Several years ago, Georgia Heard was visiting our area. I was one of a handful of teachers who found themselves graced with the opportunity to spend an afternoon with her at Canisius College. I’m reliving that experience this week as I reread Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way. It’s one of my favorite books about writing…right up there with Bird by Bird and Writing Down the Bones. This week, I’m discovering that it might be one of my favorite books about teaching as well:

“Throughout the country I meet people like myself who at some point in their lives decided to stop speaking–to stop telling their stories, to remain silent. Now they are writing in a workshop for the first time since college or high school, their voices shaky with beginning, angry with realized betrayls, or strong with defiance. As their writing teacher, my job is to help them speak again. To help them trust their own voices again. As a writer, my job is to keep walking out of the fire of silence myself, to keep telling the story of falling in and of climbing out again, to let my voice sing.” Georgia Heard, p. 3

I wonder how many people struggle as writers simply because they’ve had their voices silenced?

I wonder how may writers struggle as people simply because they’ve chosen to sing?

Writing is an act of courage, and Heard’s book speaks volumes about that. I think that teaching is as well. So is leading. So is learning. So is living. I guess writers aren’t alone in their battle against forces that conspire to silence them. It’s a very human battle, and I think we all fight it on many different fronts. Perhaps it’s also fair to say that sometimes we are the silenced and sometimes we act as the silencers.

I appreciate Heard’s honesty and her willingness to keep “telling the story of falling in and climbing out again.” Might we all be that brave. May we all gift our children with that sort of strength.


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