As you might know, as well as writing this radio show every week, I used to teach writing in the Journalism school at Ryerson University in Toronto.
I loved my teaching job - or the classroom part anyway. I was not particularly fond of, nor did I do a particularly good job of, the faculty meetings or the hiring committees or any of that stuff - but the hands-on moments in the classroom with my students - I liked that, a lot.
One of my favourite classroom moments every year was when I asked my students to write something I called Moments. I asked them to go out into the world and observe some small thing somewhere and write about it for me. I told them it had to be more than a descriptive passage - something had to happen, I told them, something that gave the moment a meaning larger than itself. The moment had to connect with a grander theme. Some feeling or emotion had to be lurking behind it. If they succeeded in finding such a moment (and, I told them, there was no reason why they shouldn't succeed because our lives are full of these moments), I told them if they succeeded in finding such a moment, their story would connect with some universal truth and when it is read ... the reader will feel connected to the piece and consequently more connected to themselves and the world. The reader would be moved ... I told them, moved, in the best of all possible worlds, to say that most wonderful of all the words ... yes. Yes, they'll say, that's true. That's true for me.
When they did ring true those short pieces my students wrote for me every year ranked among the favourite things I got to read. This is an invitation for you to take a shot at doing the same.
Write to me about a moment that you have experienced or witnessed or heard about that you think is worth writing about. It might be a moment of kindness or a moment of cruelty. It might be a moment of sadness or frivolity. It might be a moment you are proud of. Or it might be a moment you are ashamed of. It might not even be about you. It might be about someone you know or maybe it's about someone you don't know at all ... maybe it's something you have seen that made you smile, or cry. Happy or sad.
There are just two criteria for these stories I want you to write. Your story must be short and it must be true.
I don't care how you get it here. You can email your stories to me or you can mail them. They can arrive handwritten or they can arrive typed.
Now here is something important. You don't have to be a writer to join in. In fact, if you have never written anything before in your life I want to hear from you more than anyone. Just put your story down on paper. Use simple short words. They are the best kind. Think of it as writing me a letter.
It is my belief that if enough of us write ... and if we take the pains to tell the truth ...about something important to us ... that together we will create an extraordinary archive -- an archive that will be a snapshot of our country. A picture of who we are, and how we feel about things, and most importantly, what we feel is important.
You can write about big things and small things. Usually the most important things are small things. You can write about funny things and sad things. Just so long as they are true things. Just so long as you keep your stories short. How short? Good question. Like a letter. However long or short that is for you. Two paragraphs, or two pages. Or more, or less.
Write your stories and send them to us.
And I promise two things. First, we will read them all. Second, we will read the best of them on the radio from time to time.