I’e had a week of fascinating writing workshops with third, fourth, and fifth graders at Brent International Schools in the Philippines. When I pointed out that as I travel, I don’t pay much attention to official sites and monuments–like this one–but, rather, got entranced by a French door…by a French octopus in my salad…a fifth grader told me that her father is a writer and is the same way and takes photographs of his traveling family in the oddest places.
Over and over, I pointed to examples in my work that show the ways I get details from observation, from memories, from research. I shared photos of my childhood in Ethiopia and showed little and big ways that those experiences found their way into books. I challenged them to think about their memories, observations, research.
One thing I learned–all over again–is that creative writing is a messy, messy process. No one can say, “Sit down and go through these steps, and the result will be wondrous.”
But the mess has been fun for me. I love the words and phrases I’ve gathered as we’ve brainstormed together. One of them has already found its way into the novel I’m revising.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the sugar clumps. The butter puddles. Laundry doesn’t dry. But people have easy, open smiles, and one of the schools made me cry with the musical welcome and luminous photos of people just…well…being there for other people.
The power of one person to stand or sit with someone else in pain.