Today, I taught my first creative writing class. I haven’t taught creative writing since 2008, but I wanted to teach it again since I am writing on a regular basis now. Plus, I needed the space and reason, or excuse, to read about creative writing theory, again. Working full time, running a union chapter, with two small children can often be a challenge.
In class, they did a number of activities. One of these was to have them meet each other, while I called them up to the front individually to get to know them better and to memorize their names faster. Already, there are some budding authors, but there are also the students who are struggling with serious writing challenges, the kinds of challenges that kill projects before they even start. Some students can’t produce more than a couple of sentences. Others have severe internal editors that block the flow of ideas.
I spent a good number of minutes talking to one young writer, who said the internal editor prevented him from getting any ideas out, yet he had so many. I really felt for him because I could see the desire to produce and the angst.
I essentially told him to kill that editor, metaphorically, with a large metaphorical gun. I told him that severe editing was mistimed and that he needed to save it for the end of the writing process. I gave him some exercises to do, like to write, just write, for ten minutes without stopping and grow from there. I even threw in some sage advice from Jack Hirschman, poet laureate from San Francisco, who once said to me that in order to write, I needed to “Take a pencil to paper and start writing.”
He is one of my favorite poets and translators of Latin American poets. The man is also an amazing performer, but I hope this metaphor helped this pupil. I also encouraged him neither quit nor drop my class.
All to these students have the potential to write and to love writing, and I can’t wait to read their work.
That is all I have. I have to read a number of diagnostics and evaluate them thoroughly.
Below is an excerpt from the novel I am drafting for the third time and posting in chronological order again. I am not sure if inserting a file into the blog is better than copying and pasting text. I haven’t seen the last post on my phone to see what is easier to read, and no one has really said anything, not even my #1 fan, my sister Diana. However, I did get a lot of Likes on “Little Horny Bird” from some colleagues and poets I respect. (I respect all my colleagues, but some have more street cred than others.)
Here’s to growing that love of words and helping each other along the path. (Also, way down below, I posted the YouTube of the band I listen to while I write.)
An excerpt from The Harvest: A Novel, pp. 1-20, single spaced.
The Harvest: A Novel[ME1]
My mother hands me an old gallon container; this one is grey without a filter. I look out the window and see no Red Guards on the street. No Guards means no Harvest, most of the time.
“Now, Ashley,” says my mother, as if I haven’t been doing this run since I was six years old, “Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t stay out in the sun too long. If you hear the sirens, run to the old bunker. Just last week, Mrs. Lopez’s boy was harvested right before he got to his safe spot. You can’t hide here during harvest.” Her faded grey eyes are still beautiful, and I want to trace that deep indentation with my finger, but caring too much is a sign of weakness.
“Mom,” I sigh looking at her weary face. She is leaner than I remember with ever graying hair and perpetual orange stains on her hands and face from the processing plant. Her hair is a knot over her head with nothing holding it tight but a wispy strand of her own fading hair. I want to give her a biting remark, as really, I should outrank her because I am more productive now, but instead I smile and say, “Don’t worry Mom. I’m the fastest runner in my class and besides, there was just a harvest yesterday.”
Mom hesitates like she wants to tell me something, but even plant workers are not supposed to talk about their trade, and I am always suspicious of the packing plants.
“Just be careful,” she gives me an unusually long hug, “Remember-“
I clamp my hand over her mouth like I used to as a toddler and say in a robotic tone, “ ‘Be productive. Be accountable. Be safe.’” But safe doesn’t mean from the Harvest, but dangerous anti-government ideas. I take my hand off her worried face, “I got the red ribbon again this month. I will be safe.” It’s true. I have gotten the red ribbon award for being productive, accountable, and punishing those who are not true patriots. I am safe.
I put the rest in my Current Work tab. D, let me know if you prefer that format. The blog posts were getting way too long.
(Below, the song I often listen to when I write.)
Dr. Jesú Estrada,