Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some assignments...

Assignments for the last week of class!

  1. Make a list of people you admire. They can be dead or alive. They can be people you know personally, or people that you have only heard about. Try to think of at least 10 people. Next, write a few (3-5+) describing words about each of them.

For example:

Keri Mac- lawyer, ivy league, billable hours, dancer, committed.

My grampa- brilliant, hardworking, addicted, loving, my best friend, my hero.

Billy Mills- defied odds, trained hard, dealt with a lot of bullshit, the underdog, reservation.

Sarah J.-doesn’t have crushes, dancer, doesn’t drink, doesn’t need to, thinks I’m a kid, runs.

Susy H. amazing teacher, mentor, family, runner, confidant.

Susie O. amazing teacher, social justice, love, kids, democratic learning, circle, lesbian.

Brian O. amazing coach, cancer, will beat cancer, cute son, loving wife, very positive man.

My mom.single mother, teacher, middle class values, white, independent.

Forrest T. defied the odds, Stanford, runner, hard working, brilliant, future attorney.

Brie B. single mom, 2 kids, dates guys I don’t like, tattoos, amazing server, takes care of others, should be taken care of.

  1. Take your list of people, chose one, and write a story. If you want, your story can be about the person. Otherwise, you can just use words/ideas you came up with (associated with their name) and create your own character, or put two characters together.

  1. Where do you want to be in 10 years? How can you get there? Make a list. Once your list is complete, turn it into a short story. What are the obstacles? Who are the characters involved?

  1. Think of an event that occurred, that you wish you could take back. What would you change? Rewrite the ending. If you keep a journal, it might help to look back at previous entries, if you are having trouble remembering a time you wish was different.

  1. Write a story about a vegetable garden. Give the vegetables different (social/personal) characteristics. For example, the Serrano pepper could be a tall skinny woman with a hot temper. Write a story about their growth together, and what kinds of problems (and miracles) happen when a group of mixed vegetables comes up together.

  1. Take the lyrics from a verse of a song that you like, or that has a good story. Circle the words that stick out the most, or that you are drawn to. Then, begin to write a story using these words/ideas. You can stick with the basic message of the verse (but consider adding characters or developing them more), or you can simply use the words to rewrite your own story.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What if (Pg. 90-129).

Nikki, the bisexual girl “has it bad” for a straight girl.

  1. Nikki bites her tongue, and continues to just “hang out” with her crush.
  2. Nikki tells the straight girl her feelings, and the girl is totally freaked out.
  3. Nikki decides to date one of the straight girls “guy friends”.
  4. Nikki flirts with men (and women) around the straight girl, and sees how she reacts.
  5. Nikki quits seeing the straight girl, because it’s just too hard to be around her and not profess her admiration.
  6. Nikki tells the straight girl how she’s feeling, the straight girl blushes, and they make hot love all afternoon.

#37 Sunday: Discovering emotional triggers.

Sunday “funday” is never as fun as it sounds. I wake up, usually hungover, and the sun is already shining. C’mon, I think to myself…did I really just waste half the day? Homework is piled high on my coffee table, my kitchen counter, my bathroom sink. My “to do” list is buried somewhere in the mess. The Vikings game has already started, so I grab my old jersey and head to the pub. It’s good to see the regulars on Sunday, even though I see them most other days as well. After the game, I know I need to start my work, but my buzz has kicked in, as well as the free food coma. I’d prefer to take a nap, if you’d really like to know. 8pm on Sunday, and I awake from my nap. Crap! I think to myself, did I really just sleep away the second half of my day? I cozy up in front of my space heater, and slowly begin to sort through the endless piles of assignments. I crack a beer, and think to myself… why have I become so dedicated to this routine?

#39 Accounting: How did we get here?

She walks with her headphones on, probably coming from class. My guess is a family social science class. That department seems to have lots of young blonde women with iPods in it. Her class let out a few minutes early, which is great, because now she can strut around campus. She always looks forward to her one woman parade.

He’s short, smoking a cigarette. He was in a band once, playing rhythm guitar. He’s on his way to his girlfriends house, she who is also short. They make a cute couple, doing things like throwing Frisbees and drinking iced teas in the spring.

Sheila C just walked by. She looks great, but I didn’t get to say hello, because she was on the phone. She’s been doing big things lately, as has been able to change her look 100% since high school. She was always cute, I mean, but this time, she’s got a swagger. She looks strong and determined. I should have said hello.

The girl in the hoodie wears her weight well. She’s got a booty, but her clothes fit, and she’s comfortable. She’s on her way to work. She works retail, and is really good at it. She sold the most of all her coworkers last month, but didn’t get any reward for it. Her boss is an asshole, you know the type.

He takes off his shirt, what kind of guy does that in the middle of campus? This guy, apparently. He’s looking around, taking inventory of all the girls around him. He’s not a pervert, yet, although some of his girlfriends wonder what his intentions are. He played lacrosse in high school, and was voted prom king. His mom died last year, and she was his best friend.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What if (parts 4-6)

An early memory: Part 1

I named him Charlie. That was the biggest mistake. I shouldn’t have given him any name. But how could I not? He was the biggest perch I’d ever caught. I knew we were going to eat fish for dinner that night; we always did, after grampa and I came back from fishing. Come to think of it, we had fish for all our meals when we were at the cabin. When it was time to clean the fish, grampa showed me how to whack them over the head with the big end of the knife. I thought this was mean, but soon didn’t feel too bad about it. When I realized that Charlie would receive this same treatment, I began to cry. “Please grampa, we can’t”, I begged. I cried as we cleaned the fish, and I cried as we fried the fish. I didn’t know which piece was Charlie, but I cried as I ate each peace that night for dinner.

An early memory: Part 2

I made the mistake of naming my biggest catch of the day, Charlie. Once he had a name, he became my friend. Once he became my friend, I got attached. I shouldn’t have given him a name. Grampa always made me help clean our catch, otherwise he would be out there for hours. I liked that he trusted me with a knife (and our dinner). He taught me well, and I will hold that memory and lesson throughout my life. After I named Charlie, we cooked him. I cried at the thought of losing my friend, and then cried harder at the thought of eating my friend. Where was my heart? I had tried to do the right thing, by naming and valuing my catch, but by then, I had become attached. Hitting Charlie over the head with the wooden handle of the knife was gruesome, thoughtless, and barbaric really. What was my grampa thinking, allowing me to give a name to the seemingly giant perch I had caught? He was teaching me the circle and impermanency of life. He was teaching me to only catch (and keep) what I will use. He was teaching me responsible consumerism. He was teaching me (the hard way) to not name my fish Charlie. Lesson learned.

Speech flavor, or sounding real:

“A-HEM”, she loudly exhaled, trying to get our attention. She wrote her name on the board, as she said extra loud and extra slow to the class, “I am Mrs. Ready, your substitute teacher for the day”. I rolled my eyes and thought; you’ve got to me fucking kidding me.

“Can I help you”, she asked, eyeing me suspiciously. “No, just browsing”, I said. She followed me throughout the store. I just continued to browse.

“Hey man, lemme get some Marlboro lights”, barked the woman barely old enough to inhale such toxins. “ID please, miss”, he stuttered in broken English. “Whatchu mean, ID? I’ve been in here before, bought smokes from some other one of your people”. “I’ve sold cigarettes to mean girls like you before”, he replied, “ID please”.

“Getcha ass down here, its time for dinner”. Her mother was tired of this daily fight to have a family dinner. By the time everyone gathered at the table, the food was cold, and mothers temper was hot.

Telling Talk: When to summarize dialogue.

Grades came home, and her mom was pissed. For nearly an hour, Anne listened as her mom went on and on, unleashing heaps of anger and criticism that filled their small house. Why aren’t you doing your work, her mom asked? Anne knew it wasn’t that simple. Anne did the work, and tried to explain that she did the work, but her mom wouldn’t let her get one word in. Anne slouched against the wall, as her mother continued on about embarrassment to the family, and failure to society. She doesn’t get it, Anne thought silently. Not long into her mothers monologue, words began to sail through Anne’s conscious, untouched, often as they did in her classes. She was failing her classes, just as her classes were failing her.

Three by Three:

Anne hates school.

Mom hates Anne.

Anne quits school.

Sarah is bored.

Sarah leaves town.

Sarah finds love.

Dad is gone.

Mom is mad.

Kid is disconnected.

The Skeleton:

He had always dreamed of running sub 4. Coaches had come and gone, like kids selling candy door to door. He wasn’t sure where to turn. One day after a long run, Kent found himself running strides at the park near his house. A group of young men were playing soccer. They could run forever, he thought. He ran a few laps around the edge of the soccer field, and began to stretch. One of the players jogged up to him. “We need a midfielder”, he said. Kent, who was feeling disheartened, decided to join the game. He quickly introduced himself to his new team, and was greeted with head nods and fist bumps. Suddenly he realized, it wasn’t the coach or the training he was lacking, it was the camaraderie of a team that he needed. He played midfield that day, and continued to meet up with the group every weekend after his long run. He wasn’t much of a soccer player, but he was a heck of a teammate.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What if (part one).

Birth and Death

-Her eyes were closed, covered in goo… she had little hairs sprouting from the top of her head… 10 fingers, 10 toes… now where the hell was her dad?

-His hands were cold, face white, body still, just like mine.

Love and Hate

- I couldn’t stop thinking about him, he was always on my mind, was this love? Or lust?

- They said the first few months would be like a honeymoon… they were wrong, it didn’t last but a few days.

Rich and Poor

-Credit cards extended from my fingertips, I was unstoppable.

-I sighed as I looked at the kitchen table, papers piled high, reminding me of how deep in debt I had become.

Where were you last night?

“where were you last night”, she hissed. I looked at her, with a frustrated heart. I sighed, turned around, and never looked back. It had all become too tiring.

Where were you last night, read the letter addressed to me. There was no stamp, and no return address. Who wanted to know, I thought?

Changing your life (rewriting the story in different voices).

My mom had cancer when I was 4. My sister and I were left with the neighbor lady. We were at McDonalds in midway one day, and I got spanked. I don’t remember what I did wrong. I was mad that she spanked me, after all, she was not my mom.

Jane had cancer, so I was in charge of her two kids. The older one obeyed the rules (and me). The younger one was only 4, but she could have been better behaved. I spanked her once, because she wouldn’t quit bugging me. Damn kid, wasn’t even mine, I never signed up for this.

I tried to take care of my little sister when my mom had cancer. I was 11, old enough to take care of a 4 year old. Our neighbor helped out, while mom was gone, but I didn’t much care for her. She was always stepping on my toes. Didn’t she know that I was supposed to be in charge of my sister? Mom left me in charge.

Ways to describe age:

Crows feet (around the eyes)

Age spots

Sitting a certain way (like they used to)

If her joints ache

If she eats dinner early

Any “quakes” in her voice

The typical “old lady” voice

Use of old language

Type of shoes (old lady nurse shoes)



What she smells like (old lady smell)?

How many pills she takes

What the pictures in her house look like (b&w)?

Any grandkids running around?

Any drawings by kids/grandkids?

What kind of stories she shares (about war, the depression, etc)

Naming your characters:

Petty thief: Robert Wagner the Third

Bitter woman: Katrina Grosslova.

Shy young man: Sanjay Sharma.

Lecherous boss: Jerry.

Lottery winner: Miss Louise.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

a couple of writing prompts

1. Write a poem about a lost love. This can be any kind of love. It can be a love of someone, romantic or otherwise. It could be the love of a stranger, or an ideal love (that you have theoretically, or maybe actually) lost. It can be a love of an animal, stuffed or real. It can be the love for an inanimate object, such as a piece of furniture, an article of clothing, etc. Write about a lost love, in which you don’t say “I miss you everyday, like the sun misses the moon”. Write about a lost love in a way that describes your appeal to the person/place/thing, and what has happened since you are no longer together. You can write about the interactions you had (try to be creative here, use words that will help us feel your loss—without saying directly that you are at a loss). You can write about hopes for the future, perhaps a new love or a rekindled love. If you choose, you can write about a person/place/thing without ever telling us who/what you are writing about. The goal here is to elicit emotions, to show us how you feel, without having to explain it word for word. Try to avoid clichés. It is okay to use an idea (of a cliché), but avoid the actual wording.

2. Many people find it easier to write when they are sad, depressed, or angry. It is often a challenge to write about happy experiences, but this documentation can prove very useful in the future, especially when one is feeling down. Write about a time when you felt detached from the world. If possible, write about a positive time. For example, if you run, think back to a time when you had an amazing run. What made it different? How did you feel? Did you feel part of your body? What did it (the run) smell like? Taste like? Was there a breeze? Sun? How did nature’s elements affect your body, your mind, and your run? Rather than say “the sun warmed me from head to toe”, think about the cosmic/deeper ways the sun moved you. Did it energize you? If so, how? Did it inspire you? How? How did you feel when you were on your run? Did you see other people? Did other people see you? What made it so memorable? If you had this experience and it was not on a run (perhaps it was during meditation, or a mindless activity like shoveling snow or cutting the grass), note that. Dive in to how you felt doing this mundane activity, and why it mattered? What changed (either in you, or in the activity)? The idea here is to remind ourselves of what our bodies are capable of, and how far we can push them (or pamper them). We want to try to connect the spiritual and physical parts of our existence, in a way that is poetic and reflective, but not superficial or fluffy.

3. Write a letter to God. It can be any god, or multiple gods if you’d like. In this letter to god, feel free to ask questions. You can ask about the afterlife or about your present life. If something is not going well, tell god about it, and ask for guidance. If you don’t believe in god, tell him/her why you don’t believe in them. If you do believe in god, tell him/her what they mean to you, and how they play a role in your life. In your letter to god, it’s okay to be angry. If you want to tell god a joke, that is fine too. It is an open letter to god. Think of this as similar to writing a letter to “Santa”, but without the North Pole and reindeer (and hopes of a 5 year old thinking that Santa exists). Your letter can be serious, funny, sad, argumentative, or cautionary. We wont share these letters with the class (unless you really want to), and I will read them (privately) unless you don’t want me to. If you don’t want me to read your letter to god (since I am not god), that is okay, but you will have to write something else (for me to read) in addition to writing your letter to god. Since we are at a public school, I can probably get into some trouble for having you write letters to god, so here is my preface/warning. I am not saying that you need to believe in god to complete this assignment. God (for this assignment) can be anything, or anyone. I do not care if you believe in god or think he/she is bogus. The purpose of the assignment is to get your mind thinking about the ideas of “greater powers”, and to ask questions. There are no right or wrong answers, just lots of questions to be asked. You will not be graded on your views of god, or your questions of god. All that is asked is you put an honest effort towards listing and asking these questions, and don’t hold anything back.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

my spoken word assignment

This assignment would best work with high school seniors.

I feel like spoken word can sometimes be more intimate (for me, as a speaker), because not only do you have to write it, but it has to be performed/spoken aloud. It's hard for me (as an educator) to put limits/suggestions/prompts about what a spoken word piece should contain... although, I understand that sometimes, this needs to happen.

To the class (of seniors):

We will be writing and performing our own poetry for incoming freshman. When I was a senior in high school, there were many things I wish I would have learned/been told in the previous three years. There were lessons, many unwritten, that needed to be taught. (i.e. freshman grades count just as much as your senior grades.... if you want to go to college, and have a lot of options, you need to get good grades from the start).

Other lessons would have been nice too... i.e. take gym class during the summer, where it's only 3 weeks long, you don't have to shower with anyone, and you can use the time (in high school) that you would have been in gym class for a different elective).

The idea behind our spoken word pieces, is to educate our incoming freshman. Tell them what you have learned, or what you wish you would have learned or known when you started out. You could write your piece in a way of "I have learned", or "If I could go back in time, I would....", etc.

We will be performing our pieces next week, to an incoming freshman class. Be prepared to answer questions from students and teachers. You are in a very powerful position here, hopefully helping to make new students feel more comfortable, in addition to giving them an inside look of what the high school experience can be like. Remember, you don't have to hold anything back... but you certainly can if you want. Just think of what you would have like to have known on your first day of high school.

MY spoken word poem

A tribute to Eli Lily

I quit takin my pills last week.

Yes I did.

I quit takin my pills last week, cuz they made me wanna die.

Same pills I've been taking for a year.

But this time, they made me wanna die.

I quit taking my pills last week,

and been sick ever since.

But I'd take nausea any day,

over wanting to die.

Got me an appointment with my therapy lady on thursday,

cuz I wanted to die.

Haven't seen her in a year, she said I wasn't trying hard enough.

What the fuck does she know?

Probably more than me.

I quit taking my pills last week, cuz they made me wanna die.