Creative Writing – very creatively…

painting of the Trojan HorseSo, another step into the unknown; the murky journey of the short story full of fantastical, wandering story lines, abrupt plot twists, over elaborate descriptions and unbelievable leaps from one scene to the next.  I love storytelling, it is the most powerful form of learning there is.  Language has developed from the oral story telling of past generations, cultures have evolved and taken on their identities as a result of the tales passed on from elders to their mokopuna and on again. We are who we are because of the stories of the world.  Who doesn’t remember sitting on a parents’ lap lost in the imaginings of the stories they were read?  I recall crawling into my parents’ bed with my three sisters on weekend mornings to cuddle up with my Dad as he told us the story of the fairies who hid in a huge wooden horse to conquer the goblins who were overpowering their kingdom.  We begged for it over and over again and asked for more and more embellishments.  It was only much later that I realised that the fairies’ wooden horse was actually the Trojan Horse!

Anyway, I digress.  Cultures are built on myths and legends which help us make sense of the world around us and how it came to be.  We thrive on real life stories – just look at the number of reality TV shows, soap operas that tell the stories of “real life”, and who hasn’t stopped to say “Oooh! Have you heard about ….?  We are fascinated by people, by stories, by questions, by answers, by imagination, curiosity and invention.

So, my Year 9 English class and I have embarked on story telling.  In the last week of term we explored 5 Card Flickr with interesting results as already outlined in a recent blog.  I was lucky enough to spend some time with Alan Levine when he visited New Zealand at the end of September and talked to him some more about digital story telling.  I only wish I had more time to explore the possibilities, but we have made a start.  This week we used an idea I heard about as I was surfing the internet.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of the webpage so apologies to the initiator of this idea.  We have called it #storymakers and the idea is that one of the class (this time it was me, just to get them started) puts a starter sentence into a room and then everyone else continues the story until it ends.  It’s a bit like the party game when you have to go round the table and keep the sentence going.  We started with “One day I discovered a magic button….”

a red sparkly buttonWe had great fun and it was interesting to observe how they “developed” the story – some got a little bit carried away and relied on “waking up from a dream” when someone “killed’ the character off.  It was challenging for them to have to think of the next line quickly and it was a quite a public forum although less public than having to say the next line out loud in an oral context.  I wonder how we could encourage the flow of the story without having to do it so much under pressure?  I wonder if that would lead to more thoughtful ideas?  I am sure too that some of the students were embarrassed and were put outside their comfort zones because either they didn’t know what to say or they felt that what they wanted to say wasn’t good enough.  Resorting to “crazy” ideas provides a “cover” of sorts.  Maybe we could build the story over a lesson whilst doing other activities?  The students could just keep an eye on the “Tweet” stream and see when it is their turn, or jump in when they feel ready…?  Ideas to ponder…  It was great though to see them all engaged and prepared to have a go,

After the story was “finished” we read it out and talked about not being able to rely on “it was all a dream” to get out of strange situations and also developing the characters as the story develops. It is clear to see what has been in the news recently … and interesting also to realise that we can only write about what we have experience of and that we can only bring our own perspectives of our understandings of those experiences to our writing too.  I know that another group of people with different experiences would bring their own perspectives to this starter and the story would not be the same.
Here is the transcript of the story; (unedited)
One day I discovered a magic button ….
it was a blue sparkly one and it was hiding in my room
The button was circular and had a diameter of 7cm
It looke like it hadnt been seen in 100 years
It open a magical portal
but i didn’t go through
I just stood there looking at it, but then I heard cheerful music so I decided to take a look inside
but i slipped and ended up falling in a meadow
The meadow was filled with bogtrotters and nymphs
In the distance I saw a group huddled together and curiosity had the best of me
I started running over to the group and I suddenly tripped over and face planted in bogtrotters poo.
I thought really gross because it was all over my face, some went into my mouth and it tasted like shampoo
And then in the far distance there was a big BANG!!!!!!!
I then realised that I had Ebola and I died.. But then I woke up!
after dying i was really tired, and hungry so i went for a sleep and started chewing my own hand in my sleep.
I woke up and I was a new person named Bella ………. who was a princess.
I ended up being a prince….
Then out all of a sudden pineapples rained down from the sky and a lion roared in the distance…
I looked over to where the roar had came from and saw a pride a lions
They came running towards us ready to kill their prey
All of a sudden there was a baboon on the rock holding a baby cub with two other was the lion king
but I blinded them with my lightsaver and ran away
Ahhhh Sabena mamma he manana
all of a sudden everyone that i had been in contact with died and so did the animals because i had ebola.
and then in the distance I saw a man. i married him
We had a pineapple themed wedding, but then he died the next day from my ebola
the reason why i wasn’t dying because i was an immortal ebola zombie victim i had depression because i was the last living man on earth
I awoke next to the magic button, laying in a hospital bed really dying of Ebola.
I survived, because i got the magic curer from the bogtrotters
Lol, jk I’m still standing here looking at the portal. It’s kinda hurting my eyes fml.
I suddenly woke up to a holt. It turns out I was sleeping in rehab because I am Hillary duff.
Looking forwards to more storytelling…

So much to do… so I guess I’ll write a blog post instead!

japanese gardenI started to write this and then decided that I had better do the things I really needed to do! But back to it now and a beer in hand!  Five of the efellows met up yesterday for an extra session to help us with our presentations for next week. It was great to meet up with John and Louise, and Rowan, Becs, Ben and Marnel again but we missed Tim and Vicky. I was feeling more than a tad panicky as I have had so little time to italian 2 gardenspend synthesising my ideas.

The real demands of in the moment, every day teaching and general family life are overwhelming and insist on being met. In fact, if truth be known, I couldn’t meet the demands of school workload if I didn’t have an incredibly supportive and ever patient and understanding family. They bear the brunt of my frustrations and really don’t get the attention they deserve. (Note to self that they need some pampering asap). It is a bonus too that youngest son is away at a hockey tournament this week – not far away – a few streets away, in fact, in a motel as they are playing in Hamilton. However, it does mean that I don’t have to worry about feeding him and getting him to places, I just have to turn up to support him at matches each day! So that means that I have some time toamerican garden myself to write up my research and pull together a presentation for Ulearn14 next week.

Yesterday served as a focus for me to quantify just how much I had done and what still needed to be done.  It was good to be able to share some ideas and talk through my data.  Our times together have been intense and stimulating; we all get on so well and ideas spark like fireworks but, although we have created a Google + group and we all tweet to varying degrees, we have not connected as much as we intended to between meetings. Rowan and I even live in the same town but haven’t managed to connect! Time and work pressure is definitely a factor in this!

So, back to my inquiry; I am feeling less anxious and more positive about my progress after spending the day working on it – I can definitely see that hint of daylight and smell that familiar and comforting odour of fresh air as I crawl my way towards the exit of my cave. Still some way to go though.  Last week’s eduignite talk helped more than I thought.  I have decided that I have to put myself out there and make myself do things like Eduignite presentations. Why? They are fun, I meet up with my PLN face to face and indian gardensee and hear about all sorts of interesting things that are going on in other schools,  all that and I build my personal skills too.  Last week I used some of the data that I analysed from my survey about how adults learn to create an Eduignite talk.  It raised some interesting questions for me that have continued to percolate.  I started yesterday feeling like there were a whole lot of bubbles swirling in and out of reach – I knew they were important but I couldn’t quite reach them and pull them down to see exactly what they were to be able to organise them.  Now, I have caught some and can see a way through the confusion!  Maybe a cave labyrinth could also be an analogy? I know the passages and where they go, I can see them in isolation, I just can’t quite see how they link up to lead me up to the surface!

We have a visitor just now and today we did what we often do when have visitors and went for a walk round Hamilton Gardens.  It was a good opportunity to rest my brain but as usual breaking out and relaxing actually helped me.  We found ourselves walking a different way through the Paradise garden collection and I realised that I had always thought that the links between the gardens were awkward and didn’t really flow. Now I realise that it is because I have always approached from the wrong direction!  Starting with the Japanese Garden of Contemplation and following through to the English Flower Garden, to the Chinese Scholar’s Garden,  the American Modernist Garden, the Indian Char Bath and finally the Italian Renaissance makes so much more sense and the flow is more natural.  Stepping back, taking a break, looking at things from a different perspective, and things are starting to look a whole lot clearer!

Now I just need to focus….