Thanks to a gracious invitation from the UAB Creative Writing faculty (headed by the inimitable Kerry Madden), a group of ASFA-CW students ventured over to Southside to hear children’s author Linda Sue Park read and answer audience questions this week. She had lots of great, practical writing advice, such as: when in doubt, start a draft in third person POV because it’s more flexible, especially with genres that require a lot of exposition (fantasy, historical, sci-fi…). You can always go back in another draft and shift POV to see if that does something interesting to the narrative. Also: the Pomodoro Technique! Thanks to Linda Sue, Kerry, and UAB for availing us of the opportunity…
In conjunction with the Princeton students’ Black History Program later in the day, ASFA-CW students spend their most recent Princeton workshop session sharing some Langston Hughes poems — “I, Too” and “Theme for English B” — and talking a little bit about the Harlem Renaissance. We then wrote poems modeled after Hughes’s poems, which made reference to popular culture and music of his day while commenting on the political and cultural climate surrounding him. Continue reading
Around this time every year, things get kinda hectic at ASFA-CW. Readings, applications, interviews, outreach visits, senior theses, college acceptances, classes (of course)…and more! It’s a special place to be, where opportunities and challenges abound, and we wouldn’t have it any other way! In keeping with that attitude, here’s Linda Sue Park’s TED talk, “Can a Children’s Book Change the World?” Her answer? [SPOILER ALERT!] No — but the kids who read them can. (Can a CW department change the world? No — but the students who navigate its steady stream of opportunities and challenges certainly can!)
Allison is a fifth year senior here at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She is a creative nonfiction writer that focuses on her rocky relationship with her father. In her senior thesis, Allison writes about the evolution of their relationship by discussing the television and movies they used to watch together. This fall, she will be going to Auburn University for Animal Sciences.
I was half asleep when I heard it. I twitched, hard, and flung out my arms to find the remote hidden underneath the covers. I upended the popcorn bowl and sent the sleeping cat flying from the foot of the bed. Finally I found the remote tucked up underneath my favorite pillow and I mashed the buttons with my fingernails. Rewind. Rewind. Play. They are out by the docks, shifting drugs from one storage container to another. The screen is dark. Batman, my father’s favorite, is hidden in the shadows where the viewers can just barely see his smile. Bullets bounce off of his body armor like rain as he beats every last bad guy black and blue. The scene cuts to the mob boss, signaling his driver from the back of the limousine. He cannot see that his driver is slumped over the steering wheel. (We viewers must then guess when Batman had the time to kill him soundlessly.) The sunroof cracks open and the mob boss is pulled through by his collar, his cashmere coat sliced by the glittering glass. “I’m Batman,” he tells him.
And then I was young again, back when we all lived at the old house and my father didn’t sleep on the couch sometimes. I remember pulling the covers back and slipping from my bed, tiptoeing down the hallway with walls painted red. It is dark in the house and if I listen, I can hear my mother snoring. The house creaks; daddy says it’s just settling in the night. The kitchen tile is cool against my toes as I take a chair from the table and drag it as slowly as I can to the counter. I steal up the chair, standing on it to reach the sugar jar my mother hides when she’s not cooking. Slowly, so slowly, I lick my finger until there is just the right amount of spit and send it down into the sweetness. My tongue just barely touches the tip of my fingernail. In the stillness of the night, he leans himself where I can just barely feel his breath against my neck. “I’m Batman,” he growls in his best Bale voice and I laugh just loud enough for only us to hear.
And I’m back, years later and miles away from that little yellow kitchen with sunflowers in the windowsill. My boyfriend had been calling my name, I think, but I ignored him and his questioning eyes. I settled back onto his chest, my cheek pressed to his soft skin, and prayed that my daughter will never have to wonder if her father had forgotten her. She will never feel alone, I promised myself, she will never have to feel this way.
Allison On Writing
For me, writing is all about wanting release. I am haunted by my relationship with my dad and I think about him constantly. I let all this emotion build up inside me until I find release by writing it all down. Because I am not pursuing creative writing as a degree/career, there is a sense of urgency about finishing this essay collection about our relationship. I write and edit and edit again and write more so I can immortalize the place I am in with my father to look back on years down the road.
For some photos of the event, click here.
Our first senior reading is in the books! Lauryn-Elizabeth and Allison led off the “season” with a homerun of an event — great work, good fellowship, and a fun time had by all.
In case you missed it (or just want to relive the moment), here are some excerpts from what Allison and Lauryn-Elizabeth read for us, along with a few words from both of them about what it was like to write the pieces they’ve excerpted here.
Who says nothing happens in school after the Thanksgiving Break?! Clearly whoever says/thinks that has never seen the goings-on around here — where, if anything, we’ve picked up the pace as November (and the fall semester) comes to a close. To wit:
Just between Tuesday and Thursday of this past week…
- We fired up the short bus to go visit our writing compatriots in the 5th Grade at Princeton Elementary, where we talked about the importance of sensory detail and we wrote about our favorite foods;
- We took part in an enlightening, invigorating, and highly interactive ASFA-Theatre workshop based on the work of August Wilson and presented by visiting teaching-artist (and former ASFA student) Nikki Toombs of Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company in Atlanta;
- And poet and editor Dale Wisely, co-founder of One Sentence Poems (among other cool literary magazines), visited our CW Practicum classes to talk about how he balances work, life, writing, and literary citizenship. (Oh, and PS, he also announced that the editors of One Sentence Poems have nominated ASFA-CW senior Anna Butcher for a Puschcart Prize, her second such nomination this month!)
That’s in addition to a flurry of critiques and subsequent revisions as our students prepare to submit their final portfolios in December. Again, we ask: who says it’s all coasting after Turkey Day?!
ASFA-CW students get to avail themselves of the rich cultural scene in the Birmingham city center — museums, parks, historic landmarks, coffee shops. This year, that’s even more true as we have been traveling to Southside to take in the UAB Writers’ Series — most recently to hear Matt Miller read from his excellent latest collection of poems, The Wounded for the Water. Many thanks to Kerry Madden-Lunsford, the Director of UAB’s Creative Writing program (and an ASFA-CW parent-alum!) and all the CW faculty at UAB for the great opportunity!