Friday, March 20, 2009

April in Paris: Writing in Blossom, With Noted Author Jamie Cat Callan

Mention Europe and my imagination takes flight. Mention Paris in spring and, well, mentally anyway, I'm there. So who could resist an opportunity to work with witty and wonderful author Jamie Cat Callan, whose latest book is French Women Don't Sleep Alone. For the month of April, Jamie will be our guest blogger, and we're inviting you to join the fun and win Jamie's acclaimed The Writer's Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the 'Write' Side of Your Brain.

Jamie is an amazing woman whose class at Fairfield University in Connecticut was my first taste of creative writing after a many year absence. One of the most amazing things about Jamie is her ability to truly weave a story, and she aimed to teach us the same. Her writing prompts still make me smile—she would come into each class with several of them to encourage us use our senses not only in what we wrote, but as part of the writing process. I still recall one prompt in particular. Each student reached into a grocery bag and selected an item or two, then from another bag, or maybe it was a hat, we chose a slip of paper. From the grocery bag I pulled an old 35 mm film canister, and on my slip of paper were the words, "I'm not sure, but I think someone put poison in my soup."

Now, the roll of flim and that phrase may not seem like a combination a person could make a story from, but that was the point—to create story from seemingly disjointed events or words or thoughts to get us to think out of the box, if not out of the bag, and it worked. My short piece was entitled, "Strange Brew." Sometimes we wrote with music playing in the background to learn how ambiance influences the mood of a piece (and of the writer) and its tone. Every class Jamie kept us guessing, and that kept our imaginations limber.

I'm sure it's her wit and penchant for story that prompted French Women Don't Sleep Alone, which Fear of Flying author Erica Jong calls "Adorable!” And Jamie's desire to pass along the ability to tell a story is undoubtedly what prompted her to create The Writer's Toolbox, wonderfully reviewed in The Writer as a kit that enables writers of all genres and stages to jumpstart their creativity. As mentioned, for the month of April, Jamie will be our guest blogger, and we're inviting you to join the fun. With each post, Jamie will offer a writing prompt. Respond to the prompt by sending your entry to wordforwords@sbcglobal.net.

We'll judge the entries, and the winning entry will be announced and posted on the blog, and the winner will receive The Writer's Toolbox. To get to know Jamie's work in the meantime, visit her Web site http://www.jamiecatcallan.com/.

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