The very first time I submitted myself to any sort of peer review, I was a freshman in college. For weeks, I poured my energy onto the page, pushing and pulling at the plot of my short story with such terrific angst that by the end of the ordeal I barely had enough energy to cross the campus and turn the thing in. My professor greeted me at the door. It took thirty seconds for him to read the look on my face, and when he did, he merely shook his head and laughed softly.

I think he knew I wanted to cry.

“It doesn’t have to be this hard,” he smiled, squeezing my shoulder affectionately. “Let’s take a peek at what you’ve got here.”

I had a lot.

In fact, I had too much.

He invested a good chunk of time in reading through my draft and even more in providing me honest feedback about what worked and what didn’t. In the end, though, improvement was borne of one simple act: he took out his pen, circled one paragraph, and handed my paper back to me.

“That’s your story,” he suggested. “It’s right there in that short paragraph.”

He suggested that I write within that small moment, and so I did.

It was good advice.

Last summer, I offered this same advice to a group of young writers that I get to work with through the WNY Young Writers’ Studio. The video below served as a bit of mentor text. I thought I’d share, in anticipation of my next series of posts. I’ll be blogging some small moment stories that reflect my work as a literacy coach. I’m hoping that others who support teachers will stop in and share their stories too.



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