Personal Essay #1: Aundrea Pierce

The Fate of the Rouen Ducks


“Are you my Mother?!' I read out loud to my class when I was a 7-year-old girl who possessed a limitless imagination. My classroom was my bedroom, and the students were a bunch of my dolls lined up and hunched over.

“No, I’m not your mother.' I read regretfully to the cotton stuffed students, captivating them again with another one of my favorite Dr.Seuss stories. I was always adamant about flashing the illustrations to them after each page I read.

       Now, four years later, I sit here by myself on the short dock, in a daze about this recollection years ago. I'm hoping to catch another catfish so I can run and show my parents back at our campsite. My fishing pole is held between my thighs and hands as I watch the bobber remain stationary while the knobby current shuffled underneath it. I sat still with my leg embracing the ball of heat that my two resting baby Rouen ducks were emitting. I let the pole go with one hand and gently stroked their boney hallow backs with my two fingers. With each mindful stroke on their dark brown fuzziness, I hoped more and more they understood how much I loved them, but I can’t stay with them forever. After all, being just 11 years old I’m admittedly not capable of being a mom to anything when I can hardly pass Mrs. Conway’s weekly spelling tests. For now, I will enjoy this very moment to the fullest I can, sitting on the dock with my sleeping beauties, daydreaming over scenes from my favorite childhood book in my head. For now, I will secretly hope that my two nameless and genderless ducks are listening to my sincere thoughts.

       That night, I was dressed in my comfortable rainbow pajamas as I zipped up my small personal tent to get ready for another restful night at our favorite camping spot. Mom and dad have their big tent a few feet away. All I can hear around me are the zipping and jingles sounds from our sleeping bags along with the snapping of the dying fire outside. I scooted a big box over to me that housed my ducks so that I could feed them before we slept. It’s incredible how fast they’ve grown. Just four weeks ago my mom brought them home in a shoebox as a surprise. Their tiny bones and fuzz could all fit into both of my hands. Even then, filled with adoration, I wasn’t naïve enough to realize I couldn’t keep them forever. They’ve outgrown a couple of box sizes since, and have officially upgraded to a large microwave-sized box. The floor of the box was lined with newspaper, and  I put a small water bowl in the corner that they manage to spill constantly.

       Startled by my movement of the box they woke from their sleepy somber and started to “cheep' and scurry around. They’re hungry teenagers now, I thought to myself, as I crumbled up a slice of bread and plopped the pieces into their water bowl.

       Boy, they were messy eaters! I love watching them peck their bills so fast; it sounded like a woodpecker. I smiled while they made burble noises from the water as their toothless beaks wobbled vigorously, clamping on the soggy bread bits. Even though the thick smoke from the fire has meshed into my hair and pajamas, I could still smell that farm smell they always gave off. Not the kind that makes you think of horse manure or muddy pigs. The kind that smelled like a newly built barn full of fresh cut hay bales inside. I love that smell.

       After the ducks ate, they settled back into the corner of their box and cuddled together. Even though I will have to leave them tomorrow, I’m relieved they will always have each other.  I watched their charcoal teardrop eyes slowly open and close several times before I decided to lay my head down to sleep. I dreaded the morning and tossed around for a few minutes thinking about the big farewell. After a lively day of water skiing and continually tripping over two single-minded ducks; whose stubborn agenda was to stay by my side at all times, I was able to fall asleep quickly.          

       Morning came, and mom and I got dressed and fed the ducks some worms for breakfast. We grabbed some water bottles and started for the dock, letting dad sleep in. I carried my precious big box all the way to where we docked our little four-seater rent-a-boat and settled inside. Mom shoved her light pink cancer awareness hat over her morning coffee hair. She started the engine, and we began our way down the channel. I squeezed the box on my lap into my chest and did my best to comfort the curious ducks. I realized that there was no way around it. Letting them go was going to break my heart, just as much as theirs.

       Mom slowed the speed of the boat down, raised her arm and pointed towards one side of the channel that had a few thick branches crawling into the edge of the water. It was bright and early, so the mild temperature of the water and the sun sizzling the back of my neck informed me it was going to be another day of North Carolina summer heat.  Mom spoke to me in her southern comfort twang,

“How’bout right over there sweetheart? That way the ducks can rest on the wood?'

       I paused before answering, considering as logically as my young brain could about the location which I’ll say goodbye forever, to my darlings. I quickly connected the dots in my thoughts and agreed, “Yea' that’s a great spot. It was near the opening of the inlet so that if they swam one way they could go beyond the campground and live in the big open wild, or if they wanted to stay close to the comfort of civilization, they could. I can leave them with a choice that would be theirs to make. That’s the least I could do.

       Mom steered the boat towards the spot and cut off the purr of the engine.  The boat slowly drifted along until the bow sunk into the muddy floor. Mom stuck her head out from behind the wheel with her hat and big brown sunglasses.

“You need me to help baby doll?' She offered.

“No, it's okay,' I replied, as I stood up with my eyes squinting from a bright sunray that escaped its way through the tangle of trees.

       I cradled the two little footballs in the pits of my arms while trying to balance myself towards the edge of the boat. I crouched down and gently lowered the first baby duck in the murky water followed by its sibling. I watched their brown flat flippers disappear into the still beige fog. I kept my hands wrapped around their underbellies with my forearms on their chest to refrain them from swimming towards to boat. Their dilated pupils locked with my baby blues. I have to be strong for them I thought, I don’t want them to think something is wrong. Thinking this made me feel like a liar because everything about this screamed wrong!

“Bye my babies, be good, I love you,' I whispered to them in a quiet, high-pitched voice. Had I said anything more I would have started bawling my salty tears into the fresh pool they were floating in.

       The silence was interrupted by the return of the purr of the engine, and mom started to slowly back the boat away. My submerged hands and fingers sluggishly departed from their underbellies while their tiny flippers began to wind up and scurry to me. I gave them a begging look to stay there, but I knew their willful demeanor wouldn’t allow them to do such a thing.

“Mom, go faster!' I called out in a panic. The engine started to roar.

       They too began to kick into full speed with their tiny necks and bodies stretched out as long as they could stretch. My stomach clenched hard as I swooped my scraggly hair out of my face that tangled the view of the two disoriented water bumpers. I felt like a monster! The boat sped up even more as the tears began to tumble down my cheeks. The gigantic, 'No Wake!' sign written in big black letters didn’t apply to us at this moment. Nothing mattered except the cracks forming in my heart and the strength it took not to lose my composure.  

       I never experienced such a big responsibility. I have never had anything depend on me so much. It was exhausting but an honorable badge I wore proudly. Even as the seasons came and went, I couldn’t help but wonder from time to time how much my babies grew. Which path did they take? Did they stay together, or part ways? Little things sometimes send me into trances about my short time with them. Like when the nurses use the finger pulse oximeter at my doctor’s visits, I’m reminded of how my ducks would harmlessly clamp on my pale little finger. I do my best to let the happy memories overshadow the pain of leaving my babies behind.

25 thoughts on “Personal Essay #1: Aundrea Pierce

  1. Andrew Lange


    I enjoyed writing your piece; it has a unique structure in which the reader doesn’t necessarily understand the significance of two seemingly random childhood memories until the very end.

    Part of me wants to suggest giving more of an introduction, explaining the significance of the childhood experience you mention in more detail, but I also realize that may spoil the “magic” of the story and it might not have the same effect as it does now.

    Otherwise, I would venture to say that for the most part it looks like fairly quality material; it looks like this has been well-thought-out and revised repeatedly before going to press. The story has a certain kind of magic to it, just as romanticized childhood memories recalled years or even decades down the road often do.

    It’s funny how sometimes you look back on an event or thing in your life which may have been relatively insignificant in and of itself, but years later you look back and realize it actually had a profound effect or was at a minimum a solid sign of things to come. I’ll spare the mention of what it was here, but in fact less than an hour ago someone and I were commiserating about how a particular thing has undoubtedly shaped us as a person later in life as well as many of those around us. Your description of mothering the ducks as a 12-year-old, which in and of itself may have not been all that significant at the time but is something you look back upon fondly and find had a pronounced effect on yours is similar to some of my experiences as a child and teenager that I now realize helped shape me into the person I am today.

    On a related note, while reading your story I definitely found myself remembering some of my own childhood experiences which were akin to what you describe. My childhood home was surrounded by wildlife, despite being located in an up-and-coming neighborhood in central California. I have many memories of watching raccoons and skunks eat the cat food on the back porch through the French door, or of the raccoons trashing the koi pond at least one night per week or the deer being chased through the neighborhood by dogs on the loose. It’s something I appreciate now, living in the (relatively speaking) desolate wasteland of Fairbanks, Alaska in the middle of winter, where if anything emergency push notifications about moose on campus are sent to my cell phone, warning me to avoid blindly running through the quad with no inhibitions about a moose and her calves.

    Great story!

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      Thank you for the kind words, I’m glad you were able to connect with my story! I agree with your advice on the introduction, and I will definitely give more to my introductions. Here at my house in California, we have a family of raccoons terrorizing the neighborhood with their cuteness and peskiness! I miss the moose in Alaska.

  2. Aubri Stogsdill

    Aundrea, I really enjoyed reading your essay. I think you did a lovely job of showing the heart of a little girl. There is clearly a strong maternal inclination that you have which is seen in the way that you both cared for your stuffed animals as well as how you cared for your ducks. Learning what it means to let go of something that is so important and valuable can be really difficult, especially at a young age.

    I thought it was interesting that you started your essay off with a story about reading to your stuffed animals. I think that even the story you were reading to them is significant in that it was showing a distressed child that wanted its mother and your whole essay really seems to reflect a maternal desire that you have and value. While I do think this is a good thought, I feel like it would improve your story to add more information to this section… Perhaps expounding on why you were thinking about this memory as you sat on the dock.

    You used a lot of really wonderful descriptions that drew me in like… Like, “All I can hear around me are the zipping and jingle sounds from our sleeping bags along with the snapping of the dying fire outside.” and, “I watched their charcoal teardrop eyes slowly open and close several times…” I felt these descriptions, and more were really pleasurable to read! On the other had, there were several places that the wording felt a bit bumpy. Such as “I will enjoy this very moment to the fullest I can,” and “while trying to balance myself towards the edge of the boat.” It was interesting reading because in certain section the wording flowed very well, and in other I was rather confused about the word placements. Perhaps reading it out loud would help to catch words that seem to be in an odd place.

    One thing that I do think would improve this essay is hearing more of your internal discussion. While I do feel that the readers will get a pretty good picture of you, having more discussion about what you thought and how you felt would have improved it a lot and make the story more complex.

    Something that made reading it a bit difficult is that you don’t have a consistent tense going on. You jump from talking about something that happened in the past to talking about something happening now. This isn’t a difficult thing to change, but having consistency there would help your whole paper flow more smoothly and help the reader to understand what you’re talking about. Also, there is as big part of me that wanted more closure- perhaps more on what it was like after you gave up the ducks. The paragraph you provided was really sweet and descriptive, but I think that more would be great for your story! That being said, I thought your story was very moving as well as relatable! Good job(:

  3. Aundrea Pierce


    Thank you for your insightful feedback! I do appreciate the advice, and will do my best to keep everything you said in mind when writing and reviewing my future work. I’m relieved to hear you enjoyed some parts because I’m dreading what everyone is going to say.

  4. Jessica Honebein

    I think that you wrote a very descriptive piece about a time in your life that has stuck with you. The experience you had with the ducks shows how you were young, yet still a responsible child. I think that you did a good job tying in how childhood is normally seen as fun and noteworthy. I did get from the couple examples that you are trying to express that you were a more responsible child, reading to your stuffed animals and taking care of your ducks. I absolutely loved all the descriptive words you used. I think that the word choice did help to paint a picture in my head of the different scenes you describe throughout your essay. I think that the last paragraph is a solid ending because you are clarifying the significance that this experience had on you and how it affects you today.

    Although I really enjoyed your piece I was a little confused when it switched from reading to your stuffed animals to sitting on the dock with your ducks. I think that in the last paragraph it cleared everything up for me and I was able to wrap my head around everything. It does leave the readers imagination open and makes them think into the end, so honestly it is not necessarily something you need to change. Depends on how you want the reader to feel as they read your piece. I also loved the word choice you had, but I think that I almost got lost in the words as I was reading and I had to go back, reread, and picture what you were really trying to say. I know that you included the responsibility of having the ducklings is what has helped you and stuck with you in life today. However, I think it would be very interesting if you added in a specific example of how raising the ducks has affected you today. It might be more powerful than just saying that it had a huge impact and you still get reminders (like from the doctor’s office) of them. Other than that I think that you have a solid essay.

    As a reader, throughout the story I seemed to be relating the events to my own life. I think that the way that the essay was written helped me relate to it. It was a smooth flowing essay that made me question what experiences in my childhood brought responsibility to me. I think that it is interesting that something as little as ducklings can impact our lives to this day. I do think that you captured the childhood adventures that we have. As well as showing your personality as a child, and how it led you to certain experiences. I think that I stepped into your life and watched from the sidelines. I was able to picture everything that was happening clearly and have the emotions that you did throughout the essay as well. I really did enjoy reading your essay and experiencing childhood with you.

  5. Monica Gallagher

    This pulled on my heartstrings! I almost teared up reading this and could feel the emotions welling up from your child heart. I wondered to myself how old you must have been, having to let these little baby duck friends go. Then I thought, it really doesn’t matter, this letting animals close to us go, is a sad story at any age. I have to say your story really depicts country life and a sprinkle of farm life nostalgia that always draws me in. You know at some point with these stories because of the great beauty of the style of life that it is, that it sometimes comes with great sadness. It makes me think of the rancher having to put the horse down, the grandpa that has to do the task of slaughtering the pig, the little kid who wonders where their pet rabbit ran off too. All these examples really have nothing to do with your story about ducks, but I guess this is where my mind drifted too in reference to country, animals and loss.
    The only thing that I can think of working on is the tensing in the first portion of the piece. I don’t know if it’s just me and the way that I read it, but I kept wanting it to be directly from you, like you speaking or it being you talking about you. I don’t know if that made any sense at all, but it seemed like it was switching back and forth slightly in a way where I was thinking that it was slightly off. But it was literally so vague that I have a hard time even explaining it, so you might be good.
    Your descriptiveness and detail in painting the picture of the settings that you were in was phenomenal. I just realized reading through another portion of your story that you were 11. So, even the tensing makes some sense too, if you are you, talking about yourself when you were that age. I don’t know am typing out loud in doing this feedback, which is maybe not completely professional, but is my first time “critiquing” work and I figured I would give you a fresh, just read, thought process. Back to the detail, I really appreciated that in your story. It gave a really good explanation of time, setting and your child mind. Speaking of detail, I may have made the ending have a little more emotional detail. Not that I would want it, honestly, these types of animal loss stories really kill me sometimes. But to go in the same writing style as you were doing, it would make sense to put as much detail in the end as you did in the earlier parts of the story.
    Then again, the abrupt ending and seemingly lack of detail at the end could be symbolic for the actuality of the events and how they happened. I can understand and appreciate that as well. That’s sort of how life works sometimes, all this color and detail and then boom, gone.

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      Thank you for your well thought critique. Don’t worry, it all made sense to me! I appreciate you sharing the thoughts you were having while reading. While I don’t feel my piece was that smooth, I’m glad it appeared that way to you. I’m so glad I was able to captivate some of the readers “heart stings”! Thank so much for the honesty.

  6. Naimy Schommer

    This is captivating, Aundrea! You do a great job building up the importance of the event in the beginning by setting the scene with the “Are You My Mother?” story.

    I really love how you begin to tell the narrative in the first person, setting yourself back into an eleven-year-old, but it gets a bit confusing at the beginning of the 3rd paragraph because you change tenses. In the first paragraph, you begin in the past tense with “was always adamant”. In the second paragraph, you switch to present tense with “I sit here”. This transition works because you’re moving from an opening anecdote to the main narrative. However in the third paragraph, you revert back to the past tense with “I was dressed”, and that’s the transition that doesn’t work. Since you’ve already established a tense for the narrative, you’d need a reason made known to the reader in order to transition to the past tense again.

    I love this story. Honestly. I think you speak to something that most can relate to–the understanding that you’re responsible for something other than yourself and that you are inadequate to take care of that thing. It’s terrifying! I think there’s a lot of good comparison that shows where you were at emotionally and mentally at the time of the incident. An early occasion where that is highlighted is when you talk about hoping the ducks know how much you love them. That’s so sweet and innocent and naive and totally captures the spirit of this piece. Lovely.

    I think the description you give to how the ducks have changed since you’ve had them gives the story a good timeline. That piece of the narrative really adds a sense of dimension to a story that otherwise takes place in a matter of two days. Also on that note, you’ve done a great job with expanding the short amount of time in which your story takes place. I think the narrative had a good tempo and kept to it all the way through. That’s something I typically have a hard time being consistent with, so I know how hard that can sometimes be. You did great with that.

    I really liked how you characterized your mom by bringing in details like her breast cancer awareness hat and her southern accent. I could just hear a drawling southern belle in my head when I read her dialogue. It might help the context of the story to know why your mom brought home some ducks just out of the blue one day. I think her influence in the story could be amplified to give it some heftier dimension. Did you take care of the ducks together? Were they solely yours? Why did you keep them for so long?

    Overall I think this is a great story that touches on the nativity of childhood and the loveliness of unconditional love. I’m sure these ducks lived out their webbed lives happily.

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      I can’t thank you enough for pointing out the tenses, honestly! I struggle with anxiety and undiagnosed ADHD, so my mind is exploding in so many directions when I write; I get lost and confused, as you can tell! Your in-depth critique and examples opened my eyes. I enjoy many of everyone else’s writings, so I’m thrilled to know talented writers, such as yourself, actually liked my piece!

  7. Katherine Whelchel

    Hi Aundrea!
    I wanted to start out by saying that your piece seems to have a golden hue running throughout it. As I read, it felt like I could feel sun rays peeking through; as if I was the one thinking back to a significant childhood memory. You captured the heart of a child very well and weaved a true nostalgia into each detail. Starting the story off with a moment of dialogue was very wise, and it hooked me into your story right away! I have never experienced raising an animal for a time and then having to let it go, but after reading your story, I feel like I can deeply relate to the loss you felt. I loved how you built us up by sharing your history with the ducks, how you raised them and giving bits of details about your connections with them.
    There were not many individual things within your story that I would change. However, I feel that the overall theme probably should have been tweaked a bit. Rather than writing about a story and including the emotions you feel, the emotions and how your experiences impacted you should lead the story. In this case, spending more time delving into your internal processes and the ups and downs your young self went through, would automatically lead into details about the experiences.
    I really enjoyed your piece and the way you wrote it, I simply think that the desired style wasn’t completely hit. I hope that makes sense. A re-organization of the story with a greater focus on your internal state would seem to meet the criteria perfectly. I think that in depth description of how the outward circumstances affected you would really carry the piece. Almost as if you are trying to explain what you were feeling to someone from Mars. It creates a deep bond with the reader and makes you express your life in unique ways.
    When talking about the heartbreak you felt from sending the ducks away, I really felt that desired connection with your true heart as a child. Almost as if I was standing in your place. This seems to be the main theme that runs through many great writers stories. They are able to communicate enough details to make you think that you are the one in the story, experiencing the situations, and feeling the emotions. You did this well; I think that you could have even used this talent in more ways in your piece.
    Overall, I thought that the content of your story was rich and held a deep nurturing character. As I said before, it seemed to glow with childhood wonder. I hope that my feedback was clear!

    1. Aundrea Pierce

      Hey Katherine,

      You make sense, I agree! I loved your writing and thought it was much better than mine, so I’m thrilled to have your advice! I love reading how everyone interpreted and related to my story. You all are making me realize things that hadn’t occurred to me; I’m very grateful and appreciative of the advice. Thanks again Katherine!

  8. Caitlyn Williams

    Hi Aundrea,

    Your introduction was great! Starting an essay with nostalgic dialogue, “Are you my mother?” made me want to read more about it. It introduced your main idea, and it made me infer what it was going to be about. I also really liked the structure and flow of your essay. Your use of dialogue really helped me capture the moments of your essay. The happiness of getting the ducklings, to the anxiety and heartbreak of telling your mom to drive faster away from the ducklings. Dialogue is something I’ve struggled with as a writer, and reading your essay made me want to include more dialogue in mine. I feel like I’ve never been able to insert dialogue successfully, but at this point any dialogue is good dialogue.

    Another thing I appreciated about your essay was that it was a narrative story written in chronological order. From the beginning, when the little fuzzies could fit in your hand, to the middle, when you realized what hungry teenagers they were, to the end, when they grew to live in their ultimate microwave sized box. I appreciated that you included your decision on where to set them free. The thought you put into it showed how much those fluffy ducklings meant to you. It also shows the compassion you have for animals.

    Your descriptive words went beyond a simple description of the events that occurred in your story. For example, when you describe getting ready with your mom on the day you set the ducklings free. “She shoved her light pink cancer awareness hat over her morning coffee hair.” That description is relatable, and I loved the way you described her hair as being “morning coffee hair”. Another example of this is when you described the ducklings agenda to be stubborn. Ducks are quite stubborn aren’t they? I found it adorable that they followed you. You became their mother duck, and that made me like your introduction even more!

    The connection you had with the ducklings really showed through in your essay. All good writers are able to use words to make a connection with the readers, and you’ve done it! It must’ve been heartbreaking to see them attempt to scurry after you when you set them free! Adding the detail of you saying, “Mom, go faster!” really made this pull my heartstrings.

    Overall, this was an amazing first essay, and I didn’t catch any grammar mistakes. The only minor thing I saw was that in some part in your essay you use a different tense than the rest of the paragraph, otherwise great work! A nice interesting narrative.

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      You gave me more positive feedback than I gave myself, so thank you! Grammar I feel is one of my weaknesses, and I’m glad you felt it was okay. I discovered I need to be careful with the tenses, as others have mentioned. I’m also glad you commented on the dialogue, I was wondering if it worked or not.

  9. Michelle Cordova


    I truly believe that you have a knack for writing! I thought your work showed heart and passion, not only in this story but for writing in general. Coming from someone who has a difficult time clearly expressing emotion on paper, I thought you did it beautifully and felt that the overall feel of the piece was wonderful!

    With that being said, I must admit that the beginning of “The Fate of the Rouen Ducks” started out a bit awkward for me, and I had to read it a second time to fully understand where you were going with it. I believe that a little word reorganization would work wonders here along with possibly even lengthening the opening and giving a little more detail. However, you did a beautiful job at connecting “Are you my mother” with the rest of the story, and by the end, it all came full circle.

    I felt that your descriptions of the duck’s charcoal teardrop eyes and snapping of the dying fire outside really helped to pull the reader in and allow us to feel as if we were the ones in your story, daydreaming about years passed as vividly as you. For a moment while reading, I almost fell into my own memories of childhood camping as you recalled the thick smoke and the smell it tends to leave lingering on clothes and hair days after the fire went out. Your flow was also perfection and easy to follow as you told of a specific time in your life that was difficult, especially for a child who had become like a mother to two dependent ducks but knew that they, like a human child, eventually have to leave home and grow into what they are destined to become. I wasn’t left with questions or confusion as you made your points obvious, but intriguing, at the same time.

    Losing or letting go of a pet can be difficult for anyone, at any age, especially when they have become a part of the family. I believe that your choice of topic was perfect and easy to relate to for so many of us, which also helps the reader understand your emotions and, at times, feel them the way you did through personal experience.

    Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed your paper and appreciate your descriptive style of writing. It was a pleasure to read and difficult to critique! Keep up the good work, and I hope to have the opportunity to read more from you in the future!

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      I’m thrilled that you think I have a “knack for writing!” I didn’t expect to hear such wonderful things! I admit, I took a risk and struggled a bit with the introduction. Some enjoyed it but somewhere confused which leads me to conclude that I should have included more, as you said. Thank you for the advice and kind words, I appreciate it and will work harder to keep everyone’s thoughts in mind for future writings.

  10. Sierra Russell-McCollum

    I found myself really enjoying this story while I was reading it. I relate to feeling the responsibility of caring for ducks. I myself used to own two duck back at home and they were 100% my responsibility. When you were describing the ducklings, it made me smile. I remember when mine were that small. The way you described them eating and their beaks made me smile, that was my favorite part about them. Unlike you, I have never had to leave them behind so I cannot imagine the feeling you felt. Especially at such a young age.

    When describing how you felt when you are releasing them back into the wild I definitely wanted to hear more of your internal thoughts. I noticed you felt unsure whether you really wanted to leave your “children” behind or keep them with you. I feel like that could have added more to the story. Also, another thing I found a bit confusing was the beginning. It was kind of hard to get into. I found myself reading it over a few times because I didn’t see how the Dr. Suess book fit into the story. It might just be me. But it wasn’t until the end when I understood your introduction, so it most likely is fine. But other than those few things, once I got past them your story had me locked in.

    Overall this story was very good. The way you described the scenery and ducklings made me feel as though I was sitting next to you seeing what you were seeing. My favorite part is when you brought your mother into the story. The way you described her to your readers helped me paint a clear picture. When you described her breast cancer hat and southern accent it made me smile. Another part I loved was when you were describing the heartbreak you felt when leaving your ducklings. I remember being a child and feeling the same heartbreak, but mine was over a dead snail my mom accidentally killed, you have a way of making the reader remember what it feels like to be that age again. You stayed on track and had a goal while writing this and I feel as though you did an amazing job. There was never a point that I had to stop reading. Besides the very beginning reading, this piece went very smoothly and that really helps us readers stay on track while reading and not get distracted. I admire your writing style, it’s very smooth and you work is very interesting to read.

    The connection you had with the ducklings really shined through your writing throughout the entire piece. I myself sometimes struggle with maintaining a connection, but the way you did so was amazing. It really added depth into your writing. I can feel your passion for writing while reading this story and I think that is another factor on why your story feels so real, you fully engulf yourself into it. I can’t wait to read more stories of yours in the future you did an amazing job!

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      I agree I should have revealed more internal thoughts! I erased a paragraph before I submitted the essay, and now I’m kicking myself in the butt! I feel I should have left it because it contained some thoughts. For some reason, I felt it would “bore” the reader. I’m glad to hear that some readers wanted to know more.

      “I can feel your passion for writing while reading this story[..]” Wow, this is my favorite feedback so far. I have always had a passion for writing, but it slowed down due to intimidation and discouragement. I feel I’m just ordinary, but I’m so touched that you could feel my passion for writing. I will never forget this compliment! I took a risk with my introduction, and I can see why it would be confusing to some readers. Again, thank you for the feedback you’re very kind, and I’m glad you could relate to the theme!

  11. Leah Rego

    I enjoyed your story, it was an adorable and touching tale. My only issues were at the beginning I had trouble following your train of thought, it was a little disjointed and had some transition problems. The sentence order in the first few lines caused me to stumble around a bit in reading. It may have gone more smoothly as , When I was a seven year old girl, I read ‘Are You My Mother’ to my classs. I am unsure whether you were intending to describe you, or the class as having ‘limitless imagination’.

    Your changes in tense were inconsistent, in the first few sentences you spoke of your seven year old self in past tense, then you switch to present briefly at ‘Now four years later”, and after that there is a frequent switching between past and present. The last couple of paragraphs are a little more consistent and therefore much easier to follow.

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      The most common complaint among the readers has been in regards to the beginning. I should have added more or worded it as you suggested. Thanks for the critique!

  12. Corbin Knapp

    I enjoyed your essay, it gives an insight into who you are. Your beginning instantly put me into the midst of your memory, and your use of metaphors to describe your “classroom” and “students” perfectly describes the imagination we all have at that age. The first paragraph in which you have the ducklings besides you on the dock uses engaging words to describe your surroundings vividly. Did you just find the ducklings near the dock?

    I enjoy camping too, and the way you describe the crackling of the fire and the rustling of sleeping bags from the next tent brings back memories of my past camping trips with my family. My friend used to have a runner ducks and they made sounds like the ones you described when he went out to feed them when I was there. They weren’t very small for long either. I saw them a few months after he first got them and he said that they had almost tripled in size. I don’t know if he fed them bread or not though.

    One of the points that I was confused about in your essay is where did you get the ducklings? Did you just find them injured by the shore of a lake? Or did you get them from someone who couldn’t keep them? If you wanted to expand this piece it would be great if you wrote about how you got the ducklings and how you became so deeply attached to them (besides the fact that they are ducklings). Was the whole point of that camping trip to drop the ducklings at the inlet? Why did you have to give the ducks up? I think that it would make the essay even more poignant if you described how you felt in the days after leaving them at the inlet.

    For the technical aspects of your essay, I thought it flowed smoothly. I could read the whole thing without losing interest and keep my focus on your topic. You used very good descriptions to keep the essay moving on, and put in some dialogue now and then to add variety. One thing that could make the piece even better is if you added more dialogue into your scenes. The conversation you probably had with your parents comforting you after you had to leave the ducks at the inlet for example.

    Besides that, I enjoyed reading your essay immensely. It was heartwarming and familiar for anyone who has had to give up a loved pet that they viewed as a sibling or child. I was really attached to a cat my family had when I was a kid. He didn’t mind me petting him all the time, and I treated him like he was part of the family. I was devastated when he died one night. I felt as if I had lost a brother. It just goes to show how deeply we can care for the animals we have taken care of and loved.

  13. Aundrea Pierce


    I’m sorry to hear about your cat! Thanks for sharing the unanswered questions you had while reading, I will try harder to put more answers into my writings. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed this story; I was afraid it would bore the reader. I’m also happy to hear I wrote in a “smooth” flow. When I write I get to many ideas and thoughts that bombard me, so I worry about sending the reader to too many places at once (a bumpy flow). I appreciate your feedback!

  14. Ben Knapp

    I enjoyed your touching story of your childhood experience. Your story connected with the reader, as well as maintaining good flow and keeping the reader’s attention. Altogether, I have very little bad to say about it.

    Your initial paragraph grabs the reader’s attention very well. It tied in very nicely with the beginning of your story, as well as setting the stage for later paragraphs. Overall, it did its’ job nicely and fit in with the theme of the rest of your essay.

    Another thing I liked was how you somehow built up an incredibly detailed image of your experiences, without getting caught up in merely describing the places you were in and the things you saw. You provide just enough suggestion as to your surroundings that the reader isn’t left with an empty void, but without losing the main purpose of your essay.

    Your essay connects with me even though I’ve never raised ducks. Anyone who has ever kept a pet will connect with your piece and how you felt about your ducklings. As I read, I felt happy for you at the beginning when you talked about your ducklings, and then sad when you were forced to let them go.

    I also enjoyed the way your piece was organized. By starting of in the middle of the story, you further draw the reader’s attention. You let the full story unravel itself before the reader’s eyes, which I find keeps the attention of the reader much better than if you had written it in a different way. If your essay had been written in chronologically, it might have become bland and uninteresting.

    Pretty much my only criticism is that in a couple of places your punctuation is a little off. I realize this is probably not intentional, and after writing a long essay it can be difficult to find any errors you might have made. I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it if the rest of your essay wasn’t so good, but it does take a little away from your writing. The reader can’t get the full experience of the writing if he’s noticing errors.

    The main example of this is when you are thinking about your ducklings. I’m not sure of the standard method for punctuating thought, but it does make your text a bit confusing at that point. Without anything to differentiate the thought from the rest of the writing, I was unsure as to what exactly was happening until I looked it over a second time. I feel bad for pointing this out, but other than a couple little things like this, I found your essay to be a very enjoyable read.
    Other than the few errors, it was an altogether enjoyable read. You grabbed the reader’s attention with your opening paragraph, before leading the reader along with your building suspense and good flow. By the end of the essay, the reader will feel sad about how you had to let your ducklings go. I found reading your essay to be enjoyable and I look forward to seeing more of your work!

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      Thanks for pointing out the punctuation! If you don’t mind, could you copy and paste the problem areas? Thanks for the feedback.

  15. Mekayla


    I really loved this piece. You did a really good job at maintaing the childlike tone in the description of these memories, and when you were on that boat with your mother, I could really picture the scene. I felt connected to you, as well as your ducks, and I thought that the memory you shared in your introduction was a nice touch. It really expressed what the ducks meant for you in terms of not just caring for them, but that sense of responsibility you felt towards your little furry babies.

    I am curious as to where your mother got the ducks from, as well as why you had them in the first place. I think adding this information would have added to your story, but leaving this information out was also beneficial in maintaining your childlike tone with the naive take on the experience. I was happy that you willingly let your pets go into an environment that was more suited for them, but I’m left feeling concerned about their ability to live on their own in the wild. It seems like they really bonded and grew to be dependent on you for shelter and food. That sudden change of environment must have been a major shock, along with being separated from you, their mother. I really hope they were able to adjust and live on their own. Sometime it can be hard for animals to make a change that sudden.

    I think I feel so much concern for the ducks because I really connected with your child self in this story, and how much you cared for them. I really related to your narrative and to the affection you felt for you pets, and the sense of responsibility that this experience instilled into you.

  16. Cassidy Kramer

    What a great story! At first, I didn’t understand how the introduction related to your story until I read it the second time. However, when I did read it again, I understood that the introduction relates to the story with the “I’m not your mother” quote. Your story relates to me, and a lot of readers I’m sure, by bringing us back to our childhood when we first held the responsibility of being a “mom”. For the transition from the recollection to the current time, maybe if you gave the reader only a brief explanation of what you are doing (fishing), and introduce the ducks earlier. Although, I do like how you give the reader an explanation of why you are dazing. I love the part where you say that each stroke is mindful, and you hope they realize how much you love them. I have a dog, so I related to that sentence a lot. They can’t understand your words, so you just need to hope that they can understand you love them through the affection you give them.
    I also really liked the whole part that you explain how much they have grown, and what you are doing to take care of them. It shows that even at age 11, you have the parental instincts that are in all of us. Although you show us that you are old enough to hold this responsibility, you also give us an insight on your child-like thoughts. Once the story got to morning, even I was dreading it. I did not want to see those two ducks, who I got attached to, leave the story.
    Although you did a great job with your descriptions throughout the story, I feel like if you included more of your feelings the reader could be more involved. For example, when you were leaving and finding the place for your ducks, you could add in hints that you dreaded the moments. Like instead of just stating that your mom pointed where a good place for your ducks could be, you add how you felt when she pointed, which could put the reader on a more personal level. Around that part of the story, you go from talking about your feelings “letting them go was going to break my heart” to talking about the North Carolina summer heat. To not distract the reader from your personal feelings, you can move the details of the setting up to where you’re leaving the campsite, where you’re more in an informative area rather than a personal area. If that makes sense. I also got confused in parts of the story where your wording threw me off. Although once I read it a couple more times, I understood what you were trying to say.
    Altogether, I thought that this was a great and relatable story. You brought me back to a time where I had to let go of something that I developed a mother-child relationship with. You are a great writer!

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