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(K)not Just Small Talk

Written by UNC Charlotte Writing Project
November 08, 2011

“So, tell me about what you are writing…”

Suitcases are piled into the trunk, someone’s coffee cup has found a decent perch in the door pocket, and the GPS voice seems to have left us alone with 63 miles before we should veer off of I-85.   In a car full of UNC Charlotte Writing Project teachers this is just about the time that someone starts out:

“What’s happening with your assessment/play/hoarding/blogging piece?”

This is the way we have narrated our smallest conversations.  Conversations with just the two or three of us with time on our hands, or time made, to talk about our work.  Driving along, hands on the wheel, there are no daybook notes to search through, no document to pull up on the ipad.  It just comes down to how these ideas live in our heads and how they are formed again in these small conversations.  

“Okay, I just need to try this out on yall, alright?”

In these small knots of people, we pull out the threads of tension in our thinking.  Sitting for quite a few miles with an idea, mulling it over through pitstops and more conversation, there gets to be time to circle back to thinking.  Time to get past just the initial, automatic head nodding affirmation.  

“I’m still thinking about that thing you said before.  You’ve got me wondering…. where are the other teachers in this story?  or….where is the tension in this story? or… how can you show the background thinking?  You know, the things that you usually don’t get told?”

Through starts and stops all three of us in the car or airport bar or just sitting in the Writing Project office start piecing together the missing parts of the story.  What hasn’t been told and what has been told in the same old way, supporting the same old stories of heroes, mountain-top reaching and driving it alone.  Everyone throws in ideas about what else this story could be doing.  Daybooks are found for fast and furious writing.  We want to get down every possible word from this group thinking.  We are so much smarter here thinking together.  Gotta save this up, and more moments just like them, talking about the same-different ideas.  So that these knots of thinking can show up next time we try to talk out our ideas on paper.

Um-hm… now you’ve got me thinking about what kind of work it is I want this story to do…”

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