Our morning began with the pop-up typhoon that whipped through Manhattan. But what is a rainy morning if not an excuse to get some writing done? Today, the young writers were especially prolific, moving from poems to plays to life writing.
But while I have your undivided attention, I want to put something on your radar. On Friday, our young writers will be reading the pieces they wrote over the course of the week. What better way to kick off the weekend than seeing some talented young people read their fiction, poems, and plays. It’ll be a good time. Believe me. Please swing by. The reading will be held in the Mary and Morgan Jarvis Wing of the Beach Museum at 2:00 p.m. Oh, and word on the street is that the reception will have cookies from Arrow Coffee Co.
All right, now that that public service announcement is out of the way. Let’s talk shop.
Where do you go to find inspiration? Is it a location, books, your past life, or someplace else entirely?
For many creative writers, finding topics that can carry a poem, a short story, a play or, my goodness, a whole novel can be tricky! Who really wants to read a story where nothing happens or a poem chock-full of clichés? Our young writers sure don’t, and they don’t want to write them either.
So today, the instructors and visiting writer got a little creative, and introduced some genres that many of our young writers might be unfamiliar with (I certainly was at their age).
Dr. Katy Karlin brought back a Young Writers’ Workshop staple: found poetry writing. For those of you who haven’t run across found poetry, poets take everyday documents, look them over for interesting words and phrases, and stitch together a poem made of those pieces. Pretty cool, right?
Here’s an example from Zian Butler, one of our instructors:
Electrical precautions following
Handles immerse liquid children.
Before damage facility, repair
may be omitted specifically
over edge of surfaces.
Place burner containing other instructions
Fire material, sheathed
Always use while operating household.
And here’s a pic of the poem in progress:
You’re looking at a manual for a 2-Slice Toaster, by the way.
Our young writers worked with instruction manuals for household appliances, an odd assortment of magazines, and how-tos for tasks like shoeing a horse. They picked their found text and got to work slicing and dicing, rearranging and revising. They cut out the words that caught their eye and made the original text into something entirely their own.
All of this cutting and gluing, this almost counts as arts and crafts.
The young writers and instructors then shared their poems with their peers.
They’re already doing their prep work for Friday’s reading. Don’t miss it!
After lunch, the third of our four visiting authors dropped to share what makes a story interesting. Darren Canady, our visiting playwright, received his M.F.A. from New York University’s Tisch School of Arts. His works, which include Brothers of the Dust, You’re Invited, and One Night Dickie Didin’t Come Home, have been produced in Chicago, London, New York City, among other locations. Darren currently teaches at the University of Kansas.
However, Darren’s lesson didn’t focus on the art of playwriting. Primarily, his talk centered around why we tell stories and what we value in them. The young writers, instructors, and Darren noted the need for readers to feel connected, entertained, and see the relationship between the internal emotions of characters and how they externally portray themselves.
Regarding entertainment, Darren stressed the usefulness of the ridiculous: “Life doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes you need to go find a chicken.” Wouldn’t that line fit nicely into a found poetry piece?
He asked the young writers to try out life writing, which is similar to autobiography. On top of being a highly respected playwright, Darren is also a life writer, and he walked the young writers through a few activities designed to tap into their recent life experiences.
Each writer wrote a snippet about something that had happened to them over the past week. They then jotted down on a piece of construction paper a few things about how they see themselves. Darren then had them flip that piece of paper over and tape it to their backs. The young writers then wrote the qualities on each other’s backs that would make someone want to get to know them.
Our instructors got a sense of what our young writers had to say about them.
Then came time to reveal what their peers had to say about them. After comparing what they knew about themselves and how others saw them, the young writers discussed what they learned from the exercise as a group—how multiple perspectives of one person can coexist.
“What do others see in you that you haven’t notice about yourself?”—Darren Canady
Afterwards, Darren gave the young writers an opportunity to
revise their work from earlier with their broadened understanding of how they see themselves and how others see them.
“Really good writing is done in revision”—Darren Canady
The young writers then closed their day reflecting on how their writing went, and Darren reminded them that early writing is often just an act of figuring out what you really want to write about. But what will our young writers end up writing about?
-Hunter Gilson, Program Assistant