Micro-Lesson | Samantha Updegrave: How to Begin When Your Head is Empty

Posted Thu, 2/19/2015 - 1:22pm by  |  Category:

Welcome to our new series, Micro-Lessons, where we offer you a taste of our upcoming classes.

Micro-LessonHow to Begin When Your Head is Empty with Samantha Updegrave
Begins Feb. 25, 7–9 p.m.

Number your page 1 through 10.
You’ve all brought in a list of 5 things you overheard this week.
Pass it to your left.
Read over the list.
Write the 1st 10 things that come to mind –
can be words, images, person, what room this was said in, a vacation you took….
2 minutes.

Look over your list.
Circle 2 or 3 things that seem most interesting, strange, or curious.
Write about something you circled. You can use the quote, or not.
I’m setting the timer.
8 minutes.


“We read because we are readers, but we reread because we are writers.”
—Priscilla Long


In the photo, he stands to the side with his hand out as if pointing a gun or a rifle. Everyone else, sisters, cousins, friends, neighbors crowd around me; the piñata in the shape of a birthday cake sways in the wind above our heads. Everyone’s there: aunts, uncles, cousins, the neighbors, my madrina, everyone…. I’m holding the stick decorated with red, blue, yellow tissue paper that we will use to break the piñata. At age nine he holds out the imaginary gun, like soldier. Only ten years later, 1968, he is a soldier, and it’s not a game.

—Norma Elia Cantu, “Tino & Papi”


How she enters the story, introduces characters and relationships, and shifts time.

As we revise our pieces, ask yourself these questions: Who’s there? What objects are present and how do they reflect or contradict the mood? Do they connect to something else, from another time or place? Is it day or night? What colors do I see? What does that make me remember?


Always Be Closing
Always Be Cobbling
Always Be Carrying
(a notebook)

Get and start a notebook.
Bring it next class.
Let’s train ourselves in observation.
In tuning into our experience.
In making a place to house our ideas.
(They show up more freely when they have somewhere to be.)


We’ll start with another series of timed prompts,
Twenty to thirty minutes, working toward new ideas and connections.