A Day in The Life of a Summer Institute


I wrote the following after our first day of class to catalogue all that we did. I decided to steal liberally from Mark Twain and write it as if I were Huck Finn, which explains Mark’s consternation above.

You don’t know about me without you have spoken with a friend who’s taken an Institute by the name of The Summer Writing Invitational; but that ain’t no matter. That Institute was made by the PA Writing and Literature Project, and your friend told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Maggie, or Kathryn, or maybe Jon-Paul. Course, some stretchers is likely to improve a story, so don’t mind’em none.

Now the way that the day winds up is this: Brenda and Judy made us write for twenty whole minutes about “And so it began…” Lots of us struggled to get our brains working so early of a morning, but eventually we allowed to being a little intimidated and excited at our prospects. A few gals are in the family way and shared about that. Though some of us were afeared about reading our writing aloud, it was an awful sight of words we made all piled up at the end.

Well, that Brenda then gave us some colored goop and asked us to make something important to us out of it. Me, I made a raft, but some other folks made dogs, and cowboy hats and one nice lady made a mouth eating peas. Course, no grown-up lets you play  less’en they want something else. That Brenda made us write some more. Then we read part of an article by a right smart feller named Don Murray, so we could think on our writing process. Well, what do you think about that?

Next Judy asked us to recount every blessed thing we dun yesterday. It took me a while to get it all down. Oops, I forgot to put frog-giggin on my list. Then Brenda asked us to sketch some place important to us to help our memories. I chose the Widow’s house.  Even though she tried to civilize me, she’s right nice, treating me like kin and all. I like drawing. It slows my brain down, so I can concentrate. Then that Judy asked us to make a list of things we love, hate, can’t forget – a whole passel of stuff. It took a spell, but I think I got a few ideas for some stories I can tell.

After some vittles for dinner, we had to write a whole bunch more. Land sakes, my hand wanted to fall off! We was supposed to try out a few of our ideas from the morning. This writing’s hard work. We also got to talk a piece about some stories Judy wrote and what we think about plans versus just jumpin’ in. If you know anything ‘bout me and my friend Tom, you can guess what I had to say ‘bout that. Some feller invented some terms for helping your writing like Explode a Moment and Shrink a Century. I tried ‘em and they’re not half bad, though that purty gal from New Jersey said that feller was crazy and she ought to know. She’s met him face to face.

We was pretty wore out by then, but those two ladies kept at us. They asked us to meet in small groups and decide on a plan to show what we think is important from what we read in the book they give us at the beginning of the month. I like that. I mean, I like the book and all, but I do like listening to what other folks say before I put my two cents in. I guess they’d call me a lurker on that blog thingy they keep going on about. I can’t help it if I’m shy like that.

Just when we thought we was done, they give us new copy books. (Now Pappy won’t holler about buyin’ me one.) They wanted us to think about our day and where we stand with our writing. Tonight we’re supposed to work on a draft of our stories and think some more on what we want to teach the class purty soon. I don’t mind telling you – I haven’t worked this hard in a while, but the folks in my class seem real nice and Jim keeps tellin’ me that an education can’t be beat. Nonetheless, as soon as I could, I lit out ‘fore they could ask me to write more plug thing.

Want more information on the National Writing Project? Check out http://www.writingproject.org.

Published in: on July 2, 2009 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment