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The International Writers Magazine:On Emerging Writers

Fall's Gold
Duncan Shaw
I’m a writer, or at least I do some writing on the side.  I’m also a voracious reader.  My mind is immersed in words, in language.  I’m a talker too, a bit of a big mouth.  My life is a little like Mr. Bennet’s in Pride & Prejudice, the father with all girls who likes to tease them and their mother.  


And as my wife and four daughters can attest, I have strong opinions and freely share them with those I love.  While reading a recent essay by my second oldest daughter, though, I was startled into silence – a boisterous dad in mute admiration.

My oldest daughter, Sophie – 17, has been writing stories off and on for years; last summer she attended a prestigious conference for young writers at the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee.  Thus I know her talent for crafting stories of short fiction, with vivid metaphors such as, “the pale daytime moon was a smudged thumbprint on the big blue bowl of the sky”.

But when I read the school essay from daughter number two, Helena – 15, my words and breath were momentarily taken away.  It was the first sustained piece of writing of hers I ever read, and as I was reading I realized at that moment that I now had two writers on my hands.

In language pure and authentic, she wrote about this season of autumn, about things in fall that are precious to her including its golden light.  There’s nothing false or phony in her writing, no teenage self-consciousness, no Justin Bieber flash that passes for talent and value.  Her writing on fall’s gold is no fool’s gold, but the real thing.

Most parents with many children wouldn’t be surprised to have one child with a gift for language.  But a second child – and two in a row – now that’s not mere coincidence.  Growing up, our girls were read to for years and years at bedtime by Jenny, and not just short easy stories.  Jenny read classic books like The Secret Garden; the entire series – multiple times – of Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables; and tomes like the unabridged Robinson Crusoe.  She poured whole rivers of words into our girls’ developing minds, and as Robert Frost said, that has made all the difference.

It’s fitting I guess that we live in Hillsborough, North Carolina, USA, a town full of readers and writers.  And in our neighborhood it seems there has sprouted of late quite a few teenagers, and you know how teens can be with their parents.  Though not so much now, the past couple years Helena and my conversations were often of a “yes” and “no” brevity.  But this brevity, mind you, came from a girl who writes sentences like this, with a touch of the Frostian rhythm from Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening:


            The sky’s a bright blue and the day is lovely, with suggestions of

            fall in the air and wind, hints of it everywhere I look, in sun and sky,

            rock and river.

And these:

            To me, fall is a time of change, and a time of thinking about the coming

            winter and the more distant spring, about remembering past falls and

            reflecting on present circumstances and what can be done to improve



            Fall is a time when the pace of life begins to accelerate, when we begin

            to find things to do to keep us busy and to keep us warm in preparation

            for the colder weather to come.

The piece of fall’s gold that the season has given me was my epiphany, and from it a nice irony: Sophie and Helena are sort of quiet, yet are full of words; and me, I’m sort of loud, yet was made speechless.  I’m a dad who has yielded to his daughters, a proud parent admiring their talent.

© Duncan Shaw November 2011

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