charcoal, cancellations, & social distancing…

Yesterday, I took blank paper and charcoal and zero instructions for my storytelling workshop participants

The situation changes from one hour to the next, and the conversations that I had five days ago are no longer valid this morning. Most of my events this spring have been cancelled. Yesterday, I held my last storytelling workshop in the near future with students at a Pasadena high school. Rather than enter the room with instructions, or even plan a conversation around COVID-19 — which I’m sure they were discussing in all their other classrooms — I took blank paper and charcoal.

Some of the students had never used charcoal before and picked up the sticks to try and draw as if they were using pencils. When they saw fellow classmates creating textured black sheets, they let go of trying to make formal “drawings” and allowed themselves to play with the medium.

At the beginning and end of the class period, students shouted words of their choice – hola! freedom! adios! AAAAhhhh! – at the count of three (the generous librarian had given me prior permission to allow students to make noise).

“Social distance” is a new word in my vocabulary. A month ago, most people had no context to understand the term. Now, with time stretching before me, cancellation of all my March and April readings and workshops – and probably the rest of the semester and summer – open space stretches ahead with no end in sight.

San Antonio Book Festival – one of many cancellations this spring