It’s not that the WordPress blog wasn’t doing it for us…well, yes, it’s because it wasn’t doing it for us. Find us at http://www.studentgroups.ucla.edu/writersden/.
Given this opportunity, I wanted to write something beautiful, something memorable like Andrew’s post, something that would show how moved I am by how much we have grown – from 7 or 8 or so of us in my first meeting three years ago, awkwardly sitting in a rectangle as Andrew and Paula tried to get us to take their pizza, to this year’s first meeting, with a listserv of more than 300 students and a good 40 or so of us squeezed in a classroom with bolted chairs, sitting just as awkwardly as we faced the chalkboard and not each other.
I wanted to write something that could convey how valuable it has been to be in a room full of diverse writers with distinct and powerful voices, where poetry and personal narratives and humorous quips find their way into the dialogue of our meetings; I wanted to write about how much I personally look forward to Tuesday nights so that I may pause from the rush of classes and work, and instead listen to the creative writing fabric woven by talented students here at UCLA – threads that probably would not have come together without the space the Writer’s Den envisions.
I wanted to write something to show how proud I am of our board and our members, especially in the volunteering front. In our discussions and lesson planning, you can see how dedicated each one of them is to the middle school students and to the students at our new site at Wooden High. If I could, I would paint you the early morning rides to school, the number of times a volunteer would exchange sleep just to get to their weekly sessions, and the volunteers’ at times difficult yet irreplaceable experiences in the classroom. I would draw for you how vibrant and moving our students’ stories and personal accounts are, the walls they need to break through to graduate, and the creativity and self-belief we hope to inspire.
With 2013 starting, and more writing retreats, creative writing contests, and (crossing my fingers) a panel in the works, I wanted to write something that could show how afraid I am of all that still has to be done, but also of how excited I am of all that will be done. Someone asked me this last year why I spent so much time on the Writer’s Den. And I could only answer that I didn’t know, that it was a mix of everything, that when there’s something good, you know it, and Writer’s Den was something good, that I believed in creativity and how far it can take people, that writing made me remember to be human – and perhaps, I said, like me, someone will stumble upon our club and find something that they find worthwhile.
I wanted to write something that said all of this – but sometimes it’s just too hard to find the words.
All my best,
A few weeks ago, our 10 min. prompt during our meeting was “Santa.” I was able to keep a few of the responses (written on a lovely pile of empty student evaluation forms left in the room) just for you all!
Unlike our usual freewrites, some of us doodled…
And did…whatever this is…
And look…we even wrote a bit. How rare.
We ended up teaching plot to our high school class a week after our middle school teams, so I took the results from Columbus and reworked the lesson plan before Friday. Normally we start our classes with a freewrite, then teach the lesson and finish off with an activity. However, our first quarter with Wooden has shown us we need to adapt our traditional routine to better fit this group of students, so we tried Kate’s suggestion doing an activity first and teaching the lesson second.
I think it worked.
First, the starting activity: Each student drew three cards—one each for character, setting, and a story starter—and had 30 minutes to write or plan a short story based on the cards.
Second, the lesson: we drew a plot mountain on the board and explained its different components. (I even made a fancy little graphic for this week’s lesson plan because I was avoiding finals.) Continue reading
Anthony started us off on drawing this plot mountain on Harry Potter…Hristiana couldn’t take it anymore and finished with the second half. That’s a turban on Voldemort.
Happy end of the 9th week, people.
And in the morning class, one of our volunteers Cameron offers his account:
Volunteering today with the Writer’s Den at 8:00AM, we’re talking with 7th graders about plot structure and development. We’re talking about the traditional Plot Mountain and have drawn and labelled a diagram on the board. Because vocabulary words tied to a picture doesn’t make a great lesson, we begin dissecting the well-known tale of Little Red Riding Hood, connecting plot points within the story to those on our diagram. All is going smoothly until we begin discussing the Climax, during which Sophie says that the Wolf remarks “What big teeth you have!” Which of course is not his line. So, naturally, just piping in to not really interrupt the lesson, I say “no, that’s what she said…” Talking about Red Riding Hood, of course. I realized too late what I had done as everyone in the class looked at us. Silence for the first time since walking in the door. The other volunteers were looking at me. Sophie, under her breath, tells me to “keep it PG” before the kids erupt in laughter.Later as I am circling the room helping with the writing activity a kid asks me if “that’s what she said” can be a plot point for his story.
I said no.
I’ve always wanted to write a NaNo pep talk, so I took the most captive audience I could find and talked about Thanksgiving weekend in an email to our members participating in NaNoWriMo this year:
If you’re behind: your goal for this week/weekend is to either catch up completely or catch up enough so that you feel confident you’ll make it to 50k by the 30th. Remember: your family will be around for Christmas. It’s totally okay for you to ignore them during Thanksgiving weekend if it means catching up on your word count. (But don’t tell them I said that. If they bug you, play the “Why aren’t you supporting my DREAMS? I thought you LOVED me!” card. It works. Hypothetically.)
Be ambitious. Aim high. Write 5,000 words in a single day–believe me when I tell you how exhilarating it feels. Ever spent a day alone with just you and your laptop, completely immersed in your story’s world? If you have the time, try it. But why stop at 5k? Try for 7k, or 8k, or even the almighty 10,000. Revel in the glory of words. Spew them out. Barf your book if you need to. Disconnect the Internet with SelfControl (if you have a Mac) or a free trial of Freedom (Mac/PC ) and get into the zone, that mystical place where you’re in tune with your story, when your fingers are flying over the keyboard, and it feels like the words are pouring out of your head by themselves. Once you’re there, it’s hard to leave…but when you do, you’ll have a much higher word count and some amazing material that you–yes, you–created. So make as much time as you can for writing when you’re home, because this weekend is your last shot at positioning yourself to finish this crazy awesome endeavor.