Play it Forward: A Workshop to Improve Your Writing through Play

Mama always said I was an old soul.

“You were always so serious,” she said. “Even when you were a baby.”

When I was six months old her mother—my maternal grandmother—was diagnosed with breast cancer. And she had to wean me from her breast for the struggle of it—the hard work of balancing the care of a newborn and that of her dying mother.

This is the world I was born to: one of hunger, poverty, addiction, complicated parent-love. Play was always a serious business for little girl me. I went inside the world of imagination to escape the reality of life. It was a solitary task, a quiet thing. Something in my makeup resisted the kind of play lived out loud.

It’s taken me almost fifty years to understand that this is okay. Yes, this is okay, but there is so much more to play. And I have only just begun.

Play looks different for different kinds of people. When we understand this and accept this, it opens us to new ways. New ways of playing, new ways of seeing, new avenues of creativity, new ways of being.

Play is a powerful thing.

Will you come along on a play journey with me? Sometimes these things are best undertaken with a guide. How about two guides? My friend (and fellow writer) Laura Brown and I are embarking upon an exploration of all things play. Over the course of eight or twelve weeks (you choose), we will lead an adventurous few through an odyssey of play—sampling different ways of play that might enliven our creative lives, enrich our writing and hopefully, add beauty to our everyday living.

Read more about it over at TSPoetry. It’s going to be a grand adventure. It may be just the thing to breathe new life into your writing practice. It may be just the thing to awaken the old soul in you to a fresh view of this tired world. After all, writing is a form of play—a way of seeing. To write well requires opening the eyes in new and different ways. We’re going to have so much fun finding playful ways to achieve this.

Photo by Samuel David Rinehart, Creative Commons, via Flickr.

Artist Date: Marinara

I hold the tomato in the palm of my hand. Red and round and perfect, it whispers to me in the early morning sun, I am more than what you see. I press its coolness to my nose, feel the damp that beads on its smooth surface, and I see the possibilities. 
The mid-August air has lost some of its heaviness already, the coolness of morning lingering longer each day. Most of the local schools are in session, my house is empty, and I am alone with the garden. The tomato vines bend low with plump fruit. I move between their leafy fullness, plucking as I go. My apron makes a handy basket—I gather up its skirt-like corners and soon it dips low in the center, filled with all these ruby-skinned gems.
Inside, I spread the bounty out on newspaper-covered counters. I cut a little X on the bottom of each round with a serrated knife. The pot of water sits on the stove to boil for dipping batches of plump fruit into roiling waves. They bump each other around for 15 seconds in the hot bath and then it’s time to blanch them in the waiting ice water. The skins slip off easily after their spa and I chop them into a thick puree with my food processor. 
I’m sharing an Artist Date over at Tweetspeak Poetry today. Will you join me for some yummy marinara?

Artist’s Date: The State House

My steps fall silently on earth softened by recent showers. A quiet breeze stirs the trees and the air is thick with the clean scent of more rain to come. The legislative session must have ended, I think, because nary a soul but me ghosts through the yard’s rich shade.

I wander the grounds of the capitol plaza for an hour, running my hands over the rough bark of deciduous sentinels and studying the way the light falls through a canopy of leaves. Buff limestone peers at me through that chiaroscuro—a stony face with so many windowed eyes. I squint at the gold of the capitol rotunda and feel a pull to stare up into its domed belly from the inside. So I find the steps that ascend the portico and count them as I go: forty-seven.

“West Virginia is the child of divorce,” Mrs. Young told us in eighth grade history class. “When the Civil War tore the nation apart, eastern and western Virginia decided it best to part ways.”

I remember how I sat in the front row and swallowed hard—the ink on my parents’ divorce papers still fresh. As my teacher spoke of the “impenetrable barrier” of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains between eastern and western Virginia, the barriers separating my family loomed large.

I’m sharing an Artist’s Date over at Tweetspeak Poetry today. Will you join me there for the rest of this story?