Creative Writing Exercises: Teaching from Image

In addition to my regular course load at my community college, I am a faculty advisor for our student run creative writing group, The Blank Page. I started the group when I was still an adjunct and students approached me looking for another venue in which they could share and improve upon their own work.

At today’s meeting I brought a series of images that I discovered via a link on the Paris Review’s Facebook page. The link contained images of haunted houses from Corrine Botz’s photography exhibition. Botz writes on her blog:

Haunted Houses provides a unique way of understanding our relationship to the spaces we inhabit, and reflects romantic and dystopian notions of the domestic realm. The notion of hauntedness activates and highlights the home, revealing the hidden narratives and possibilities of everyday life.

Botz went about taking photographs and collecting oral recitations of the ghost stories that go along with some of the photographs. You can listen to the stories here. The photographs are gorgeous and the stories are very interesting. I was even more intrigued by this project when I learned that one of the locations and stories took place in Girard, PA which is about ten minutes from Fairview, PA where my parents still live. This is the photograph from Girard:

“Farmhouse, Girard, Pennsylvania” from the series Haunted Houses, 2010

Anyway. When I looked through the pictures, I thought they would make great prompts for my Blank Page students, so this afternoon we spent about half an hour free writing over selected images from Botz’s project. After we had finished writing, we debriefed a bit and the student response seemed positive. The general consensus seemed to be that the images provided specific details that the students could latch onto and use as a starting place for a poem or piece of prose. I’ve done this exercise for units on character, setting and story and I think Botz’s photographs are perfect inspirations for writers.

Also received word last night that three of my poems will be appearing in Rust + Moth.