The Journey of the Writers Across NWP’s America

The Writers: NWP SI Spy Movie from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

I shared this in a few different spaces yesterday, so why not here, right? I am overseeing a fun project this summer in which I have mailed off four different Writer figurines (William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf and Mark Twain) to various National Writing Project Summer Institutes (month-long gatherings where teachers talk about writing, do much writing and share best practices in the teaching of writing).

Folks then take the little Writers to events and, much like a Flat Stanley project, they then write from the experience of the Writer about what they see and experience. We are using a Ning site to share out the journal entries and a Flickr site to share photos. It’s been a lot of fun to read what people are writing and with the various adventures about halfway through, I figured I would grab excerpts from the entries and share them out.

So, here goes:

William Shakespeare

“After my long journey, I felt as if “I could not budge an inch” but was invited to join my new found friends for a quiet bar-b-que dinner on the patio where I was presentented with “a dish fit for the gods.” My parched throat was quenched with a tall glass of sweet tea and great conversation during what I am told is an unseasonably cool evening in the Delta.”

“What a great day! I woke up Tuesday morning, June the 16th, excited because I knew I was headed home with Lee Claypool this afternoon. My day began with a lesson on endings and writing demonstrations from two of the wonderful teachers attending the Delta Area Writing Project at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. I sure learned a lot. They sure have some wonderful, hard-working teachers in the Mississippi Delta!”

“We started the day in her writing class. Such happenings today. People were scurrying around stuffing items in brown bags and creating some sort of board. All I could think was, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.” I am hoping this is true. All of the work these writers are doing preparing for company of some sort to come and be entertained.  After class, we went to the library at the university. I noticed that Melanie was researching famous quotes from none other than myself. I am not certain why she wasted her time on this as I was right there with her.”

“I kid you not, we were flying going north bound on the highway, breaking several traffic laws…but on the way south, I think John studied the traffic code because he abided by each and every technicality in the book, as we cruised down Interstate 69 on down to Highway 61. All in all, I think I am ready for my Monday assignment. I learned a lot about John and his family. While speaking reservations maybe in short supply, they are nonetheless dangerous with words…even the ones in English. John is a very stoic person, but is an easy to go person; just don’t cross him. If you do he will be all for your pain while you lose your gains. Overall, this family is a smart and intelligent bunch. I would almost be tempted to demand a full week of analysis with this family…¡John contou-mi que não havia nenhum rum nessa bebida! ¡Tenho uma dor de cabeça de proporções épicas! John told me that there was no rum in that drink! I have a headache of epic proportions!”

“We then proceeded to this place called Meadowview. I expected to view a meadow, but there was not a meadow insight. Instead, I saw a group of African Americans. This race was unknown to me. I also overheard Aurelia talking about someone named Barack Obama. She said how proud she was to have the first African American President. She said, “Lord have mercy; I am so happy.” She introduced me to the crowd, which included 3 people in a wheelchair and several on walkers and canes. These were the people that lived in the meadow view without a meadow or a view. She introduced me, and as famous as I am no one at this place knew who I was. Aurelia did an excellent job of explaining me. They were not impressed.”

“My writing has been greatly influenced by the diverse people and music I encountered on my visit. Drum beats from the African family of Mufato sent visions of the vast African jungle sounds echoing through my mind. The Blues is Alright!!! I sat in on a soul-stirring, heartbreaking, blues with Howling Harold, Singing Sal, Jammin Jack and Bad Boy Bobby Blue. They really put their heart and soul into their music and have inspired me to do even more romantic writing. Maybe a revision of Romeo and Julliet where…oh well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. The smooth sounds of the Junction Jazz Trio caressed the depths of my soul and the beauty of the Delta women is unsurpassed.”

“On top of the refrigerator, I watched the mother wash dishes and tidy up the house before putting the children to bed. This was a hard task for her; considering that the children were not ready to go to sleep. The mother patiently waited until the children fell asleep before beginning her own bedtime rituals, or so I thought. After the children fell asleep around 9:30, the woman sat down at her computer and began to write something at the computer. The woman then realized that she had forgotten me again. She allowed me to take a peek at what she was writing. She was working on a love letter. There were many pictures representing love and even a pleasant melody that accompanied the words. As she tried to record her raspy voice on the computer; she began to cry. This showed me that this woman felt like “Love” was one of the most important things in the world. She finally put the microphone away and decided to try again later. She began to nod at the computer as the 11:00 hour approached. Once she realized that she was nodding, she placed me inside of her bag and went to sleep.”

Edgar Allen Poe

“(Editor’s note: Tiny Edgar spit these lyrics out extemporaneously the other night while I was strumming the chords to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” It quickly grew into a raucous jam session that lasted well into the night. Working from memory the next morning, I wrote the following.)

To the Tune of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan)

Verse 1:
David’s literary storehouse brought me down.
And Josh’s minutes helped me along.
From Mao Tse Tung to Perez Hilton,
I feel like writing in Holland McCombs.


(and a poem)
“On to our writing groups we did go
Under the watchful eye of Mr. Poe
Once again we had an informative day
Looking forward to what others will have to say”

(in the vein of a Perez Hilton gossip column): “Oooooo friend, let me tell you about little Mr. Edgar Allan Poe…He has been showing up in all these crazy photos that David has been taking. And David was even over heard saying that he took Edgar home with him…I think little Mister-sister Edgar Allan Poe is a ….”

“Edgar is appalled that Jenny has been pilfering all of the posts from A Day in the Life at the e-anthology. The posts here all come from folks at WTWP not her! What a hussy! If I was still writing, I’d come up with some wicked way for her to endure the particularly pesky parts of pilfering.”

Mark Twain

“I arrived at the South Central Kansas Writing Project Summer Institute on the heels of a powerful prairie thunderstorm, full of wind and lightening. A great deal has been said about the weather, but very little has ever been done about it. These Kansan writers are a varied and hearty bunch who definitely enjoy feeding the soul and the body during writing activities.”

“Upon reflection of my day spent on the plains of Kansas, I can heartily say I enjoyed myself. I have said before, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” and that remains true in this place. Many outsiders see the flat prairie as dull and boring, but the wide open spaces feed the imagination, letting new ideas and possibilities prosper.”

“It appears these teachers are open to incorporating technology into their writing and classrooms. I learned several new words today including “google” which is both a noun and a verb, and exabyte, which I personally consider a lazy attempt at description. As a veteran river man, I could sympathize with those writers who seem to be almost drowning in the possibilities.”

“I must tell you that I am relived to know that I may stay here at the Appleseed Writing Project for a few days before I must continue on my long journey again. I have learned about many new fangled machines so far and I hear I may even get to use a contraption called an I-pod for something on this stop. It is hard to say what I can do with that little piece of shiny blue metal. I have been told that it holds up to 4 Gig of music. I can’t quite comprehend how that little flat piece of metal can hold anything, let-a-lone, music. It is not even big enough to use for an eating utensil. And what is a Gig anyway, and how will it be used?”

Virginia Woolf

“Saturday, June 6 Virginia attended the Western Mass Summer Institute orientation. She enjoyed the great snacks especially the grapes. Although, she did mention that her preference was a distilled form of the fruit.”

“I emerged from my envelope to discover a table full of professionals (teachers, I believe), in conversation about writing (can this be true? Oh joyful days). I propped myself up against a notebook and took it all in. The writing, the reflection, the laughter … it was a wonderful experience and I could have stayed there for days just listening. But duty called and I was again on my way.”

“What a refreshing site to see–women writing, expressing their opinions, conversing with each other, being the majority. A long way from what I felt and believed to be similar to slavery–enslaved by expectations and restriction, prim straight-laced, docile. But here I see women writing, being expected to teach others to write, demanding their voice be heard. Ah yes, it seems the way has been paved for women to have their own space–a room of one’s own, if you will–, money and choice of partners. There are many deep emotional, psychological, and intellectual issues to be explored within these scholarly walls.”

And here is the Flickr slideshow:

Peace (on the journey),

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