It doesn’t matter how much you plan, sometimes things just go to shit.
I don’t think this just applies to working with teens,it applies to living. Humans; just big blobby messes of emotional chaos clashing against emotional distance.
How was the workshop this week, you ask. Please read opening sentence.
I’ll go ahead and post what I planned before anything else:
Freewrite using prompts: “In my pocket”, and ‘When my world is quiet.” I had used another one, but no one picked it so obviously it wasn’t appealing to this group.
We talked about submissions and guidelines.
I planned a workshop in regard to titles. I had them name titles of books, movies or songs they new. Then we talked about the use of titles, but they are smart kids, they know why a title is good. I had more planned on finding a title for their own work, but it was all to shit before this time.
Then we did another picture exercise where I had pulled a bunch of images from magazines of different places, to that I attached a blank flash card that had a number on the corner. The number represented the age of their character and the image was of course the setting. Then I asked them to answer these questions:
Give your character a first and last name.
Give them a job, even if they are a child give them some thing they do. I reminded them that in some places and time periods children, as young as three, have been known to work in factories.
What does your character love?
What does your character want?
What is in the way of the character getting what they want?
After they wrote their answers I told them to trade with someone in the group, this got the response of groans, which I new it would, but they did it anyway. T.S. traded with me, and I ended up getting a 100 year old Cesar Chavez who loved to rap and what he wanted was a recording contract, but he kept getting busted, and put in prison, hence a major obstacle to achieving his goals of record contracts and rapping. My setting looked to be in Rome. For me, it was a pretty funny write, because I would never have come up with that character idea at all. It was a challenge and of course turned out funny (to me) because its not every day you get a 100 year old Mexican man, living or touring in Rome trying to get a recording contract as a rapper, let alone the prison sentence.
The all to shit part:
I had a full group. I even had some guy I haven’t seen since the first workshop. Of course we started late because we always do, but then the Principal came in to tell me that they had something booked, some event, right in the second half of the workshop, and so of course I’m going to loose an entire hour of the workshop. I had to talk about the submissions and the guidelines, which meant less writing.
I was excited because E. showed up, and I really like him, and he hardly comes. He is such a good writer. He has a tough exterior, but you can tell he has a good deep heart, and a beautiful talent with expressing the pain of life and reflection through his writings.
E.2 also came today, he’s a good writer too but such an ass. First of,f he was high, which honestly, I could give a shit about, but I much prefer the stoned quiet dumb to the obnoxious show stoppers.
Let me enlighten you on some of my challenges, aside from just having teens that can get bored easily. One, they love writing. Most of the time when they are writing heads are down, and pens, and pencils are moving. But, if I have to talk about things, even stuff that they need to know to get their writing submitted, they can loose interest like a snap of the fingers. That’s a normal challenge though. My kids are considered at risk kids, and their school has some of the most “at risk” youth in the city, all together, in one last place, where- thank god, the people don’t want to give up on them. At risk can mean a lot of things. At risk can be a pregnant teen/teen mother or a kid labeled a criminal – pretty big umbrella wouldn’t you say? I think that is something we should all think about in our labeling system, but I’ll leave it at that. I have no idea which kids in my workshop are in which gangs, and I have no idea if I have opposing gang members in my workshop, so I also have no idea what things said could set off who. Things are rarely said, because I keep it all on the subject of writing, but when I have a kid, like say oh… E.2, come in and he’s circling the desk like a fn’ peacock, and saying, “I’m gonna find some nigga and cap his ass,” how am I supposed to react? To top it off, I’m so removed from it all, I have no idea if he is just singing some lines from a rap. It isn’t a real surface urgency, its more like the magma under the dirt. It’s there moving, pumping like blood in the veins, but it takes more than one shake to cause an eruption. I’m like a vulcanologist in grad school without any equipment staring at a chain of volcanoes. No, I’m not even a grad student. I’m a junior getting my B.S.
I can tell T.s and E, think E.2 is a fool. T.s refered to him once as, “that fool there”- so right away I loose E. and T.s because they are like, f this shit, I’m leaving or I’m mentally out of here cause I don’t want to hear this idiot talk. I actually lost everyone because E.2 had to make some f’n smart ass comment to everything I said. I was at the point of saying, why are you even here, but since it didn’t start till 20 mins into the hour, and I only had 40 mins, and it wasn’t worth the possible conflict, I just humored him. But my exasperation came out in my listing of guideline rules. This was my personal favorite:
Okay, there is some subject matter that may not make it into the anthology-
Like what? Iinterruption- interruption-
After a moment of yes, E.2, no E.2 I say,
Listen, adults don’t like to hear about teens having sex. Okay, I know you all have very adult lifestyle,s but adults do not feel comfortable knowing that. Overt teen sexuality will not make it in. And no gratuitous violence, no glory violence. Again, I know you have all encountered violence in your lives, but adults and people in the community will not publish anything that shows violence as a good thing.
What do you mean, like- E.2
I’m sure you understand- I say
Like, first I cut off his pinkie to watch him bleed, them his middle finger and his toes then I pressed the gun to his temple-
Exactly. Thank you, E.2 for the example. I can guarantee that, that or anything like that will not make it into the anthology.
He’s actually not a bad kid (I have a feeling the police would disagree with me but they have a different mind frame) but god, that was annoying, (and kind of funny).
I have to add my side, I also wasn’t feeling so well, and my energy was low, and the thought that I only had 40 minutes was almost a relief. I thought, good! I want to go home, all this attentiveness is killing me but, BUT five stayed. I was shocked. I mean, not that they didn’t go to the event, but that they didn’t steal this golden opportunity to sneak out of school- I mean shit, I would have.
So I got thrown for another loop, now I had to bring the energy when I thought I was just going to go home. That’s when they did the picture exercise. I was happy they stayed, it shows that they really do enjoy it, but I was sad to loose E.
We don’t have a workshop next week, and after that we only have three left, then I never get to see any of those kids again. It’s the rules of the game, I can never have any contact with those youth, it protects them it protects me, but it is a shame because although there are one or two I’m not as attached too, it would be nice to know how they do in life, but I have to let that go. I suppose its for the better.