I watched the movie, Indian Horse, at the theatre last night. As powerful and moving as the book, the intent to remain true to the book evident from the very beginning in a tribute to Richard Wagamese. For me, the tribute itself was enough to feel tears pricking my eyes. Richard Wagamese died in March 2017 of pneumonia at the age of 61. In May 2016, he visited Thunder Bay and gave a workshop on writing (offered by NOWW: Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop) and presented prizes and spoke at NOWW's annual writing contest. A humble man but when he spoke everyone listened. When he finished, everyone stood and applauded. We were so fortunate to see and hear him, to have him among us for a little while. All of us are fortunate to have his books and now this movie, Indian Horse.
Following is a piece I wrote for NOWW's magazine about the creative workshop on writing that Richard presented. A workshop packed with solid advice from a master storyteller.
“Galloping Herds of Words”
Notes from Richard Wagamese’s Writing Workshop
One Saturday morning in early May about twenty people sat in a circle in a room in Mary JL Black library and participated in an illuminating writing workshop run by Richard Wagamese.
“Go to the energy,” he told us. “Let that be your mantra.”
In a delightful display of enthusiastic “little kid energy”, he told us a story, seemingly without thought or preamble and urged us to do the same by writing a list of random words then passing it to our neighbour who then had to create a sentence out loud, in front of everyone else, without thinking, using three then five of the words.
Uncomfortable? I thought so. But Richard liked that, saying that we have to get out of our heads and into our hearts to be writers. He also believes in the physiological power of saying the story aloud; he ‘wrote’ Indian Horse this way, for instance, telling the story to his dog Molly on morning walks in the mountains. He reminded us all that we are storytellers at heart simply because we’re human and have all evolved from sharing stories around the fire in the night.
We created word maps, springboarding from one main word to different words, and shared a spontaneous sentence or story with the group using these words. As he had stated in various talks throughout the week, Richard reiterated that there are five repetitive principles of oral storytelling:
1. Telling—going to the energy and telling the story
2. Listening—purely physiological, no action needed
3. Hearing—some physiological processes involved to create at least one of four reactions:
4. Incorporating—identifying with the story
5. Sharing and retelling
Richard left us with a 21 day challenge: to write a run on sentence (“Write galloping herds of words,” he implored us) for as long as we could without thinking. Once we realize that we’ve started to think, stop and write ‘…’ which serves as a reminder to ourselves that we voluntarily stopped at that point. Repeat this two or three times a day at any time. After 21 days, he assures us that we’ll have done at least two things:
1. formed a new habit which shows that we don’t need huge blocks of time to write
2. enriched and empowered ourselves with our words and our ability to access the energy whenever and wherever we want.
Try it. I chose a spiral ringed binder for my 21 day challenge and plastered the cover with vibrant pink flowers. But beware if you open it. Stand well back. It contains galloping herds of words.
Welcome! I'm Sue Blott: a writer of all things, a poet at heart, mom, wife, daughter, step-mom, grandma, tea drinker, tai chi-er, mystic, artist, dreamer...and now a blogger! This is my world.