Sensory Writing Workshop

Happy Summer Everyone!

Craig Spence has done a wonderful job providing cutting edge, current information for writers through the Federation of BC Writers Blog. He’s left some big shoes to fill as we wish him well on his next endeavours. 

I’m looking forward to facilitating the blog in my years on the board and would love contributions from members and anyone in the book world with helpful tips to share. We aim to share information in navigating the book industry from setting up a daily writing practice to negotiating publishing contracts and update on the 15th of the month. If you have a non-fiction blog story 750 words or under on a pertinent theme related to writing, editing or publishing, please email me at blog@bcwriters.ca Blog contributions are on a volunteer basis.

For today, I thought I’d let you know a little more about me. I’m a BC poet who runs sensory writing workshops. This is an adjustable template of one of the introductory level workshops we bring through the province for beginning writers, ESL schools and at readings, that you’re welcome to use in your communities. All the best, Cynthia Sharp

Nature Poetry Writing Workshop

Materials (adaptable to what is locally available)

birch bark, beeswax candle, blooms, candlelight, flower, oak leaves, Himalayan salt rock, seaweed with lime, sugar pinecone,  prickles, rainbow, ridges, rock, stone, tea tree oil, quartz

Introductions

The instructor welcomes participants. We go around the circle with each person introducing himself or herself. 

The group brainstorms answers to the question, “What is poetry?” on a whiteboard so that the instructor gets a sense of how much people already know.

Then, a volunteer reads the opening poem about paying attention to the beauty of nature.

Breathe Deeply Nature’s Inner World

Breathe deeply

moments in the stillness,                  

what the moss on the maple tells us,

or each angle of sunlight reveals,

and remember                             

to let the trees and flowers 

and colours speak

Discussion about slowing down, relaxing in peaceful places and observing details. Good writing uses details. Parts of nature have a story to tell us and it’s our job to listen and write it down.

Part 1 Nature Vocabulary –Writing from all the Senses 

In this workshop, we write from all our senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. To get started, examine objects from nature in the baskets and describe them.

For an ESL group, it can be helpful to provide vocabulary:

Adjectives:

coarse, cool, furry, grainy, honey-scented, jagged, large, light, medium-sized, ocean-washed, pink, prickly, pungent, rainbow-coloured, rose, round, salty, sharp, small, smooth, soft, sour, sun-warmed, tiny, warm 

Nouns:

bark, beeswax candle, blooms, candlelight, flower, fur, hedgehog, Himalayan salt rock, leaf, pinecone, prickles, rainbow, ridges, rock, seaweed, stone, tea tree oil, quartz

Part 2 

The group makes notes together to describe a beach. The phrases and vocabulary from above, along with new ideas are all welcome.

example: “ocean-washed stones” could go into the sight category for the beach

The instructor fills out the columns below on a whiteboard, while participants contribute imagery and take notes if they’d like. Then the instructor moves the group’s imagery into a poem, adjusting grammar and placing phrases in a logical and powerful order.

Beach

extra adjectives: crowded, empty, moonlit, tranquil, wet

extra nouns: moon, moonlight, reflection, sand, seawall, shore, waves

sight

sound

touch

smell

taste

Now, we will use the images to create a poem. We’ll choose our favourite images and arrange the word pictures to become a poem. If a word or idea doesn’t fit, we can leave it out, or turn it into a simile, which is a phrase using “like” or “as”.

Example:

Waves invite me to play,

like the wind on a holiday weekend,

the breeze as soft as a baby hedgehog’s fur.

Part 3  Your Personal Poem from a Favourite Place

example: Stanley Park

Write the name of the place:

How do you feel in that place?

examples: relaxed, peaceful, free

How you feel in the place is the mood, or feeling of your poem.

Imagine yourself in this place. What time of day is it? Is it morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night?

What do you see? Do you see any animals? Squirrels, chipmunks, seals, otters? Deer? Eagles?

Keep looking around your sanctuary. What colour are the flowers? When you touch the grass or sand, how does it feel? Is it warm? Cool? Refreshing? Soft?

What do you like about this place?

examples: clean air, trees, the feeling of the wind

What does the wind tell you?

examples: breathe, relax, be

Fill in details from the picture or memory you are describing:

Your Place

sight

sound

touch

smell

taste

Now, you can turn your images and details above into a poem. Choose your favourite words from above and arrange them however you would like. You may add in, take out, or change anything.

Verbs to help with your poem: abandon, appreciate, release, remember, savour, treasure

Part 4 Editing

You can make your first draft stronger by replacing average words with less common ones that enhance the mood of your piece:

The names of precious metals, flowers, fruits and desserts are enticing synonyms for colour:

apricot, peach, tangerine for orange

lavender, lilac, plum for purple

lemon, honey, or golden for yellow

lime, forest green, jade for green

rose for light pink, cherry for dark pink

silver, pearl

cream for beige

tan, coffee, chocolate for brown, milk chocolate for light brown, dark chocolate for dark brown

turquoise for sea blue

and conversely for darker themes, 

blood, mud, steel, etc. 

When you are finished your draft of your poem, you can ask the facilitator for suggestions to improve grammar, punctuation and flow and then write a final copy. If there is time in the workshop, each participant who wishes to reads his or her poem to the group.

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