Creative Writing, Week 1

I returned late Sunday from a wedding this weekend (more details soon) & have found myself a wee bit behind/distraite ever since. Plus, I’ve had Alanis in my head ever since Robbie & I went to her concert in AC last Wednesday. All of this is lovely, but…

All of this is just to say: Remember those free online classes that I promised you? Better a day late/dollar short than never, no?

World Lit will start on Monday, 9/10. Some of you may still be gathering your books anyhow.

I’ll try to get into the habit of posting World Lit on Mondays & Creative Writing on Tuesdays.

Here is some of what I generally assign to my Creative Writing bunnies in Week 1. Do feel free to post your Proust Questionnaire answers in the comments. But hold on to your Jean Stevens pieces for now.

Creative Writing, Week 1       

1. READ >> “No One Can Take a Bath for You: Why I Write” (Nancy Smith)
Click the link to access the article online. Because there isn’t a textbook for this class, all readings will be from online sources. I hope that you will feel free to suggest reading in the comments. I might use some of your links as required readings this semester or in the future.

2. DISCUSS >> “The Proust Questionnaire.” Answer the 21 questions listed below. Your answers to the questionnaire do not have to be in complete sentences. If you do not want to answer one of the questions (if you feel it’s too personal), write something else in that space. Please feel free to post your answers, or a few select answers, in the comments. These questions were first designed by the French writer Marcel Proust and have been adapted (somewhat) by moi. Begin responding to each other’s posts.

3. NOTE >> Begin working on your Writer’s Notebook.
Instructions: Here you will keep ideas/inspirations for your writing: lists, longings, names for characters, quotations from whatever you are reading, an idea for a story, a dream, possible titles for things, favorite words, overheard conversations, observations, and so on. You should contribute at least five items to your notebook each week, though more are of course encouraged. You can also post a link to an outside WordPress or tumblr account where you are keeping this notebook. OR you can also keep this notebook in a Word file or more traditional notebook. Usually I check notebooks throughout the semester. I’ll provide a time/space to share your notebook gems later in the semester.

4. WRITE >> First, read the article about Jean Stevens, who was discovered living with the corpses of her late husband and deceased twin sister last summer. (Yes, it is rather like something out of Faulkner.) Next, write a short creative piece based on the article. Length: 1-3 pages. You can choose any aspect of this article to respond to. It should go without saying that you need to use your imagination to fill in the gaps in the article’s reporting. For example: How did Jean Stevens get the bodies into her house? Did she have help? Who helped her? What condition were the bodies in? Did she talk to the corpses? Did she have tea parties with them? What kind of tea was served at these tea parties? These are questions you might address in your creative nonfiction piece, which we’ll return to next week.

HANDOUT
THE PROUST QUESTIONNAIRE

Answer all 21 questions.

1. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST FEAR?

2. WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT STATE OF MIND?

3. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WAY OF SPENDING TIME?

4. WHAT HISTORICAL FIGURE DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH?

5. WHICH LIVING PERSON DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?

6. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FICTIONAL CHARACTER?

7. WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?

8. WHEN AND WHERE WERE/ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

9. WHAT IS YOUR MOST OBVIOUS CHARACTERISTIC?

10. WHAT IS THE TRAIT YOU DISLIKE THE MOST IN OTHERS?

11. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST EXTRAVAGANCE?

12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE JOURNEY?

13. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST OVER-RATED VIRTUE?

14. WHICH WORDS OR PHRASES DO YOU MOST OVER-USE?

15. IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

16. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?

17. WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE?

18. WHAT IS THE QUALITY YOU MOST ADMIRE IN A MAN OR WOMAN?

19. WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST IN YOUR FRIENDS?

20. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? (WORDS YOU LIVE BY OR THAT MEAN A LOT TO YOU)

21. WHO HAS BEEN THE GREATEST INFLUENCE ON YOU?

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5 Responses to Creative Writing, Week 1

  1. Rich says:

    1. To not be appreciated for my work. 2. Restless. 3. In solitude: walking, reading, watching films, or writing. With others: the same, or just sitting and talking; or not talking and just being. Preferably with coffee or a glass of champagne. 4. Mr. E.M. Forster, author and humanitarian 5. Besides my immediate family members, I would say the person who gets up each day and goes out to face the world; to engage the world; to make the world a somewhat more civilized place for all of us. 6. Darl Bundren (from “As I Lay Dying”) 7. I thought about this as I was taking inventory of my apartment in Ocean City at the end of last summer before the hurricane, wondering if it would all even still be there when I returned. I thought to myself, “I don’t really have anything”––not anything that couldn’t be replaced, that is. I guess I don’t really prize possessions. I prize people and ideas. (I know––it sounds so shallowly unmaterialistic of me, if that isn’t an oxymoron. But that’s what I realized.) Before Hurricane Gloria, when I evacuated as a small child with my family, I packed up all of my toys––a huge bag of He-Man action figures and compatriots. But last summer before Hurricane Irene: I imagined it all being washed away. And I was ok with that possibility. 8. That night with You: when we sat around in our suit jackets after that dinner, sipping wine, laughing & talking. 9. Sense of humor. But I hope kindness, too; I would like to be kind. 10. Nepotism/cronyism 11. Books. Also: Starbucks coffee. 12. Driving back along River Road from Mays Landing to Ocean City––in the fall or early spring. 13. Humility 14. A student, now one of my dearest friends (Brittany), once said that “essentially” was a Mr. Russell word, because I guess I used to say it a lot. (But I don’t think I do anymore.) 15. My near-constant anxiety. As Hamlet notes, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” And I’m getting better. Or just getting older, maybe. 16. To be someone, of whom my mom says, “You are a lovely human being to know.” 17. I like to live wherever I am living. 18. Compassionate intelligence 19. Besides #18, I would say understanding, especially when I cancel plans to stay at home and “cocoon,” which I do often in January. 20. “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” –Julian of Norwich 21. My mom (“Maman”)

    • lotusb4sun says:

      Creative Writing>> “The Proust Questionnaire”
      1. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”- FDR 2. Overburdened. 3. In contemplation, conversation, reading, learning, and loving. 4. Carl Jung. 5. Personal: my husband, Billy; Public: Hillary Clinton. 6. Immediate momentary response, subject to change with the breeze, is Franny of Franny & Zooey. 7. Any family heirloom: B&W photo of my grandmother attending a ball in Ireland; globe from my Great-Grandmother; my grandmother’s cookbook & silver, etc. 8. In this moment & with my husband. 9. Empathy 10. Ignorance & disrespect. 11. My fully loaded 6-speed, turbo-charged Saab with leather seats, seat warmer, and moon-roof. Of course, bought used. Is that extravagant? 12. Visiting my backyard. Visiting my backyard chickens. 13. Tolerance—-don’t we all deserve more than that… 14. I hate when I say “yeah.” 15. Surrendering perfectionism and worry. 16. Surviving suicidal depression. 17. In this moment, the here and now, in my 1829 farmhouse, on my two acres of land. 18. Perseverance and resiliency. 19. Loyalty and acceptance. 20. “Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. 21. Personal: my husband and my dog, Maya, who I lost November 2009; Professional: My clients- the children, the patients, the women, the men, and the families whose lives have influenced me profoundly.

  2. lotusb4sun says:

    Your MOOC offer is delightful! I am ambitiously joining in amongst all other activities currently overflowing from my basket…

  3. Pingback: Creative Writing, Week 2 | rarlington

  4. Pingback: Week of September 9th | Rich 'n Rach

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