1) My Aunt Sophie's kitchen table.
When we were kids and would visit my family in Long Island, I used to love to wake up in the morning and find everyone sitting around my Aunt Sophie's kitchen table eating Entenmann's, drinking coffee, and laughing. I would squeeze my little fat kid self around the table, kissing everyone good morning, looking for find a good seat for coffee cake (obvi) and the best people-watching view. My mom's side of the family is very good at telling and listening to stories and the exchanges that took place in that kitchen really made me appreciate things like timing, facial expressions, the importance of not laughing at your own joke until other people have started to laugh-- basically, I learned how to tell a story out loud by listening to what worked around that table.
It should be noted that my mom's side of the family is quite loud and the huge bursts of laughter that followed some stories fascinated me. I wanted to know what caused that laughter, why some things people said just cracked everyone up so much. So I spent my time shoving my face with chocolate covered donuts watching everyone as a story was told. I learned a lot about a lot about repetition, a lot about the importance of the unexpected, and a lot about repetition. One of the biggest accomplishments that I can point to in my life is when I first told a story around that table that made everyone laugh until they cried. I felt like I had figured something out.
2) Bunk Beds.
Nessa and I shared bunk beds when we were little and before we went to sleep every night she'd ask me to tell her a story. I'd ask her to give me character names and a word, any word, and I'd make up a little story. I never knew when she fell asleep because she was on top bunk and I think that lack of pressure, just being able to talk and talk helped me think about what I liked to talk about. The things that I like to talk about are pretty much the same things that I like to write about.
3) My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Radack.
Mrs. Radack was the first person outside of my family to see something in my writing. She used to read the stories I wrote as soon as I finished them and I'm convinced that her incredibly positive feedback and encouragement gave me the confidence I needed at that age. Encourage a kid, people! You have know idea what it might do for them! (Cue music and star graphic: The more you know...)
Anyway, I received this email from Mrs. Radack and I had to share. Note: Perhaps my Ontario video report is a video blog for the future.