LEARNING CREATIVE WRITING
By Robert Fleming
At 10-years-old, in the 1970s, revenge is how I started creative writing. My best friend was my first cousin Mark. I was 10. Mark was 11. Mark and I sat on his house front steps and burned ants with magnifying glasses. Despite our insect murders, Mark was older, bigger, and beat me up. How could I get back at Mark? Our family dog, Penny, ate canned dog food–Alpo. I set out to get Mark to eat Alpo dog food by making Mark Alpo hamburgers. But I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to use a frying pan. Instead, I wrote a 1-page story in my blue writing book. Did I ever make Mark Alpo Hamburgers? As a child the only food I cooked was canned (Spaghetti O's, Mini-Ravioli). Oops, I told.
Feeding dog food to a human, was the first time I wrote a story about a fantasy that I was afraid to do. Years later, writing became my way to express fantasies without acting them out and risking consequences. In writing, I can murder but I don’t have to spend my remaining years in prison.
At Roslyn Elementary School, I also learned other things about writing, but didn’t know it. The schoolyard children threw snowballs at the passing cars. We were caught. Punishments were write, I will not throw snowballs at cars! 100 times and write a 1-page essay on snow. What I didn’t know is that writing 100 times is repetition, a poetry device to learn. And a 1-pager introduced me to length.
At 14 years old, in 1977, at St. Georges High School, our homeroom teacher told us all 8th graders will take typing. The typing teacher showed us a typewriter. Teacher said that besides writing with a #2 Pencil on paper, a typewriter can put words on a page. All students will learn to type. Our first assignment was to get a typewriter to the classroom. Father brought home a typewriter and told me to walk it to school. My school was a 15-minute walk from home. The typewriter weighed 20 lbs. I weighed 80 lbs. I tried to hold the typewriter handle with 1 hand, I couldn’t. I carried the typewriter with two hands to school. I dropped the typewriter on my foot and had to wear a cast for two months.
Sitting at my typewriter, I was angry at my broken foot, my typewriter, and my father who made me go to school in a cast. I typed my first poem: Vulture. After typing the poem, I felt that I no longer had to throw my typewriter out of the window from the second to first story. I learned that writing poetry could be a way to express angry feelings, but I didn’t know it.
In 1984, I was a Brandeis College graduate, working as a journalist in print and tv media. Journalism writing is factual. Every workday was just the facts in 200 words or an 8-second sound-bite. Did I want more from writing? Yes, I’ll try creative writing. But there was already so much written. In the 1980s my college poetry teacher, Denise Levertov had already written seven poetry books, and my college novel teacher John Irving had written five books. How many plays/poems had Shakespeare written? Anything creative left to write?
I recalled my first typed poem Vulture – so dark, so angry! Dante’s Divine Comedy showed me hell darkness can be redeemed to light. In the 1980s the good vs. evil (light vs dark) was in the movie theatres in Star Wars. Duality was a start.
Revisited what my English teachers taught about the elements of creative writing: theme, form, and literary devices. The most common writing theme is love. Don’t write love, the reader has already read it. I came to that either theme or form must be new. If my theme was new, my form could be old. Or if my form was new, my theme could be old. I am a crafty writer. I jot down all my writing ideas, but I choose which one(s) to continue. Some recent publications:
Title Delaware Beat
Publication The Beat and Delaware Bards 2020
Theme NEW: pairing of the place of Delaware and a drum-every part & sound
Form old: poetry quatrain – 4-line stanza
Publication Devil’s Party Press: Instant Noodles
Theme NEW – noodles can kill you
Form old: poem – acrostic (1st letter each line, going down, spells a word) and golden
shovel (last word in a line, going down, makes a sentence)
Publication Abyss and Apex
Theme Old: Love, Revenge
Form NEW: poem – script-couplets-two-line dialogue
Robert Fleming lives in Lewes, DE, USA. Robert’s twists bring the reader to the limit to find truth. Listeners heard Robert reading his Beat-Poetry in May at They-Call-Me-Mitch, an online reading series in San Francisco, CA; in April his play the 8th wonder had a casted reading at the Playwright's Collective; and he co-hosts a local artist share at the Lewes, DE library. Readers read his writing in publications in United States, Canada, and Australia. Robert is a repeat contributor to Local Gems Press, Radical Fairy Diary, Devil’s Party Press, Failed-Haiku, Rehoboth Beach Writer’s Guild, Spilled-Ink Virginia, and Camp Rehoboth art shows. This summer Robert will apply for an emerging artist grant with the Delaware Division of the Arts. His poetry and word-art will be in Ethel Zine and Failbetter. Follow Robert at https://www.facebook.com/robert.fleming.5030 .