Posted in Jobe Workshop Review, Writing Prompts

Creative Writing 101 for Teens: Workshop Review

I only had one hour instead of the two hours I’m used to, but I knew I could use the time to provide some starting pointers for the attendees. I told the class about my blog and let them know that if they were looking for inspiration or encouragement, “Thursday Writers” would be a good category to browse. I explained that writing is one of those awesome things that you can get better at just by doing it, whether you have a teacher or not.

I opened the class with the usual introductions around the room. Then we started talking about stories. Whether we’re used to writing or not, we know a lot more about story structure and content than we think we do. Because we all read stories, we all watch stories unfold on the screen, and we all tell stories about things that have happened to us or people we know. So even if we’re new to writing, don’t be scared to get started. And since even adults sometimes feel too self-conscious, I didn’t ask anyone to read aloud after each prompt; we just went around the table and talked about our writing or the ideas we explored.

I told the class that a main character always has something they want, and that’s relatable, because we all have things that we want too. So we dove right into our first writing exercise: Desire. Write about something you want.

After that we talked about how a story always has conflict. That conflict can come from another person who wants something different than (or the opposite of) what the main character wants. Or it could be an event that takes place, like a tornado or a breakup or an injury. For the second writing exercise: Conflict. Write about  someone or something in the way between you and your goal.

We talked about how story structure, no matter how complicated it seems, can basically be broken down into these classic categories: story_arc

The example we used was of a college student who wanted to study abroad. Maybe she’s rushing to get the paperwork in on time, but the office is closed early, but she happens to know someone who can still get her in—whether the story is a mystery and there’s a dead body in the travel location when the student arrives; whether it’s a romance and she meets someone once she arrives; if it’s a science fiction story and she has to travel off-world. No matter the genre, all stories follow the basic structure.

I wanted to make sure to mention some fun writing prompt sites so they could be on the lookout for prompts of their own. I told them about the weird and sometimes hilarious watchout4snakes, and I told them about the 7x7x7 exercise from Write to Done. We talked about how anything in life can be used as inspiration for a story idea, and that if a person were to carry around a little notebook all day and just write down all the interesting things they encountered, from overheard conversation to quotes from other writers, they might find a lot of content from which to spark.

Next I asked the teens to come up with suggestions for things that people are afraid of. They threw up some fun ideas: clowns, spiders, water, death, children, heights, social situations, stage fright, and technology. I asked them to call out some of the “touchy subjects” we’re not supposed to talk about: politics, relationships, sexuality & gender, religion, money, and personal views. The third writing exercise was to create a scene using one or two of these concepts as the cause of tension in the scene.

We made sure to do prizes for everybody, a Jobe class hallmark, and this time it was free books, select at your leisure.

Lastly I asked the teens to call out their ages. We had a great range, from 13 to 19. I talked about how some knowledge comes from immediate experience, and people who are older or younger than we are may not understand something as well as we do or be as familiar with it, because of age. For the last writing exercise, I asked the teens to write about something they know because of their age.

For more writing resources for teens, Read Brightly suggests Teen InkOne Teen Story, and (what used to be Figment and is now) Get Underlined. For writers of YA Lit, check out Go Teen Writers and Kim Chance, including this guest post from Lucia Brucoli. And if you still want more, pick up my all-time fave on the topic, Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks.

Love,
Jobe

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Posted in Jobe Update, Special Announcement, Word of the Year

2018 Personal Word of the Year

You’ve probably heard of the concept of selecting a Word of the Year (WotY): it’s one way to focus your energy on some goal, feeling, or idea. I love this concept, and this will be my second year participating. Rather than pledging yourself to a New Year’s resolution with an inherent “win or lose” dichotomy, a word for the year is a theme that can’t be let down by wavering consistency. In other words, you can’t fail a concept. If you find yourself wandering away from your word, just return back to it. It’s that simple (and that awesome).

We can be more or less successful in arenas of our lives based on so many factors—our relationships with family, friends, or lovers; our environment at work or at home; our ability to get to sleep, stay asleep, get enough sleep; our mental health and the individual causes that can exacerbate stress, anxiety, and depression; our ability to earn enough, save enough; whether or not we’re eating, what we’re eating, when, how much, how often. Essentially there are countless factors that can influence whether we’re feeling better or worse at a given moment which may determine our likelihood toward success or failure on a given day. We’ve all experienced the day when everything seems to go right—or wrong.

But unlike a resolution, you can’t fail a word. If you’re the kind of person who feels discouraged by failure (aren’t we all?) and less likely to even try if you’re afraid you’re just going to let yourself down, thinking of the new year in terms of a word, a concept, a guiding principle, can be incredibly uplifting, encouraging, inspiring. Let’s remove the condemnation of bad days and stop beating ourselves up for the things we get wrong. Instead, let’s focus on the good, the big picture, and the habit over time.

Last year I chose the word “habitual” because I wanted to combine the associations of “habit” and “ritual.” Even though that’s not exactly what “habitual” means, it made sense to me because of the sounds of the words as well as the meanings. And your word is your own—it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else; you don’t have to justify it to anyone. This is such a personal choice for such a private journey, why not do this one thing that’s just for you?

Words I considered for 2018 included: steady, fearless, active, willing; momentum, frequency, agency, harmony; goldfish; conspire, complicit (I liked the idea of the sinister aspect of secret goals and desires). The worksheets below are part of a year in review packet made by the illustrious Susannah Conway, whom I adore.

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In the end, I didn’t choose any of my brainstormed words, though the process of thinking through those ideas helped me come to my decision: I chose the word/phrase “get up and go.” Used as a hyphenate, get-up-and-go is a noun synonymous with words like gumption, moxie, umph. It is your drive tested over time, your get-started-ness and your stick-to-it-tive-ness. As a phrase, “Get up and go!” is a demonstrative command, encouraging the target (you understood) to “Act now!” I chose this because I want to nurture the habits I cultivated last year, those of writing and exercising regularly. (See how it builds?)

“Get up and go” (see also “rise and shine,” “get going” and other variants) is a very popular phrase in advertising, as you can see here:

 

 

The phrase “get up and go” is also used in a jokey, fun way for times when we feel like doing anything but:

 

But it’s also still a tried-and-true concept for earnest motivation:

 

Last year I was extrememly gung-ho about my WotY for the first few months, and then I kind of forgot about it, although I maintained the goals my word represented, to greater and lesser extent based on what else was going on. This year I made “get up and go” the tagline for this blog, so it’ll be impossible to forget! I encourage you to do something similar: post your Word somewhere you’ll see it often, and choose a word that will make you feel excited to strive toward your best self.

If you want help deciding on your Word of the Year for 2018, check out the fantastic Susannah Conway. And if you want to declare your Word of the Year for 2018, you can participate at My One Word and One Word 365. Also check out the cool stuff happening at My Intent.

Much Love,
Jobe