Younger than the other writers in the group, she sat quietly and listened. Her older sister focused on the discussion, along with the other 5th and 6th graders. Our first meeting at the library for a writing workshop. Glancing outside at the first warm spring day reminded me I the workshop needed to capture the young writers’ attention.
Once everyone participated in the discussion I gave the young writers a prompt. I also let them know they didn’t have to write about the prompt if they didn’t want to. Simply write. Write what you want to write. This invitation seized their attention, except for the young girl. She walked up to me and asked “What do you want me to write about?”
“I want you to write what you want to write about.” She still looked confused.
“But I don’t know what you want” she said, clearly getting more upset by the minute and with each word.
“This is not about what I want. There’s no grade. You don’t have to follow a format. Just write what you want to write. It can be a fairy tale, or something that happened to you, or a note to someone. It’s your story.” I attempted to explain. Her eyes glazed over, eyebrows tense. She quietly sat down near her sister. Slowly, the tears flowed. I recognized an option was to sit with her, comfort her and give her more structure. I choose to trust the gift of allowing her to write what she wanted to write. I began to write while holding space for her emotions. Everyone but the young girl focused on writing their story. As silence filled the room, I noticed, from the corner of my eye, a notebook, then a pencil, and then words filling a page. She was writing. Tears still trickled down her cheeks. No one spoke or made a sound other than pens and pencils forming words on a page.
When I observed most of the young writers begin to squirm and show signs of restlessness, I announced there was just one more minute of writing. The young girl barely heard my voice.
As we gathered with our stories, one by one the young writers shared what they wrote. The young girl, no longer confused, shared her story about her grandmother, who died last year. As she read the last word she looked up and smiled.
“Now I know your grandmother too. Thank you for sharing her with us through your story.” I said while looking directly at her.