Despite my frailty, which has included an inability to stand upright for more than 15 minutes, I went to the Cleveland Inkubator today at the main branch of the Cleveland Public Library. This is billed as an “UNconference” a free day-long event of workshops and lectures for aspiring writers.
One thing you gotta know is – damn but my city has a fine library system. We really do. I’m not just saying that. There’ve been, like, awards and rankings and stuff. And the downtown branch, housed in a sleek modern building and a graceful victorian building with a quirky fun garden between them, is, frankly, awesome.
I was able, in my frailty, to attend two workshops – “Writing for Change” which focused on protest poetry, and “Creating Comics”.
Coming in I was most interested in “Writing for Change” because I have always wanted to put more conscience into my work, but fear being “preachy” – and I have never written a story nor poem on a passionate subject without being told I was being preachy. I think I got some good advice from the workshop, not just from the instructor, D. L. Woure’, but from the community of workshop attendees.
However, “Creating Comics” was by far the better workshop. The workshop leader, one Ted Sikora, did a sublime job squeezing a presentation and workshop exercises into his tiny slice of time. He had the group create a character, starting with the prompt “Everywoman”. He got a first name from one person, a last name from another, and then passed out slips of paper with random questions we had to answer: Does she have a pet? Does she have siblings? What economic class is she?
Boa-constrictor owning Jenny Harper is a department store customer service rep and loves meeting people but hates getting yelled at. Her only sibling is an older brother who has left the country due to “issues”. She dresses like a tomboy and fidgets. She grew up on the east coast, is a city girl, hates New York but loves Tokyo, where her best friend lives.
Then we had five minutes to write a one-page comic script featuring Jenny, one character from her backstory (most chose the Tokyo friend) and discovering something that should not be there behind a box of cereal in a grocery store.
I loved the variety of things people put behind the cereal: a time machine, a mouse with a piece of cloth in its mouth, a pot of gold, the ghost of her ex-boyfriend. I had a purple-tentacled alien. It was great fun, and I took away a LOT of advice about comics.by