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School was cool!

Posted by Gwen |

My class on Saturday was not what I expected. I was expecting short lectures on technique peppered with exercises, followed by an assignment that would be critiqued and handed back next week. I wanted chunks of my writing circled in red with notes that read, “Expand on this!” and “Why is this relevant?”

I guess I failed to understand the word “Workshop” when I signed up because what I got, instead, is more like a brainstorming session. We talked a lot about writing, how to do it, how to get paid for it, where to do it, how to find focus, authors, books, magazines, etc. The discussion was uncomfortably tangential given my expectations, but once I realized there wasn’t supposed to be linear movement, I relaxed and enjoyed it.

Teacher is an energetic grandmother who grew up and lived in the Essex area of England until moving to Texas at age 24. Her lyrical voice and accent make the small jokes she tells even funnier. Several times over the course of the four-hour class she assumed an arms-akimbo stance that was priceless.

I’m not sure she knew how to take me, though. At one point she asked me which magazine would I most want to be published in and I responded, “The New Yorker.” She excitedly replied that TNY takes submissions from freelance writers and pays well. I responded that they wouldn’t have to pay me, that just seeing my name printed in The New Yorker would make me pee a little. She was visibly taken aback and I was mortified, that is until I heard giggles coming from behind me. She probably thinks I’m some sort of class clown or something. Crap, am I?

Anyway, while she liked my choice of magazine, she was not fond of my attitude toward compensation. She takes the position that words are precious and valuable, and that we shouldn’t give them away for free. I agree to a point. She has convinced me I’m capable of writing for publication, and I really like her suggestion of entering contests. On the other hand, though, she hasn’t read my post about shitting my pants, has she? Precious, indeed.

After roll call, Teacher gave us 7 minutes to write about how we see ourselves as writers. We introduced ourselves by reading our creations aloud. Later in the day she gave us 7 minutes to write about the word, “Kitchen.” Each exercise was an incredible way to get to know one another. My story was about a line cook named Danny who had a crush on a waitress in the restaurant but didn’t know how to approach her without tipping off his bullying co-workers. Danny ended up heeding his Mother’s advice, “You’re best served to wait for your moment.” I was pretty impressed that something that good could come out of me so quick. The sensation was invigorating.

Crazier than that, however, was how easy it was to write poetry. The last exercise we did was to write a riddle, in rhyme, about a location or landmark in our home town. I live in a neighborhood whose most prominent landmark is a huge windmill and whose population is predominantly Bosnian. I was shocked when these six lines just fell out of my head.

The wheel of the mill
Goes ‘round and ‘round.
Displaced people from
War-torn countries abound.
Lots of names with lots of vowels
Down here in our fair city’s bowels.

It sounds better when I read it. Can I come to your place and do a poetry reading? I have another one!

The courthouse cost more than it should,
They used expensive marble and wood.
The largest building in my town,
So sad its cost made people frown.

This one is about the Million Dollar Courthouse in my hometown, a gorgeous building that cost much more than was budgeted. Like I said, I’m available for poetry readings. I don’t even mind short notice. Call me!

There are about nine people in the class, including me. I was initially startled by the odd mix of people we made. My expectations were way off base again and I was pleasantly surprised when we started to get to know one another. The woman I disliked instantly turned out to have a really cool brain and I was inspired by her perspective. She once wrote a story from the perspective of a plantation oak used as a whipping post for slaves. Wicked, isn’t it?

There’s a guy who is very dark and morose, but writes beautifully. His “kitchen” story was about a man who comes home to an empty house and gets emotional about the kitchen that hasn’t been used since his wife died. The way he told it was chilling.

There’s an adorable young gal who initially didn’t think she could write a beginning, middle and end, but proved herself wrong with the very first exercise. I hope she finds confidence in this class because she has some great things to say. Go, Brenna!

I liked school. I don’t know if the other kids like me or not but I’m going back. I still gots me some learnin’ to do.