Write on, dude…

13 11 2014

So I’m feeling just a tad guilty about not posting very much these days. But I have been writing. Honest, guv!

I think I may have mentioned that I was bought a Creative Writing course at UBC, which is a weekly night class workshop affair. As part of that we are encouraged to write every day, as well as undertaking several set piece exercises. More recently the course lead – the talented Paul Belserene – has offered us access to a forum where members of the course can post their “dailies” online. It’s a kind of half-way between writing in a notebook and never letting anyone see your efforts and on the other extreme reading it in class, which volunteers do in order to have their work critiqued in a non-judgemental, objective way. (Remarks are made from the perspective of the reader – what they heard, what it made them imagine, and how that made them feel. No actual remark about the piece, just its effects. It’s left to the writer to use that feedback as they will.)

Anyway, I’ve yet to see anyone post anything (except my shy retiring self, of course), and only one other from the course of 17 has even signed up! So I figured if my classmates are not going to bother reading my stuff, why not let my other audience have a look?

Early days yet – I make no suggestion that this is high art of any kind – but as ever, I welcome comments.


This was a desolate place. The wind was howling about his ears and trying hard to dislodge his coat hood. He hunkered down, turning his back to the worst of it and thrusting his hands into his pockets.

From this high rock he could see for miles out to sea. The waves seemed gentle at this distance, but experience left him in no doubt that it was mere illusion. Nearer the shore there were sudden explosions of white as hidden rocks punished the reckless surge of the tide. He could see brave birds patrolling just above the undulating waves. Amazing how they could identify a meal amongst all that chaos.

Despite the frigid wind, the sun shone and attempted to warm the land. It was a lost cause here. The rock was smooth hard basalt, stripped clean of any living thing twice a day – the moon’s spiteful reply to the sun’s offer of life. Nothing grew here. The tides left no moss or weed, nor deposited any seaweed. Utterly barren.
Another illusion.
He was here.
The birds were here.
Presumably things they wanted to eat were here.

A sudden gust buffeted him so that he had to take a half-step to remain upright. He smiled. He felt alive.


Though it is a piece of pure imagination, I drew my inspiration from my summer trip to Tow Hill on Haida Gwaii. As a complete aside, you might enjoy photos of the place posted a while ago by burnt embers.





Creative Writing

5 10 2014

As part of my birthday present this year, I was bought a creative writing course at Vancouver’s UBC. It’s a 10 week evening course aimed at teaching the participants how to objectively assess their output and hopefully therefore write more better ;o). Though we get set weekly assignments, most of the focus is on providing solid objective feedback to the work of others. Our own assignment is there primarily to offer material for others to practice their feedback on. Hopefully towards the end of the course we reach a Zen state where we can disassociate from our own words and assess them as an impartial reader might – removing the element of “well, I REALLY meant…” and reacting only to what is actually on the page.

The course instructor is Paul Belserene, a “professional story-teller”. Being the detail-oriented anal-retentive I am, I checked him out via the well of occasionally accurate information available on the internet. Turns out he is an American by birth. Originally educated there, he saw the light and now lives in BC. He even occasionally puts ‘u’ into his words just to show he’s open in principle to assimilating into his adopted country. Though gently spoken and dry of wit, his knowledge and experience on the subject make his 2 hour sessions seem far too short. He also has the patience of a saint which, not myself being of a religious bent, I would equate to other mere mortals, so I suppose that’s just a truism.

As I mentioned, we’re provided a handful of assignments each week to provide some fodder for the main task of learning how to objectively evaluate the written word. Since this course has reinvigorated my writing juices, I thought I’d share one here on my much neglected – though steadfastly quite irrelevant – blog.


 

Write an email that is a follow-up from one person after their first face-to-face meeting in an internet dating situation.

Hey Greg,

I wanted to write to let you know how much I enjoyed last night. I’m sure you’ve texted me like you said you would, but my stupid kid brother dropped my phone in the bath and it’s stopped working, so I can’t get my texts until I get a new one.

Going to the cinema was such a treat. I had no idea that “Death in a Storm Drain” was still showing. Thanks for letting me buy your ticket – so many men these days insist on paying, which hurts my feminist ideals and would have ruined the romance of the movie. I still can’t believe you had your wallet stolen while we were out. Don’t worry, you can pay me back for your train ticket later.

How is your flat mate? It was sad to hear of his Haemorrhagic Fever, but maybe we can go back to your place next time instead. I think I wrote your number down wrong because when I called today there was a Chinese restaurant that answered. Please email me back soon – I bought us tickets for that batik design seminar I told you about.

Hoping to be yours – Elsie


Now, if you want to play the game, you assess the piece in three phases:

1) What do you read? Assess it AS WRITTEN. Infer what YOU will, as the reader.

2) What do you imagine? Use your own experience and knowledge to paint the mind pictures around the specific words you read. What do the words lead you to imagine?

3) How does it make you feel? What emotional response results from that?

As the reader, these are your assessment of the impact of the piece. Only the writer knows if those responses are even close to the intent – but they’re valid nonetheless. Notice that there’s no judgemental element? There’s no concept of good/bad, only a report of how one reader was “moved” or had reactions to the piece. The writer can then use that feedback to tune the piece if those responses are not aligned with the intent.

Eventually I hope the course will allow me to perform that feedback loop myself, and get at least one step closer to my intended reaction before letting my writing loose on an unsuspecting reader. I’ll let you know how things progress…