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Friday, 10 June 2016

Nebraska Road Trip (1)

Our first classroom, formerly barracks

I’m at the Chadron State College Story-Catcher writing workshop at old Fort Robinson. I suppose that, as an accredited member of the faculty – I'm due to give a talk Sunday morning – I don’t need to attend this part, but it is already proving to be well worthwhile. Yesterday’s session, led by Kim Barnes, was about short story writing. I cannot remember the last time I tried that. It must in any case be 15 years since I was in a workshop, and that was as a teacher. But there I was, trying to follow the brief, which was to create a setting, devise a character (with depth) and have him consider ways to dispose of a body.

I once gave that precise assignment to a class of old ladies in an upscale village hall in East Yorkshire, and got some shocking and lurid responses. My favourite was this frightfully well-spoken lady of regal demeanour who proposed chopping up the dead baby and hurling the parts off a bridge onto a highway where the flattened remnants would blend in with the squashed rabbits, pheasants and rats. But that was the class whose stories about sexual adventures prompting a rare male attendee to sniff and tell us, ‘I didn’t come here to listen to pornography’.

Okay, the sun is climbing, the participants are wending there way to the barrack-room where we will shortly start work, and I am bracing myself for a day’s creative endeavour.

Officers Quarters - where else would they put a bunch of writers?