How do writer’s capture the ‘ahah!’ moments?

Karalee’s Post #111

Today I was volunteering at the high school in Vancouver where I help the class of students (often refugees) that are new to Canada. Their education is often minimal and English a completely foreign language. They aren’t yet able to integrate into regular classes.

But motivation to understand their new world circumstances is high. Even higher is their desire to fit in with their peers. To belong.

In this class of twenty or so, there’s often more than six languages spoken. The common denominator becomes English. Reading and comprehension skills are learned at an accelerated rate.

I am truly amazed at their rapid progress.

Math is another necessary skill. Basic counting is imperative for daily tasks if only to ensure receiving the correct change when making purchases of any kind.

Today was super rewarding for me. It was an ‘ahah!’ day.

I was helping a couple of teenagers practice basic math skills using flash cards, encouraging them to count in English instead of in their native tongue. Count in English even in their head. I assured them that if they practiced in English and didn’t translate the numbers, that it would become easier.

The students encouraged one another with a bit of competition.

Who could add and subtract single digits the fastest? Then double digits? All the while I had them count over and over in English.

It became easier. Then too easy.

They were laughing. I was laughing.

Then they went to three digits. We weren’t using paper so adding and subtracting was too difficult. Even saying the number was a bit of a challenge.

Saying four digit numbers was the next challenge.

Then five. And six.

The ‘ahah!’ happened at seven and eight digit numbers. The concept of how to group the big numbers clicked.

The feeling was intensely gratifying for me and I could see it was for the students too.

But as a writer, if I simply wrote that the two students felt intensely gratified when they learned to say eight digit numbers, it would be pretty boring and readers wouldn’t feel the ahah moment. More than likely readers would stop reading.

So I made a mental note to study the student’s reactions. How their wide smiles and head nodding was followed by shifting back in their chairs and sitting up taller. Their smiles couldn’t stop smiling.

Then they leaned forward, eager to do it again, to turn over even more cards to make a number over a million.

I had to mentally pinch myself. Neither of these students could count higher than ten only a few short months ago! What motivation and determination to learn.

For me, I feel grateful to be part of their journey and beyond a doubt these experiences will add to the depth of my characters.


Writing Progress: Do I feel a writing retreat coming?

Books I’m reading: The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

Happenings in my life: 

  • Our middle son left for SE Asia on Tuesday. I worry about him being safe, but also am excited for him to have an extended adventure before starting his job in September.
  • got shoes for our daughter’s wedding in July! Another item off the list!
  • spent two days watching our youngest son play in Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Walla Walla, Washington.
  • we are hosting a university student studying here from Kathmandu, Nepal. She will be staying with us for the summer. Great to be able to help!

Perspective Photos:

















Happy writing!

2 thoughts on “How do writer’s capture the ‘ahah!’ moments?

  1. Spoken like a true writer, Karalee—we hear not only the words but see the more subtle elements of language that accompany them and flesh out their meaning!

    And I hope your visiting Nepalese student’s family and friends back home are all okay!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s