writing alone and with others

Prompt: Being Brave

The prompt this week is from Pat Schneider’s book “Writing Alone and with Others,” a book we use as one of our key guides for our writing group. The exercise on being brave.

Write something that feels too huge, or too dangerous, to tell. Courage is not the special prerogative of those who have experienced some dramatic suffering. It is a part of the human condition, related to the danger and the suffering we all experience. Once a writer friend said, when she learned that I had been in an orphanage as a child, “Pat, you are so lucky! What hurt you is so clear and obvious!” She grew up in a proper home where church and community kept things in order. How do you find what went wrong, when the table is set with silver and the candles burn and everything is so proper? It takes courage – perhaps more than for those of us who have dramatic material in our background.

The following poem, of which this is an excerpt, served as the prompt example You may read the whole thing on Google Books for free.

The poem was written by a young woman in Japan during one of Pat’s workshops there. The woman is C. Misa Sugiura and speaks of the shame a child feels when ridiculed, focusing on the poet’s attendance at an elementary school in the United States.

When I was little,
people laughed at me
and called me
They pulled their eyes into
and said,
“Me Chinese!”
and laughed.

I didn’t know my
face was flat
so I went home
and looked in the mirror
to see…

So I went to school
and said, “I’m Japanese and
my face
is like yours,
isn’t it?

And they said,
It isn’t!
It’s flat like a pancake.
Me Japanese pancake-face!
And they laughed.

And I went home again
and looked in the mirror
and I cried because
they were right.