Recently, I shifted writing gears—from the academic to the personal—in the company of several talented communities of writers. I participated as a fellow in the Writer’s Institute at the Graduate Center CUNY, directed by André Aciman. And I recently completed my MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. As a genre, creative nonfiction allows me to blend my experiences as artist/dancer, teacher, parent and grandparent.
MY GRANDSON CHARTS HIS COURSE TO THE LAND OF READING AND WRITING.
Little do I know where Matthew (at 6 and 7) will take me when he begins to share the universe in his head. He introduces me to far off places where monsters, dinosaurs, and dragons hang out, causing mayhem and inflicting violence on any who cross their paths. While Matthew loves to tell stories, he is not interested in how print works. As a bicultural child, he often feels out of sync with mainstream schooling. Yet, as everyone knows, in the early grades, Matthew’s main job is to learn the rules of print so he can unlock the world of stories in books. But his mind is elsewhere: turning extinction on its head and wondering if another meteorite might smash into planet earth like it did 65 million years ago.
What to do? Censor the storytelling and hammer away at the rules? No, never. Love of stories is the best reason there is to learn to read, the pot of gold at the end of the work of mastering print. I decide to travel with him to his fantasy universe, populated with prehistoric creatures or, just as often, with Frogs and Toads who like to watch TV. During his weekend overnights at my house, I record our conversations, our improvisations, and our moments of story reading and telling. Our audio diary captures our storyland in all its vivid intensity and detail. Highlighted one minute is a ferocious tale of murderous carnivores, while in the next moment Matthew whispers words of love to his beloved dog. What becomes clear is that more than learning print strategies, the “basic skill” in mastering stories on the page is the regular exercise of the imagination, the creative resource that overflows in all children. My credo: when we love to tell and hear stories, we do our best and become our best selves.
ESSAYS (under consideration/in progress)
- “Keeping Up the Conversation.”
- “Murder in Never Land.”
- “It’s About Stories.”
- “A Connecticut Yankee in Cali, Colombia.”
- “When Telling Becomes Showing.”