh. We tell stories because we testify in front of these witnesses who acknowledge the meaning and beauty of this one little life that has seen what nobody else has seen, in the way that it saw it, with the people it knows, in the exact location it lived.

Oh, life is wonderful, mysterious, and so rich. I can’t wait to read all of the stories these brilliant students will write.

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