Yes, Virginia. (Happy Birthday!)

The Google Doodle today reminded me that it's Virginia Woolf''s birthday. As a writer I've always resonated with, I was thrilled that the first exercise in the writing workshop I'm enrolled in this semester was to write a piece inspired by Woolf's "Street Haunting", which first appeared in the Yale Review in 1927.

The exercise of writing like an author you enjoy(or one you don't; this week we worked with Hemingway) can be a powerful teaching tool, in writing and other arts, but I believe in scholarly research as well. As Neil Gaiman reminds us, "Most of us only find our own voices after we've sounded like a lot of other people." I like to think I've found my various writing voices, but this exercise reminded me that maybe other writers slip into my consciousness from time to time; writing like Virginia Woolf certainly felt familiar, and even the melancholy of her style settled around me quite quickly. Still, I try to keep my eyes on my own voice, working to find the balance between fear and "the moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right" (Gaiman, 2012).

As I've already mentioned, narrative and story are two rich themes connecting my work this semester, both in research and in the classroom, and I'm sure I'll return to these topics more in the future here. But for now, I thought I'd share a portion of my Woolf-inspired piece with you here today. Enjoy!

Usually, I am walking and rooted in the moment. I love how the same route changes from day to day, depending on the birds overhead and the footprints across the snow; how the park is always a spot where my heart settles and I feel the peace of the cathedral descend. Walking everywhere has become an expression of mindfulness for me since coming here, and yet, there are more moments than I can count where those mindful walks become captured in a sensory memory from five, seven years ago. The peace of these walks becomes infused with the power of memory, and I sometimes find myself stuck in the dreamy between-worlds state until I reach the now-familiar step up to the faculty door, touch the handle and give it a yank. When the building enfolds me, no matter how many miles or years away I was, I find myself rooted right back in the present, and the memory recedes, leaving me feeling a lifetime away from the temples and experiences of what I suppose I should now call my youth.


Gaiman, N. (May 17, 2012). Keynote Address. Retrieved from

Woolf, V. (1927). "Street Haunting." The Yale Review. 


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