Friday, February 6, 2015

Of Dogs and Dinosaurs (Writing Workshop, Part 1)

Today I skipped school. 

Don't worry, though: I got permission from the principal first, since it was for a good cause. I think awhile back I mentioned some things about publishing and creative writing workshops? Well, because everything in Nepal seems to get mixed around, those workshops got pushed back until this weekend. 

Kathalaya (House of Stories) Publishing House recruited me to teach two workshops at Nepal's 2nd annual book fair. Seeing as my BA is in Creative Writing, and a desire to teach it was part of my Fulbright proposal, I jumped at the opportunity. The only thing that was a little funny was that the first (today's workshop) focused not on story writing, but on illustrating.

I am not an artist.

Kathalaya actually brought in a real honest-to-God professional illustrator, and I think I dazzled him with my command of stick figure anatomy. There were about 25 students present at the workshop from various private schools around Kathmandu valley. They all had excellent English skills, which meant that I didn't need a translator, and they were all enthusiastic, which meant I didn't cry. Well, I did once, after a particularly violent coughing fit, but you can't help things like that.

You see, this whole week I've been recovering from a sinus infection (or as I like to call it, "pollution throat") which has stolen my voice away from me. It made teaching difficult, but at least for the workshop, I had a microphone.

For roughly two minutes.

It broke. I didn't do it. I had to make do with water and honey-ginger candy. The tent was not the most conducive environment for unassisted vocalizing--very muffled--but it all worked out. We had four fun activities. For the first, I described a character, and they drew her, to simulate the life of an illustrator. For the second, they paired up. Every kid wrote a description of a person, place, thing, or animal, and passed it to their partner, who drew it. The most popular images were dragons, dinosaurs, and cakes. I paired up with the honest-to-God can see the results below.

Next, the students had five minutes to create short wordless comic strips. After a lunch break that lasted too long, they came back for their final project: writing and illustrating a book. This was the trickiest bit to pull off due to time constraints, the number of kids, and the fact I had to pick three winners from the group of them. There were some amazingly entertaining stories, and some familiar ones ("A Magic Tree House," for example, set in Pennsylvania). Many stories involved dogs in some capacity, and man, did they get dark. Especially when you consider that almost all of the students were between sixth and eighth grade. The worst (or best?) ones were the ones where the dog died at the end. Or the shocker "A Broken Marriage," where the bride has a heart attack after watching her new husband get torn apart by wolves.

The Nepali Stephen King has arrived. 

First prize went to a story about a caterpillar who really wanted to fly. Its author is destined to be a comic artist or illustrator one day. Second place went to a very philosophical story about a tree, and third belonged to a story about a girl rescuing her friend from kidnappers. 

After it was all over, I headed straight for the coffee shop, which is where I am right now. I have another workshop tomorrow, but the theme is on building a story rather than illustrating one. 

One interpretation of "Stella" the example character.
Ladies and gentlemen, our future first prize winner.
The general surveys her troops.

My challenge to the honest-to-God illustrator.

My answer to the honest-to-God illustrator's challenge.

His answer to mine. He did that in literally three minutes.
On the left, the only class 3 student in the group.
Nepal pride.
You know you're Italian when you talk with your hands more than your mouth.
Ain't that fancy looking.
Command center, with Prabina, who made everything run smoothly.
The first time I've ever been on the giving end of one of these pictures.
I don't know if you'll be able to find me in this picture; there are too many people.

No comments:

Post a Comment