“For our first exercise, I’d like for you to introduce yourself in third person,” he says. He is Joe, the professor of Writer’s Workshop. He has seated us in a circle and he sits among us, as if we are peers.
He models the exercise. “I’d like to introduce you to Joe,” he begins. He tells us about Joe’s history, his studying abroad during the Vietnam war, the avant garde artistic style of British Columbia. Joe teaches fiction and poetry at the undergraduate and graduate level (although he secretly prefers the experienced, not-so-entitled community of grad students). He has published 13 books; two more will be released this year.
He invites us to follow his lead, and we work our way around the circle.
Sarah moved to the United States when she was 18 after growing up at a boarding school in Malaysia, and she has fond memories of passing the afternoons by chasing chickens through the village with other children in loincloths. She likes to write about things she doesn’t know, and she bristles at the advice to ‘write what you know.’ Sarah says, “But I already know about that. I’d like to learn a new perspective.” A brilliant insight.
Lynn is a former FBI agent who has also studied art therapy with children. Her story unfolds with two careers, and she’s exploring writing as the avenue for the next chapter of her life. She is a contract investigator now, and I’m sure there is no shortage of writing material. She feels unsure about her place in this community of writers, but I really, really want her to stick around.
Brynne has left the corporate world of advertising to pursue the gift she placed on a shelf: her love for writing. Brynne’s college writing professor ignited this love for storytelling, and Brynne often wrote to this professor, long after graduation day. Her professor died tragically in childbirth; Brynne still writes to her.
Gwen has an undergraduate degree in painting (which nearly sweeps me away with its utter coolness). She then discovered a love for sign language, so she “started bugging deaf people to hang out” as she became fluent in speaking without words. Gwen’s story is sprinkled with vocabulary that intrigues me. I want her to keep talking.
Abby introduces herself as “the oldest student in the history of the University of Denver,” and that sentence alone feeds my craving for intergenerational friendships. She says her checkered history is decades long, and she chooses a few stories to tell us. Abby attended finishing school a half-century ago, and she quips, ‘it nearly finished me, but it gave me a wealth of writing material.’ Abby tells us about her love for jazz music; she has written about the history of jazz in Denver and the profiles of the musicians who brought the music to our city.
These are my classmates. I mean, really. I get to spend one evening a week with these brilliant women – and Joe, our fearless leader who steps boldly into this sea of estrogen. In one evening of interactive lecture, he has given me inspiration and clarity that are far worth the price of admission.
And this week, I get to go back. I’m pretty sure I was made for grad school.
(Tomorrow, I’ll tell you my third-person introduction. This was one powerful exercise.)