Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Second Class

at CityLit

Ways Into Creative Writing
30/09/2005 Review


Weekly Review Sheets
The weekly review will provide you with:
a document of the class,
a road map of the adventure;
and a future reference guide (perhaps you may be blocked one day and go back and repeat the exercises on your own.)

Organisational Skills:
I encourage everyone to get a binder. In this binder or folder, I hope you will put all of the materials from this class, your exercises, your writings. I would like for each of you to have a detailed record of this journey. Last week, in another class, poet and novelist, Martina Evans said, “time is the best editor.” And I couldn’t have found a more succinct way of stating this truth. So, remember, “Time is the best editor.

We reviewed and ratified (on a temporary basis) the Class Contract.

We have also set up an email list to which class members may send their work. This email list allows people to spend time with the work before coming to class. It helps offset copying expenses, by making each member of the class who needs or wants a physical copy responsible for their own participation.

A creative writer is a person actively engaged in the process of understanding and making sense out of our world and the people in it. We are constantly changing. Everyday, we have new insights and new understandings. We also are blessed with the occasional epiphany, or the “Aha!” for which we have been seeking.

I encourage everyone to get a journal and to begin writing everyday. Through daily writing - even stream of consciousness or free writing - you will open yourself to the discipline necessary involved with being a creative writer. Even if you write, “I do not feel like writing today.” You will have accomplished the act of writing. Most importantly, you will have turned a negative idea into a positive one. Even though you did not feel like writing, you wrote.

Exercise 1 -
Leaving Judgement At the Door
Task - This exercise is not for sharing. Be free to be honest with yourself.
1. Take a negative statement you think often about your writing.
2. Now, transform it into a positive statement or promise to yourself.

“My writing just doesn’t seem to work.” becomes “The work I’m doing now will make me a better writer.”

“Nobody likes my writing.” becomes “The people who like my writing are waiting to find me.”

Goals: Use language creatively. Encourage yourself as a writer. Honour your potential and strengths. Think creatively and experiment with language. Experience the power of language.

Material Presented:
1. We must encourage ourselves to reach our goals.
2. We have the power to manipulate language to serve our own distinct purposes.
3. By removing emotional roadblocks to writing, we become better writers.

Exercise 2 -
Adrienne Kennedy / Homework / Reading Out
Task: You were given a small excerpt from Adrienne Kennedy’s autobiography, “People Who Lead To My Plays” In the style of Adrienne Kennedy, write about 3 people who will lead you to your voice.

Goals: Examine literature as a living and dynamic form. Gain greater understanding of how language works and of the devices used by writers. Loosen the individual’s voice. Use language creatively. Promote writing confidence. Increase your ability to take risks.

Material Presented:
1. Writers simultaneously observe and participate in life.
2. Everything is your material.
3. Through distance from our subject matter, we can become more aware of the nuances in a story and/or the meaning in everything.
4. Even the most trivial, childish or juvenile things can have a have a deeper more powerful meaning.
5. The way in which we structure a narrative can draw a reader in or push them away.

Thank you for your lush, evocative pieces! Well done!

Writing Exercise -
Choose an object which you use all of the time. The more common and bland the better. Examples, toilet tissue, diapers, toothbrush, sanitary napkins, tea bags.
A. Who made this item?
1. Are they married, single, divorced?
2. Are they young or old?
3. Do they have children?
4. What is their favourite colour?
5. What do they like to do after work?
6. Do they have any hobbies?
B. What are they feeling when they make this item?
C. Where are they?
D. What does it look and sound like there?
E. Do they ever think about you - the user?
F. What do they think about you?

Write what you know. Learn about what you don’t know. Practise empathy - it will lead you to the creation of more believable characters.

Reading -
1. Ruth Ellen Kocher, “Gigan For Queen Bee”
A gigan is a new poetic form invented by Ruth Ellen Kocher. Its 16 lines consist of:
1. couplet, triplet, couplet, couplet, triplet, couplet
2. line one repeats as line eleven
3. line six repeats as line 12
4. last couplet turns the subject askew
5. Find more at: http://aboutaword.blogspot.com
Notice: The way the poem is an elegy without being an elegy. Notice the way she turns an elegy into a celebration of life. If we hadn’t had the explanation, What do we know about Queen Bee? What did she look like? What did she do? How do you know this? Finally - in what way does she turn the subject askew?

2. “Witness, Testify, Recall: A Conversation With Patricia Johnson,” from Her Words: Diverse Voices in Contemporary Appalachian Women’s Poetry by Felicia Mitchell, University of Tennessee Press, 2002

You’ve been given two of the poems discussed in this interview. One of the poems is in the form of a villanelle. The other is free verse. What happened in both of these poems? How did the author use distance and foreshadowing to deal with extremely difficult personal subject matter? How did the author use distance and poetic form to control the horrific subject matter?

For your information and from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villanelle, a villanelle is:

“The standard villanelle consists of five stanzas of three lines each rhyming a-b-a and a sixth stanza of four lines rhyming a-b-a-a, giving a total of nineteen lines. The first line of the first stanza is reused as the third line of stanzas two, four, and six. The third line of the first stanza is reused as the third line of stanzas three and five and as the fourth line of the sixth stanza. The result can be illustrated by the following schematic representation:
Line one (A1)* Line two (b) Line three (A2)*

Line four (A2) Line five (b) Line one (A1)

Line six (A1) Line seven (b) Line three (A2)

Line eight (A2) Line nine (b) Line one (A1)

Line ten (A1) Line eleven (b) Line three (A2)

Line twelve (A2) Line thirteen (b) Line one (A1) Line three (A2)

This is otherwise known as entering poetic hell.

Final Thoughts:
1. Be engaged with your world.
2. Be a part of it.
3. Be curious about every single detail around you.
4. Observe others. Learn to listen to their stories.
5. Free your imagination to transform everything around you into something moving, poignant and significant.

Not Specifically Addressed:
Begin the writer’s ritual.
1. Get a notebook.
2. Writers who succeed are writers with discipline. Write in it everyday - discipline.
3. Try writing at different times of day. This way you will find the best time for you.
4. Make a place for yourself to write. If you write in the same place and it is always ready for you...it makes it easier to find the words. You build energy there and train your mind that this is the place where you make words.
5. Find a place to post your positive statement. (On your notebook. On the bathroom mirror. Anywhere you will see it regularly.)

1 comment:

Raina said...

Hello lady,
Wish I were taking your class, and I suppose, in a way, I can through this medium.

The quotation you remarked on the other day was all Olney, himself remarking on Coleridge.

Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. Just started reading the comments.