“The pen is sometimes our only flashlight”

“A word after a word after a word is power.” That’s from “Spelling,” a poem by Margaret Atwood. It’s one of my favorite writing quotes.

Today, I have new one:

“I write because there’s so much good in this world that goes unnoticed, and sometimes we all need a reminder. But I also write because there’s darkness in the world that lurks in the shadows, unnoticed, and the pen is sometimes our only flashlight.”

That’s by Mary Glen Hatcher, who graduates from UNC-Chapel Hill Sunday. Mary Glen was a student in my feature writing course, and I ask students to write “why I write.” I think that if they want to become writers — many of them do — they need to begin wrestling with that topic. Their responses are pretty damned good. Here are some excerpts.



“My confidence plummeted in middle school, and it stayed on the ground through high school. I knew it was gone. I could almost see it down by my shoes in class, mocking me for never raising my hand.

“I wrote because it was something I could feel proud of, even if it never made it out of my Google Drive drafts. I didn’t know I was smart. But when words flowed from my fingertips, I felt unstoppable again.”


“I still get excited when my stuff gets published and printed. And that’s almost weekly. I know the rush of “Look, my name’s in the paper!” is even better.

“Somewhere in this state, I have a feeling that a few of my stories are hanging on walls or sitting in binders. Probably some of the high school sports ones I wrote two summers ago, when I was still finding my voice as a writer and tried to make everything epic. I bet a few moms and dads are still fans, though.”


“To be provocative by telling the truth—even though others may cry out “fake news!” To practice my inalienable right to speak my mind.”


“I write because I think words strung together on a paper have more power than just about anything.”


“I want to be a voice for the voiceless. This has two different meanings. One, it’s giving people a platform to tell their story, whether they’re an athlete or not. Two, it’s telling the story of a person that’s typically in the spotlight for a different reason or hangs in the background. It’s showing who the person is behind the athlete, or well the real person within.”


You can read all of Karen Stahl‘s here.


Last semester’s are pretty damn good, too.

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