Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Captain Chicken at 826 Boston

826 Boston, the after-school writing program, has been in the news lately, and rightfully so. It's not surprising that the kids turn out such great work. The program is amazing and the instructors are inspired, enthusiastic, and smart. And what better front for a writing room than the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute? I was lucky enough to be a guest instructor there last year, and it was incredible to see how they work, how they have the teaching of creative writing down to a science. I had a great time in my pirate story workshop helping the students develop their own stories, particularly the villains. One of my favorites was Captain Chicken, a humanoid, seaworthy fowl who has pens for hands – you know, since the pen is mightier than the sword. There were also a number of radioactive sea monsters. The influence of Captain Jack Sparrow and his adventures was hard to filter out, but overall the kids were very creative and surprisingly willing to work, given that they’d come in during a school vacation.

To learn more about 826 Boston, or lend your support, click here.  Also, the director, poet Daniel Johnston, has great taste in pens. The Pilot P-500 is unmatched. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Talking Sirloins and Scatological Fantasy

I have far too much faith in my memory. A few weeks ago, the Massachusetts Audubon Visual Arts Center invited me in for a guest talk at their summer creative writing camp, and one of the kids was telling me about a book he loves. I asked him what he liked about it and he said, “Because it’s sad and sometimes intense.” I scribbled down this wonderful quote, assuming I’d never forget the book. Naturally I have. Forgotten, that is. And it’s frustrating to know that the title is lingering somewhere in my skull. 

The kids also had a few great comments about books-turned-movies. Each preferred the written word. Hannah, a very talented young writer, summed it up perfectly: “The movies don’t let you use your imagination.” She was particularly bothered by the movie version of Greg Heffley

The students’ work was inspiring. A budding poet named Marley read a few nice lines, along with a funny piece about an intelligent steak. (I’m partial to talking food stories.) A young humorist named Henry wrote a surprisingly touching little story about a dragon with bowel control difficulties. I haven't read the Inheritance Cycle, but I wonder if gastrointestinal issues ever pop up in those novels. One would think that fire-breathing might lead to some internal difficulties now and then. 

Thank you so, so much to the Visual Arts Center. I encourage anyone in the Boston area to head down there some weekend and enjoy the trees and birdsong. The dragons and talking sirloins are purely imaginary. I think.