Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Wednesday Writing Workout: The Little We Need for Happiness

I’m happy to report that yet one more unexpected Kodak Moment came my way this month, thanks to COVID-19: that of two long-ago high school friends who’d unintentionally socially distanced before it was in vogue, reconnecting gloriously via ZOOM’s technology.
And you, our Readers, get to reap the rewards.
My BFF from the 60’s – Jane Anne Staw, who will always be “Janie” to me - is a TeachingAuthor, too.

Jane has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Stanford University and for over 20 years at The
University of California at Berkeley Extension, where she was named an Honored Instructor. Most recently, she’s taught for 12 years in the MFA Program in Writing at the University of San Francisco. She’s been a Bay Area Writing Coach for the past 15 years.

Did she and I know, all those years ago, when we worked on Lower Merion High School’s newspaper, the Merionite, or maybe even the school year book, The Enchiridion, that writing, teaching and writers would fill our days and hearts one day?
I cannot say.
But I do so love that we’re both Teaching Authors.

For sure, there were those few photo album moments as the years tumbled by, many captured photographically by Jane.  Shared First Mom experiences when we amazingly discovered each other in neighboring Chicago ‘burbs. Catch-up phone chats once thousands of miles separated us.  Treasured conversations at milestone years-apart high school reunions. Celebrations of each other’s publishing successes.

But no matter. Once Jane clicked on my Zoom invitation and she appeared on my laptop’s screen, we picked up right where we’d left off the last time we’d spoken… and we didn’t miss a beat.
Jane’s latest book is SMALL: The Little We Need for Happiness (Shanti Arts, 2017).
Once I hit “leave meeting,” I visited her blog based on SMALL, immediately subscribed and knew that her current posts were the stuff of a TeachingAuthors Wednesday Writing Workout.

For so many of us, again thanks to COVID-19, engaging our children and/or grandchildren in the learning process has become a part of our days, nights, and often, weekends.
Jane’s July 1 post on her Writing Workshop interactions with her two precious granddaughters both inform and inspire.

Thank you, Janie, for granting me permission to reprint your post as today's Wednesday Writing Workout!

Readers, Enjoy!

And let's keep looking for those – small - Unexpected Kodak Moments.

Esther Hershenhorn
I highly recommend Jane’s UNSTUCK (St. Martin’s Griffin) in case any of you are facing Writer’s Block.

. . . . . . . . . . . .


I began holding “Writing Workshops” with my granddaughters as soon as the Shelter-In-Place orders hit, and have continued this summer, though modified and less frequently. Last Wednesday, for example, we collaborated on writing a “graphic story” on the sidewalk in front of their house, each one of us successively adding a sentence to the plot, as well as drawing a chalk illustration for our sentences. The plot, as far as we got, went something like this: Two sisters were stuck inside the house. They didn’t like being stuck inside. But it was raining so they couldn’t go outside. They were bored. They had nothing they wanted to do inside the house. They were tired of all their puzzles and games.

In addition to the illustrations under each sentence, we created a border for every sidewalk square, framing each segment of the story and its illustration in colorful configurations of lines and curves. We had a lot of fun sitting on the warm concrete, thick pieces of pastel chalk in our hands, collaborating on the plot and the illustrations, the sun shining down on us, neighbors walking their dog, clearing a swath around us and smiling as they passed.

After about 45 minutes, the girls had had enough of sitting mostly still and concentrating, so I decided to shift activities and teach them something about small. I selected one of the flowering plants in their garden for us to admire. Once we had all discussed what made that particular plant beautiful, each of us picked a flower from that plant. “Look at that flower for a minute and notice one small detail you find lovely,” I told them.

“It looks like lace around the edges,” seven-year-old Poppy announced.
“I see a slightly darker blue line down the middle of each petal,” eight-and-a-half-year-old Amelie offered.
“Look at the tiny bulge where the stem begins,” Poppy offered.
“The back side of the petal is lighter than the front,” Amelie observed.
“You know,” Poppy exclaimed, “I thought the plant was beautiful, but each tiny flower is even more beautiful than the whole plant.”
“Yes, and there’s lots to discover about each tiny flower!” Amelie added.

Not only was this a lovely lesson in small, it was also an opportunity to bone up on my botany. I googled “Anatomy of a Flower” on my phone, and the three of us were soon comparing the pistils, antlers, sepals and filaments on the rose, fuschia, dogwood and salvia blossoms in the garden.

As we stood several feet apart, masks covering our mouths and noses, outstretched hands cradling petals and whole blooms, I realized that this moment of discovering nature’s infinite beauty had been brought to me—to the three of us–by Covid 19.
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1 comment:

April Halprin Wayland said...

Oh! It was wonderful to hear of your continuing connections over the years, Esther.

And I LOVE the idea of one small thing. My writers' observation exercise is really about that...but putting it in these terms is much clearer.

Thank you, both of you!