Last week, I gave a workshop on ‘Mapping Our Place’. This blog post reflects on the session and there are a few exercises that you may wish to try.
The icebreaker did not quite go as well as planned; there was a bit of confusion as to passing on the meaning – this may have been to do with me perhaps not framing the exercise well for everyone. Here is what should have happened (with instructions if you’d like to give it a go).
The aims of this exercise are
- to act as an icebreaker to the workshop
- to act as a game to free people up for writing, and,
- to act as an exercise in beginning to think about words used with mapping and with place.
Slips with “A [noun] is” | preferably with the words relating to the theme of your session
A hat to mix up the slips
Instruct the participants to take a slip and to complete the sentence that has been started by writing a definition for the word written on it (e.g a field is | “starred with daisies”), enourage participants to be as poetic or as literal/ accurate as you like.
Then rip the meaning off keeping your original “a __ is” and hand the definition to the person on your left. Read them out together and enjoy the surreal and serendipitous (example from our session: “a world is | suspended in space”
The aim is to create a comfortable atmosphere, a cooperative writing environment and focus on the theme of the session.
Imagining the special place – creating a poem.
In order to get the writers in the right mood for this bit of the session. I read a poem that is currently out for consideration [If it’s accepted I’ll edit this bit with where it has ended up]. I asked the participants to close their eyes and imagine somewhere that meant something to them, to think about it for five minutes: what it looked like, smelled like, the colours and feelings that were evoked. Then I gave ten minutes for writing and editing time with the prompt to begin a poem that began with “I remember that place” with no pressure to follow a form. There were some imaginative and surprising responses from places from bed to Bury which was amazing! This exercise was subverted too: “I remember that plaice, down at the chip shop…” but it was beautifully done with the addition from “the wistfulness of salt” which is a gorgeous turn of phrase.
As ever my main aim when I develop writing workshops and activities is that it doesn’t matter if participants go off prompt; they’ve created new writing and that is what I am there for. I prepared a writing exercises handout for the participants which you can download to use yourself or with friends/a writing group: Mapping Our Place handout for writers.