Saturday, June 21, 2008

Creative Writing Workshop - 1st session


This past thursday night was our first session in a 10 week Creative Writing Workshop I enrolled in. It was one of those things that I have been meaning to do, and this summer has been a cathartic one for me. I actually couldn’t wait to start especially knowing that it will be at the beautiful landmark, The Berger Park House. This mansion is one of the few remaining that once lined Chicago’s Lakefront. I’m not sure exactly what year the building was built and I have a hard time searching even online about this, but the building itself gives out a touch of the roaring 20s grandeur. Think George Gershwin or Bessie Smith blaring from a gramophone in the background. In my head, the olden days are romanticized, so for me it was a perfect place to bring out the creative juices that can hopefully mojo out into some good writing.

As I walked in the building, I was immediately intimidated as soon as I saw that there were only 4 other people sitting in the room. I knew from that moment that this will be one of those “read-what-you-wrote-for-the-class” kind of session and my stomach instantly was filled with butterflies. It's just that I'm not the kind that find pleasure in watching others critique my work out in the open, or vice versa. Critiquing someone else's writing is not my bowl of rice either (or maybe sugar just to be more cohesive with my blog name...hehe). Who am I to critique? What was I thinking taking this class anyway? There were 2 more people that walked in just a few minutes after, but that was basically it.

The instructor Ms. Venice Johnson turned out to be the most personable individual and my classmates are all equally talented, enjoyable and more importantly -- this group of women whom I will have the pleasure with for the next few weeks are all fascinating and non-judgmental. I warmed up with everyone in a few minutes and all else fell into the zone of things. Much to my excitement, the 2-hour session ended quickly. I was amazed. I didn’t know how time swooshed by so fast and even got so much done in one session. I was so immersed with listening, writing, and thinking that I was completely transported somewhere where minutes didn’t exist. I'm looking forward to the next session already.

We finished a couple of exercises and so I will try to share some of it every week. But here is a very simple poetry exercise that we did in 10 minutes. Give each one 2 minutes and please share in the comments section on what you wrote, or leave a link comment if you posted in your site instead. I would also love to post it here too. I’m tagging all that reads this! So, yes that’s you!

Start the sentences/paragraph with the following:
1) I am (name a natural force of nature)
2) I am (an animal)
3) I am (a color)
4) If I were a _____
5) I’m the beginning of _______________ and the end of ____________________.

I of course wrote about Motherhood. Here it is:

"I am a tornado that comes roaring happily through to wake up my children in the morning.
I am the big bear that is big enough for all my three kids to be enveloped with warmth.
I am the color blue that sees the purity and clarity in my children’s eyes.
If I were a hand, then I would be there to hold their hands or pat their backs whichever is needed.
I’m the beginning of my children’s joyous morning and the end of their peaceful night."
I didn't think it sounded very good, but the instructor liked the images I had taken her to as I read it. In the end, I think I painted a pretty good picture of how I truly see and know myself as a Mother.

Some little tips I've also learned or needs sharpening:
  • Always carry a little notebook and pen.
  • It is best to write when emotions are raw.
  • Just keep writing, don't read back and edit until you are completely done.
  • Readers can feel the character you build in writing by the character choices or opinions. Like if you are writing about a 20 year old of today saying "that's swell!" Clearly, this doesn't match because it is a part of a vocabulary from a child of an older era. So having that will give out the feel that the character is already in their 70s - 80s.
  • Remember to use all senses to paint a picture in your story. Like how did the house smell when a character walked in a long-barren house, or what sounds did you hear waking up by a farm...etc...
So this is it for now until next session. I hope that you will enjoy doing the exercise above. Don't forget to share!

6 comments:

Cindy Fey said...

Beautiful! I love your paragraph! This class sounds awesome.

U.Lee said...

Hi MJ Tam, ahaaa, saw your comment in 'mom of four' place...ha ha. How you know I like women...?
Wow, nice blog you have, and your this posting very interesting...can I have tuition from you?
I remember long ago, attended a course on writing...and all I remember is, to have a head, a body and a tail...i.e. intro, main body, and conclusion..
But good for you doing this...can see a lady Ian Fleming coming up, ha ha.
You stay easy and have a good week, best regards, Lee.

Mimi's Toes said...

It was so great meeting you at the shower yesterday. I had heard such great things about you from my daughter.

chelle said...

How cool! I would love to take a writing class sometime!

soooo let me think ...

I am the sun that warms the hearts of many.
I am hawk that soars through life looking for that one perfect thing.
I am blue like the ocean, deeper than one can imagine and full of life.
If I were a bird I would fly away.
I’m the beginning of my life as a mother and the end of my fragile childish self.

mj tam aka sugarmama said...

Thanks Cindy and Ulee.

It was also great meeting you Mimi's Toes!

Chelle -- I loved that! Beautiful!

Mom of Four said...

MJ, I can't think of anything to write, bhuhuhu!! Yours was really beautiful, I can feel how much love you have for your children.