Category Archives: Voices from the Workshop World

The goal of Voices posts is to showcase the amazing literary productions that pour out of Amherst Writers and Artists workshops, which are designed to maximize verbal creativity in order to free the expressive energy of all the world’s people.–Cary Tennis

Voices from the Workshops: “Write a Beginning”

Note: Occasionally here on carytennis.com we publish raw first drafts written to prompts in our Amherst Writers and Artists workshops; they are not finished pieces, and so are not open to comment, but nevertheless are often interesting to read, and stand as evidence of the kinds of creative acts that occur more or less spontaneously, and often with tremendous energy, in the workshops. Click here to learn more about the workshops.–Cary T.

Well, this prompt is new. The emptiness that precedes the idea can be excruciating. And the idea is not always prompt. But here goes.

Already 3 sentences on my non-idea.

Isn’t that what they claim the brilliance of “Seinfeld” to be? A show about nothing. The first draft about nothing.

8 sentences.

The page almost half full. Anne Lamott says you have to keep your butt in the chair through the shitty first draft. And she’s right. Beginning the piece is the hardest part, committing to an idea and being willing to begin to flesh it out. No guarantees on where it will go.

13 sentences.

All the while beating back the inner critic who says no one will read it or appreciate it or find it clever or interesting. Eking out these first words is a struggle to begin and a triumph when complete.

15 sentences.

Well, it’s a beginning.

Maria Rodgers O’Rourke

 

EarthPhoto

Let the revolutionary self speak

Revolution. I feel such resistance towards it. Why?

I feel fear, I get tense, I feel like I have to find the right, proper words and expressions that wouldn’t offend anybody, so that my revolutionary self wouldn’t get criticized. But that’s not revolutionary at all. How come I feel like I have to protect myself and guard myself when I try to let my revolutionary self speak?

I have been always cautious not to offend anybody: Don’t offend anybody. Read the air. Read the atmosphere. Read other people’s minds. Keep the harmony. Don’t stick out. Tie your hair. Wear your uniform. (The ruler in the teacher’s hand that measured the length of the hem of my skirt.)

Keep your head down. Don’t speak up when your grandma speaks; she doesn’t want to be bothered by little kids; you have no right to speak up at the dinner table, you should just listen and nod quietly.

My mom told me she regretted that she didn’t let me speak up at the dinner table.

“Why didn’t I let you speak up? You were little and you had so many original, creative, incredible things to say, and I forced you to shut yourself up, because I feared your grandmother. I didn’t want to upset her. But who cares? Why didn’t I let you speak up? I should’ve let you speak up. I should’ve told your grandmother, ‘Excuse me, but now my daughter is speaking, could you shut your mouth and listen to her, please?'”

Why have I been silent? Why did I not say anything? What for? What was I afraid of? Where has been my revolutionary self? Why has she been so silent? Why has she been hiding? Why was she smiling, when she wasn’t smiling at all inside? Why did I keep silent?

My grandma’s dead. Then my mom’s dead. The teachers are gone. My father is old. What am I afraid of? Why do I have to keep my head down?

Where’s my revolutionary self — that wants to scream? That wants to stand up. That wants to walk ahead. That wants to turn the light on. That wants to pour the water and wash it all out. That wants to swipe it all. That wants to open her eyes and look them straight into the eyes.

Where is she? She is here. She has been hiding way too long. And she says: “Basta. I’ve had enough.” I’ve been listening and listening and listening and not saying anything. Nodding. Smiling. “Yes, yes.” “Sì, sì.” “Ho capito.” “Hai ragione.” “Sugoi desune.”

How wonderful! Basta, basta. I have something to say, too. I have a lot to say. I want to speak up. In any language. In Japanese. In my dialect. In English. In Italiano. Whatever.

I learned and learned and learned the languages; now I should actually use them. Stop nodding. Say something. Just say it. Say it loud. Don’t be silent.

I’m alive now. I won’t be alive forever. Death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain. I’ve got to say something.

Let us speak. Let us all speak. Let my sister speak, who is so afraid to speak. Let my friend speak, with her voice that is so free when she’s speaking to me. We have been speaking behind the walls. In the tiny Skype windows. In the car, when we were sure nobody was listening. In the kitchen, when the kids and the husband were not there. Behind the closed door, after we made sure it was locked, looking at the clock.

Let us be free from the darkness, the dense air that doesn’t circulate, the bad lighting, and the cold floor. Let us open the windows, unlock the door, turn the knob and open wide the door, let the air come in, let us swim in the sunshine. Let us say it all out loud. Let us show who we are.


[Note: This Voices from the Workshop World first-draft text was produced live in Cary Tennis’s Online International writing workshop. The goal of this Voices series is to showcase the literary productions that arise from these online Amherst Writers and Artists workshops, which are designed to maximize verbal creativity in order to free the expressive energy of all the world’s people.–Cary Tennis]

 

OnlineWorkshopAd_generic


Newsletter_NEW_Dec13

EarthPhoto

Let the revolutionary self speak

The world turns, and as it turns, people who could once keep to their feet and balance their weight against the motion, who learned to drink and dance and cook a meal while effortlessly poised against the turning of the world, these people suddenly found themselves thrown down to the ground, their plates and cups dashed from their hands, their feet hopelessly tangled, their heads broken and their limbs crushed. And those who lived began to ask themselves, as they fought to hang on to the violently-turning world, what has happened to the Earth’s rotation? Why do nights and days now flash by at such a speed? Why must we live with this awful perpetual motion, and why must we feel nauseous, and nurse injuries, and constantly risk our lives to cling onto the world by the very tips of our fingers?
They had little time to think about this problem, as daily life had become such a struggle for existence, and it was as much as they could do to keep body and soul together, let alone ponder big philosophical questions about the turning of the Earth. But they still did think about them, whenever they could gain a little rest and relief from their battle to hang on to the spinning world, for such is the nature of people. So one of their number said: “The rotation of the Earth has become so much faster because it suits the needs of a few rich men that it should be so. Never mind the fact that most of us are caused such discomfort, and that our friends and family and our neighbours have fallen off altogether, or become so sick and dizzy that they despaired and let go, or perished under the weight of heavy objects that have been displaced.”
Another said: “The trees are being uprooted and the atmosphere stripped away and the tides are too high and the land is flooded. The rich men do not care, for they can afford to live in special compounds that are protected from all the ill effects. But there are few of them and many of us. Why do we not demand that the Earth is slowed down to rotate once in 24 hours again? Then we can think of ways to repair the damage the rich men have done.” But one poor citizen who had suffered grave losses, and who was deeply scarred with old injuries from rolling objects, said: “Perhaps it is much better that the Earth should turn quickly. It is progress and progress cannot be argued with. And the wealthy men must surely be wise, or why would they have been blessed with wealth?”
Another spoke up: “If we do not accept that the Earth must spin nearly out of control, the rich men will give us no work, and if they cannot earn such vast wealth then surely we will all be poor. And if we do not hurtle through space at this frantic rate then we will be overtaken by other, faster planets who will rush around the sun much more quickly than we can, and they will steal our rightful warmth and light. And the rich men will label us ‘anti-revolutionists’ and all the world’s ills will be laid at our door. No, comrades, it is better that we should suffer in silence and continue to try to hang on until our luck changes and, perhaps by some miracle, we can join the ranks of the rich men.”
And so they did not try to right the wrong that had been done to the Earth and all its people. They lowered their heads and continued with their daily struggles as best they might. Until one day the Earth began to spin so fast that nothing could stop it. The last trees were uprooted, and the seas overran the land, and the atmosphere was stripped away, and the planet hurtled headlong out of the solar system and rolled away into deepest outer space.


[Note: This Voices from the Workshop World first-draft text was produced live in Cary Tennis’s Online International writing workshop. The goal of this Voices series is to showcase the literary productions that arise from these online Amherst Writers and Artists workshops, which are designed to maximize verbal creativity in order to free the expressive energy of all the world’s people.–Cary Tennis]

OnlineWorkshopAd_generic
Newsletter_NEW_Dec13