Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Magical Adventure Part I

Friday the 13th- I came with a bag of candy ready to bribe any wee rapscallion to my favor as needed.

But before I even sat down, these fascinating young people embraced me with such a genuine, unadulterated enthusiasm and curiosity. Our time together made Hopkins workshops look like a visit to a drill-happy dentist in comparison (T. Davies’ fiction/fact and fiction/text excluded of course).

We began our discussion by considering the voice of a young, modern American’s perspective. We discussed the relevance of writing in our time, how and why it’s creative, to what purpose, and how the fields of creative writing are evolving. We considered what moves us, why we care to communicate, and how we do it effectively.

I asked the students to consider the rhetorical form of expression and creativity in the political speech. I asked the students to consider President Obama’s public speeches, his inauguration speech in particular. We discussed how it was effective, how it was creative, what its purpose was, and how it was achieved. I then had the students take some time to write a piece of their own inauguration speech, to write a quote or two they would want to be remembers for. I think asking students for their most indelible words on the spot is a great first challenge for students and sets a really interesting tone for the class.

Well let me just say President Obama could take some tips from these kids, their writing was disturbingly good. Some students talked about gender equality, about colorblindness, about art, others about freedom and happiness, a few even wrote short raps.

Next we read and discussed Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery.” We considered how the author’s objective in writing the piece was fictionalized compared to a political speech, but how she successfully conveyed a message or made a point. The students considered how, through rhetorical storytelling, by creating a fiction, a story grounded in the causes and effects of our realities, can be just as persuasive or moving as a political speech.

For homework, I gave the students a link to a draft of the Bailout Bill and asked them to take some thing from it which they could turn into a short fiction story (2 pages). I think this will be a good way to assess interest in skills and it’s a good point of departure which allows a lot of creativity. Students could either do that assignment or they could give me a complete inauguration speech. Every week for homework assignments I’m going to try to give students two options, either a fiction or an editorial based piece.

Time flew and by the end of class, I realized the bag of candy remained in my purse, un-opened.

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