It was March 2014 in Fremont, California, that I desperately searched for a short course to kill my three months stay in the USA. I had two choices in mind, one was a short course on interior designing and the other on English writing skills. I chose one on English Writing skills for non-fiction writers offered by Berkeley University, California.
At the end of the course, participants were asked to write an essay on different topics suggested by the instructor. I was asked to write on myself. It was a difficult topic, as I had no idea what to write, I could write only a few sentences not to talk about 2500 words required by the instructor. It took quite a few days, and gradually, I was able to add more words. When the essay was complete, it exceeded 2900 words.
Before the final evaluation by the instructor, the whole class was divided into two groups, and each group sat in a circle. Each author dispensed his or her essay to every member of the group and read his or her essay aloud.
After he was done, other members discussed the positive and negative aspects of the essay. I was the second-last to readout my essay. When I was done, I just sat with my fingers crossed, and waited for the negative comments to pour in, people started giving their opinion, but I could hear positive comments coming from everywhere. They returned the copies to me with their comments after the discussions.
Later, when I went through the comments, the instructor wrote at the opening paragraph “Great first sentence. I have never heard this before. It’s very interesting.” Again she writes “These paragraphs end with ‘snappers,’ like Zinsser mentions. Nice work.” One of the course participants wrote appreciating remarks at every paragraph: she wrote on the opening paragraph, “I really like learning this detail.” At the last paragraph she wrote “Great close. You just need a paragraph like this at the end.” Another participant wrote about a paragraph, where I mentioned a servant in her late seventies who used to tell us a story every night; she wrote “I would like to hear more about the story-telling aspect. What did her voice sound like?” One of the member in the group wrote “Lovely writing. I would like to see the finished piece or the book this could turn into” Comments from other participants were no different.
When I was back in Pakistan, I received a few emails persuading me to expand the essay; Shalra, my wife also encouraged, and that was the time Tracing MY Footsteps started taking a shape.
Asif Khan |Tracing My Footsteps