It’s peaceful working alone in my home office. To my left, there is a wall of windows facing a small lake. A cheerful mix of duck squawks and birdsong filter in through an open window.
One day I hear the words, “Contact the teacher.”
That instant, I have a mental image of a writing class I sat in on 20 years ago in Marina Del Rey, California. It was the only writing class I’ve come close to taking.
I remember the teacher. Attractive, insightful, maybe 10 years older than I was. A friend invited me to attend, and I went several times.
The students all wrote at home. In class, everyone sat back and relaxed while each person read his or her story aloud. Afterwards, the other students and the teacher commented. The most memorable part was that the stories were written from real life experiences in first person, present tense. I felt like each writer was speaking into a microphone, narrating his or her life as it happened. It was personal. Intimate. Engaging.
I don’t recall the teacher’s name, but I do know the name of a book he wrote: Writing from Within. I’ll Google it. His name is Bernard Selling. Looks like he’s written quite a few books over the years. I’ll email him.
Dear Bernard, I sat in on several of your writing classes many years ago. I am an author myself now and am writing to thank you. Your classes touched me. I offer consulting for writers and have recommended Writing From Within to others over the years. Blessings, Kira
Hi Kira, Always happy to have had a positive impact. Good to hear that you are now a writer yourself. By the way, I’ve written three new books (two books, one workbook) updates of WFW with quite a bit of new material. For an experienced writer like you, I suggest Writing from Deeper Within. Thanks for the hello. Bernard”
I call my friend Jacquelina; she’s like a sister to me. “Hi, what’s up?” she asks.
“I was working alone when I distinctly heard the words, ‘Contact the teacher.’”
“You mean like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams? ‘If you build it they will come.’”
“Something like that. There wasn’t any sound, but I heard the words distinctly.”
“Do you know who the teacher is?”
“Bernard Selling, a writing teacher I met in Marina Del Ray over two decades ago when I was living in Venice.”
“I have been wanting to focus more on my writing, she says.”
A day passes. I am sitting at my computer working when I hear, “You’ve got to teach what he teaches!” This time the words are emphatic. Still silent. An inner voice, like someone is in my head.
Think I will email Bernard again.
Dear Bernard, Have you ever trained others to teach your technique? My friend Jacquelina and I are both interested. We love to write, and we like the emotional component of creating a safe and nurturing way for people to open up. Your approach weaves those elements together! Kira
Hi Kira, Thank you for your interest in teaching my writing method. Yes, I would be happy to mentor you and your friend through the process. Just let me know when you are ready to begin. Bernard
A month passes. In the last few weeks, a number of my friends expressed a desire to get serious about their writing. With little effort, I organize a writing class with Bernard and women in three different time zones. We plan to meet every other Sunday by phone. My initial thought is to set it up so we can video chat, but no one wants to be on camera. I set up a conference call instead.
Fast-forward four years. The writing class continues to meet every other week. Some students drop out; others take their place. Jacquelina and I stay with it.
If I use one word to describe our experience, it would be transformational. That juicy word encompasses so much. There is Bernard Selling’s simple yet profound technique that anyone can learn. There is his insistence that giving feedback is about communicating our sensory experience (Do we see the characters, feel their feelings, hear their thoughts?) and not about criticizing. There is the self-reflective nature of this writing approach, which enlivens the potential for writers to heal the past and become more present. There is Bernard’s honest feedback and consistent encouragement to let go of old writing habits and write authentically from the heart. And, there is the strong sense of community within this evolving group of exceptional women, which gives each of us permission to open wider.
I feel privileged to manage this class. Whenever we have a new student, I introduce them to Writing from Within. That part is fun. It’s like planting a seed, watering it and watching it grow.
I’ll take a break and check my email. Oh, here is an email from Bernard.
Hi Kira and Jacquelina! You have each expressed an interest in teaching my WFW method of writing. I believe you would do well at it. The significant thing from my point of view is that, through your efforts, my work has a chance to live on. That is very important to me. You could teach and eventually train others to teach. Bernard
It sounds like Bernard is offering to pass the torch to us. I feel humbled by the idea of teaching Writing from Within with his guidance. We can teach individually or we can teach together; we can give classes or workshops or webinars; we can teach in the states or overseas; we can train other teachers. So many possibilities!
The phone rings. I know it’s Jacquelina before I pick up.
“Did you get the email from Bernard?” I ask.
“That is why I am calling,” she says.
I hear the smile in her voice and smile back.
© 2016 Kira Rosner
*This story first appeared in Fresh Start Moments: True Stories to Ignite Passion & Purpose Compiled & Written by by Bob Danzig