Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Creative Writing Course - Day 1 - Seashells and Memories

My creative writing course in IADT is over - one week of sleepy morning scribbles, coffee diet and a new sense of freedom.
It started with me being dragged out of bed at 9.30. The course began at 10 am. Grumpy I was...

The first task was (to wake up) to describe the objects on the table. While others (judging by the look on their literary faces) plunged into flowery long associations, I did the only thing I could before coffee - described what I saw in the plainest English (without the coffee comments initially :)

#1 Describe an object
There are 5 objects on the table in front of me. I see a plain white mask with a string attached a pink sea shell, a stone, a brown toy and a (cup of coffee) dry starfish. I can't clearly see all the objects, guessing them mostly by shape. The seashell is the only one I see clearly (or is it coffee) and like the most (after coffee).
It's a little spiral shell, pale with pinkish stripes and chipped edges; looks like somebody was chewing it for a while. (omg now breakfast as well)

#2 Describe your feelings for the same object

The seashell evokes both good and melancholy feelings. It reminds me of my mother, who is far away now. She used to collect seashell and keep them on the shelves behind glass in a cabinet. Every time we went somewhere on holidays she would drive my dad crazy trying to find another seashell for her collection...For all I know this tendency is over and she collects bells from different countries now.

I don't know if it was her Cancerian side making her so fond of shells or she was simply doing what women do, putting pretty shells in the bathroom, or maybe it was a way of bringing how a piece of sea and all the good memories we had there.

They say, if you put a seashell to your ear you can hear the waves crashing. I don't really believe it now, because the same thing happens if you put your hand to your ear; but when I was a child I tried anyway, because a year seemed too long and winters too strong to keep the memories of the sea alive inside me.

The more I look at the shell the more it reminds me of a chewing gum (with traces of blood or pink particles) left on some beach. Not a very romantic association, I suppose. For some reason, it makes me feel a little sorry for it, so battered and lonely it looks on the table. I guess it makes me feel a bit homesick too.

#3 Describe a place you haven't seen for 10 years or more
It can be a diary entry of when you visit this place after not seeing it for so long.

I remember this place through the eyes of a 16 year old. It was my exchange year in the US and I moved to Biloxi from Long Beach. It is a town on the Gulf of Mexico, quite old and famous for its lighthouse, shrimp and casinos. In my memory it was almost always sunny and warm, even at Christmas when the palm trees were covered in lights. The water in the Gulf was always a suspicious grey colour, which is probably why no one ever swam there.

I remember the lighthouse the best – this is where, after my prom, I had my fist kiss with my first proper boyfriend. We were talking about the sea and the memories it brings. It was warm, I was wearing a ling red dress and no shoes…
The kiss was disgusting though – I immediately lost interest in everything to do with sex. It was just wet. I remember turning my face to the sea and thinking: “Why do people even do that?” It got better with practice, though.

It’s strange to see it all different now. Things seem smaller, maybe because I grew up. Some of the places, like that bridge my school bus crossed every morning, were ruined and restored but still not the same. There are traces of hurricane Katrina everywhere.

I remember going to eat pancakes in this little café that was shaped like a ship. When we went inside I realized it was a real ship, brought onto the shore by one of those hurricanes. Now, the whole sea line has changed. It is still familiar, like your mothers face but yet you notice little lines of aging and slight changes that are inevitable.

The lighthouse is there – I don’t know if it was restored or just could withstand the nature. I walk on the warm wooden floor of the pier, not in a dress this time but just as barefoot as before. I’m older, healthier and happier today; looking back doesn’t hurt so much.

I haven’t been to this place for over ten years. My host family doesn’t live here anymore, maybe just their ghosts. I smell the salty air and think that this whole place can just vanish in a few years, oil poisoning the water and driving people away from the shore. No more Cajun cuisine, southern hospitality, rednecks in their old cars with Mardi Gras beads hanging from the mirrors, no more Biloxi High School, with all its painful embarrassing memories, no more seafood that I loved so much, no more lighthouse or kisses after the prom on the wooden pier…

But it stands so far – after numerous hurricanes and storms, just so I can sometime make this trip and say goodbye.

#4 A day in life of the opposite sex - journal entry or any other form

Got up at 6 am today again, the sun was shining so brightly through the curtain that even my sock (clean!) over the eyes didn’t help. My girlfriend is still asleep and will probably be until noon. Wish she was up as well…could’ve had some pancakes…

20 stories to write to write today and my editor is being the usual bollox. Another day stuck in four walls and my laptop is making me sick. Who said journalist’s life is glamorous? I wish we were still in Nice, by the sea, with the great food and wine and all those topless birds on the beach. Not that I looked much, of course…

Cycling, cycling…I have 8 pages open but my mind drifts off into something more pleasant. Maybe I should go back to bed and snuggle her for while… The thought is so tempting it makes my stomach tighten but I have deadlines again and the editor would kill me. Maybe we should do something tonight, like cinema? I’d love to make her happy, make her smile and laugh again like in Nice but I’m so busy.
Another email, another article to do.

It’s nearly eight now and I haven’t done much at all. Shit! Why can’t I concentrate? Maybe I should just make tea…yes, that would be good, tea and then another article, and then another, while the morning is bright and quiet.

Homework Notes:

* Keep a dream notebook by the bed. It helps build up a memory for your subconscious.

* Keep a diary for 30 min every day or any kind of writing. It helps build up stamina for writing and a habit to work every day.

* 1st draft normally shouldn't be shown to anyone. (unless it's a blog LOL)

* 2nd draft works well if you 'reinvent the wheel' and take a new look on the same idea.

* While writing (poetry esp.) try the words in your mouth - that's where the beauty comes in, in the way words sound.


  1. I realy loved such exercices and found its very interesting. The first , description of an object remind me something alike we used to do in Architecture school . Now i already do it all morninngs with myself each looking my face in the mirrow reapetting many times ; is not you Marce ...is not you Marce.....
    The way that my dear friend Nadia write is quite good and she choose the words is some way that you feel that cant change any without broke the magic that its create in our minds .

  2. lol thanks, dear. so far you are the most (and only) faithful reader :) but i'll try to keep it up

  3. Great writing Kookie! :))) Keep doing it..I want to read more...