Poet is guest at writing workshopGary Dop of Minneapolis visits Minnesota West
WORTHINGTON — Alex needs an excuse to miss work tonight. Misplaced car keys? Tore his pants while changing a tire for a disabled vet? Suddenly ill grandma?
WORTHINGTON — Alex needs an excuse to miss work tonight.
Misplaced car keys? Tore his pants while changing a tire for a disabled vet? Suddenly ill grandma?
Yeah, that one should work.
Those were the excuses brainstormed by a handful of high school and college students during the opening exercise of a writing workshop Friday at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
Minneapolis poet Gary Dop led the students through a casual set of writing exercises, adding humor and his own stories into the mix.
“I want you to think about why writing matters,” he told them, before recalling a tale of bathing in Peru, where some showers — called ‘widow makers’ — are notorious for the water’s proximity to the electrical source.
“I put my hand on the wall and I could feel the current on the other side of the wall,” he said, remembering his efforts to find the hot water switch he had been told about — he instead touched the end of some wire caps, receiving a shock that left him reeling.
“Having this experience in the shower, it changed me for the next few weeks it changed all of my habits … because I had encountered something powerful and connective in a way,” he said. “Writing actually operates like that. … When we try to connect with an audience, we’re asking them to touch something that is in a way potent, in a way powerful and able to change them.”
Students built a story around one of their personal memories, changing the characters and seeking out objects to symbolize the overriding feelings in their stories.
“I like to write in poetry form. It’s expressive,” said Minnesota West nursing student Shanna Dehning, one of several attendees currently enrolled in instructor Karsten Piper’s creative writing class. “Words really affect me. When I read a clever sentence it’s like ‘Oh, I wish I would have thought of that.’”
She liked Dop’s skill in getting students to give honest answers to the writing prompts, allowing even the reluctant writer’s words to flow.
Minnesota West student Stephanie McEliece said she attended to become a better writer.
“I know the thoughts in my head and it’s easier to think them than to write them down on paper,” she admitted. “I like writing when I can write what I want. It just kind of makes you think.”
“It gives students a chance to see what it is like to work with a working writer,” said English instructor Piper.
“He talked about his own writing process and what you can do when you have this moment that feels important, but as you start to write you lose energy. That was really instructive for a lot of my students: to hear that your first idea might leave you feeling a bit unsatisfied, and you don’t have to give up then.”
“I want them to get a better appreciation for what they can do for their own world with writing,” said Dop, who is also a playwright and English professor at North Central University. “They can connect with the larger world.”