Listen to a conversation between a student and her creative writing professor.
Hello, Professor Thompson. Could I talk to you for a minute?
[Glad to see her] Oh, hi, Laura, we missed you last class.
Yeah, I was sick for a few days. Um, I was wondering, did I miss a lot of work?
[Thinking] Let’s see.... Well, we discussed the story that you’d been assigned to read for class, “A Memory,” by Eudora Welty....
And ... then ... we listened to a recording of an interview with Welty.
The recording’s on reserve at the library: Uh, you’ll need to listen to it.
[Pausing to shift back to talking about the story] Uh, so, did you have a chance to read the story?
[Hesitating a little] Yeah, I-I did.
What did you think?
Well, I was a little surprised …. I mean … the first time I read it, anyway.
What surprised you?
You know … it just seemed like there was nothing going on in the story.
I mean, a girl is just sitting at the beach, thinking about one of her memories …and…at the same time… she’s watching other bathers on the beach …and sort of just thinking about what they’re doing, too.
And that’s all that happens!
So at the end of the story, I thought, [Slight incredulity.] “That’s it?”
I know what you mean ….
Uh, there's, um, no surprise ending, like in O. Henry's story, "The Gift of the Magi,"… or some big adventure, like in Faulkner’s, “The Bear.” …
So, you didn't like the story?
Well, actually, while I was reading it the second time, I sort of realized that you don't need surprises or excitement to have a great story.
The girl's memory and stuffs she was thinking about while she was watching the other people on the beach were really interesting to read about,
And, you know, it-it made me think that...when I write my story, the one we have to write for this class, I could maybe use my own memories to get me started.
Well, in fact, I’d hoped you’d see that ….
Uh, of course there are many levels to this story, but what I really wanted the class to take away from it was that you don’t need to write about “the great exciting world” when you write your stories ….
Um, even writing about a memory can work.
Like, I could write about one of the times I took a walk in the woods when I was a kid.
Exactly. You know, as the due date of your stories approaches, Uh, I'm hearing from a lot of students that they're worried because they don't have anything "exciting enough" to write about .
But Welty said in the interview we listened to and in her autobiography that her worst stories were the ones where she’d tried to write about people and places that were unfamiliar to her.
That's why a lot of her stories are set in Mississippi, where she's from.
Uh, Welty stressed that, for her, anyway, familiarity with her subject matter was the key to a successful story.
Familiarity. That makes sense. Thanks, Professor Thompson.
No problem. Uh, now don't forget to listen to that recording.