workshop prep

Saturday will be the third and final session for the first iteration of the Invitation to Dreaming series. I am in the midst of preparing what’s called a draaiboek for Saturday. This is a useful tool that I highly recommend for people planning workshops. Basically, what I’ve done is create two different scripts for the day. One that’s detailed and one that’s bare bones. The barebones script is an approximate time schedule with lunch and breaks figured out while the detailed script includes notes and reminders to myself with highlighted notes on what it is that I want participants to take away with them. I’ve also written out my lesson plan so that I hear the words I want to say in my head. They may undergo transformation in the telling as I don’t do the workshop with a script in my hand, but the gist of it remains the same.

For this final day, I want participants to reflect on how the exercises we’ve used during the first two sessions are useful when we think of planning out a longer work and working over a longer period of time on a particular project.

Because not all of my participants may end up embracing a writing project, I want to emphasize that while they might not think of story making in terms of publishing professionally, they can also think of writing or creating and sharing stories as a form of legacy related to their journey as BIPOC and as members of a migrant community. We can never underestimate how valuable such sharings are for the younger generation or for the generations that follow. I am still very grateful that my Dad wrote lengthy letters to his children and that he decided to try and write a little about his personal history before he died. Knowing that I have that record that I can look back on now that he’s no longer here gives me this feeling of still being connected.

I have participants who are very interested in embracing writing or storytelling in some form. Some might want to embrace doing roleplay or theater type performances together, while others may go on to write their memoirs or continue to explore other kinds of fiction writing and that’s definitely something I want to encourage. These different types of making are beautiful and magical and transformative in power.

I feel very privileged indeed to be witnessing such flowerings and also to hear people say that they’d never imagined that writing a story was a possibility for them (even if they’d always wanted to)–well, that’s the reason why I felt and do feel it’s important to bring this workshop to communities.

During the communal worldbuilding exercise, one of the women said that it was hard to imagine in a science fiction way and that it was hard for them to envision a future world without thinking of politics. (Imagine me doing mental squee.) And then, this woman went on to share a story that was so damned good, I was like: what do you mean you can’t write science fiction?

In its naked self, story is about writing, sharing, telling what you see, what you envision and what it means to you. And the best stories are the ones that come from that place of feeling safe enough to be vulnerable. I have heard so much joy and laughter among the participants during the first two sessions and I want to continue to remind them that this is the joy you hang onto when you’re in that space facing your story.

I know there are many other things that go into stories, but on the journey, joy is one thing we need to take along with us. Hope, joy, and love, and also community.

some ambitious dreaming

I’ve been working on our project proposal for the dreaming sessions which would lead to more writing sessions. This is a project that’s flowed forth from a dream I shared with one of my friends sometime before Covid sent us all into lockdown. At that time, I didn’t see how to make that dream become something real. I just didn’t know how to at that time because I was emerging from having retreated away from the world and was just moving tentatively towards engaging with the world again.

So I told this friend who is also a dreamer like me, about my desire to create something inviting for BIPOC writers, thinkers and creatives. I didn’t know what form it would take, but during the pandemic period, when I realised how dreaming was essential to youngsters, I started the writing sessions. When my fellow visionary got back in touch with me, I had already worked out some of the things I wanted to do with a face to face version of the writing sessions.

As I work on the draft for this project, I think about my own history with dreaming and the written word.

My love for writing started long ago, when I was little girl in the mountains who had run out of books to read. Before I thought of writing stories for myself, I remember lying in bed next to my sister long after lights out. I remember the stories we spun for each other in the dark. I remember holding hands when our stories got scary, and falling asleep when they got a bit boring, and dreaming on inside my mind long after my sister had fallen asleep.

Books were magical things created by people far far beyond my line of sight. When I was a child, I didn’t know it was possible for someone like me to one day have stories included in books.

I think of those whose names I don’t yet know–those who I will meet on this journey. I think of those who dream and who are scared to reach out for the pen, I think of the numerous stories, the numerous words, the recollections and the dreaming that are waiting to be brought into the world. I want to say: I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait to read your work.

Preparing for the next session

I’m doing very small forays onto twitter these days. Just very brief jumps in and out to see if there are interesting articles or links being shared. If friends have sent messages, I also want to at least send a quick reply.

This morning, I checked in and saw this link shared by Anna Sulan Masing. (Click on her name to visit her website) As I read the linked article, I realised that I’ve missed out on a lot of conversations in the years that I was off the internets. (It was needful for me and my boys and I didn’t have the spoons or the headspace for anything else other than survival for a while.) I found myself clicking and following some threads and so I now have lots to think about as I reflect on my workshop/dreaming practice.

The thing is, I’m less and less inclined to think of what we’re doing as workshopping. As I said to the kids, we are fellow travellers on a journey where I am simply an older person who might have more experience in a certain craft but it doesn’t mean I’m the authority. Because, as I tell the kids in the writing sessions, we are learning together. So, I hope I can inspire and encourage them to continue to dream on the page just as they inspire me to keep on doing the work that I do.

I like calling our meetings writing sessions instead of writing workshops because sessions reminds me of jam sessions where musicians meet and jam together. Maybe we riff off of each other’s work, maybe we borrow a note and improvise from there, but it’s still jamming.

Moving forward on that energy, I thought of how the language and the landscape around the writing sessions would ideally be shaped by the youngsters and the writers who create and share their art in those spaces. This is still a work in progress and so I am also eager to learn from others who are farther along and who have engaged different ways of doing or sharing craft with fellow artists.

There was a funny moment when my high school son (who refuses to leave the sessions even if he claims he can’t write) asked if it would be okay to use swear words in a story. This resulted in a lively discussion in which we agreed that profanity is allowed, but not if it offends or hurts anyone in the group. I love these kids. They’re kind and open with each other and they have clear sight. I’m honoured to be included and to accompany them on a part of their journey.

I’m thinking of what to do next as we move forward. Do we stay with the seeing practice for a while? What step do we take next? I’m still undecided, but I feel certain that further reflection on process will reveal that step to me. More importantly, I want to make sure that I don’t impose a voice on these young people. It’s important to me that they discover their own sound, that they learn to trust in that sound and be true to their selves when they are writing.

The writing sessions

I have been trying to keep a log of my daily activities and progress as I now have to allot separate times for different projects. A couple of months ago, I accidentally launched the munabol writing sessions with BIPOC youngsters (ages 14-25). The first group, which I called the ground zero group is made up of two youngsters based in NL and two based in the Philippines. We’ve recently expanded to add on three new members and soon we’ll be launching a kids group (ages 10-13).

Ground zero had a ten week trajectory and I’m putting together a small booklet which reports on their progress and includes work produced by the first four in those weeks. For the expanded sessions, we’ll be working on new stories and working from a programme I’m developing. I’ve been gathering together some of the pieces that I want to use as part of the first exercise session and am feeling quite excited about it.

I think about how seeing can start from such a simple thing as looking out onto the street outside your window and simply documenting what you see to something more complex like looking at a photograph of a scene in a museum and asking participants to write down what they see.

The idea behind this practice was born from another project I’m working on where the ask was to incorporate museum objects into the practice. I thought about the museum itself which is a colonial space and I thought about the objects in it. My thinking was that if we are able to see beyond the object and beyond the space, we might be able to find the space where we can move forward in conversations around certain museum pieces. This is something I’m still thinking on, but for the munabol sessions, I want to encourage young practitioners to open the inner eye which is so essential to creative artists. To see, to look, and to recognize that there is often something more to what you see than what appears on the surface.

When I was a child, someone once told me that to be an artist means that you see beyond the leaf. It took me a while to realise it, but I think that was the point where I decided I would embrace writing and become that kind of artist with the use of my pen.

In any case, it’s this kind of seeing that I want to share with the youngsters and as I said to the ground zero group, we may all be looking out at the same scene or on the same view, but we won’t all notice or see the same things because each of us looks at the world differently. I am eager to discover those different angles in the different works offered tomorrow.

Working with youngsters and kids is inspiring and the writing sessions give me energy to keep on writing, to keep on creating, to keep on pushing for projects that will encourage people to dream, to imagine, to make their playful and creative selves visible in the world.