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John Klima
Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 01:38 pm:   

I have to come up with a writing exercise for tonight. I have a few very good books filled with prompts, etc., but my wife loaned those to the person in her high school who is teaching creative writing this year. Any suggestions of what I can give out as a 'help' to get people started writing? I was looking online and everything led me to books to buy, or services to pay for....

Any suggestion would be appreciated.

JK
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 01:44 pm:   

Here's an interesting website that came up in my searches:

http://www.taverners-koans.com/gilded.html

:-)
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JV
Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 01:48 pm:   

To just loosen them up, I suggest this exercise...

First, have them pair up. One of the pair should write the "If" part of an if-then statement. The other should write the "then" part--but they shouldn't talk about what they're each writing. So you might get a result like

If pears were red, then pigs would fly backwards.

Which is the point--you're trying to loosen up their imaginations.

Second, have each pair of students write for 5 minutes using the If-then statement they created as the first sentence of their 5 minutes of writing. They should be told to write fast and furious, not thinking about what they're writing, but just doing it.

Third, when they've finished writing, have each pair exchange their writing exercises. Now, using their partner's work, tell them to rewrite it so it makes some kind of sense, without using the letter "e" (substitute a less difficult letter if you like). Give them 10 minutes for this part. They should try to stick to the meaning of the text as written, except where they need to change it to make sense, and labor hard at finding ways around using the missing word by substituting words.

I suggest that you ask the paired up students to read a couple of their exercises after each of the three stages, to give everyone a sense of the fact that this is supposed to be fun.

Now, what is the practical application of this for beginning writers? The first part of the exercise represents the brainstorming one does to come up with an idea, and points out that anything can spark an idea.

The second part is meant to show them the importance of *not* turning on the critical faculties while writing a rough draft.

The third part is to give them a sense of the rigorous rewriting to which they are going to need to put their own work in order to create good fiction.

That's a rough-and-dirty explanation for why this is a good exercise. But it does work. I've used it more than once. It always sparks ideas, it always gets laughs, it always loosens them up to write. They always complain about the missing letter part, but it's good for them--it demonstrates that discipline may be needed (perhaps a bit artificially, but still...)

Just a thought--it may not be right for what you're doing. But it is fun.

It's best if the instructor pairs up, too, and is not afraid to read their entries. (Because the initial work produced from this approach is generally not of great quality, but perhaps imaginative, it also makes the students relax--they see that their instructor is also not afraid to take changes and fall on his/her face--that it's part of the process.)

JeffV
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JV
Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 01:51 pm:   

er, in that first part--they shouldn't talk to each other about their if/then statement. Each creates their part without knowing what the other has written.

This exercise combines oulipo and surrealist games.

Jeff
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JV
Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 01:55 pm:   

In terms of texts, David Madden's Revising Fiction is probably the best one to make sure a beginning writer has in hand. It's meant for intermediate and advanced writers in most cases, but assigning it to a beginning writer is a good idea because (1) it uses examples from early and finished drafts from famous writers to show how they solved problems in revision and (2) it's a book a writer can use to gauge his or her progress--every time you come back to the book, you come at with a little more experience. You never really outgrow the book, but you can gauge your progress.

I also like the fact that it does break down the possible problems in writing fiction into particular categories and subcategories--it takes some of the mystery out of technique.

JeffV
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John Klima
Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 07:36 am:   

Thanks Jeff! This is actually for when my wife and I write together, something we've been doing for the past coulpe weeks. This worked great!

JK
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 08:20 am:   

Duh--I didn't realize that; read your email too fast. Glad it worked, though!

Jeff
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, February 04, 2004 - 11:04 am:   

OK, here's another shout-out to the community at large. I need to find a better (cheaper) means of creating my zine. The last issue was very expensive because I was in a rush to get it done to take to Worldcon. This time I want to explore some options before it's too late. I already have a nice line on a printshop in MA, but other suggestions would be welcome, too.

The zine is made from legal-sized paper folded in half, which gives you a nice 7" x 8.5" sized page. The issue looks to be 44 interal pages (11 sheets of paper, which means 22 original that will be printed/copied back to back) and a cardstock cover. I will continue to make the cover where I've always made it. The zine has always been copied, so I'm not necessarily looking for a printer, but just someone who can put the thing together for me.

Every issue so far has even been collated, folded, and stapled by me and my staff (friends and family), so if I got someone who could assemble the thing for the same cost I'm paying or better, that would be great.

Any suggestions?

JK
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Will
Posted on Wednesday, February 04, 2004 - 02:03 pm:   

Can't remember if I told you, but that same little MA printer collated and assembled Trunk Stories for me VERY cheaply. I'd have to pull out receipts but I think it was less than $30 for collating + stapling.
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, February 05, 2004 - 01:19 pm:   

I think you had mentioned that. They are my current #1 choice, but I wanted to know if there was anyone else to contact.

JK
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Judith Klein-Dial
Posted on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 08:27 am:   

John, I don't know if this will help, nor not. (I haven't seen your mag.) When I was doing a print catalog, I used 8 1/2 x 11 folded in half too.

I bought coverstock and made a generic inside cover with the stuff that doesn't change: mailing address, email, phone, etc. (I also had a default outer cover, but it was a catalog, not a mag.) That meant that all I had to print/collate/staple etc. was the interior pages. I used a college print shop, the local newspapers' print shop, and quick printers, depending on lead time, price, etc.

Re the collation, etc. try your local newspaper. I've found that job printing is frequently an all profit item for them, and so they sometimes can be persuaded to do a smallish job very reasonably.

Also, I was going to post a link for you, but it got lost in the shuffle. If you send me an email, I'll do it asap. (I'm doing some of my own web stuff now, rather than having someone else do it in thier spare time.)

Judith
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John Klima
Posted on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 11:43 am:   

Thanks for the tips/suggestions. I have a new printer that I'm going to try who is half the price of the people I've been using. I'll see how that goes for now.

JK
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John Klima
Posted on Tuesday, April 06, 2004 - 08:10 am:   

OK, if anyone wants to buy me something expensive, here some ideas:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3808345814&category=26249

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3808108961&category=26249

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3808336777&category=46697

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3808167134&category=57047

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3807806711&category=26243

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3807809947&category=26243

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3807171127&category=57045

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3808375360&category=57045

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3808455113&category=57045

this is one I could actually use!
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3805056711&category=57045

Cool, eh?

JK

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