Friday, April 5, 2013

Early Days

Back in high school I was fortunate enough to be able to choose my own English classes in Junior and Senior year. Freshman and Sophomore years I took the standard definition of English – read books, write papers, learn vocabulary and the like – but in Junior year I was able to break free of that by selecting Journalism and in Senior year I satisfied my necessary requirement by taking Creative Writing. It’s safe to say those were the best moves I ever made in school because both classes helped to shape the Writer I am today.

In Creative Writing we were frequently given “pop quizzes” as I liked to call them. Our teacher, Lucile Burt, called them ten minute writings. She’d establish four or five topics per class and for ten minutes we had to write the first thing that came to mind on each subject or theme. I still make use of this technique sometimes when I’m struggling to come up with a good topic.

On September 9, 1990, right at the beginning of the school year, Lucile assigned one of these days. There were four topics that day – Blue Shirt, Two People in a Canoe, A Green Apple and a Promise, and Leftovers.

Brilliant subjects right? I mean out of thirty people in class she easily encouraged 120 different types of stories since each of those things would bring out something completely different in each of us.

I don’t remember the class or the specifics of what we were required to do with each subject but I’m guessing, due to the random symbols located throughout the original pieces, that we were supposed to select our favorite lines and favorite piece written during the class.

The one I starred was Blue Shirt.

When I went back and read this short piece today I started laughing in a fairly ironic way. Apparently I’ve always been a crazy person trapped within my own head because even at seventeen years old I had a penchant for rambling interior monologue. Perhaps this is the very thing I should be focused on writing. Or maybe I just like that this style allows for as many adverbs as possible.

Anyway, without further rambling, and in its original state (one long paragraph) word-for-word (including insertion of symbols, excluding names), I present you with my ten minute writing. Bear in mind this was 1990 and I didn’t have the benefit of a computer so I’m transcribing this from my hand written journal and it’s likely to be much shorter than if I’d been able to type.

Blue Shirt

I’m supposed to be concentrating on my breathing but all I can think of is the topic “Blue Shirt”. --> When I take a breath in I see all my ideas and imagination getting tossed and jostled around. When I exhale my mind relaxes and my thoughts come together again. But just when I think they are going to be put into a perspective where I can write or think about one of them, I inhale again and all of the ideas are tossed around once more. When I exhale again there is a certain calmness about my mind, like I have no worries or thoughts at all and all of my problems have a solution. But when I take my next breath I feel like a human being again. [Friend’s name] has a blue shirt on today which makes me wonder if she’s writing about herself. I have on a white shirt yet I’m still writing about myself in this entry. It makes no sense why I’m not writing about a blue shirt when that is the topic of this whole thing. Lots of people wear blue shirts. Why was that the topic? I have to wonder if I’d have written about myself or something totally different if the topic had been white shirt. --> But it wasn’t. So I didn’t. And now I’m curious as to what our next topic will be.

Posted for April 2013 A to Z Blog Challenge E is for Early

22 comments:

Alice said...

I'm impressed for High School English, both at your skill and at the assignment. (My school didn't have such a luxury as creative writing.)

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Thanks so much Alice :-) It was pretty cool, in fact during my Senior year of HS I was able to take a variety of non-traditional classes and it helped me get my 1.something GPA up to a 2.4 before graduating. I was never a fan of history, science or math so anything I could do to mix those up was a good thing. I still wonder how I graduated sometimes after a Junior year spent more often in Boston window shopping record stores than in most of my classes.

#1Nana said...

I long ago tossed out old papers from my childhood...and then my mom died and I found things that she had saved, like every letter I ever wrote her! You're lucky to have your early writing. When you're a famous writer you can gift them to a library!

Thanks for hooking me up with the A-Z Challenge. I'm having fun so far.

Launna said...

Jenn, in case you didn't know, I think you are highly talented. I remember the first time I stumbled upon your blog and it was about the time you received you copies of Ripple The Twine (which by the way, I thoroughly enjoyed)... I loved your enthusiasm and your wit...

By the way, thank you for your lovely comment on my blog, I was truly touched... thank you so much :)

JudisJems said...

Don't think you ever shared this fabulous story with me in 1990, or since. Your creativity amazes me, we all hope you'll keep at it.

Love you, Mum

Heidi Mannan said...

Wonderful! I love the story. It's very stream of consciousness and full of voice. I hope you post more of your stories.

Chris said...

I sure hope your English teacher appreciated your witty, introspective style. Loved how you used the assignment to question the assignment itself. Brilliant! :-)

Kathe W. said...

That was a fun and interesting read- I wonder what I would have done at that age? Your teacher was brilliant to use that method for getting kids to write! Enjoy your day!

Almost Precious said...

Sounds like it was an interesting class and you had a very creative teacher to help spark your own fathomless creativity. Loved your 10 minute essay; perhaps it was good that you didn't have on a blue shirt that day. :)

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Oh that's so cool your mom saved those letters! Must have been like reading a journal from those days huh?

So glad you're having fun with the challenge :-) Me too!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Thank you so much Launna! That means so much to hear :-)

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Thanks Mum :-) ♥ Love you!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

I might just do that Heidi, thanks a bunch for the encouragement!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

She was one of the five best teachers I ever had. Loved the class and her creativity, it was so inspiring. Thanks so much my friend!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

She was definitely an amazing teacher! Thanks Kathe you too!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

I thought the exact same thing when re-reading it Anna, I was glad to have worn white. Sometimes stream of consciousness is the best way to get a spark of creativity, even if it was 23 years later :-)

Jak Cryton said...

I'm kind of jealous of the Creative Writing class. My school was so small we never had any fun classes like that. Kind of a shame really. I really like that exercise, though I've a feeling I would have thought about the things you wrote, without actually any writing being done lol

Karen Goltz said...

Loved that class! Just out of curiosity I went and looked through my old journal to see if I could find that assignment. September 14, 1990. What a hoot!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

There were a few of those writings I found while reading back through the journal that were pure crap. I mean, not that "Blue Shirt" should win a Pulitzer or anything but some of my 10 minute writings were just atrocious! But a few were little golden nuggets of joy. That's why I keep trying that technique these days when I'm stuck. There was no slacking off in her class, the assignments were fun but she wasn't a push over. You really had to work to earn the A.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

That's so cool Karen! I'd love to hear what your "Blue Shirt" story was like if you were ever willing to share it. Guess we didn't have Lucile at the same time did we? If your same 4 topics were from 5 days later I guess not? Sadly, the only people I really remember being in the same class as me were my group peeps & also K.S. because she & I had every class together senior year. I never would have remembered the other friend I mentioned in the story as being in class until I re-read this piece. And I still can't pull up a visual of where she sat or anything.

Did someone say I must be old? What do you mean old? heehee

Karen Goltz said...

Thank goodness! I was feeling bad that I didn't remember you being in that class! I'm so happy to hear that it's because you were in a different session, and my memory really isn't that bad! I'll e-mail you a copy of my "Blue Shirt" story. I was totally crushing on a guy in the class, who happened to be wearing a blue shirt that day. See if you can figure out who it was!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Yes thank goodness because I was feeling bad too! So glad I wasn't going crazy. Well maybe not for that reason haha. Yes email me for sure, would love to see what you came up with for that one & if I can figure it out. My brain is fuzzy these days though, I might have to try to find the yearbook :-)