Improv and Creative Writing sitting in a tree…

Last week, I published a post over at Middle Grade Minded about Why I Write Middle Grade. I wrote about how books helped me through a tough time in my life, 6th grade. It’s all so true that my face reddened while remembering the shrinking, diminished, afraid feelings I had during that time. Oh and that hair. That hair. Lord…lord…

Books gave me solace and helped me find my footing at the end of a day. But it was only part of the story, and I want to share the other vitally important thing that happened in middle school to help me become myself – drama class.

Seems simple, but it was profound. I didn’t know the word for it at the time, but a lot of the early exercises we did in class were improvisation warm-ups. Just laughing and making ridiculous noises, or flopping all over the room like a bunch of unencumbered adolescent weirdos. It was awesome.

drama

Why was it so important? I think because improv let me find my voice in an atmosphere of safe risk-taking, acceptance, and creative expansion. The way books gave my inside life power, improv gave my outside life power. Power to get through the day and participate in the world. To raise my hand in class. To look people in the eye. To respond to questions out loud, without doubting myself. Stories and improv go hand-in-hand in my experience. Creation is creation, stories are stories, expression is expression. For me, they were life-savers.

With my book coming out this fall, I feel like I have a unique opportunity to do something cool.  I’m creating curriculum for workshops that blend the worlds of creative writing and improvisation. I’m so excited for the possibilities and can’t wait to learn more about the ways we can help kids feel more power, less alone, and better able to let their unique voices be heard – on paper, or in some honking, hooting, nonsensical, gorgeous growing-and-shrinking machine.

I’ll be looking for both geographical and non-geographical locations in the near future (e.g.,  if you want to beta test with your class, organization, or camp group – get in touch!)

 

 

 

Thoughtful pausing: An attempt.

I read some great things this morning over on a site called Brain Pickings. There’s a great post about Willa Cather and her decision to leave the corporate world in favor of a quiet life. Here’s an excerpt from a letter  from her friend (The writer) Sarah Jewett:
…you must write to the human heart, the great consciousness that all humanity goes to make up. Otherwise what might be strength in a writer is only crudeness, and what might be insight is only observation; sentiment falls to sentimentality — you can write about life, but never write life itself.
Willa was working in journalism and moving fast. Yes, deadlines, but also being a woman in a male-dominated industry must have been pretty exhausting. The bit in Sarah’s letter that reads “what might be insight is only observation” resonates with me. I rush a lot –not a super unique experience, I know. But how much do I miss in living, and in writing, by moving too quickly? I risk not taking time really see things, hear things, and feel things.

It’s a great time of year to think about what we’ve done, and what we want to do. I want to take more time to listen to the world and myself. I want to open up to possibilities and expansion. Live beyond screens, alarms, deadlines, and schedules. Play more. See more trees. Run with my kid more. Run more, in general.
I just finished a draft of my second book, so I have a great pause to explore before I get my first round of edits back. I’m going to do my best to fill it thoughtfully. There is a mile-long list of things that stand staunchly in the way of this endeavor, but trying is something.

willa cather

Willa Cather, from Wikipedia

New Author Website! And a sneak peek…

Hello everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog and there are a few things to report.

  1. This space is now a part of erinpetti.com – my author website! I’m so excited and thrilled with the work that the FABULOUS web developer Mike Robinson has done to get erinpetti.com up and running!
  2. THE PECULIAR HAUNTING OF THELMA BEE has a cover. It’s here!
  3. The generosity of my fellow authors, friends, and even one of my TV icons (!!) has been staggering. We’ve collected some really tremendous testimonials. Fun fact: I cry every time I read a new one.
  4. I visited my mom’s class of 6th graders to talk about writing and had the most fun ever. I’m really looking forward to school visits as we move forward. I have some super fun workshop ideas!!
  5. I’m THISCLOSE to finishing my first draft of book 2. In fact, I’m hoping to be done today. It may contain the following: meatball subs, red witches, and a student run radio station. I’m having fun.

BONUS TRACK! Here’s a little sneak peak of some of one of my characters as illustrated by Kris Aro McLeodizzy button