Gallery of Gratitude—Week #8

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015. It’s never too late to join us. Learn about the challenge here.

Someone who noticed or encouraged a talent or ability

It all started with a postcard announcing that a Wabash professor, Joy Castro, had published a memoir called The Truth Book. I’m sure I’d gotten similar mailings before, but that day I paid attention and ordered the book right away—and even invited her to a book club meeting at my house, where we discussed this book that I’d loved so much. She came and was lovely. I was fascinated by the writing process and apparently asked too many questions—or maybe just exactly enough—because she told me I could audit a class she was about to start teaching, a senior seminar on memoir.

So I took a deep breath and tried to slow my racing heart. I walked into a room of smart and oh-so-young college boys and hoped I wouldn’t make a total fool of myself. I was terrified—but Joy was so encouraging. And I loved, loved, loved every single part of it. The reading, the discussions, the theories, the ideas. And—obviously—the writing. It woke up something inside me.

At the end of the semester, Joy suggested that I consider applying to an MFA program, told me about some low-residency programs where I would do the work online and only spend a few weeks each year on campus somewhere. But Bobby was six, Anna was 10 and Katie was 13. I was working tons of hours and thought, if I could find any time, shouldn’t I just spend it writing?

Of course there’s so much I could learn in a program like that, and I know I’d love it. Right then, though, it just wouldn’t work for my life. But knowing that she thought I could do it changed something in me. Thinking that she saw something in me gave me the confidence to take it seriously. To believe it was a goal worth pursuing. To know that maybe I could do something with this new interest of mine.

I was so naive about how this process works. I didn’t really understand how hard it was or what it would take for me to truly bare my beliefs, my feelings, to the world. Joy knew, though, and gave me just the push I needed. As I sat in that classroom, I would have never imagined that 9 years later, I’d be counting down the days to the publication of my book. (66, in case you were wondering.) She didn’t know where it would lead, either. But I’m so grateful that she took notice, that she spoke words without having any idea how powerful and filled with hope they would be.


Who has given you a gentle nudge in the right direction? Who helped you see a talent that you had—or believe that you were good enough to try something?

Leave a Reply

This website and its content are copyright of Kelly O'Dell Stanley  | © Kelly O'Dell Stanley 2017. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red