Sample Programs, Classes & Homework

IMG_7002 What follows are examples of the kinds of programs Kendall runs and the homework associated with those classes.

Cambridge Center for Adult Education / 42 Brattle Street Cambridge MA

  • Memories, Stories & Reflections / 8 Meetings 
  • Section 1: 1:00-3:00pm
  • Section 2: 3:15-5:15pm
  • Is Your Life’s Work Hiding in Plain Sight?/ 4 Meetings / Nov 3-Nov 24, 2015
  • Keeping A Travel Journal: Capture the Moment Before it Vanishes / 2 Meetings / Nov 17-24, 2015

Arlington Community Education /

  • Keeping A Travel Journal / 2 meetings 
  • Istanbul: City of Melancholy & Desire 

Arlington Center for the Arts: /

  • Creativity Lab: Practices For Discovering What Matters in Your Art and Work


Lexington Continuing Education /

  • Keeping a Travel Journal: Capturing Time Before it Flies / 2 meetings / Oct 7 & 14 / 7:00-9:00pm

Grafton Street Writing Center / 50 Grafton Street Arlington MA 02474

  • Most every Thursday nights throughout the year: Writing Fiction & Autobiography 
  • 7:00-9:30pm; $35 per night / parking / Bus #77 from Harvard Square
  • Call or email for details / / 781.640.9957


CCAE : Memories, Stories & Reflections 

Joan Didion
“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were … “On Keeping a Notebook,” Slouching Towards Bethlehem, 1966 

For Meeting #2: 

General comments for Meeting #2: Experiment with different places to IMG_5049write (living room, bed, bathtub, bus, cafe, lunch break, during a movie, during half-time, waiting for the cowmeat to boil.)

1) Write for 5 minutes, 3x week using the Free Writing techniques we talked about in class (or see this website’s heading Free-writing and Its Wild Basics). When you finish your period of writing, reread what you wrote and underline any hotspots or otherwise interesting parts of the writing.  You’re looking for seeds for writing. Sometimes a word or phrase will trigger something that starts a flow of ideas.  Look for words and phrases that may start that “flow” process.  Give a title to the free writing you just did and transfer that title into a folder or journal page that you keep for “titles”.  Please do this for ALL the titles you come up with in the various exercises we do. These and other titles may serve as sparks for further writing. (See end of this assignment for titles we generated in class>)

(see heading for Writing Prompts for ideas for Free Writing material)

2) Lists of 10 and 5 paragraphs: In class we generated a list of subject areas that could form the basis for an outline for writing.  For example: think of 10 roles you’ve played in life; 10 unforgettable vistas you’ve seen; 10 people you love or have loved, etc. (See the end of this section to find the list of subject areas we generated in class.)

Each week create a new subject area (roles, vistas, loves, etc) and generate 10 related memories.  For example if you choose roles for this week, then you would list 10 roles you play or have played in life (student, son, parent, worker, lover, artist, dreamer, actor, shape-shifter, guide).  Having listed your 10 memories or related information for the category you chose, then choose 5 from the list of 10 to write a paragraph about each one of those 5.  For example, the 5 that most interest me from my list of 10 are: worker, lover, shape-shifter, artist, parent.  For each of these 5, I will write a paragraph in whatever style I want that helps me more fully understand that role of shape-shifter, for example: (Shape-shifters dodge and weave, they come out mostly during times of change, when the parts of me are less nailed down and I let dreams and fears and wilderness overtake me–when I was 19,  31, 50, 69 shapes were most vivid and my shifting escalated. I escaped or fled into the dark, I closed my eyes and ate from many sources, I opened my eyes and recalculated my direction, I headed into the desert and trusted I’d arrive on the other side, somewhere).

Subject areas we generated in class: people you love or have loved, instruments, moments of bliss, thmes you thought everything would change, things to say to my father, obsessions, letters yet to be IMG_5432written, scary places, roads not taken, roads yet to take, songs that move you, favorite artists, feats of courage, colors, past lives, what ifs, moments without explanation.

3)  Every week, please write 2 pages of some aspect of your life story.  You may have a version of your life story already underway, in which case, add 2 more pages to it. If you do not, start you life story this week and write 2 pages.  (You don’t need to start at the chronological beginning of your life story–wherever that may be–instead start writing some event or chapter in your life that appeals to you. Go where the heat is and start there.)

Story Titles generated in class: horizon, anywhere but up, many times down, always with humor, why are you here?, why nnow?, traveling, stubborn, Taurus explains a lot, something you don’t know about me, fill in the blank, what’s happening next?, a flash of light, my education, a testimonial in a flash, how would I know-it’s a changing picture, how would I know I’d have this head, study in black and white and rainbows, all the hopes were generous with light and quite expansive, learning to be me, the secret life of a teacher, boundaries, just throw it in the dryer, dirty laundry, my time capsule, on contradiction, timeless, tangled in limbo, doing the limbo while others are waltzing, I hate electronics, I was close to homeless, I saw Seiji in traffic, a crocodile in the pool, life in the Congo, midnight at the Capitol Theatre, made it to here and now, drifting seasons, time travels, A lovely love @ P1000553157, I was pretty committed and then it changed, my life in tongues and seaweed twisters, tongues and other secrets, the secret life of body parts, heads & tongues tied for life, treetops, kicked off the beach, topless in Rio, I live with a witch, the house of endless rooms, keep on giving, different houses. grabbing the wave, on contradiction, the ups? and downs, Down in-get down, searching for the right prepositions, mutiny at 64 and more tales from the deep, all the lifeboats were full so I had to learn to swim, when in the course of weird human experience, left dangling at the end of my parents’ participle, when the sun comes up red it’s time to run, work-travel and pain, don’t write about sex, you don’t know me, get to know me.

For Meeting #3: 

NOTE: People groaned at what they thought was an immense amount of homework.  Do what you can but you can do a lot is a short period of time.  It depends on how you see the tasks.  Writing your life story in 8 lines of poetry can take you 15 minutes or 3 months.  Try the 15 minute approach but do it after you’ve gotten limber from doing other exercises that fuel your imagination with imagery, phrases and fluency from doing related exercises.  HERE’S TO THE VALUE OF SETTING THE TIMER FOR 15 MINUTES AND SEEING THE IMMENSE AMOUNT YOU CAN CREATE IN THAT FRAMED AMOUNT OF TIME!

1) As with last week, create a set of topics from which you will make a  list of 10 items.  (For example, 10 places: (mine were, the Grand Canyon, the Capitol Theatre in NYC, Nejaf and Kerbala Iraq, Hagia Sophia, Venice underwater, 50 Grafton Street, The phone booth outside Tucson Medical Center, Macao and seeing the approaching typhoon with Elaine, View down the road from 87 Blossomcrest, Shores of Lake Champlain)

A) In addition to making a new list for this week, also draw / doodle/ collage or illustrate some aspect of each of the 10: IMG_6199 IMG_6200 IMG_6201 I suggest this to help give fresh perspective on the meaning behind the item listed. For example, the drawing above of Tucson shows me at night, alone in the desert.  This tells me how alone I felt at the time.  The actual telephone was outdoors but in a more built up environment.

2) Then write a paragraph (of at least 47.89 words) about 5 of the items listed.

3) Write your life story in 35 words or 3 minutes.  We did this in class: please do it again–get practiced at it–along with adding a title to the version of your life story just written.

3A) Write your life story in 8 lines of poetry–whatever you think poetry is (the everyday-accessible kind; not the scholarly, Alexandrine or Persian Ghazal forms unless you want to make life tough on yourself or are yearning for an A in the course!)

4) Free write 3 times this week.  Experiment with starting your free writing with a word you choose from a list and finishing the writing with a word that seems appropriate given the first word you chose.  If your first word were clouds…..your last word might be….typhoon. Or the two words may have no connection at all: Scissors….Bolivia.

5) The story of ALONZO! A story presented itself out our window today. A man was shouting ALONZO! ALONZO! to another man while the sounds of trucks unloading were audible.  Write the story in 7.899 minutes!

6) Choose an object that has current meaning for you. Draw it. IMG_4995Then write for 11.912 minutes about it looking for its wider significance and possible links past and forward in your life.  IMG_4995







Homework for meeting #4:

1) Pull out the piece of paper you got from class: write for 5 minutes being inspired / confused / weirded out by what is written there:

2) Continue the project in which you make lists of categories of events, ideas, tastes, experiences and then deconstruct one of those categories and name 10 instances of that category (10 recipes I took into and out of my marriage: eggs smashed on muffins with harissa and spinach; roast chicken stuffed with lemon and thyme; etc.  Then make a simple drawing of each of the 10 entries, and then write a paragraph about 5 of the entries. In the paragraph try to anchor it to people and other life events.

3) Think of your life story as being divided into 12-18 chapters: Name the chapters.  These can be thematic chapters, chronological, image basted. Each chapter could be a line from a particular poem, or series of movie titles, or inventions of your own.  Come up to the present with your titles, including the current day chapter in which you are living.

a) ask (in writing) when did this current chapter begin.  List what events have characterized the chapter.  Ask when you think this current chapter will end.  If you are near the end of this current chapter, what is the tentative title for the next chapter?

b) given the titles you’ve designed for this exercise, do they give you ideas as to how to retitle your life story?

Extra Credit: Find an image for the cover page of your life story given the new title: “Sometimes You Can’t See Beyond The Shiny Leaves”


Homework for meeting # 5:

1) Continue as before with listing 10 subject areas, 10 topics within one subject area, illustrate each of the 10 topics and then choose 5 of the topics to write a paragraph about.

2) To this bit of homework, continue with the timeline exercise we discussed in which you use an intuitively drawn life-line that helps us position the ups, downs and middles of our lives. Consider incorporating events from the lives of  your parents and family, your work, health, financial and spiritual lives, plus awareness of the wider historical times.

3) Consider the the concept of MEANWHILE, and write 2 pages that suggest the idea that while one important thing is happening, other significant things are happening too, whether they be personal, local, national or international.  Have fun!

A note on process comes from the poet Charlie Simic whose early life was spent in Yugoslavia.  He was noted for saying his early life was dictated by his travel agents, Hitler and Stalin.  Of the creative process, he says: “When you start putting words on the page, an associative process takes over. And, all of a sudden, there are surprises. All of a sudden you say to yourself, ‘My God, how did this come into your head? Why is this on the page?’ I just simply go where it takes me.”

Your story revealed and the imagination powering it

Your story revealed and the imagination powering it

Homework for week 6:

1) Imagine creating a museum of artifacts that document your life. Check out online Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence in Istanbul based on his fictional novel about a couple who meet in Istanbul in the 1970’a.  Consider arranging the artifacts of your museum by chapters in your life.  If you chose a chronological design, for example, you might have baby toys and clothing and a few photos in the first chapter along with a page of writing describing that chapter.  Just below are the artifacts from my current chapter.


2) Continue on the theme of creating a list of 10 significant life events.  Then put each event on a Post-it and place it on a long piece of paper that has been divided by years or chapters.  You could start transferring some of your earlier lists of 10 onto individual Post-its and placing them in appropriate spots along your time map.  Over time you may see areas that a full of notes and other areas with empty spots.  These visual cues may suggest areas for you to pay closer attention.

We will continue talking about making the next edition of our class book an online book.

Tips from 3 agents at the Boston Book Festival 2015; Ann Collette, Sorche Fairbank & Amaryah Orenstein.

Ask what is unique about your story / Vary sentence structure / Beware over-description / Cut your first drafts by 60%./ Beware too much apparent effort in crafting your work (don’t reveal your work has been “workshopped” to death / Invite people into the action-don’t spell it all out for them / Pace is more important than prose (!)/ Get into the story fast! / Get to the universal tale, fast / Ask if 10,000 people  will pay $28 to read this version of your work!/ If the story starts on page 32, start there! / Give narrator weight, make her voice authoritative! / Pick out details that matter—avoid writing the mechanics of movement and conversation./ Add only adjectives that are essential / Don’t start with weather, dreams or a phone call—it’s been done too often! / Don’t give central characters names readers can’t pronounce!

Take all this with a grain of salt! 

The literary agent, Sorche Fairbanks, gave this example of a good first page: taken from Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. (see below)

Why is this a great beginning to a story?

 Words do double time.  In the first paragraph you learn about class and family structure, the emotional relationship between fathers and children, the time period (vinyl seats), the degree of hatred that existed in the house that could override a child’s natural love of sweets, the bond of the two boys, and the irony of the work the fathers’ did with who they were in “real” life.

 (text of Lehane’s book deleted by WordPress for copyright reasons!)

Extension class #1: For next meeting

 We’re experimenting with writing each day towards a longer work using a particular technique.  The idea is based on a writer who just had a novel published that was written as a series of Tweets, that is in 35 words chunks.  Our task for the next 2 weeks is to write-daily- at least one-tweet’s worth towards a longer piece.  I don’t know how this will turn out, but give it a shot, in addition to writing 2 pages for next time. 

For those of you who missed our meeting: We used objects as prompts for writing in our meeting. One idea is to open a junk drawer without looking and reach inside and grab the first object and again without looking feel it, draw it, and then write your responses to it, trying to uncover what might be its link to a larger story in you.

2) Extension Class #2: 

1) For those of you who found a story in our meeting to work on, please continue it for at least 2 pages.  Push through resistance that may be caused by lack of information or apprehension about using fiction or unfamiliar characters.

2) Free Write 3X this week incorporating words that you generate related to 1) a place; 2) an item to eat, 3) a car.

3) For those of you who saw the movie Trumbo, there are times he is writing 7 days a week for 18 hours each day.  Imagine what you would work on and how much you could write if you took one week to do nothing but write?  What is the title of that work? What do you imagine would be one of the central conflicts? What would be one of the settings of this work? List 2 obstacles to spending a week in this way. List 5 reasons why you need to do such a thing.

4) Draw the outline of one of the keys you carry or used to carry.  Pretend you are Sherlock Holmes and imagine what someone else would deduce from the key you chose to work with.  In what story might that key appear? What would happen if the key were lost or stolen?  Reveal though writing the significance of this key.




Homework for Session #2:

Using the format for the journal page we discussed in class, record the events of 3 days this week as though these were traveling days paying exquisite attention to physical and emotional detail.

As illustrated in the journal page from below, record the events of your day (all of them) in 8 minutes in the large central portion of the page. Then, along the edges top, bottom and  sides, enter: title of the day; notes on temperature and weather; location; date; memories that are rekindled by the day; an illustration of some moment from the day; a take-away from the day you want to remember.

As you do this, all these bits and pieces will become habit.  Best of all, you can do them all in 15 minutes a day.  This is life observed in sound bites, quick impressions and marginal notes. This is not luxurious prose steeped in the literature of travel. This is designed to help you remember the bits and pieces of each day so you can later do that wonderful writing.

Once the page is done, then “edit” with colors suggesting where the red, blue and other areas of writing are (according to your own code).  These techniques make researching your travel journal much easier when you go back to reread and process what you recorded.


For next time, please  create a travel map: first draw a map of the world and in one color, mark on the map all the places you have been. Draw a line out of the map so that you can note the location, dates and responses to visiting that place. Local places as well as distant.  Then in another color, mark all the places you would like to visit and in a similar way, draw a line outside the map and note location, dates you intend visiting and why.

The last exercise is to list the places you NEED to travel for personal reasons that may be related to family history, events in your own life or that of loved ones, or for reasons of creativity, spirituality or deep fascination. Reasons others have offered for this deep travel include: returning to the place of a parent’s death; traveling to Mecca or the route of pilgrims to Santiago de Campostella; retracing Bloom’s day in Dublin; revisiting the site where you first fell in love; visiting the site of an accident or other life-altering event, fulfilling the travel dream of a parent or partner, etc.

Arlington Center for the Arts: Creativity Lab Homework

For Meeting #2:

1) Be aware of the sense of texture this week. Record 10 “texture” related moments from the week. Consider how textures are links to memories and the stories relate to those memories.  (Memoir is not what happened, but the story of what happened.) What stories emerge from the textures you choose to focus on? Can you list some of the stories that surface for you?  Are there one or two stories that you’d like to open further through writing or art? (Art, we’ll say,  is any externalized form of expression that you choose to channel emotions and ideas.)

IMG_09102) Use your photo-making device to record 10 images of vistas, objects, moments, people, metaphors that you “notice”.  These are not necessarily beautiful images at all but they are a record of what you choose to pay attention to.  Don’t analyze why you are recording a particular image.  Instead reflect on the themes and other elements that may be signaling you through your choices.

Travel Journal

3) Consider your life as a series of chapters in an ongoing book.  Consider the title of the current chapter in which you are living.  What have been 5 events that have signified this chapter so far?  Record those events briefly.  Where are you with regard to your current chapter: the beginning, the long middle, towards the end? Can you see when this chapter may end? Can you see evidence of the next chapter actually having begun in you already?  See if you can illustrate using words and art what this chapter is and has been like.

What will appear if I set the stage?



Suggestions for Meeting #3: 

1) The sense-focus for this week is SMELL Be particularly aware of the smells around you and record them. Consider what you imagine are the smells accompanying news reports and stories you hear in your daily romp through life. What is the smell of a fishing trawler in the North Sea? What was the smell of your childhood bedroom? The town you grew up? What are the smells around you at this moment?


2) Create a self-portrait of yourself at whatever age you like. Consider how to do this.  Will you use photos, objects, fruits, bits of clothing…? As you are thinking about this exercise, make notes about this and other self-portrait periods, ideas, and the feelings attached to this particular self-portrait project.  There will be other opportunities to do the same thing again!! Lucky us!IMG_9333 - Version 2

3) If you were to tell your life story in 30 minutes using 5 objects to help you do so, what 5 objects would you choose?  Well, now you have the opportunity to WRITE your life story in 30 minutes in part being guided by these 5 objects.  Think beyond the obvious 5 objects (whatever they may be) and hold open the possibility that there are a different selection of objects you might use.  Once you have decided on the 5 objects, render / illustrate them in some form (sketch, clay, cake batter, dance, photo, etc). Then write your life story.  If you go over 30 minutes that’s okay–the point is to cover all those jobs, arrests, lovers, houses, encounters with holy women, children and cars.

4) 10 photos or other images from this week that document your “travels” in the Universe of things you notice!



Meeting # 4 : 

1) Develop Self-portrait #2 using some techniques that are your less dominant

2) Sense for the week: TASTE (consider writing an ode to one of the tastes you encountered.)IMG_5131

3) 10 Photos capturing what you notice in these days.

4) Write / Art about the future: Using objects or whatever means you like, picture yourself at some positive point in the future (like a year or two from now). Describe what you seearound you and what you are doing. Then reflect on what you did to get there.  How did you move from the point you are now to this future point?

5) What do you notice at Thanksgiving? What stories do you tell?

ACA Creativity Lab Extension: Meeting #1 


1) Review the work you did over the last 4 weeks /

2) Consider what you’d like to add to it by way of completing an entry or adding to a series. Were there any of the senses you want to delve more deeply into? Do you see any themes in your 10 weekly images you did not first notice?

3) Consider 2 new projects you may want to work on in the coming year. These may be in any area of the arts and daily life and work and love and community.

4) What do you now see everyday that may benefit from being seen from another perspective?



Creativity Lab: Results of Extension meeting #1 (see below) 

Suggestion for Meeting #2: December 17, 2015 : Reflect on the concept of EDGES and follow the thread of that reflection into art and writing.

For December 10, we listened to what a blank white piece of paper told us to do and we obeyed it. 


IMG_7730 IMG_7735 IMG_7723 IMG_7720 IMG_7709 IMG_7708 IMG_7707

One Response to Sample Programs, Classes & Homework

  1. kathleen potter says:

    Thanks again for our workshop . I enjoyed it and learned from it.

    I write because I would like to have more info about your trp to Turkey.
    To begin, costs…
    Structure each day, evening, and week.
    Writing? More details?
    Thanks very much,

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