Tag Archives: Creative Writing

Photo stories

We used to do an exercise when I was a student: we would get a random photo, with people we never met, and were tasked with writing a short story using anything that was in the picture. That would include reading facial expressions, body language, the position of the people in relation to one another. It’s not very easy, but if you got a good picture, you could get material for a proper story. This picture is one from our Urban Learning Centre. I have seen it before, but only now I see how rich it is in writing ideas.

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Check out the two girls in the middle and their opposing expressions: one is laughing, the other is worried. What do they see? Why are they reacting so differently? Maybe it’s a race and they both have a bet? Not in money though, but with something as precious, something they both want, but there is enough for just one…
How about the three boys in the top right corner? The two of them are looking with interest while the other missed the whole incident. If the three of them were friends, is he the one that is the ‘slow one’ always a step behind those two? Do they laugh at him secretly, because he needs the joke explained to him? Or maybe he knows something those two don’t, a secret that the other two will never know?
How about the hugging kids? I can’t read the face of the one facing the camera. Is she crying or laughing? Does she seek comfort or is giving a celebratory hug to her friend or sibling?
I guess, the inspiration material is only limited by your imagination, but I’ve found this particular picture much more inspiring that many we had used during my course. And the archives have many, many more like this one.

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Reading the Archives

readingarchivesPoetry can cross boundaries of many disciplines. Sometimes the effect of this can be terrible (*cough* Fugitive Pieces *cough*), but sometimes it is nothing short of awesome. I had a pleasure to witness such a crossing when the archives had a group of poets visiting on the 6th of October. The group of poets, led by Paul Tobin, came over to share their poems. The presentation of the poems was titled ‘Reading the Archives’ and the poems were drawing the inspiration from the many materials that the archive has to offer. The presentation, or rather the performance because the readings by the poets themselves were of a high quality, was a delight. What I witnessed was the history being transformed from science to art, from dry fact to juicy narrative. I’ve heard stories created from one look, one gesture of a person long dead, but captured in a sepia-toned picture. I watched how a sentence taken out of a block of text could be turned a meaningful poem, sometimes funny, sometimes thoughtful or sad. I saw a cheap piece of old journalism turning into a commentary on inequality. It was amazing.
I wish that more of the Creative Writing students turned up. They could learn a lot from Paul Tobin and his group as they are just so damn good.

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