Written by Caitlin Cruz
Edited by Issa Napon
Originally, I was going to write about four people who gave me motivation to be a better writer, a better friend, a more creative person and a better human.
Then, late last week, I read Lane DeGregory’s story for Valentine’s Day in the Tampa Bay Times: On Valentine’s Day, a boy’s rite of passage is finding the right words.
Her story did all of these things.
And, almost five days later, it’s still sticking with me. I have found myself thinking about this seemingly inconsequential story many times in the last few days.
DeGregory’s story is about Austin Erickson, an 11-year-old boy from Trinity, Fla., who is in love with Sarah K. They’ve been dating since Sept. 4 and it’s her longest relationship. The story is about trying to find the right Valentine’s Day card – something everyone struggles with regardless of the relationship or age.
“But now that I’m in a relationship it seems more important,” he says Tuesday afternoon. “I want to impress Sarah.”
Her imagery is spot-on.
“After school, they hang out at picnic tables, waiting together for a glorious half-hour, from 2:50 until 3:20 p.m. ‘Good thing we have the last bus!’ They talk about their teachers, other kids, his swim team, her little sister. ‘Everything, really.’ She brings him peanut butter crackers.”
Austin and his mother start at Hallmark, looking for cards, stuffed animals, candy, anything that will be representative of their six-month relationship. He has $100 ready to spend because he doesn’t “want something that looks like it’s been bought on a budget.”
I think this story is one of the motivating pieces I have read in a while because this is a story of little consequence – Valentine’s Day fluff – but she still treats the characters with reverence and love. It’s a sign of a great writer. (DeGregory won 2009 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing.)
Stories like this one inspire me, motivate me – persuade me, even – to be a better storyteller and observer. They inspire me to be a better journalist. This story reminds me no story is too small or too inconsequential.
My heart broke (and was put back together) with one sentence: “They don’t make Valentines about holding hands.”
It’s these kind of stories that motivate me to keep trying.
There is nothing about life that is inconsequential.