Reflections on a Creative Writing Class

I have written for as long as I can remember. And like many of you, I have attended many classes. The following is one of those experiences.

Many years ago I attended a creative writing class. My instructor was an insightful woman named Margel De Laurel. She was a spunky mature woman with an edgy sense of humor. Her varied careers spanned decades and she even worked for Howard Hughes. Margel also wrote two books, The Traders and a book titled, Where Rivers Run Gold. It was a western and she gave the saloon prostitute her real-life former best friend’s name. Her friend, who I will call Kate, had an affair with Margel’s husband ending their marriage. Her husband begged for forgiveness but Kate felt no remorse for her betrayal. Margel decided to get back at Kate by giving the prostitute Kate’s name and then killing her. As Majel said, “It was a devilish way to get revenge and no one got hurt.”

Now for our class, it consisted of one man and five women, including myself. We were a group of very diverse authors so that made things very interesting. The gentleman wrote crime dramas while the ladies wrote romance, children’s, fantasy, horror and I was working on a number of short inspirational stories. Of course, we were each in a different stage of our work but everyone wanted help and encouragement.

Margel’s first assignment was her way of seeing our particular writing styles. We were to write a story titled, ‘For Sale, Baby Clothes, Never Used.’ These six words are said to be a complete story supposedly by Ernest Hemingway. This however, has never been completely proven. This type of story is an extreme example of flash or sudden fiction. It was interesting to hear everyone’s take on the same title. Mine was a sad story about a would-be grandmother who lost her daughter and any hope of having a grandchild but became close to a pregnant young woman without a family. The two women bonded and the baby clothes were not sold, but given to the young mother-to-be. Not very inventive I know, but my past personal fear of never having a child crept into my mind.

Here are two stories I’ll never forget. The first came from the man in class. He wrote about a gang of thieves that broke into a baby store, stole all the merchandise and then traveled to another city to sell the goods at a swap meet. The story ended with his cunning detective tracking down the thieves, arresting them and retrieving the stolen property. The beautiful store owner was very grateful and the detective was praised for his work. This story was proof that his author always gravitated to his chosen genre, crime drama.

The next story from our horror writer literally sent chills up my spine. If you saw this lady on Halloween you would think she was dressing up to be a black magic witch but this was her everyday dress. She was very intense as always spoke in a deep slow manner. Her gruesome story was about Karla, a pregnant woman married to a scientist. The scientist gave Karla a shot of some experimental drug without her knowledge. Even though she began to feel strange things Karla believed it to be normal as she had never been with child. As you can imagine, she expected to give birth to a beautiful baby but instead, Karla delivered a terrifying creature, which she kept in a cage and fed raw meat as it screeched and gnarled at the bars. It was horrific. Let’s just say if we write what we know I wouldn’t want to live in that author’s skin but on the up side she definitely had a knack for horror.

I think this was a great exercise and may be something to try alone or in a group. Simply pick a short phrase or title from a book or newspaper and see where it leads. Who knows, it may even spark an idea for another book.

It’s been stated a number of ways but as Margel said, “Writers are like gods on paper because we create worlds with our words.”

Have fun creating your kind of world,

Cynthia Lee De Boer

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