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September Writing Prompt

The books of William Zinsser, noted journalist and professor, have been a profound teacher for me along my writing journey. His words provide insight as well as inspiration, and I routinely return to my Zinsser collection time and time again.

In Writing About Your Life, Zinsser states, “One of the pleasures of writing a memoir is to repay the debts of childhood.” He goes on to talk about the people who gave him what he needed to succeed. So let’s write about such a person in your life.

Newsletter_thankyoupicWho is someone you owe a debt of any kind to? Who was this person to you–a relative, a friend, a teacher, someone passing through your life? What did he/she do for you? How did what he/she gave you affect your life? Take this opportunity to repay a debt, and comment below to give this person even more credit by sharing it with us.


  • Brenda O'Connor
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Usually, I respond to the prompt before breakfast while I am having coffee. Not today. I even went food shopping and ran several errands all the while pondering who would be the topic of today’s writing. Names fought for attention in a confused mind. How lucky I am to have so many people to choose from: Aunt Rose who bought us our back to school clothes; Alice Gill who bought our shoes; Uncle James who worked two full time jobs saving most of his salary and eventually giving it all to his eight nieces and nephews so each would have a downpayment on a house; my parents who gave us roots and wings. Each of these helped me become the person I am today, and I owe them.

    I had just about decided not to respond when I gave in to the one name that kept insinuating itself, Miss Watson. I hadn’t thought of Miss Watson for 50 or 60 years. She was my eighth grade history teacher. You may be imagining her as some beautiful, young, bubbly teacher new to the field that whole classes of students adored. You would be wrong. Miss Watson was frumpy. She wore old fashioned high heeled oxfords, brown or black in winter, beige or white in spring and silk stockings very evidently darned in several places. She was not a looker! But, could she teach!

    We studied Greek Gods, Goddesses, history, myth, and arts. We knew the geography of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. We lived in fifth century Athens, we fought at Troy and Thermopylae and listened to the Oracle of Delphi. For one whole year we studied Greece, lived Greece, loved Greece.

    Ms Watson, “old maid school marm”, went to Greece each summer. Staying at convents to save money, she lived and learned and observed to enhance her work. One time when she was on the Acropolis, she scooped up some worthless pebbles and quickly put them in her pocket. The guards gave chase, but spry Miss Watson lost them. She passed these pebbles around the class. Each of us felt like we were holding gold – she had the ability and skill to make us believe.

    The first time I climbed the Acropolis, I said under my breath, I made it, Miss Watson, I’m here.

    During my forty years teaching, I pray there were some moments that I inspired students like Miss Watson did so many years ago.

    • Post Author
      Posted September 24, 2015 at 7:37 am

      Great job, Brenda. I love how you gave us a taste of all the people you could write about and what they did for you but then focused on the one who compelled you to make it about her. You made it so real. I could see those pebbles going around the class and the wonder you had. Well done.

  • Judi
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Not unlike Brenda, I had a hard time deciding who to write about. No one person came up higher than the rest. My pastor came to mind, teachers in school, and of course, my mother. There was someone later in life, though, who became my mentor, who kept me sane.

    My husband met “Gator” when he worked.for the State. He invited us to his house to get some fresh fruit he had growing in his yard. We were new in Florida and had no friends, so this invitation was exciting to me. “Gator” was his CB handle. We all had CB radios back then, and Gator was a strong presence in Kowtown. His wife was so sweet, smiling, composed, gave the children cookies and talked with us as we selected our fruit. I liked Mama Gator immediately.

    Through the years we became close friends. She took us in when we became homeless, I cleaned for her as her health declined. We exchanged books and discussed author’s style, and when her health became too bad to be able to take care of Gator, they moved to North Carolina to live with her daughter, who was a nurse. We wrote back and forth even then. I made a trip to see her. She died shortly after. Her death left a hole in my life and my heart. She wasn’t there to consult, to get advice from, and it hurt.

    I try now to be to others what she was to me. Everyone needs someone to talk to, someone to help them see the obvious. I knew all along I was blessed to know them both.

    • Post Author
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:08 am

      That’s a beautiful story, Judi; Mama Gator sounds like a wonderful woman. I think you are succeeding in your quest because you are a help to many people. Well done.

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