The Writer’s Life: The Second Person by Michael Suppa

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You’re seated at a large table with a delegation of professors and several classmates. The smell of old books, of the once finely polished furniture, and the faded tapestry rug tinges your nose. You wonder why they would choose such a poorly lit room to have you read in, but you are glad for the air of dignity the once stately room affords you and your writing as evidenced in the erect postures and serious faces.

Out of a desperate need to relieve anxiety, you offer to have your work critiqued first, but you’ve chosen a chapter with an introduction in the second person. With the leading sentence, shoulders slump, eyes dart side to side, and a pencil begins a wearisome rhythm against the table.

New to the writing community, you’re astonished (horrified might be better) since you love reading and writing in this form. Maybe it’s just your personality, your empathetic nature, or, as you were once told, your ability to be easily hypnotized (you’re getting sleepy, sleepy…), and you’re alone in this predilection. Nonplussed, you forge on.

After the third sentence, torsos begin to lean in, heads with focused eyes tilt, and hands fold (no more tapping!). You breathe and continue on and approach the end of the vignette. You glance; the listeners are rapt. They are where you want them to be, ready for the rest of the prose written in the more familiar first person.

At end, when it’s time for discussion, one of the Fellows speaks: “I’ll tell you one thing; you really kept my interest throughout, and that’s not an easy thing to do. But, when you started out in second person, I thought I’d have to sit through an entire chapter of it.”

Your mentor comes to your defense, explaining the format of the book, how each chapter starts and ends with a musing related to the narrative thread. One of the more dynamic professors breaks in; “I loved it.” she says, and a discussion ensues on the merits and disadvantages of the second person.

Given the vigor of the debate, you’re glad for the austerity afforded by the room. With pen reeling, wide-eyed, you take in all you can until the pencil tapper begins a new beat, reminding you of the slumping shoulders, the darting eyes followed by the captive audience, the…

Your back touches the latticework of your chair. The musty bouquet of the room returns, not quite so despotic now. With all you’ve seen and heard, you decide that, someday, you will use this powerful form of writing again.

michael suppaMichael Suppa is an elementary school writing teacher in Ellwood City, Pa. He also has presented professional development programs on writing and portfolio assessment. He received his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Wilkes University under the mentorship of Dr. J. Michael Lennon.

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