― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
It is our class theme...and if I am totally open and honest, it is a major theme in my own life as a literature teacher and writer, as well: The Power of Words....
I will share with you two stories from my life, as well as two very different videos that both address this theme. In return, I want to learn about YOU, and how this theme is true for you in your life.
Flashback many, many, MANY years ago. Mrs. Caraway is only about three, almost four years old. This must have been a significant moment to me because I don't have memories from that far back...yet this one is clear. My mother had bought me a magnetic letter set and board so that we could practice "making words." She would move the letters around, and I would watch, in amazement, and listen to the sound of them sliding on the board. She made the word cat. She made the word dog. She made other words. And then she made the letters spell my name.
That same day, she had to write a check at the table to pay a bill while I was busy sliding the letters around on the board. I remember very clearly watching her sign HER name on the check--she wrote in swirly letters, and she had beautiful handwriting. She wrote in that strange language you all know as "cursive." I didn't say anything, but as she put the check into the envelope, I remember distinctly thinking to myself: I need to learn how to write my name--how to write these words the letters make in swirls. That was powerful. I recognized that power. Even at three.
Flash forward to my freshman year at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California. I was probably THE shyest girl in Honors English I. I barely spoke. Our first writing assignment was given: write a description of a secondary character from Steinbeck's The Red Pony in his same style of description. I read the reading assignment we had over carefully. I noticed how Steinbeck didn't describe his characters outright; instead, he put them into some mundane or routine action, and gave us a glimpse of what they did, how they did it, and the very subtle expressions in their face and words. He basically SHOWED us who they were. I wrote my description of Jody's (the main character) mother.
The next day, the teacher said only one student did the assignment correctly and imitated the style of Steinbeck. She was going to read that student's work out loud. I remember the instant she started reading recognizing my words. THAT was powerful. She told me that day (aside, later) that I was a writer. That's what she said: you are a very good writer. I still remember those words and their power. They meant the world to me.
We are about to embark on a reading of some very inflammatory texts this week. They may upset you. They may offend you. Why? Because words have power. They use this power in many ways--depending on the author's intention. They are weapons of anger and destruction or saviors of grace. In just four weeks, we will begin reading Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. You will see the power of words in one young girl's life and the life of her country. You will see those words hurt and heal. And you know what? The experience will be powerful.
I love words so, so much. I love to play with them. I love to manipulate them and move them around on the page. I love searching for just the right one. They mean the world to me, so this will be probably my longest post of the year (sorry). I will also confess that sharing the words I have written in my own novels with you in class was a powerful experience for me, too.
Enjoy these videos. Enjoy the message they convey. I hope they move you in your heart so you experience that power working in you. It is magic. In closing, I wish to share a favorite quote by Markus Zusak with you...
"I have hated words, and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right."
I hope that this year, you will experience both the joy and sorrow of words so that you, too can fully appreciate and experience their power.
~from Mrs. Caraway with love