Category Archives: Writing

Does this make senses?

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Does this make senses?

“What do you think of this sentence?” I asked the class. “Is there anything wrong with it?

We don’t teach a grammar class, my friend and I, we teach creative writing at a homeschool campus that is an offshoot of the public school district. We are “parent helpers” not paid teachers.

It gets worse: For six of the last seven years we have been quietly, gloriously, subversively imploring our students to ignore grammar, spelling and format, and just write. We tell them that all that formality and structure can be ignored for 90 minutes. All of that can (and will) come later, after the creativity has been let out of its structured, school-system cage.

Should we be booted out? Reigned in? Given strict boundaries?

Perhaps.

Yesterday we had our largest class ever: 30 kids. In years past, our largest group was about twenty, with an average weekly class size of about 10-15.

“Mom, were you worried when you saw so many kids in there today?” asked my youngest after class, though she knew the answer already. Thirty kids in our classroom who were there by choice—who either already love to write or don’t but have heard, through the school grapevine that this writing class is different, fun? I could not have been more thrilled. I still am.

Does this make senses?

Our kids write (and often share) sensuous, funny, moving, oft-illustrated, brilliant pieces in genres they haven’t been formally taught (fiction, sci-fi, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, poetry, improv, fan-fiction, and more). This is what comes out of their funny, serious, deep, beautiful minds: sans mandates.

Yesterday one of our youngest students, a tender-hearted seven year old invited to class because his older sister already attends, shared his story with the class orally: over the weekend his precious fish died.

Last year, an older boy who had been viciously bullied in public school shared a poem so beautiful (and absent angst) that I was moved to tears (were it not for my teacher hat, I would have stood there sobbing).

Two weeks ago a boy with perfect handwriting but zero confidence as a writer stood up and read the beginnings of his sci-fi story. It was his first day in class. The story, brilliant.

Does this make senses?

If you think you are hearing tooted horns, think again. My friend and I are mere spectators, facilitators of creativity that is already pulsing inside these astonishing kids. Sometimes we see it first and gently coax it out. Other times, it bursts forward, unbidden.

Yesterday after our class on writing with the senses, a new student brought me a two-page essay he had written at home: “This is just for you to read,” he said, “I don’t want you to share it with the class, but I worked really hard on it and I’m proud of it.”

This makes perfect senses to me.

 

 

Howling at the Moon

My growing fascination with the moon, my collaboration with Deborah Batterman, and our recent field trip to The California Wolf Center, have me pondering the moon as a muse. I realize there is no novelty here; my epiphany is mundane.

Yet I’m still enamored, still fascinated by the rocky, dusty, uninhabited ball that is a mere 2,000 miles in diameter, with a tiny circumference of 6,800 miles. Earth is about four times the size. Yet, according to Gail Gibbons in The Moon Book, the moon has been revered for countless centuries; thought to be a goddess, Diana, to the Romans–Selene to the Greeks. Selene was even thought to ride through the sky in a silver chariot. Gibbons says, “Some American Indian tribes believed the moon and sun were brother and sister gods.” Clearly I am not alone with my fascination.

Last Friday at the preserve, when I was reminded that myths and beliefs about wolves are generally wrong, I was disappointed to realize that wolves also do not actually howl at the moon. I like how a wolf looks when she is howling, when the snout is pointing up toward the sky, presumably responding to the power of the moon. I’ve been known to try it myself when the neighbors are in deep REM sleep. So it is not without a bit of mourning that I give up this long-held assumption about wolves and the moon. In fact, since they howl for scads of other reasons, a teensy part of me still believes that wolves feel and respond to the unmistakable pull of the moon; fulfilling some deep, ancestral longing by howling at it.

I’ve decided that the moon-as-muse idea works well when I consider that more than four centuries ago, in 1609, Galileo gave us the first sketches of the moon (there is a fascinating JPL scientist, Jane Houston Jones, who has been sketching the moon for about 20 years) and later was condemned by the Catholic Church for “vehement suspicion of heresy” (since his discoveries contradicted the church’s stated beliefs). The fact that he had to sacrifice his freedom over his beliefs about the cosmos; eventually being forced to recant some of them, leads me to believe that it is not a stretch to say that the moon may also have been his muse.

When I was seven or eight, my father briefly lived on a La Jolla cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Sleeping in the massive downstairs living room with the giant windowed slider slightly open, I would fall asleep to the lulling timbre of the sea; the moon often reflecting its unique manifestation of the sun’s light onto the roiling water. My fascination grew into a craving…the kind that nothing else can fulfill. And now, with my muse finally refusing to be ignored, it all makes sense. Tonight you may find me, and a few mythical wolves, howling at the moon.

Words and photographs are the creation and property of the author/photographer, Britton Minor and The Jaded Lens Photography.