JSYWP Day 2

I began the day by running late and running afoul of the Public Library’s dress code – my ankles were covered in my maxi dress but my arms and shoulders weren’t (horrors!).

He was there, though, not having used my lateness as an excuse to skip out, and he wanted to share some additional writing he’d done on a work in progress from the previous day.

That was before we got to anything I’d had planned.

But one of the things I like about this particular workshop, with my one participant, is how it adjusts itself to the dynamic between us, goes where the conversation takes it. Some may call this lack of planning but the planning on this workshop is actually very pinned down, but what that does is rather than lock us in rigidly is give us more options. And so far we’ve still managed to hit all the marks I want to hit, if not necessarily in the order I had planned.

So it was that today after opening with reading and discussion of Kevin Jared Hosein’s Commonwealth award winning King of Settlement Four, we got into a few ‘unplanned’ writing exercises built around one of the things the story does so effectively, descriptive writing. And perhaps because we explored two drafts of Hosein’s story, the original and final draft, comparing the two and the elements used by the author to take the story from point A to point B, my participant was fairly responsive to the process of doing multiple drafts, moving further and further away from vague to specific language. Between each draft, I’d ask questions and make suggestions, then he’d revisit the piece a short paragraph not a fully evolved story, with these in mind. One of the things that was difficult for him to do was let go of how it should be,  and I had to coax him into giving himself permission to let the early drafts be messy, imaginatively messy, structurally messy if need be, as he honed in on more and more concrete descriptions within the ‘limits’ of my initial challenge.

And when I added another layer to the challenge, and then wondered allowed (to myself) if it was too much, too soon, his eyes lit up. “I think I can do that, sounds like a good challenge,” he said.

When he was done clicking away on his ipad, I had only three notes.

So far he’s responded with interest to the material I’ve chosen (and really liked Shakirah Bourne’s This Foot is Mine yesterday) but only one got a “wow” after he finished reading it and that was 2015 Hollick Arvon Prize Winner Danielle Boodoo Fortune’s poem Quiet. We went on to discuss and learn from it, of course, but I’m liking especially that it served as an example to him that in the hands of someone who knows how to use her tools, poetry can surprise a genuine and profound reaction out of us.

(Yes, this is Danielle; no, this is not Quiet… but listen still nuh)

This is a good point to mention, I think, my thanks to Barbara Arrindell for not only submitting and sponsoring this participant, but offering to print all the workshop handouts. That was very cool of her. And I’ve enjoyed discovering his work and trying to provide some creative guidance. I like to think he’s getting something out of it too.

There are signs…

At the end of day two, when I said “that’s it”, time to go, he asked if he could read me something else he’d written. That meant more minutes of us sitting there as he read and re-read …and re-read as I critiqued what he said was his favourite piece, and neither of us were complaining.

post note: my opening comment notwithstanding I have nothing but gratitude towards the public library for putting up with me this week; I actually look forward to working with them to do more in this space.

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