Hanine El Mir
On Thursday, Nov. 23, Rusted Radishes held a creative non-fiction writing workshop in West Hall, in anticipation of their launch party on Saturday, Nov. 25. It was led by writer Michele Morano who flew in from Chicago for a talk about travel writing the preceding Tuesday. The workshop featured a few exercises aimed at generating material and forming structured sentences.
Morano started by asking the participants about their writing practices, specifically about where and what they write about. Multiple people said that they prefer pen and paper over phones or tablets, and that they like to write in bed.
Morano noted that there exists a long tradition of writing in bed made famous by many renowned writers. She herself spoke about her own writing habits that involve her sitting in bed, with a heated pad on her blanket, pillows stacked both behind her and around her. Physical comfort is necessary for the work process to allow for a flow of creativity and inspiration, Morano explained, and continued to say. that a simple change of location or setting could get rid of the infamous writer’s block.
She asked the participants who of them procrastinates before sitting down to finally write. Many raised their hands. Procrastinating is the first stage of writing. Famous authors do it and then work hard in fewer hours, as a way to get ready for the hard work.
“I can get as much done in half an hour as I do in three hours, if I know that I only have half an hour to write,” Morano confirmed.
The first exercise was meant to get rid of the guilt that comes with writing. Writers tend to procrastinate in fear of making mistakes. To deal with this issue, Morano asked the participants to make a list of times or moments they remember waiting. Some examples read out loud were “waiting for the sun to set at 5 pm,” “waiting to get my cancer test results back,” and “waiting to see grandma.”
This exercise was followed by a second where participants had to choose one item from their lists and develop it into a scene strictly written in the present tense. Writing in the present tense helps make the memory more vivid and places the writer at the moment it was happening. It immerses the writer in the scene.
The participants then took a look at a published piece of travel writing by Palestinian-American writer Naomi Shihab Nye, locating the images and “moments that shimmer” as Morano put it. The last exercise of the afternoon had the participants collectively listing synonyms for the verb “walk” while Morano wrote them on the board. This exercise helped refresh writing and avoid redundancy.