“Yes; I wish I had prepared something,” Benjamin replied wistfully. “Even a rewrite of an older piece … .”
Thus I learned how the second meeting of our Winter Quarter’s writing class affected Benjamin. The class spent its evening reading and providing feedback. The attendees provided a printed story to each member of the class, read aloud and participated in a conversation about it. The class provided comments, feedback, suggested revisions and the like to make the stories even better.
“Wow.” “Really good!” and “Wonderful.” are not helpful comments, but I found myself responding that way. Consider:
Student1. She thought about not coming back because everyone here is such a wonderful writer and she is not. She wrote:
- A poem about a difficult divorce, introduced with individual attribute words like smart, confident, strong and righteous, segueing to an image of a beautiful buried wooden chest, with a lock of hardened steel, its original beauty is marred by rounded edges and wood that is no longer high gloss. She completes the poem with more individual attributes like broken, sad and loveless.
- A memory from childhood, with her standing lookout for a group of boys, the first time they had let her play with them, stationed on the school steps, where students were forbidden to be. The final words,
“ … wet my pants.”
Student2. Another woman who claimed to not write much, or well. She wrote, in semi-poetic form, about her “little white lie” claiming proficiency in Spanish becoming larger and of a different color. She introduced the conflict early with, “Being proficient is not the same as being fluent. Right?”
Student3. An older man, married several times. His story of gambling and coverup by claiming to be birding grabbed us immediately. He realized, he wrote, he needed field research in birding to bolster his cover. His first time, he saw a white-tailed deer study him to be sure he’s not a threat and, through binoculars, a newborn goose poke his way through the shell to become newborn. He felt he had hit the “birdie jackpot.” When some real birders came across him, he excitedly told them what he had witnessed. In his excitement he realized he was, “behaving like a … birder.”
Student4. A young woman who wrote:
- At age 16, she woke up from back surgery in a semi private room, in pain, with her dad in the room, on the floor like a discarded towel, wishing for nothing more than to be able to take her place.
- She suffers from a long distance relationship that is not going well. She uses images of cold coffee cups on the window ledge, airless wind chime, and the imprint of his body in her bed. She called the piece, “Lies I’ve told myself.”
“After further review,” I stand by my unhelpful commentary. Students in the Adult Education writing classes Benjamin and I have taken have written some good material. I have not, however, experienced so much good writing coming from so few people before; I eagerly wait to see what’s next.
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