Mason Hanrahan final 300Rick Taylor assigned “scars” as a writing prompt in the “Creative Non-fiction” workshop I took with him two years ago. I found myself writing about depression and still had plenty left to say when the exercise ended. After class, I sat in the first chair I could find and delved back into it. It was midnight by the time I went home. I wound up with a good piece, but was terrified about showing it to anyone. I emailed Rick, explaining my apprehension. “Maybe it’s too gruesome,” I said. “I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.” Risk must have known I was protecting myself more than anyone else. He insisted I bring the piece to the next class. The class normally read workshop pieces individually as homework, which meant I had a long week of uncertainty ahead of me. I had never written anything so personal as what I brought in. Any rejection would not only be of the piece, but me. Rick broke routine when he passed the story out and had it read from start to finish in class. If a week waiting for responses would have felt anything like that reading, he spared me a lot of grief. There were tears, gaping mouths, and—aside from the reader’s voice and my fidgeting—utter silence. The response, however, was overwhelmingly positive. My classmates encouraged me to try the piece in the Carleton Writing Competition and on the strength of their feedback I submitted it. I placed second and won $350. Without the workshop, the piece would probably still be buried in a file somewhere on my computer. That is, if I ever would have written it at all.