Character Allowance

My ancient fiction professor at Vanderbilt creaked in his departmental chair and told us about a man he knew who drank Dr. Pepper hot. When work was over, this man would get into his after-fives and stir it in a saucepan over low heat, delicately, like he was handling milk. “Sometimes,” Professor Sullivan said, “it’s all right to let your characters take life a little too far.”


Write a Thank You Letter to a Champion of Your Talent

Dear Professor Weatherby,

You were one of the toughest and, by far, the most fearsome of the English department crew. Other students joked you clicked your heels when you turned corners. Professor Sullivan once said you took a swim in the Gulf and the sharks were afraid of you. You made students cry, regularly. You were outstanding.

It was such a small moment for you I’m sure, but after class one day you listened to me go on about inventing my own poetic form. You listened to me jabber on in my excitement and creative rush, (I’m sure I had turned bright red by the breathless second sentence). You listened to me, and after, you leaned in and said, “That’s what makes you a poet.”

I carry your words in my pocket to this day for when I doubt my craft. Such a small moment, but to me, it lights the way. Thank you.