Friday, September 04, 2009

Learning the secret of creativity

A creative-writing workshop by author Shinie Antony was an enriching experience for the students of Rajagiri Public School

Photo: author Shinie Antony

By Shevlin Sebastian

In the one-act play, ‘A tradition was born’ the story goes like this: In the American town of Bretton Wood, boys and girls are playing ‘Truth and Dare’ in two separate groups in the local cemetery. One of the boys gets a dare to lie down in a coffin. Subsequently, a girl is asked to stab a body.

By coincidence she approaches the same coffin where the boy is lying. When she takes the knife out to stab the body, the terrified boy stands up. The girl gets a shock and dies. Ever since that time she began haunting the cemetery on that particular night.

This play, scripted by Sidharthan, Clara Johny, Drupa Charles, Nancy Bencil and the students of Class 9 and 10 of the Rajagiri Public School, won the first prize in the creative writing workshop conducted by author Shinie Antony recently.

There were ten teams of 20 students each and they were given fifteen minutes to script a three-minute horror play. Some of the teams depended excessively on making eerie sounds on the mike.

In other plays, students sometimes fell to the stage in mock deaths, while in some, snarling looks and fingers pointed like claws were used to frighten unsuspecting passers-by.

“Overall, it was a lot of fun,” says Shinie. After each presentation she would give a crisp analysis, providing praise and criticism in equal measure.

For Sidharthan it was a thought-provoking experience. “I understood that working together as a team was not as easy as I thought,” he says. “Putting everybody’s ideas together and that too in a limited time and making it a success was difficult.”

Sherin T. Abraham, a Class 10 student, says that it was only when they were on the stage that they could understand their drawbacks.

“Our thinking could have been better and there was a lack of co-ordination between the actors,” she says. “Nevertheless, we also felt free and confident.”

Drupa also experienced a positive reaction. “After doing this play all of us felt sure we could become creative,” she says.

This, according to Shinie, was the aim of the workshop. “I wanted the students to think out of the box and let loose their imagination.”

She says that these workshops are a discovery of a young mind's take on most things. “For example, in a recent workshop, when told to get into the shoes of lesser known fictional characters, a student opted to become Cinderella's glass slipper,” she says.

The Bangalore-based Shinie, dressed in a maroon kurta and blue jeans, spoke softly into the mike, and walked up and down the hall, to get closer to the audience. To get answers from students, she would randomly call out names and invariably there would be a student with that name, who had to stand up and reply.

“All of us have an inner voice,” says Shinie. “When you take this voice a little further you come to creative writing.”

Her tip for good writing is simple: “Each time you invent a character, you have to become them,” she says. “You are the narrator, the main protagonist, as well as every small character, even the person serving the tea.”

For English teacher Parimal Paul, who had invited Shinie, the workshop was a good exposure for the students. “It was the first time that students were interacting with a well-known Indian writer of English,” she says. “It was a boost for students who have a flair for writing.”

Meanwhile, Shinie also went into the basics of journalism and explained the daily production methods of a newspaper. She dealt mostly with page layout, priority of news, reporting and editing. “I also focused on wrong spellings and over-sensationalism which irks a reader,” she says.

However, because of the Internet and too much television, children nowadays read newspapers much less. “TV lowers their attention span,” says Shinie. “They are only able to concentrate for a couple of minutes.”

She says children have to be wooed into making newspaper reading a daily habit. “This is one addiction that no parent will object to,” says Shinie, with a smile. “To enjoy a headline, absorb the impact of the first para, and stay with a news story or a feature till the end is very important.”

Enjoying reading and writing are Shinie’s aim. Will the students follow her lead, only time will tell.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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