Sometime around 1995 or ’96 I was taking a college course required to get my teaching certification. This particular course had little to do with the field of education. I don’t know why it was required but I’m glad it was. The course was all about curiosity and research. It was about data gathering and subjective inferring. I ate it up. I wish I could remember what the course was called and the professor’s name.
What I do remember is that at the time I knew what I learned there would help me in the future as a writer. We were required to read a book called The Search for Emma’s Story: A Model for Humanities Detective Work by Marian L. Martinello. I have kept it all these years. As I look through it now, I am thinking it is time to re-read it.
On one level, the book is the story of a woman named Emma Beckmann who lived her life in Albert, Texas in the late nineteenth century. This story was inspired by her wedding photo and the authors’ curiousity about Emma’s life.
On a deeper, more universal level, the book tells the story of the research that took place in order to tell Emma’s story and how the author filled in the gaps of that story. This process can be used to explore any story. Start with an artifact and reconstruct a life. Fantastic! The book is a guide. I highly recommend it for anyone who writes historical fiction, family history or has an interest in genealogy.
Clearly, this course impacted me deeply. A shout-out to the professor, I wish I could tell her how she has influenced me, one student. On the last day of the class, she passed around a box. The box was filled with marbles and we were told to take one.
I chose my marble, small and black with little specks. It looks like the universe. Once we each held a marble in our hands, she explained that these were our “yes” marbles; that they were meant to serve as a reminder that when life offers an opportunity say “yes” and go for it!
I still have my marble. It sits in the little dish on my dresser where I set my jewelry at night. My marble brings me joy! It is always there to remind me of possibility. It tells me to say yes. It tells me to live! My marble tells me to write my stories, to run those miles, to love my people, to laugh and to sing in my terrible tone deaf voice!
Professor whose name I cannot recall, thank you!
Martinello, Marian L. And Weinheimer, Ophelia Nielson. The Search for Emma’s Story: A Model for Humanities Detective Work, Texas Christian University Press, 1987.