Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Writing Workshop with Marita Golden Liberated My Muse


So, I'm sure you're wondering who is the freckled boy to the left. No, he's not my long-lost son or any relation actually. I don't know him. I found this getty image of a freckled boy as I looked for a photo of a kid who looked like the boy Marita Golden showed us earlier during our writing workshop to inspire us to write for ten minutes.

Yes, Marita Golden! Award-winning writer, Marita Golden facilitated a writing workshop today at DC's Martin Luther King library that I had reported on last month and decided I was going to take part in. Boy, was I glad that I did.

The three-hour workshop gave me some wonderful inspiration as a writer and as I prepare for my own writer workshop series as a creative coach.

One of the activities that she had us do was have us look at a photo of a little boy who looked similar to the one to the left and began to write a narrative about him. Many of those who were called on to share what they wrote wrote about the boy from a victim perspective. I found that very interesting. Mine was a bit different. Here is what I wrote:

Billy wouldn't tell me what had just happened to him. Shirtless, his dark blue eyes pierced me sharply as if hoping to stab my throat so my voice wouldn't carry. I backed away, peeling my eyes away from that look that terrified me. Then I saw his hands.

"Ma! Ma! Come quick! Billy's hands are bleeding, Billy's bleeding," I called.

Our mother, disheveled and forehead damp with sweat fled to the porch, our baby sister Sheila attached to her hip tightly. When she saw Billy bare-chested and hands browned red, still dripping blood droplets that flecked the porch's scratched wood surface, her knees sank. I reached for Sheila as my mother fell onto the porch onto her knees.

Eye-level to Billy, she grabbed his wrists and whispered rasply, "Billy, where is Ms. Raynor's cat? Billy, what have you done?

Billy's silence and the dissipating drip of the blood from his hands already told us the answer to Ma's question.

Early the next morning, Sherrif Browning and Elder Granger knocked on our door to carry Billy away. Still in bed, I could hear them tell Ma that the boy's school Billy was to attend was going to help straighten him out once and for all. They said lots of boys without fathers are sent to this place when they get a little out of hand and come out acting right. I couldn't help but wonder if the other boys who go to this place have killed as many animals as Billy has or tortured as many little kids I've seen Billy do horrible things to. I wonder if they would send me to this place too if they knew all of the things I saw Billy do but said nothing about, for fear that he would do the same thing to me, too.

Ma cried as I heard her go to Billy's room to wake him up and send him with the Sheriff. I closed my eyes, anticipating her shriek when she discovered that Billy was gone.

"Esther, wake up," Ma called. Her hard-bottomed shoes clunking hastily on the hardwood floor as she rushed to my room. I pulled the sheet back and stood up, walking into the hallway, still in my cotton nightgown. I stood partially hidden from the view of the men in the living room. My mother walked toward me and leaned close.

"Where is Billy?," she whispered.

"He left last night." I heard him climb out of his window before the sun rose.

My mother's hands dropped to her side and she wept. Her light sobs grew into tortured heaves as she moaned out loud in agony. I imagined her wails could be heard by our Pa in heaven probably making him feel a bit guilty for leaving her all alone to handle all of this by herself.

Elder Granger stepped into the hallway and wrapped his arms around Ma. In her stockinged feet, she was so small that her head lay centered on his chest. He patted her ever so gently as she continued to cry and I felt an immediate feeling of discomfort as I saw her easily fold into his embrace.

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I enjoyed meeting these characters as they flowed from my pen. I had not an idea of where or how these story developed, I just opened up and here they came. In ten minutes. I think I am going to come back and play with them to see if there is something else to this story. When someone asked Marita Golden if she outlines before she writes, she said that she outlines to giver herself the illusion that has somewhere to go but she follows the story, not the outline. That, too, is how I write.
(In photo: Marita Golden)

I learned some great things in the writing workshop today. One of the that it did was validate the path that I am on. I had asked out loud what would Ms. Golden recommend for someone looking to make money from their creative writing and she admitted that there is not much money to be had in writing unless you are writing fiction writing that strikes a commercial chord. "When you do this writing thing, you are doing it more for the love of it and less for the money revenue".

What says it best is the quote from George Orwell that Marita Golden included in our workshop folder:

"Writing a book is horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."


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