On our way home one evening, I asked my eight year old daughter if she planned on participating in a local writing contest. She had not heard about it, so I explained that she could write a poem or a short story. Thoughtfully, she said, “A poem, like Dr. Seuss? Red fish, blue fish?” I agreed that yes, Dr. Seuss wrote poetry. Then she asked a very important question. “What makes something a story?”
I’m a writer, but I admit that for a minute, I was floored. How to explain this concept to an eight-year old? I started to say that a story has a beginning, middle, and an end, but then I realized that that wasn’t really right either. So, I gave her an example. “If I say that I went to the store – is that a story?”
She gave this some serious consideration, before replying that no, she did not think that that was a story. So, I said, “And if I say that I went to the store, and an alien ship came down and broke into the store, is that a story?” She laughed and said, “Sounds like a great start to one!” Exactly! Oh, how I love watching the brain on this precious little girl.
And so, we kept talking about how the person telling the story shows how they felt and how things change. By the time we were done with our oral story, I had been kidnapped by aliens, scaring me to death, but it was a case of mistaken identity, because they were looking for their missing mom. So, because I am a mom, I helped them find their way to their own mother, who very kindly returned me to the grocery store. Yay, a happy ever after.
By the time we finished coming up with ideas and our ending, we had arrived home. As we went up the steps, my daughter announced, “I can’t wait to start writing my own story; I have a great idea for one.” Worried that I had gotten her hopes up too far about winning the contest, I reminded her that lots of stories will be entered and it is up to the judge to pick the one that they like the best. She waved her hand at me and said, “It’s okay if I don’t win. But I really just want to get this story down on paper.”
And soon after supper, she had her pencil and a pad of paper, neatly writing out each sentence. Occasionally, she would ask me to spell a word for her, but she started working out her own, very unique story. I felt a warm flush of pleasure because this was the day that I got to see my daughter become a writer. Not because she wanted to win a contest, but because she had to get the story in her head down on paper. Oh, how I can relate.