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My Students' Gifts

The gifts they give me are numerous—mostly their presence—physical and spiritual—their hard work, their commitment to the workshop and, after the workshop, to their projects. And so this blog title today is a "double entendre" : the gifts my students have, the gifts they develop, the gifts they give to me. They may be material, such as the needlepoint of butterflies my private student, Valerie Pepe, gave me last week. “Butterflies are free,” she said to me as we sat in the Hollywood Diner on 16th and Sixth Avenue and discussed some new pages for her memoir.

She had had the needlepoint framed and I had asked her to sign the back. I was so touched I could hardly speak, so I took a break as she wrote to go to the restroom to give her some privacy. What would she write? Something simple, something kind. As expected.

We have been working together for a while now and it has not always been easy. Valerie has a demanding full-time job, a new boyfriend who lives a plane-ride away, and she is on crutches. As I have written here before, none of this stops her from anything she wants to do. And so her gift to me is her fortitude, her perseverance, her enjoyment of writing every day in her journal, the stories she tells about her life and her writing life. She pays me yet I am utterly indebted to her. She’s one of the many butterflies I have collected and cherished over the years. This blog and this blog post, in particular, is dedicated to all my students—past, present and future. Thank you.
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