During the last meeting of my last class of the semester, our teacher let us vote on doing one final in-class prompt. As with any good class on memoir – and this was a great one – the writing prompts often dredge up painful memories. I will admit that I was not in favor of yet another gutting of my soul so I kept my hand down when the votes were counted.
In the end, however, I’m glad the others out numbered my dissent and that we did the writing. The subject was “An Object of Importance” and rather than focus on something painful – aka the gritty guts of good memoir material – I immediately thought of something that delights me each and every day; my Power Cardinal. This is what came out of the prompt – enjoy!
An Object of Importance
Six or seven years ago, by chance, I ran across a sort of online contest run by author Chuck Palahniuk. The idea was that he gave a prompt on his website and then you could send in a short piece of writing and if he liked it, he’d respond. I don’t remember prompt, but I wrote about departing Iran after a work trip, and the cultural divide that was the door to the plane, leaving the conservative country and its rules behind us as we prepared to return to Europe. I submitted my piece and nearly forgot about it.
Apparently he liked what I wrote because a few months later, I received a small package with a signed note inside. In his note he quoted my writing and highlighted one line in particular where I wrote about “the whoosh of air as the headscarves came off each woman’s head and hit the ground.”
The note from him is a treasured possession – who wouldn’t love a personal note from a famous author – but what I loved most was the collection of random things – gag gifts, really – crammed into a small white box with his note.
My favorite among them was a stuffed red bird, which he told me was my Power Cardinal, and he suggested that it could perhaps serve as a reminder or encouragement to keep writing.
My Power Cardinal sits on my desk and from time to time I pick it up and smile at the serendipity of its being in my possession and its journey to reach me.
When I hold it, my mind almost immediately turns to that moment as I left Iran and how I wove that same line he’d highlighted into a short travel story that ended up being published online and included in a print anthology. The story was funny and I even won an award for it. To be sure, I did the writing, but I’m pretty confidant that it was my Power Cardinal that made the magic happen on the page.