Sunday, January 18, 2009

Back Home in the Snow

At the Univ. of Puerto Rico

I've posted all the photos I wanted to upload to Flickr, so check them out if you so desire. As much as I dread it, I must move on and prepare for the start of the semester.

For the last post about Puerto Rico, I wanted to say a bit more about the writing that we did because some people have asked. As I said in an earlier entry, he workshop was called Writing from Experience, but we spent a lot of time talking about writing about encounters with the "other," a common phrase for us in academia. The thinking is that, in writing about those who are different from us, we end up saying a lot about ourselves. It's a risky yet energetic kind of wrting. Our workshop leader, Mayra Santos Febres, has a long history of putting different types of people together in her fiction, so her classes and workshops have that kind of angle in mind.

As for the writing we did throughout the week:

1) A description of our trip to Puerto Rico.

2) A description of our secret where we either fictionalize ourselves or consciously reflect on our perspective. See, after we spent an hour introducing ourselves, Mayra asked us to tell the one secret that we would rather die in a firey hell than tell. Yep, you read that right. She says she always starts her classes that way on the first day, that everyone who takes her classes knows they'll be asked to do it.

3) A description of the face of the person sitting next to us. She put us in pairs, and we had to look at that person and find the feature that makes them unique and base our descripiton around it. The historians and psychologists in the room really responded well to this, talking about the potential for this exercise in their teaching.

4) A description of a body part other than our face.

5) A description of the market at Rio Piedras. On Wednesday, we visited this market near campus. We wandered for about thirty minutes just observing and taking things in. Then we wrote about it.

6) A stream-of-consciousness response to the tarot card we pulled out of her deck. We were to take a card, start with an objective description, and then let it "speak to us." And it all had to be stream of consciousness. I have to say, I produced my best piece of writing with this one, and I think most of the group would agree.

7) A recap in dialogue form of a discussion we had with a partner on a specific topic. We drew a topic out of her hands--doctors and healers, the beach, lovers, water, Obama, teachers--and talked about it with a partner. Then we tried to capture what we talked about in a written dialogue. We had dancing as our topic.

The point of this workshop was to help us improve our scholarship and/or our teaching. We talked about how to use these in our various types of classes, and we talked about what to do with our own writing that we'd produced. It was a great week, and I hope I can maintain the momentum.

I'll certainly try.

1 comment:

  1. Nels, those are really interesting writing topics; I've now bookmarked this post so that I can return to some of these topics when I teach a writing workshop this summer. Thanks, and I'm glad you had such a good week!