Guest contributor: Monica Wood

Writing from Inside: “Nail,” by Danielle R.

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence


This piece from Danielle is an exercise in empathy, in which she finds a subtle connection between herself and an inanimate object–in this case, a nail that showed up (another story) in a little pink bag. –MW


NAIL by Danielle R

I started off shiny and new, freshly crafted, sitting high above the hayloft in the Smiths’ barn. That is where my home was. For decades, I stayed sturdy and strong, while the wood around me slowly decayed. Finally, I fell from my post and landed on the barn floor. I lay there collecting dust and being kicked about by the farmers and cowhands, until one day my point penetrated the sole of a pair of work boots.Another journey began. I could see quick glimpses of the world around me as he lifted his foot, then back to complete darkness when he set it down again.

The world is so bright once you have found your way out of a dirty, rundown barn. Since the day I fell from the place I once called my home, I have traveled far and wide. Hitch-hiking on the soles–and souls–of shoes,  in children’s hands, in garbage trucks, and even in little pink bags.

Today I find myself on a tabletop in a prison someplace in Maine, dull and worn, only a fraction of what I once was, yet I’m still holding strong and my travels will continue for so many days to come. For every adventure I go on, I will become a little more worn, but it will shape me into something a little different each time, because the world is forever changing. And so am I.


[Today’s post is the first from a group of women inmates whom I work with in a program called “Meet the Authors.” (They don’t have internet access, but your comments will get back to them, through me, after being vetted through the chain of command.)  The program runs in 12-week rounds, two hours per week, with a different group of students for each round, always with a few repeaters. We read the work of Maine women writers, who come to discuss their work and offer a writing exercise in their respective genres. The women then write short pieces, using prompts from me or the guest writers, and revise them according to feedback from the group.

To read my full introduction, click here.   –Monica Wood]



  1. Kathy writes:

    Dear Danielle, Several people mentioned how they liked the beginning of your piece. I like the ending because it shows how you have grown and will continue to do so. It’s time for more happy endings.

  2. Marian Godfrey writes:

    Danielle, I love that the nail carries your mind out into the world with it, and that your words carry the nail out into the world with them. Thank you for this story.

  3. Mimi writes:

    This is a wonderful piece and so creative. I’m not sure i could muster up any empathy for a nail. She definitely should keep writing!

  4. monica wood writes:

    Thanks a million, all. Danielle will be so pleased. Stay tuned for W., Karla, and Kim in the upcoming weeks.

  5. Jan in Maine writes:

    Wow. I really liked this piece. I enjoyed it so much I had to read it a second time and will be sure to share it . I think the writer has a lot of talent.

  6. Rich Kent writes:

    NAIL by Danielle R… an engaging, thoughtful, and ever hopeful piece. Thanks, Danielle! (and Monnie)

  7. Bill writes:

    First of all, the shoes in the photo are my daughter’s, already too small and kicked off after gardening. I just added the nail. And speaking of nails, it’s kind of amazing where a little old shiny perfect object can end up through no fault of its own. I love how it gets a view every time our cowboy lifts his foot. And other metaphor too rich to mess with in a comment… I am now officially waiting for the story of a brand new little pink bag and how it came off a sewing machine line somewhere like probably China, full of possibility (empty, that is), and managed to end up, you know, half-way around the world with a beat up damn nail inside.

  8. Jen Dupree writes:

    This is really a beautiful piece. I especially loved the evocative beginning but the whole thing held my attention and made me root for the nail. Great job. And I think this whole program is just a wonderful thing. 🙂

  9. Kathy C. writes:


    I enjoyed reading your piece. As the nail, you’ve conveyed some of life’s lessons in a most interesting way.

  10. Sue Paradis writes:

    Monny, you do an amazing job with these women….. no surprise there!

    Danielle R., I loved your piece! It says so much about life and a persons journey through it. I’d like to see it being read in high schools around the state, especially to Seniors who are starting on their own journeys. I hope to see more from you!

  11. I think you have “nailed” the point of view.
    There are a lot of turns and twists in
    Life , but we all start out shiny and new. That we may or may not find a path rich and fulfilling is sometimes the luck of the draw.
    At times in life it is not so much the hurdles that matter as much as how we hurdle.
    That nail, through quick glimpses, will see a new an different world one that if we reach for it can be ours. Write your way to it, Danielle.

  12. D.L. Wood writes:

    Well done Danielle R – A great short story and I like the life metaphors it contains. I look forward to finding out about the pink bag.

    D.L. Wood

  13. Pete Stanwood writes:

    Thank you Danielle. That was a lot of fun to read. I have felt like that old nail a few times. Thanks for making me open my eyes a little wider!

  14. Debora writes:

    Hi Danielle. Wow! My friend Bill has a writing exercise called, Favorite First Lines, where he asks writing students to thumb through books, stories, essays, looking for really great first lines. Your writing here, is going on my list. The perspective (the nail’s point of view) is interesting on its own, but of course what you’ve done in this line is made the magical leap from the personal to the universal…because, after all, I too started off shiny and new, right? And I have a whole story of why that is or isn’t my condition now. You might want to hold on to this piece and turn it into something that tells the story of one human being that began in one place and ended up in another–the story of you (has my attention already, because of your opening line)…I see lots and lots of potential for a larger piece that I would want to read. Congrats on the good writing!

  15. M. Graham writes:

    New member here–inspired by this piece to sign up. I am prompted to respond not by Monica’s invitation (although I am grateful for it), but by the sheer poetry of this writing. The metaphorical weight of the piece is stunning, and the writer’s mastery of movement and description is something I myself aspire to. Seriously good writing.

  16. Kathy writes:

    What a wonderful, poetic piece! A nail is so interesting as a metaphor. It might get banged up and worn and rusty, but it can always be straightened out and polished up and even put to use to hold things together. Enduring and versatile, as I suspect Danielle herself is. Keep up the great work!

  17. Amy Chapman writes:

    Bless you for this work of yours, Monica! (And here I thought I already couldn’t possibly respect you more…) I love Danielle’s exercise in empathy, and I know she must have discovered some unexpected things about herself in writing this lovely piece. My favorite line: “The world is so bright once you have found your way out…” Please send her my warm thoughts and encouragement to keep up the writing–a wonderful way for all of us to find our way out into the bright world. xoxox

  18. monica wood writes:

    Readers, any comments will a thrill for the ladies. Thank you!