Sunday, June 3, 2012

Author Blog Challenge #2

What kinds of classes, programs, or workshops have you taken to hone your skill as a writer? What sorts of exercises did/do you use to improve your craft? Have you ever taught a writing class or workshop?

In the first blog challenge I wrote briefly about my aborted foray into Professional Writing & Editing before eventually returning and completing the course. I’m something of a study junkie, eager to learn, happy to write assignments on command, yet slower to put into practice what I have learnt. My folio is littered with certificates from writing courses I have attended, some short many longer, all showing my competence in some aspect of writing. I have studied short story and life story writing, attended publishing workshops, taken poetry master classes and everything in between. Many have piggy backed on previous studies, topping them up or updating industry knowledge, most have been useful and all have taught me something – if only further insight into the quirks of human nature. One of these was a memorable memoir writing workshop I attended about ten years ago when I was writing vignettes about my life as a child.

Exploring the past, one memory expanded into another to trigger memories of long ago classmates, and a reflection of the attitudes of that time and how they add to the perception of self. I recalled one boy who had carried about him the stale smell of urine and how teachers, banishing him each day to the back of the classroom and other pupils avoided him fearful of exclusion by association. I had an enduring memory my own fear of rejection and how this anxiety caused me to be invisible much of the time, never wanting to experience exile to the back of the classroom and yet, despite the best of intentions and impeccable personal hygiene, it happened.

*             *             *
There’d been just two eager pupils seated at opposite sides of the table when she arrived. The early birds, he and I, making polite conversation as we waited for others to arrive. The tutor arrived first, all aflutter at being slightly late. I could sense conflict.
                ‘Good afternoon.’ She waved a hand in a distracted manner before placing it across her mouth in prelude to a swoon. ‘Who’s wearing the strong perfume?’
The other student looked at me and I assumed he wasn’t one to sprinkle his macho frame with scent, so I owned up to the obvious.
                ‘Me. I guess.’
                ‘Oh! It’s going to give me a headache. I can’t handle strong perfume. I have allergies.’
                ‘Would you like me to try and wash it off?’
‘No, don’t worry. It’s probably too late now, it will be on your clothes anyway. I’ll just have to teach from the other end of the room.’
My classmate and I look at each other. He lifted his eyebrows in mystification – I lowered mine in embarrassment. Who would ever think one short squirt of a benign Avon perfume could cause such a fuss. And such martyrdom.
‘Oh well, I‘ve got tablets if the headache gets too bad.’
‘I can try and wash it off.’ Other students were wandering in, watching the action between the teacher and the smelly kid.
‘No. No. I’ll just have to put up with it. Don’t worry about it, but this won’t work. I need the whiteboard.’
                ‘Would you like me to carry it up for you?’
                ‘No, better you stay away from me. I’ve got the tablets if I need them.’
                ‘What if I sit at the back of the room and you come back down the front?’
‘But the smell will still be hovering there. I think it’s probably too late to do anything about it now, anyway.’
‘Well I’ll change seats just the same. Maybe I could sit outside the door there and just poke my head around from time to time.’ She missed my attempt at humour.
                So we changed places. She moved to the front of the room near the whiteboard while I slunk towards the back of the room.
                ‘I think I’d like a coffee before I start. Anyone else want to get one?’ Conciliatory now.
                ‘I wouldn’t mind one, but I’m afraid that I might leave my waft as I go.’ Another attempt at humour falls by the wayside.
                The tutor left the room to make her coffee. The other student looked at me in sympathy.
                ‘Your perfume doesn’t worry me.’
                 I shrugged in gratitude from my lonely pariah’s seat.

                The back of the room in a life story writing class is a lonely place.

*             *             *
Having diverged from the topic, I realize I’ve only managed to address a third of the prompt. To answer in brief.
What sorts of exercises did/do you use to improve your craft? I write every day and participating in challenges such as this one, Nanowrimo, Nasmastomo and monthly challenges I set myself to post on my blog.

Have you ever taught a writing class or workshop? I have facilitated writing and poetry workshops and taught creative writing at community learning centres.

~ Merlene Fawdry


  1. Cranking out the words now Merlene good stuff.

  2. Thanks for calling in, Terry. I need challenges such as this to take me out of myself sometimes.

  3. I'm another "challenger" to get the words out... Loved your story about the class. :)

  4. Hi Merlene

    Its great to be a 'study junkie' just means you have a hunger for learning and that's a wonderful thing :0)

    Lisa x

  5. Hi Marlene,
    I, too, loved to study writing and have been "happy to write assignments on command, yet slower to put into practice what I have learned." This post made me recall how a lot of the things I learned, however, I had to "unlearn" just so I could get myself in front of a keyboard!


For some reason I'm yet to fathom I'm unable to reply to comments left by others so thank you for dropping by and taking the time to read and comment. Merlene