Kendall’s Class Assignments : Winter 2018

On this page will appear current notes and assignments for classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education / Grafton Street Vivid Writing Afternoon Series / Thursday Night Writers / Arlington Center for the Arts!!

what can the mirror see

Below are assignments  for current classes. Scroll down until you reach your class and the week you’re looking for assignments. Let me know what you think about this method for keeping in touch.

It’s hard enough getting a snapshot of one of life’s moments, how do you get a sense of the whole? We get invested in one version of our story and hang on to it without test-driving it or checking the tires to see if it’s still an accurate interpretation.  Childhood can seem like a given (been there, done that) but it isn’t, of course. As we move on, our vision of the past changes and is continually being rewritten but we don’t always keep up with the “rewrites.”

Cambridge Center For Adult Education: Memories, Stories & Reflections

Homework for week#2: January 16, 2018

Note: You begin getting a sense of the variety of interpretations of your story when you  develop Working Titles for your life stories. Titles forays / seasons / years help capture and partially interpret that story period. Depending on your working title, your story about Uncle Benjamin, the cab driver, can reveal eccentricity, wimpiness or or drive. Family stories and our own can be ways of preserving myths, instilling values, cultivating behaviors and establishing power relationships.  It takes time to see those stories with a keen eye.  Story writing challenges assumptions and reveals faulty thinking and titles for stories can jumpstart that reinterpretation process.

Adding tools to your process: Consider using additional forms of expression with which to record and interpret your life in addition to writing.  What if you included photos, video, paint, collage, drawings, orations, nightclub singing, etc? A daily journal with drawings?


Free write 3 times this week for 5 minutes doing so in 3 different locations (on a bus? On a speeding train? In the Christmas clearance section of Target?)

Create two new possible titles for your life story to date:

“It’s was all right until it wasn’t and then it got better”

“My life as a fictional character”

Then for each of the two titles, create titles for 4 chapters that would likely appear given the title you’ve chosen.

For example: “My Life as a fictional character” might have chapters entitled:

1) “Crafting the look of distrust”

2) ”Secrets and white lies”

3) “I was free to do anything as long as I didn’t get caught”

4) “I told you I wasn’t real”

Then choose one of the 8 chapter titles to start focusing your writing.

For example: Chapter title: “I told you I wasn’t real.”

Start: When we moved to Trenton, I disappeared. I changed my name to Area Four, took a Pen Pal in an obscure state (Idaho) and began sabotaging the toaster oven.  I hated grilled cheese but my mother loved them.  I couldn’t tell her I didn’t like cheese—that would undo her—but I was able to stick a knife in the transformer and make it hard for her to make those insipid  stomachaches. You may think grilled cheese is nothing, it’s big, it’s a window into the theatre she and I constructed so we could survive the other.  Let me explain….

(Continue your version of your chapter for 2 pages). 

Bring 2 pages and your free writing to class. Have a splendid week!  Kendall

an bring to the living that lies in the present you to see you life whrough new lenses, one that gets you excited to see how all this unfolds given a but that  as we get insightbased on the  aren’t static nor are the interprestations we give to major life events–they change based on our own changes and the evolving zeitgeist of the times.

Homework for week #3: 1/23/18

We talked more about titles for our life story and the chapters contained within those separate titles.  (i.e., if my life story title were “Grabbing Things Left and Right” it would suggest chapter titles related to the themes and imagery in the larger life title.

We wrote one of our life story titles on paper airplanes and flew them around the room and we did this 4 times collecting more title information with each flight.  We then free wrote based on words we saw written on our paper planes.  Some phrases that colored our writing were:

Dent where the words tried to get in /No longer the movies or fiction / Being a 3 year old with a 3 year old / Punk rock made me see the other side / Not everyone in Sweden is blonde and clean-minded /Tape over the mouth / Young and impressionable /Girls talk and talk but remain silent

We read aloud our free writing or writing we’d done during the week

Assignment for # 3:

Free writing prompts from meeting #3: 1/24/18

skiing on grass / post-its in the night / James Arness / Glass / never escaped their grasp / Gunsmoke /general contractor / Bollywood / earwig. / stating points / renovations / sexy priest / pentimento / Iceland in the dark ages / cigars with the boys / the plane split apart / someone called “ouch”/ cute oddity / nose pressed against glass / transit of earwigs from one ear to the other via the brain

Reflect on 5 places (geographical locations) that for you have “energy”. This topic was framed in the context of: do some places intrinsically have “energy” (spirit, power, etc) or is it mostly our investing “energy” in them because of experiences we had in those places?  Freely make a list of special places, then choose 5 to consider writing about. Make notes about each of the 5 and then, choose one  place as a source for life story writing. Let pictures, people, sounds, tastes, etc. influence the writing .  

Create a tangible collage of that place using pictures, receipts, tickets, and any other ephemera you want to reflect the experience and that adds depth to it.

Write in a free writing way 3 times this week

Choose a piece of music to listen to for 10 minutes and write being influenced by the shape, rhythm and feel of it. Consider what the “soundtrack” to a specific period in your life would be.  Play it and see what the effect is of writing about that period with music playing in the background.

Have a good week and walk into snowflakes, many of them are very friendly!



Homework for Week #4: 1/30/18

Free Writing sources: Create the outline of a collage and put fee writing words and phrases in the outlined areas: see picture : words / waiting for the bus / spiritual feelings / we did it together / love like you mean it / going to the bathroom / 3AM / Rocky Shoals / Frayed embroidery / burnt pot / La mer

More Prompts from writing: footsteps on wood / wanting to take everything off / seee his face vividly / he may have good news / why do I replay the events

Homework for next week: Create a collage from magazine images (not family photos and existing favorite images).  Find a few magazines and rip 20-25 images that speak to you–don’t edit as you rip. Assemble the pieces and create a tentative arrangement of those pieces. Take a photo of the arranged pieces and write what comes to mind when you see those pieces.  For this collage, don’t add words and headlines to the collage itself as they slant the possible interpretations of the images. Bring in your collage or a picture of your collage. (This collage process will be used later in other exercises).

Make a list of memories and associations tied to the concept: “Things I never knew…” They could be things we didn’t know about ourselves, family, daily life, life in general, history or civilization but they tie into life story in some way.  List 5 Things (ideas, secrets, characteristics, mistakes, actions, etc.,) and write 2 pages about one of them.

Free write 3 times this week

REMEMBER: Submissions for our book is week #7: February 20 / 8 pages

Below is an annotated collage / first the images were set down and notes were added along with the date the collage was created

Prompt for week #4: What We Can’t See

Check out for submissions for short pieces / and Massachusetts Cultural Council website for jan 29 deadline for submitting for 2018 writing grants ♣

Homework for meeting # 5: February 6, 2018

  1. Inventory the writing you have wanted to do.(Go back to some of the stories you had in mind before you took this class and add to those, stories ideas or subjects you have discovered along the way.) Give titles to those projects.  Design some graphic image that helps you “see” them.  Consider the image of a set of drawers or boxes that you can indicate in some way, the degree to which you have made headway on those projects. In the image here, you see the titles pasted onto drawers with circles to indicate
    the degree to which you have made progress towards writing about that title.  Please change titles as you go.  Consider listing the events that each of those titles contain within them as well.
  2. Free Write 3 times this week using a memory as a prompt. You can do this by reflecting on the images and words associated with this memory. (for example: Cape, bad lobster, night of my iguana, leaving the butter on the stove, melted love)
  3. Write 2 pages towards a story for next week: Consider writing 2 pages towards one of your story-boxes, i.e., stories that you deemed important to write (see above) or this prompt: What Piece Is Missing?
  4. Here are some images from the collages people made last week:




PS: I’m planning to run a 3-day writing retreat this summer, probably the 3rd or 4th week in July.  I’d love ideas for where to hold the retreat either in MA or neighboring states.  If you have ideas for evocative locations, please let me know!

The results from our Zoom video conferencing experience on Thursday Feb 1, 2018: We demonstrated that once we get the bugs worked out, this will be a very useful tool for staying connected and even having a class perhaps this summer or in-between semester classes, plus brief writing check-ins, etc.  We had some video issues but I think those bugs got worked out.  We’ll try it soon again and see if we can do it even better next time. Thanks to all who participated. An email went out to everyone with the prompts we generated.



Homework for Week #6: Feb 13, 2018

We free wrote based on titles of the story inventory boxes from the week before (see above).  We each listed titles of stories we wanted to write at some point and then offered them as source material for in-class writing. Other prompts emerged in our conversation and reading including: Oi! my back, Bots and bubbles, frozen toes, Brady being pulled to earth, Super Bowl madness, break on through to the other side, blood soaked butcher paper, what I apologize for, deciding between mountains and oceans, looking white, Zoots closed, getting shit done, gods appear, revictoried.

We gravitated to using the inventorying idea suggested by the story boxes that represented the stories yet to write.  If we imagine there is a literal box into which we put idea, photos,memorabilia, food, clothing, etc. that could serve as prompts, what box do you want to work on this week?

  • Choose a title and create the box and contents that go with it.(You may have to fabricate the documents and photos and use substitute items for these boxes because the originals don’t exist or never did in the case of photos.)  Write two pages either about the process of creating that “box” or the story that springs from doing so of thinking about it.

To illustrate: my box is called “Humidity” and in it are a ferry boat ticket from Macau to Hong Kong, a bus ticket to the Chinese territories, a pair of chopsticks, headlines from the New York Times, a piece of bok choy left over from a spilled bowl of soup, Mao’s little red book, selected lyrics from the musical “Hair”, and a silhouette of bombs dropping. These will play a part in the writing I do whether they are used directly or not.

Report on Zoom meeting #2: We logged on more successfully this time with video and audio working pretty well. We are planning a meeting for next Thursday, Feb 15 at 8am. Watch for the login code in your mailbox!

Reminder: 8 pages of writing for our book is due at week #7 meeting

Collage and other images associated with writing done for week #6


Homework for week #7: Feb 20, 2018

Please bring or send in 8 pages camera-ready for out group book to be published week #8



The Granny Box: Part II: Some of us had collaged or drawn or otherwise “looked into” one of the topic boxes we wanted to write about. The title of my topic box (aka Granny Box) is HUMIDITY–each drawing suggests elements of the story I want to write. What’s I your Granny Box and which 2 pages of it will you write for our next meeting?





Take a plan page of paper and stare at it for a while until you start to see something. Consider Mark Rothko’s instructions to viewers of his black paintings: look at them up close-up (18inches) for a while then slowly back up.

What do you see in your blank page? Now lightly sketch in any images or textures you see on that page, add marks and colors to those spare lines and see what’s wanting to emerge from the paper.

In class exercise: imagine a photo or image that has personal significance to you (say a picture of you on a bike as a kid). Draw or represent that image in some way and then sketch, paint or otherwise represent all the things not shown in the photo (the person taking the photo, the hot dog stand to the right of the picture, your sister repairing her skates to the left of the picture, etc.  You may not know what was outside the picture, but let your hand and stray marks suggest what might have been there.

What themes that are suggested by the image you chose and your additions to that image?  Are any of these themes useful when thinking about imagery you may want to work on in other work you do for this class?

For week #2: 1/30/18

  1. Take a 6ft length from a roll of paper and do something with it…..

2. Develop the theme of “meanwhile”–that is, as one thing was happening, other things were happening too.

3. Move forward on the self-appointed homework assignments you gave yourself.

For week # 3; 2/7/2018

Create a one minute movie on your phone.  Edit it if you can.  You can also cut and paste existing footage you may have or dod something in one take, that is point and shoot new stuff. Bring it in.  Write about the video and/or the process of doing it.  What does it say about you, your interests, what catches your eye, etc.?

Images from week #2 class January 31, 2018









(Homework yet to be posted)