In Mid-August, I was lucky enough to be in Berlin at the Bahnhof Hamburger Museum where I saw an exhibit of Jack Whitten’s work. It was mostly his mosaic works and, to be honest, they captivated me. This is a piece called Flying High: Betty Carter.
From a distance, it looked like a wonderful homage to this jazz singer. But as I stepped closer and closer, I said, “This is how I write. Bits. Intricate bits. Stuck together. To tell a bigger story.” That when I conceived of this new class: Writing In Mosaic
Each week, I will give the class an overarching, big picture word or phrase or theme (e.g. The First Kiss). We will write for a short time about that big thing, exploring it, turning it over, examining it. The idea is to warm to the big piece and find your proximity to it. Then in a series of five, ten, fifteen minutes prompts over our time together, I will lead you inside the pieces that make up the whole. Each smaller piece will be more intimate, more focused but they will shed light on the bigger subject from a different angle or perspective. In a way, we will be like archeologists exploring a site, going in close, dusting off an artifact then stepping back and exploring another section, another bit of the civilization within the world of the word, phrase or theme.
My thought is to sharpen our craft muscles by looking and looking again, using all our senses to shape a different kind of whole.
Will we read aloud? Yes. Although not every time and not all the time.
Do you have to share? No but yes. Hearing your work out loud is beautiful.
Will I have all the classes planned? I will certainly have the first two planned with an eye on the rest of them BUT I like hearing back from you about what’s working. If there is a word, phrase or theme that you want me to shape a class around, I would love to hear it.
Why writing in mosaic? Hmmm…I believe that readers and viewers are more sophisticated than ever today so I think that stripping away the connective tissue between moments is dynamic and exciting. That is mosaic. It doesn’t mean we don’t explore a quotidian habit or moment, but we don’t necessarily need to explore the trek downstairs to get to the kitchen table. Our readers will take the leap with us.
My first novel Evidence of Things Not Seen was written in mosaic. I am in the middle of revising a middle grade novel. Though it is a more traditional structure, my guiding principle (in the form of a post-it on my computer) during the first draft was: write the scene you know you need. That draft was a series of juicy, detailed scenes with bits of connective tissue. It gave me lots of details and insight into the characters. My second draft was going through and anchoring in the motivations of the main character. Now I am working on deepening the logic and consequence of each thread through the book. All of which is to say, every thing we create demands its own process but the ability to write sharp clear and detailed moments whether you are writing novels, poems, short story or memoirs, will be a well-used tool in your craft tool box.
The class begins on Tuesday, September 24 and will meet every other week from 6-8:30 until December 3. The class will be held at 2004 Goodrich Avenue. Cost $240 There are only two spots left.
Join us. I’ll leave you with one more close up of Jack Whitten’s work.