This is the pivot week, when we aim ourselves toward workshops with other schools and younger students across the city--and when I give you your last exercise to ask you to step outside your usual writing mode to find new stories. This week's prompt was meant to do that and to align our simple class ambition: to be of use, even modest use, to someone else's adventures in literacy.
When you recalled some, one, event that made a lasting impression on your education, your examples often had to do with simple actions made within important relationships with teachers: one who sat a crying first grader on her lap until the girl gained enough confidence to join the class; one who started a "girls club" after-school club that taught crucial life lessons to the daughter of a woman with mental illness; another who gave a Thesaurus to a second-grader, encouraging her to write more. What we discovered were that these are memories that can provide the structure and spine for children's stories. One line in an assembly stuck with Sam; and the self-righteousness of another assembly so divided the students that classes had to be cancelled to deal with the tumult. One student discovered the specialness of his ability to remember maps, and we discussed what one amazing skill can do in an otherwise fragile or threatened childhood. We added to this list stories that we remembered or thought remarkable--stories we wanted to read (or steal and write!) Now it is time to choose one that you've already begun to play with or dig one out of your internal story landscape and start writing. You are to bring a draft (on Docs or on paper) to Week 10 class.
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