John Lavin and his delightful 12th grade AP English students were not able journey to us again from Kensington to share with us their experience reading and writing about "A Talk to Teachers," by James Baldwin, 1963.
So, we went there, carrying lunch with us. Metal detectors and magic. that's how it was. Plus haiku, which will make the SafeKids editor purse her lips. But we captured little glints of light; and made friends; and Chad has found his new literary form!
I invite you to re-read Baldwin's short, dense piece to see how it speaks to you--or characters in your story, or to your experience participating in workshops or editing ninth-graders' blogs as we'll be doing in a couple weeks.
More workshops, yet: Kimmel youth jazz and Adaire School's 8th graders. Plus, soon, reading and commenting on 9th grade blogs from Cristo Rey.
That's the work in class. That's the extrovert work, above the surface.
Underneath, you are writing now. The first half of the course is an invitation to find a story that you can fall in love with, as John Hough talked about, and once you love it, and love the characters, once it means something to you, then you are ready to rock climb through learning that you may not be able to articulate at first, but can feel. It's energy, obsession, perhaps, certainly a tiny little drive shaft in your imagination that propels the story forward into the lives of imaginary friends; real friends; the visualization of maps; competitions that matter; crazy school bus accidents; prickly frogs in trousers brought home from the pet store; cats on vacay, kids from across the Secret-Garden-style hedge who love boats and adventure; kids in high school teasing each other mercilessly and looking for friendship; a spunky, but scared girl trying to sort out mother love from mental illness. Like that.
I hope that you are scheduling your writing so that you will protect it.
Week 3: February 3
Field trip: Slought/"A Beautiful Ghetto" with host, Dr. Aaron Levy
"Reading in the Dark"
Stories speed dating: What's the best thing about this story: Setting, idea, character, event/plot? Write it on author's sheet.
Week 4: February 10
Investigation of our individual aesthetic and obsessions. What do you NEED to write? Where do you start?
Irwin: Is there a formula for good writing?
Penn Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology: To let the art of centuries from across the globe lodge in our imaginations.
Preview of workshops with younger students; beginning scheduling and preferences. We'll figure out more on email.
Let the object form a story around itself. Play with it. Look online to find its specs or its history, if that interests you. Or go back and enjoy it some more. Then write.
Watch your process; respect it. Don't wait for Tuesday night. Tuesday night is not your friend.
After class, my friend, Hannibal Lokumbe, a composer, called, and I told him about our assignment, how I wanted to make this class an oasis for creation. His response" "Well, the great thing about creation is that you always learn." Even or especially when the project fails.
I'm intrigued by How Not to Write a Novel. Have ordered. You might be reading it soon.
Week 5: February 17
In class: Read from object lessons. Discuss process. How does this story connect with last week’s question: what do you need to write?
Read “Girl,” by Jamaica Kinkaid, and discuss the strategy of direct address.
Hmk: Re-read “Girl." Without trying to imitate her style, but noting the strength of this strategy, write a direct address story. Know your speaker and voice.
Decide to whom this story is directed.
Begin reading John Hough’s Craft of Dialogue
Let's talk about: Leo Tolstoy, The Hedgehog and Fox, John Gardiner, The Art of Fiction