Simple observations pack big insights

Published 7:56 am Sunday, April 24, 2016

“When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

— Anne Lamott, “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life”

Last Monday, I found myself in the Hormel Historic Home nodding along to the words of 24 young people from Austin Public Schools.

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I took photos at the annual “A Night with our Poets,” an event which features pieces by the three winning poets from each Austin school as part of the Richard Eberhart Poetry Contest.

What started as a simple work assignment turned into a humbling experience. After I’d gotten most of the pictures needed for the paper, I returned to my seat in back of the room, waited for the awards and listened to the students’ words.

I soon found myself noticing how easily it was to identify with the words and perspectives of these Austin students. They touched on many angles of poetry and writing: Some of their observations were deep, some served as love letters to friends and family, and some were simple observations children see more clearly than us busy-minded adults.

I found nodded along to one girl’s memory of tissues piled in her room during a cold, a kindergartener writing about her blankie, one poem about how “the thoughts come running,” and many more.

The night was simple proof that everyone has a story to tell and a perspective to share, which just may reveal something we were too busy to hear or see. And it revealed you don’t need to seek a major national publication to find it — many of them are right here at home.

It’s those ideas that largely led Austin Living to start Austin Expression, the literary magazine portion of our July-August Austin Living.

And yes, this is something my friends and co-workers tire of me talking and writing excitedly about this time of year. But I can’t help it — I love the chance Austin Expression offers people to share their work and express their feelings.

Countless people in Austin and Mower County have voices and perspectives to share, and we often don’t have enough venues, platforms and publications for them.

So consider joining these 24 Austin students by sharing your art, writings, music, etc. Austin Expression submissions are being accepted now through May 13. You can find the details at