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A Discovery in Writing

My favorite short story in all the years I've scribbled, is the one I wrote for an Elderhostel class at the Grandaddy of writers' workshops at the University of Iowa back in the early 80's Until that class, I had never been able to finish the stories I started  with the exception as a faithful childhood contributor to long departed Aunt Dolly's page in the Sunday Chronicle. Elderhostel was a desperate effort to learn how to actually write a complete story, or decide I was not really a writer.

I  confessed this inability to our instructor in our one on one interview, telling him I had one I had been thinking about for forty years based on a World War II pilot who rented the studio apartment next to mine right after release from the service.

  "Fine, write it for class," he saId.  "In two weeks?" I couldn't possibly do that."

"Why not? :You've been thinking about it long enough."

So I did. To my surprise the plot advanced more smoothly than I thought it would, actually changing somewhat from my original idea.  Just short of the two week class ending, my turn to submit a piece for the class and instructor's critique, I actually had a complete story, and one I thought pretty good as well.

The class members liked it as well, with a few suggestions to make it better. My ego jumped several notches, I was a writer after all. Then the instructor took his turn.  

"It's a credible start," he said. "Both my father and uncle were Navy flyers in the war; I know something about the subject. However, I do have some criticisms." He pointed out the problems, the predictable ending, the clichés used too often, and suggestions I could think about to really write a good story.  

Again, surprisingly, I did not find his criticism disparaging, instead he had opened some new paths I might pursue. My ego slipped a notch or two but I also began to be eager to really work on my story.

Back in San Francisco, other things occupied the front burners and my  story lay dormant for a time, but my mind kept revolving about possible changes.  Finally. I began to rewrite, Fifteen sessions later I had a story I truly loved, and realized it was what I had really wanted to write all along. 

My youngest brother lost his life on Okinawa in the war, and my story became my striving to come to terms with his death. It may never be published but it's still my favorite story among the others I've written over the years.