Beautiful. That’s the only way to describe it. A deep midnight blue, marbled with black. No larger than a quarter, flat and smooth. Glass-smooth.
“I found it for you, Ms. Fitz,” my high school student said, handing me the small stone. Our writing group was just about to begin a poetry reading on the library’s outdoor patio.
“Found it for me?” I turned the small rock in my palm. “Where?”
“On the beach in Italy.”
This student had just returned from a trip to Europe to visit a friend. She knew how much I like interesting rocks.
“I thought you would appreciate the uniqueness of this one,” she said. “I got it polished for you. Somehow I knew it would turn out stunning.”
“Good eye,” I said. I thanked her and tucked the tiny souvenir in my purse.
After the poetry reading, I took the stone out again, inspecting how it caught the evening light, yet retained its darkness. “Too bad I’m not a jewelry smith,” I said. “I’d love to wear this.”
“My grandpa makes jewelry,” another student stated. “He can make that into anything you want.”
“Really?” I half smiled. “Deal.”
She took it from me and left the patio.
Tonight, just over a month later, I walked into Authors Guild to find that same student handing me a tiny box. She smiled–she knew what was inside.
I opened it.
It was perfect. A pendant of sculpted silver woven around the stone. The contrast in color and patina was striking.
“There’s a chain,” she said, gesturing. “So you can put it on!”
I did, removing the jewelry I was wearing in favor of this piece.
“Wow,” said the girl who found the stone. “It looks great!”
There was a line of students waiting for help on their stories. One girl, a second year member, is writing a science fiction story. “I did the research on my character like we talked about!” she said, placing her laptop in front of me. “What do you think of this job position for her?”
I looked at the screen. It was a description of a research analyst at NASA.
“I bookmarked the links so I can come back to them later,” she said. “And I found the specific probe launch I want to base the story around.”
“Wait…You dug through NASA’s public records to find historically accurate details for your novel?” She is a freshman. Most of her peers are working on writing topic sentences for paragraphs.
“Yep.” She smiled.
“I love it.” We talked about which job fit the character best, then she skipped back to her seat and continued writing.
Blazes, I thought. When I told her to research possible jobs for her protagonist, I didn’t think she would be so thorough and efficient. But why not? Have these kids ever done anything but amaze me?
“Ms. Fitz,” the next student in line stepped up. “You’ve GOT to see this.” She showed me her concept drawing for a new manga series.
My eyes widened. It was GOOD. Like really good. I sat speechless for a second.
She looked doubtful. “Ok, I know there are some erase marks but–”
“No! It’s–it’s just awesome. I’ve watched you improve your sketching for over a year now, and I can see so much growth in this! Look, the way you stylized the characters, their faces and hands and emotions–”
“I’m finding my unique style,” she said. “The thing that makes me, me.”
“Follow it.” I slid the sketchpad back. “This is the one. You’re ready. Do it.”
She came back twenty minutes later with a rough outline. We hashed through conflict, character development, point of view, genre bending. “There’s so much to figure out,” she said. “But it’s there. I know what I want out of this story.”
“You’ve come so far,” I said. “It’s not just your work that’s getting better. You’re thinking like a writer.”
She smiled and went back to work.
At the end of the session, one of my newer members came up to show me a poem she wrote, a beautiful journey into the magic of nature at night. The description was vivid and engaging.
“I know, it’s bad,” she said, looking down.
“You don’t know your own talent,” I said. “This is remarkable. Do you know what you want to do?”
“Yes. I want to be a novelist and an artist.”
“Ah, then you do know your own talent.”
“But I have a problem. I can’t ever finish anything.”
I smiled. “Now that, I can help you with. Bring your ideas and your drive and I’ll help you with the rest.”
Her eyes lit up and she clutched her notebook to her chest as she left.
I sat in the empty room, fingering the necklace. Two of my students had worked together to create it. They each saw potential in this rock and they pulled it forth, making something unique and meaningful. But it took two of them, two sets of insight, to manifest the final piece. They built on each other’s ideas, and made something good into something amazing.
That’s the heart of this writing group. It’s why I do what I do. To see these young people grow. To watch them become polished. To eventually see them shine in the setting they were born for.
We will get there. Together.