Writing Teachers Newcastle – extending our community of practice

Our recent Writing Teachers meeting in Newcastle took place at the beautifully eclectic Civic Theatre. Although predominantly a performance space, we used a set of Classic Movie Posters playing cards in a game of chance to prompt discussion and writing. According to Nicholas A. Bird, from the EC Film society

Early movie posters were dishonest. They seduced their audience with specious slogans and images hinting at unspeakable terror and drama – or scenes of lust and depravity – when the fare was tame. Cinema posters, derived from the sedate tradition of theatre, soon developed an iconography of their own – large, often hand-drawn lettering, with painted portraits of the stars. Posters were almost always in colour, the film was not. Ironically, the silent comedian Buster Keaton oversaw some of the most colourful and stylish posters of the period.

information card insert

Cards were shuffled and dealt, with a discard pile set up in the centre of the table. We had a few moments to identify the key elements of a story, or suggest what our students might consider to be most important. We thought of genre, character, and setting. Over coffee, we looked at our cards, made connections, mentioned meanings and considered connotations. We then settled on up to five cards and spent an enjoyable 30 minutes or so in writing a short story.

This time frame gives us an opportunity to mimic the average writing time for students completing Section 2 of the first English HSC paper: some moments of planning, 30-35 mins writing time and a few moments to edit.

I stayed with the original five cards dealt, and felt drawn to a classic detective genre. Recalling the playful opening of Marele Day’s The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavendar, I attempted to create an intriguing situation within a rumpled domestic setting. When sharing our stories, comments are often serendipitous, such as how difficult students find comedy or comic moments. After agreeing that this is a difficult area for my writing to venture, I was pleased that my reading attracted a few smiles and slight giggles.

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