Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Channeling a Character

I borrowed the exercise for my very last class at the conference from my study of intuition. Ever heard of psychometry? That's when you hold an object, and receive information about its owner from it. So I thought we could do something like that to get info about a new character. I collected a bunch of items (some of them came from the Humane Society Thrift Store), and I gave one item each to my students. I instructed them to hold the items in their non-dominant hands and write in the first person about a new character. I added, "We're just pretending." I didn't want them to think I actually expected them to channel a character.

For the first exercise, a student named Dennis asked for an object that would belong to a girl. I gave him an earring with a picture of a baby on it. In his piece, writing as a teenage girl, he explained the awkwardness of only having only one pierced ear, attributing it to a keloid. His girl character added that on the plus side of having a single piercing was the fact that if she lost one earring, she could still use the remaining one.

The baby earring was one of the objects that belonged to me. When I was 18, I developed a keloid on my left ear. I had it removed, but that's why I only have one pierced ear. Most people don't notice this, as my hair is longish. And I only have one of those baby earrings; I lost the other one.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Writing Assignments

Yesterday at the conference, I did my Jumpstarts class, which I thought went rather well. So I'm going to share with you the Jumpstarts I used on my class. Get your timer and write something!

Use this sentence somewhere in your piece:
Unfortunately, things fell apart almost immediately.

Write a piece that includes this combination of things (I let them choose from a couple on this list):
A wet suit and a fax machine.
Housework and a war
Movie candy and a clairvoyant
A Blackberry, a hunting knife, and dirty socks
A pumpkin pie and a flat tire

Write about:
Someone wearing absolutely the wrong clothes.
The eleventh day of a journey.
Someone moving painfully slowly in a situation requiring speed

I had never tried the juxtapositions before, and the results were excellent. The writers came up with original pieces, all quite different from one another.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Today at the La Jolla Writer's Conference, I am teaching "Jumpstarts" (prompts) and "Turning up the Flow," which is about increasing productivity. Tomorrow, I do a class on essay and memoir (not sure how I agreed to that one) and three critique sessions. Sunday afternoon, if anyone is still there, I'll do a class on developing a new character.

I'll try to post some updates and let you know how it's going!