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1000 Black Lines

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Writing Class

Tonight was the fourth class on narrative nonfiction taught by Neal Thompson. Most of the class was spent listening to each other read the assignment of the week and then offering constructive comments, praise and/or critique. I am amazed how well written my classmates are. At times I feel completely out of my element, and other times I feel the warm brotherhood of creative souls playing with letters and words. Below is the story I read:

Assignment #2
Mary’s two-year-old son dressed in a red thermal sleeper watches Caillou (a PBS Kids DVD) on a frost colored iMac in the small kitchen where she folds laundry. She had moved to the western mountains of North Carolina three years ago with her husband. Now, she stands near an old wood table covered with a fall themed vinyl tablecloth from Wal-mart, three months pregnant with her second child and living in a city much different than the metropolis of her childhood.

The first eighteen years of Mary’s life were spent along the Potomac roads that lead in and out of the nation’s capital city. She confesses that stores were more convenient and opened later in the District of Columbia, but inhaling exhaust from surrounding automobiles while waiting an hour during rush hour no longer appeals to her. As a school-aged girl, she would travel an hour to school in the morning and repeat the same trek in the evening. She learned to eat on the go to keep up with the fast-paced lifestyle and estimates a quarter of her day was spent commuting along the belt way. Returning to that life would be too overwhelming she comments as she leans over the washing machine.

She appears content in her home with three different styles of chairs surrounding the table beneath the kitchen window. Though her family remains in the D.C. area, she has no desire to return. Besides, living in the general area of her family doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll see them more. While she lived near her family, doing laundry at her brother’s home and scheduling holiday festivities was the only time the family would congregate. Now, she folds laundry in her own home and visits family during the holidays. In the background, Caillou wishes he could grow taller.

It’s “much nicer to introduce someone to the mountains,” she says, than to the hectic world of Washington D.C. Mary refers to both inviting her family and friends to North Carolina as well as introducing children to a world without one-hour commutes. Sure, it takes two hours to drive to Charlotte and Knoxville and an hour to Greenville, but the view is spectacular. She does miss the cultural diversity of her hometown. Not just the cultural difference of big city versus small town U.S.A., but friendships she enjoyed crossing economic, racial, and international boundaries. Yet, it is not the environment she desires to raise her children. From the iMac situated on the countertop in the corner of the kitchen can be heard the final song from the DVD, “I’m growing, growing... everyday I’m learning.”

Class comments were as follows:
- displaced person theme works well
- immediate empathy with the person
- more contrast between D.C. and Asheville
- weaving the Cailluo video through the story seemed to work well
- introduce the two cities sooner
- nice details
- not getting a grasp on her person, “couldn’t see her”
- “very visual”
- “painting a picture”
- How do you know she’s 3 months pregnant? Is she showing?
- motherhood aspect very interesting
- what is she doing to cope with the displacement issue?
- is there a sense of loss?

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