Thursday, July 7, 2016

With Thanks To Elizabeth Hilts, Writer, Teacher, Thinker, and Inciter of Personal Narratives - Week One

For the last few years, I've enjoyed having opportunity to laugh and think with Elizabeth Hilts, an MFA grad of Fairfield University and a fellow educator who works in the English department. Yesterday, I invited her to the Invitational Leadership Institute to discuss her writing processes and to lead us in a writing activity to plant seeds in our own notebooks.

Elizabeth Hilts triggered our writing with having us work through details and memories - here with a recollection of stories involving fireworks. I immediately began writing about Loch Lebanon and my youthful perspective of going to a camp down the lake from my grandparents where the adults played Pitch and the kids, stuffed on hot dogs and potato chips, awaited the firework displays to begin - not only from our shoreline, but all around the lake. As I wrote, I realized how I am now the age as my parents were when such holidays occurred. It was a time of another generation, different kinds of beer, lots of cigarette smoke, and total innocence on the part of my sisters and me. The flashback was absolute joy.

Elizabeth also took advantage of the whiteboards available in our innovative classroom and had us stop at layers of our writing to probe for more sensory rich language and detail (I am still mesmerized by how quickly Careen moved a bite of chocolate into a sensuous description of what chocolate, especially Bliss chocolate, means to her). As Gretchen, who used to work for Hershey's shared, "Man, that could have been ad-copy."

As Director of a summer institute, I love having guests visit so I can participate in the lessons, too. Too often I'm too mind-busy facilitating a writing exercise that I don't get to play around with my own recall of story and experiences.

I returned from the 2nd day excited that I had a chance to remember those days at the lake where we swam all day and couldn't wait for the light show at night. That's just a freckle of the times at that location and I'm sure my parents have many more stories (like feeding a raccoon a wedding cake and Uncle Milford's flatulence after eating baked beans -- stories I used to love hearing whenever we were there). 

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