Toby Hemingway 16

“Oh, Captain! My Captain!” shrieked Columbus as guests arrived.

Marsh was immediately drawn to the parrot. The two eyed each other thoughtfully.

“Hey, Matie,” Marsh said in his best pirate-ese. The other kids gathered behind him enthralled with Columbus.

“Ooo, it makes wonder,” crooned the bird. Most of the kids did not know the song but the adults laughed in surprise.

“This is Columbus, who, you can see, is in rare form tonight!” Toby said.

“The moon lies fair,” Columbus said.

“Okay, everyone get a plate and drink. ”

Toby and Marsha directed kids, teachers, and journalists to the dining room table loaded with everyone’s favorite dishes. The weather had turned raw and windy with a front moving in. Plans to barbeque were changed to a potluck inside.

After everyone had settled in around the living room, Toby picked up a dog-eared copy of Call of the Wild. She read:

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost. ~ Into the Primitive, Chapter 1, Call of the Wild, Jack London, 1903.

The room was completely quiet.

“What did the writer do in this first paragraph?” Toby asked.

The group rang out with ideas. She let the conversation grow and enrich itself as young and old responded.

“This is the kind of writing we need now.” She stopped for a few moments. “Can you do that? Can we do that?”

This was how Toby began to teach her team the kind of powerful writing that emanates from direct experience. This kind of storytelling brings understanding, engenders empathy, and moves people to act together.


Marsh could not sleep that night. His chest was filled with excitement and the kind of anxiety caused by the wish to achieve something and the journey ahead to accomplish it.

He turned on the bedside lamp, found the journal Mrs. Hemingway had given him, and began to jot down ideas, words, and phrases. Then, he started writing. When he finally looked up, it was dawn.



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