Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Little Girl from China: The Makings of a Story Writer

It is September 18th and today is my granddaughter's 9th birthday. Or is it? No one except her birth mother knows for sure. Mei Yuan was left at the door on the steps of a Chinese building similar to our social services. She had been placed in a cardboard box, dressed in a diaper and a shirt. The only other item in the box was a bottle filled with milk.

Mei was one of the lucky girls in China. Instead of an orphanage she was placed in a loving but strict foster home. At about 10 months of age my daughter and son-in-law adopted her and brought her to America. She is incredibly bright and has been a joy to all of us. But the story does not end there.

Mei, a small adopted girl, has become a writer at the age of nine. How did it happen? Probably many experiences influenced her, but here was my part in this story.

Soon after she arrived in Colorado from China, I began to tell her stories like many grandparents do. But it didn't stop there. As she grew, she asked me to tell stories, usually about animals. One day when she came to North Idaho she saw two snowshoe rabbits on our ten acre wooded property. She named them Lee and Kyle after two boys in her daycare program. So I began to ask her questions about the rabbits and their adventures. She would hm and haw a bit but by the age of five she was creating exciting stories and characters for me to weave together. The first thing she would say when we talked on the telephone was, "Oma, lets make up a story." My husband, a biologist, added scientific data and after our calls, I wrote down the tales we had created. I still have the story of Lee and Kyle turning color in winter and waking up terrified that the world and they had all turned white. My daughter, who followed her father's example, read many stories outloud to Mei. The first Harry Potter book was one of those tales. Soon after hearing the story, Mei decided to send Lee and Kyle to Hogwarts to meet Harry Potter and his owl, Hedgewick. And so it went.

Anyway, at the age of eight she decided she was too old for "that kind of stuff," and I lost touch with the story teller inside of her. There were times when I wondered whether she had gained anything from our story telling times together. But then, this summer on her visit to Idaho, she asked me whether she could write a book and whether I would make sure it was published.
I laughed and said, "Of course. Send me your drafts and I'll help you edit them. Then I'll put them on my website."
Her eyes lit up and she clapped her hands. "Okay!" she said.
I asked her, "What is the story going to be about?"
"I like stories about castles," she said.
"Oh really?" I said. "Are you going to have a princess?"
She shook her head. "Of course not. I'm too old for that. This is going to be about people from another world who land in the court yard." She went on to tell me all about what the aliens looked like and how they were different than earth people.
An hour later, she had finished writing the first page.

So parents and teachers, don't give up. Most of your students and children are writers in disguise. They may not become an Ernest Hemmingway or a Mark Twain, but with a little attention, encouragement, and fun with words and word games, they can create amazing and creative stories. They are the writers of our future.

Mei, I lift my glass of chocolate milk to you, my writer granddaughter, who has become more of an American than most of us are. Happy Birthday!


Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

I love this story!!!

Anonymous said...

What a great story of your lovely granddaughter! I hope she continues to find happiness in her writing. It is wonderful that she has you as a mentor and a loving "oma." A touching and well written blog!

Ana said...

Thank you both. I really appreciate your comments. Isn't she beautiful?

Jennifer Rova said...

Mei Yuan is beautiful inside and out. We never know how our actions and words affect others. In this case, you stimulated her imagination, developed a love of reading (reinforced by her mom and dad) and led her to believe she can many things with her life. Fostering writing is an experience not many grandmothers are allowed. How lucky for you both.