“Recall work day mornings with your parents or guardians and write a description of their morning ritual before leaving for work”: Creative Prompt #3 for JanTerm043 “The Art of Race”

Image result for junot diaz drownStudents in yours truly Jan Term course “The Art of Race: (Re) Imagining Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Literature, Art, & Pop Culture” are working hard on their final project, which is a creative writing assignment to write poetry, short fiction, or a personal essay inspired by the artists, writers, musicians, and theorists we’ve studied on how race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality inspire and shape creative work and how the different forms of art can redefine and interrogate notions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. We’re ending the term by looking at Junot Diaz’s Drown and his MFA vs. POC written originally for Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing for VONA workshops and later published by The New Yorker.

The students have really responded to and ran with the prompts we’ve been working with and requested a third and final prompt, which I’ve included below for you to have a go if you so choose.

Poetry:

Create a list of fifteen items, including objects, images, songs, movies, TV shows, magazines, albums, clothing, jewelry, toys, household items, etc. that remind you of your childhood. Don’t edit or over-think but try to list as many items that represent your childhood and adolescence then chose two or three and write about them in as full description as you can. What do they look like? What colors? What do they smell like? What do they sound like? What are the textures? Where are they soft? Scratchy? Smooth? Bumpy? What did it feel like to hold them? What kind of feelings surfaced when you engaged with them?  Where did they come from? Who gave them to you? Do you remember when you first received them or noticed them? What kind of memories are they attached to? What kind of wonder do they spark? Examine each carefully as if it were a precious stone or a sacred relic. How would you describe them to someone who couldn’t see and who didn’t know what your childhood meant to you?

Non-fiction:

Taking a cue from both Junot Diaz and Barbara Jane Reyes, recall work day mornings with your parents or guardians and write a description of their morning ritual before leaving for work. What did s/he wear for work (tie, heels, uniform, cuff-links)? How did s/he prepare in the morning? What kind of ritual did s/he practice? Hurried? Slow paced? Make breakfast? Rush out the door before you were awake? What kind of expression did s/he usually have? Worried? Tired? Excited? What did s/he take with him to work (briefcase, purse, coffee mug, water bottle, packed lunch)? Did you have time to talk with your parent or guardian before you both left for school or work? What did you usually talk about? Was there a specific memorable morning you shared together, and if so, what made it memorable? Conversely, recall the evenings or afternoons when your parent/guardian returned from work? What hour? Was s/he tired? Did s/he need time alone to decompress? Did s/he start cooking dinner immediately? What was the ritual returning from work?

Fiction:

Inspired by Junot Diaz, pick a memorable moment with a significant other or close friend and recreate the details of that moment. What time of day? Where were you? What where you both wearing? What was the weather like? What time of year? Who else was there? What were they saying? What were they doing? What was the dialogue between you and your significant other? What kind of tension were you facing together? What kind of tension were you both facing individually? What were your fears at the time? What were your hopes? What were your significant other’s fears and hopes? How did his/her fears and hopes conflict with yours? How did they coincide? Now twist the moment. How would it have gone differently if you said something opposite to what you actually said or did something opposite to what you actually did? Would you still be together as friends or partners? How would you have fractured or mended the relationship? How would you have complicated or simplified the moment?

More to come on “The Art of Race”…

What historical event, book, movie, TV show, physical landmark, specific place anchors your sense of self?: Creative Prompt #2 for JanTerm043 “The Art of Race”

Second creative writing prompt generated for the class yours truly is teaching, SMC Jan Term 043: “The Art of Race: (Re) Imagining Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Literature, Art, & Pop Culture.” We’ve been exploring how race, ethnicity, identity, gender, and sexuality inspire and shape creative work, such as music, film & TV, literature, and art, and how the forms and elements of creative work can help redefine, reconstruct, interrogate, and re-imagine notions on race, gender, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. So far we’ve read poets Carlos Soto Román, Barbara Jane Reyes, Harryette Mullen, and listened to musicians such as Beyoncé and Gingee. Viewed art by Kara Walker, and watched shows such as black-ish, Orange is the New Black, Jane the Virgin, and Atlanta. We’re currently reading Diane Glancy’s, In-between Places  (University of Arizona Press, 2005), where she writes in her introduction:

Written language seems to me a landscape. Land bound in words. I pick up stones or rocks in travel as texts I can read.

There is a map you open like a book. There are books you open like a map.

There is a map you decide to call a book? A book of the territories you’ve traveled. A book of the in-between places you’ve lived. A map is a meaning you hold against the unknowing. The places you speak in many directions.

Image result for diane glancy in-between places

 

The below prompts are inspired by Glancy, Reyes, and Soto Roman. Have a try for yourself!

“The Art of Race” Creative Prompt #2

 for Different Literary Genres

 

Poetry:

What song/lyric/commercial/dialogue from TV or movie is stuck in your head? Look it up, so you can accurately quote, if you need to. How is this found text related to what you are feeling right now? How does it give insight or confuse or challenge your emotions or your thoughts? How is it related to something your mother/grandfather/brother/partner/friend/roommate once said or always says? Take one of the words and create a new line, phrase, or dialogue to spin it your own way.

 

Non-fiction:

What historical event, book, movie, TV show, physical landmark, specific place anchors your sense of self? Do some research on this anchor. What is its history? How did it come about? How does its story of evolution give insight into your (d)evolution? How did you first learn about this anchor? Who introduced it to you? When? Why? How do you feel about this anchor now? Does it root you or shackle you? How do you claim it as your own or how does it claim you?

 

Short Fiction:

Make a list of your fears and superstitions. Then add fears and superstitions that you know of from close friends or family. Close your eyes. Circle one of them. Whichever one you circled, have your main character confront that fear or superstition. Where are they? What are they feeling? What are they thinking? What physical sensations are they experiencing? Are they alone? Is anyone else there? If so, what are they doing? How are they helping or hindering? What do they say that worsens the situation? How does your main character fight back? How does fighting back make matters worse?

More to come on “The Art of Race”…

“What Keeps You Up at Night? What Gets You Out of Bed?”: Creative Prompts for SMC Jan Term “The Art of Race”

Week #3 of SMC Jan Term “The Art of Race” and yours truly believes the best way to describe the experience of teaching this course is through this image:

By the end of the term, I like to believe I will be ground down to an essence in which I could be sprinkled into a tasty mole.

We are moving into the final project for the course where students will choose a creative writing genre (poetry, short fiction, or the creative personal essay) to write their own story of race, identity, ethnicity, multiculturalism, difference, prejudice, and/or discrimination.

In addition to the basic principles of their chosen literary form, they are expected to incorporate ideas and creative analyses based on the authors we’ve read in class to creatively interrogate notions on how issues of race, identity, multiculturalism, difference, and prejudice intersect with imagination, literary style, and aesthetics.

Some prompts to get their creative engines revved:

Poetry:

Image result for invocation to daughtersTaking a cue from Barbara Jane Reyes poem “The Day” in Invocation to Daughters (City Lights, 2017) write about this specific moment. Note the time, the date, the location, and describe details of this particular moment for each of the seven senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, scent, balance). Note your surroundings. Where and how are you physically? How does that contrast or coincide with where and how you are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, artistically.

 

Non-fiction:

Taking a cue from Kevin Young The Gray Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, What keeps you up at night? What gets Image result for on the blackness of blacknessyou out of bed? Who is your imaginary “American”? Where does s/he come from? Describe the land? Use your senses, touch, smell, taste, see, hear, balance? What does s/he wear? Eat? How does s/he walk? Talk? How does s/he roll? What does s/he rock to or listen to? How does that music make him/her feel? What is his/her American dream?

 

Short Fiction:

Create a scene where a character first discovers s/he is different from others. Where does this scene take place? Who else is there? What are they doing? Wearing? How are they acting? How do the other characters create or take away space from your main character? How do the other characters create a mirror for the main character to see him or herself reflected? How does s/he react to his/her own self image reflected back? What kind of conflict and tension is created? Is there an exchange through words or action? How does the exchange or non-exchange heighten the interiority of tension your main character is feeling? What differences does s/he notice between her/him and the other characters? How does that affect the six senses s/he is feeling at the moment (sight, sound, taste, touch, scent, balance, and time)? What questions are raised for your main character?

More prompts to come…