Creative Writing, Teaching, Uncategorized

Speaking Through the Ages

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Creative Writing

Saying Goodbye the Write Way.

Tonight, Story451 celebrated the conclusion of our five-week creative writing workshop with the kids from Kerry’s Place Autism Services. We said goodbye the same way we said hello: with plenty of activities, discussion, art, laughter and hugs.

The kids were in full-on creative mode throughout the session. Initially, we thought they might be reluctant to share and participate with their parents in the room. But as has been the case the whole time we were together, they defied expectations and even managed to inspire their family to participate and share in the activities as well.

The past five weeks have been a trip. As a collective, we traveled beyond the reach of the human eye, to settle on a new planet and build something from the ground up. We wrote about character and conflict and discussed what the perfect world could look like. We read some Ray Bradbury, short stories, poetry, watched videos and even sang a couple of songs. We created a new planet with new laws, where all would be equal, where outsiders would be insiders, and strangers would be friends.

The kids were happy to have place where they could be safe and respected. We were happy to have space where we could try different things and learn something new. So much of what we did over the past five weeks was about exploring far away places, but what we were really doing was exploring our inner selves.

Personally, the biggest lesson I took away from all of this was this: I learned that we didn’t have to use our imaginations to create a world filled with respect, dignity, magic and art. All we had to do was meet the kids from Kerry’s Place in the basement of the Tweedsmuir United Church.

I’ll miss the kids.

 

 

photo-8Wall Poetryphoto-7photo-6photo-5photo-4photo-2photo-1photo 1photo-3

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Creative Writing, Literacy

Captain’s Log: Week One

We had a great first shift with our creative writing group from Kerry’s Place Autism Services. My partner, Harry Posner, and I had the privilege of meeting five very talented young girls, each with their own unique talents and interests. One girl admitted that she liked “to draw pink hearts, black hearts and broken hearts.” Another girl couldn’t get enough of her grandfather’s homemade English crumpets.

The theme of our workshop is space exploration. Our goal is to find a place where we can make a new start, to take some of the things we have learned in our lives and apply them to a new planet, a new home. By the end, we’ll take what we learned and share it with others.

Admittedly, getting the kids to focus was a bit struggle. You could tell that they were with us, but not fully. When they did settle, they participated and enjoyed writing about friends, high school and food. They wrote goodbye letters and told us what they would miss and what they couldn’t wait to get away from. They wrote about simple things, and abstract things. We asked them: “What does home taste like? What does home feel like? If you’re home could say something what would it say?” Most shared, and those that didn’t looked to be getting a little closer to sharing.

The kids brought plenty of energy to this afternoon’s meet. I was exhausted when I first walked in; I was ‘over the moon’ when I left.

I look forward to hearing from them all next week.

 

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Creative Writing

Some Thoughts on Being a Father

 If there truly was a word at the beginning of all things, don’t you think we’d know the word by now? It is because of this uncertainty that I can’t for the life me figure out when and where things begin and end in my life, unless there is no beginning and end, which would make a lot of sense considering… I’m not sure what.

 Let me start at the beginning (again):

 My grandfather’s name was                                 Anthony

 My father’s name is                                                Nunzio

 My name is                                                              Anthony

 My son’s name is                                                   Nunzio

 …and for just over a year now, I’ve been looking for a word, the word at the beginning of all things, the word that started it all, because a year ago this past April, my son Nunzio Milo was born.

 April 3, 2013 was his first birthday, and I’m still looking for the word.

What I do have is a question:

What does it mean to be a father, a son, a grandson?

What I don’t have is the word. The word that is the answer, the answer that tells me what exactly it means to be a part of something that you never see begin or end, only slow down, like a comma, from time to time to time.

 It reminds me of a Borges poem about Time, and how time is like a river flowing with no end, no beginning. If I could understand Borges I have a feeling I could understand me.

 If I could understand how a poem about my son ended up being a poem about my father, and how a poem about my son and father ended up being a poem about me; or how a poem about the living ended up being a poem about the dying…

 In the beginning and the end was the word.

 Everything else is memory:

Like how my son used to wait for me at the living room window, barely tall enough to see over the ledge. When I came into view he’d smile and jump and I see him mouth the word “Dada!”  I took a picture of him. He smiled.

My grandfather once stood at the living room window. When I came into view he waved and smiled. I could see him mouth the words “Cara mio!” I took a picture of him. He smiled.

When my grandfather died I gave his eulogy, I compared his blue eyes to the blue sky and his smile to the sun.

For my son’s 18th birthday I’ll write a poem and end it with:       Go my son, shine.

In the beginning and the end was the word.

In-between is this memory I have of my father and I, a few years before my son was born, visiting my grandfather in the senior’s home, a few years before he died. I sat on the bed and watched my father feed his father.

When my father left the room to get paper towels to clean his father’s face, I took his place, and fed my grandfather, and thinking that one-day I’ll be doing the same for my father like my unborn son might do for me.

It was as if Robert Munsch was in the room with us:    My dear Nunzio, I’ll love you forever.

My father once told me that he was envious of his father because my grandfather was a man that could not read, nor write, so he could not read the papers and worry about the things that my father so faithfully worried about.

I’m envious of the way my son sees the world- he sees the tree before it is a tree, a car before it is a car, a dog before it is dog. He sees things before they have been christened with a name.

In the beginning was the word.

William Wordsworth wrote that the child is father to the man. When I was 23 this line had a different meaning then it does to me right now.

My son is like my father because of what he has taught me:

He taught me that to know the world you must first taste the world.

That sloppy kisses can be sensuous kisses. (I wish I knew this in high school).

He teaches me that when I catch him from falling, it is, in fact, he that is catching me from falling.

And that when I hold his hand, it is he that is holding mine.

He teaches me that there is more to words then beginnings and endings.

He teaches me to be patient (He just took his first step).What I can’t wait for is his first word.

In the beginning was the word.

nonno in window

My father’s father. My nonno.

My father

My son and his father.

My son and his father.

Nunzio Milo

Nunzio Milo

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Creative Writing, Education, Teaching

Meet Mr. Ben Driscoll

I thought it might be cool to interview one of my own characters from my novel-in-progress. The book is a made up of nine loosely connected short stories that document the lives of teachers and students of a high school in the middle of anywhere and everywhere.

Stay tuned for more.

_________

Chapter 4: Ben Driscoll; 59 years of age; three months shy of retirement after having taught History for over 30 years.

_________

Interviewer: Will you show up for work tomorrow?

Ben Driscoll: I’m not allowed back in the classroom.

Interviewer: Why is that?

Ben Driscoll: I’d rather not say.

Interviewer: Did you do something?

Ben Driscoll: No. I said something.

Interviewer: And…you’d rather not share?

Ben Driscoll: That’s correct.

Interviewer: Is there alcohol in that thermos, Mr. Driscoll?

Ben Driscoll: Of course.

Interviewer: Do you drink?

Ben Driscoll: Don’t you?

Interviewer: You’ve taught history for over thirty years; are you looking forward to the future? Retirement?

Ben Driscoll: I am now.

Interviewer: You haven’t always?

Ben Driscoll: No. I used to love teaching.

Interviewer: What happened?

Ben Driscoll: What didn’t happen? I spent my whole life looking back into the past that I didn’t see what was coming up ahead.

Interviewer: Do you think you’ll miss teaching history?

Ben Driscoll: No.

Interviewer: Why not?

Ben Driscoll:  Because in this day and age, history doesn’t matter- it doesn’t exist.

Interviewer: Do you think your illness makes you say things like that?

Ben Driscoll: I do. I’m beginning to forget things.

Interviewer: Don’t you think that’s ironic: A history teacher that is beginning to forget?

Ben Driscoll: Perhaps I should have taught English.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creative Writing, Uncategorized

Sometimes I Just Have to Remind Myself

I write because writing is a tough, tough business. It’s a real grind, and certainly not for the faint of heart. In my mind, it ranks as on of the toughest jobs in the world right behind lobster fishing, coal mining and Sales Associate at The Brick. I don’t want to live easily.

I write because I like being alone;  I think people are overrated.

I write because it gives me a time, a space and an outlet for contemplation, to learn about myself, to help myself; nothing irks me more than people who want to help other people before they’ve even helped themselves.

I write because I love the aesthetics of writing. I love the way my pen skates, pirouettes, jumps, and dashes across the page. I like the sound of the keyboard, the turning of the page and the smell of ink. I like the rhythm of a well-crafted sentence. The fact that a single letter stands between  poetry and poverty fascinates me.

I write because I enjoy a challenge. When you read somebody like Cormac McCarthy you can’t help but stand in awe, or sit in defeat, at what this man can do with 26 letters (I swear, I understood all of six words in the first paragraph of Suttree).

I write because it t helps me see me as I really am;  I write because I don’t like looking in the mirror.

I write because of what writers like Algren, Borges, McCarthy, Bradbury, Marquez, Wright, Murakami, Davies, and Pamuck have done to me. They put landmines in front of me and IED’s behind me. I stepped on every single one and still have the scars to prove it.

I write because I don’t vote. Now, I know what you’re going to say: If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. Bullshit. Does that mean if you don’t write you can’t complain about my writing? Go ahead, try me.

NOTE:  I’d love to vote but nobody has earned it yet. I won’t give away my vote cheaply.

I write because I don’t like some of the things I read. Why is Margaret Wente still given space in the Globe and Mail?

I write, not because I want to tell people what to think; I write because I want people to think.

I write because I work in  what can only be described as an ‘antiquated education system’, a system  fixated on numbers instead of minds, bodies and souls.

I write because I can’t stand when people say things like, ‘Well, it happened for a reason’. I want to know what the reason is.

I write because I envy my son, Milo. At four months old he is seeing the world for the first time. He is fascinated by cars, is hypnotized by shadows, and never tires of hearing the wind chimes on our deck. I want to look at things the way he does- I need it, and I think the world needs it too.

I didn’t always write for Milo- I do now.

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