18 March 2017

Prompt 2 - First Time In Your Life

In another installment of 'What did I do in that writing class,' I'll share the second prompt and what I wrote that day. For our second prompt, we were asked to write about the first time we experienced something in our lives. I was initially tempted to write about what it's like to live under the pseudo-authoritarian regime of a thin-skinned, mysogynistic megalomaniac and Grade A pathological liar but that seemed too fantastical, too unbelievable and this was a course in non-fiction writing (and yet here we are in Trumplandia, but I digress). So I went with something I know - on becoming a dad for the first time:

I became a father for the first time 27 years ago. I was young, some would argue that we were too young to become parents. We were barely out from under our own parents' roofs. The thought of becoming a father, though, was mostly exhilarating, until the day of our daughter's birth. It suddenly became an all-consuming terror. As my wife labored to deliver our daughter that day, I was filled with an overwhelming paralyzing fear, with questions assaulting me at every moment. The pain I was feeling had to be on par with the pain that gripped my wife with each contraction. It wasn't. But doubt plagued me with each of those contractions. How could I care and provide for this little girl who was about to be born when previously one of the most pressing questions in my life had been collar up or down? How would I handle this? How was I going to care for her needs?

Once she arrived, the nurse placed my daughter into my trembling arms. I took in a long, deep breath and looked into her tiny eyes. I, for better or worse, was one of the first people she was seeing. I wanted her to know she was in good hands. As I looked into her eyes with a growing sense of awe, something in me snapped me into our new reality. I touched her little hand and said, "Hi. I'm your dad. And we're going to figure this out all together." That's been my unspoken motto as a dad ever since. 27 years later and two more children, I'd like to think I've figured a few things out about being a dad. It's still a work in progress.

I don't think I've ever been more scared of anything in my life than I was the day I became a dad for the first time. Writing about it a few weeks ago brought back a flood of feelings - fear, awe, excitement, terror, joy. The funny thing is that if I had the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.

#storieseverywhere

12 March 2017

Prompt 1 - Your Name

I recently wrote about my first class in writing in many years. Since that post though, I've been reading more than I've been writing. Rereading George Orwell's "1984' in our current political dumpster fire, regime, environment has me transfixed, wound up, and terrified all at once, which is never a good mix.

Taking a break from Orwell's eerily prophetic and unsettling writing, I've been reviewing my notes from that class and the things I wrote that day. For better or worse, over the course of the next few posts here in the Den, I'm going to share them with you.

In the first few minutes of the class, we were given our first writing assignment. As we would quickly learn, each assignment that day would come in the form of a prompt. These prompts were meant to kick start our thinking and writing. Our first prompt that day was to write about our name - first, middle, last, or nickname. I chose my middle name and here's what happened when I put pen to paper:

Wade is my middle name. I'm named for my mother's family. My grandfather, Mac Wade, was a sheriff straight out of an old Hollywood studio's central casting office. He was also a legendary story teller. The stories he told at one point must have been true but as he aged and retold them time and again, details morphed. With each telling, some details became more fantastic, while others simply disappeared. No matter how they changed though, it was clear that that these stories meant something to him. With each story he told, he was teaching me about the power of personal stories. Our stories are who we are and our stories matter.

Writing these few sentences was simply exhilarating. They may not seem like much but I was sitting in a class with a dozen strangers, who like me, weren't quite certain about what lay in store that day. Would the writing stack up? What if I have to read this aloud? What if I can't think of anything to write? As that first prompt was given to us, I knew instantly what I would write about and I wasn't going to worry about my writing stacking up. I remembered what my late grandfather had taught me about stories. Stories matter. It was time to start sharing mine.


26 February 2017

#storieseverywhere

This is PRECISELY how it went down in class yesterday.
In a few posts here in the Den, I've pointed out that if I could have made a living that would have supported my family, I would have been a full-time university student. Seriously, I would never have left. I loved going to school at the university level (high school, not so much). However, after seeing my share of guys in their mid- to late-30s dragging themselves to class, living in married student housing with children in middle school, I knew the full-time student gig was not for me.

So off to the big, bad work world it was for me and there I've been ever since. Over the years, I've thought about going back to school. I'd had no advanced degree in mind. I just wanted to go back to school for the opportunity to challenge myself and learn something new. I've done some executive education related to my job and even spent some time back on campus (Cornell was pretty cool) but that's been the extent of it. I've tried to keep my writing skills up to snuff through my rantings writings in the Den and I've enjoyed that but I've wondered what more could I do to improve my writing and see where this could take me.

Yesterday, I took that first step to finding the answers to those questions. Having heard some good things about the Gotham Writers Workshop, I reviewed their curriculum and decided to give it a go. I took my first class in more than 27 years when I sat down in a one-day course called Personal Essay Writing. I squeezed (my body is not the slender temple it was the last time I was in a classroom setting) into the all-in-one desk / chair / torture device, took at my pen and a pad of paper (keeping it old school), and steeled myself for a day of learning. What a day it was!

Prompts
Structure
Voice
Pacing
Meaning
Show, don't tell

As we wrote six different times throughout the day, I was in heaven! I wanted to read everywhere one of my samples just to get the perspective of the other students as well as our instructor. I didn't because I had to recognize that it wasn't all about me. I found myself taking copious notes throughout the day and getting excited about what's next in terms of my writing and the stories I can tell. It was fascinating to hear what the other students had written. I was amazed at the skill shown as well as the fearlessness. Their stories were moving, funny, and insightful.

The day ended all too soon but that spark I felt is now growing. I'm wanting to set aside time throughout the week now to work on a prompt or two. I'm looking at other classes and opportunities to become a better writer. I'm more and more convinced of the power of stories. My new favorite hashtag comes from Gotham Writers, #storieseverywhere. Stories reveal what is common to us. They reveal our good and our bad. They reveal our humanity.

Stories are everywhere. I'm looking forward to telling a few more of mine. When will you tell yours?

16 February 2017

The 27 Club

So who here has heard of The 27 Club? Anyone? Anyone?

If you haven't, either click on the the link above or let me just tell you that the long and short of it is that unless you're hankering to be dead, you don't want in on this one.

Prominent members of the club include Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Are you sensing a theme yet? All dead at the age of 27 and sadly not by natural causes. Like I said, not the club you want to join.

That said, since we now live in a world that makes the Upside Down World of "Stranger Things" look like the most logical thing ever, there is another less lethal version of The 27 Club and my first-born daughter joined that august group today. We have another birthday here in the Den and Our Lady of Awesome has turned 27.

I still marvel that I am the father of three well-adjusted children (all credit to their amazing mother) and that my oldest has turned 27. I have to admit though that it's good fun to see her at this stage in her life. Watching her parent her two children along with Awesome is something to behold. There are moments where my natural instinct is to help in that parenting, which usually means laughing inappropriately at something my grandson has done, but I manage to suppress and let them parent. It's a delight to behold.

I am amazed at her strength, her even-keeled nature, and how she still manages to not suffer a single fool gladly. I appreciate how she is such an incredible reflection of the goodness of her mother.

I am delighted that we get to spend this long weekend with her. We'll all be together tomorrow night - the whole lot of us - celebrating her birthday one day late. We are really looking forward to that.

As we celebrate her from afar tonight, I am reminded what an honor it is to be her dad. Being a dad to her, CAL, and The RM is the greatest title I could ever have.

Happy birthday, Princess!