Lipsticks, beards, bananas and more (a writing exercise)

Larry Brook, trainer and MAI board member, led writer workshops in several Asian countries last year. He shares about his Indonesia workshop here:

We’re driving to Puncak in the Bogor Mountains outside of Jakarta, Indonesia. It’s time for the writer workshop organized by Robby Chandra of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

I worked with this same group of writers six months ago – we’re like old friends. Merry is a dynamic Javanese woman, the fourth pastor of a church of 7,000. Rinto, a city slicker and pastor from Jakarta, is mischievous and witty. Roy is suave. As I teach, he sits at his computer, typing in Indonesian, which reflects on the wall through an LCD projector.

As an experiment, I try a new Writing Map “Perfect 7 on 1” (Seven paragraphs on one subject). In this map, you write seven paragraphs on one concrete object (lizards, lipstick, etc.). Each paragraph has a unique function: Paragraph 1 is facts about the object. Paragraph 2 must expand on the final fact given in Paragraph 2. Paragraph 4 is a third-person narrative, Paragraph 5, first-person, etc.

Trainer Larry Brook explains the writing exercise.

These writers are gifted and because of previous training, quick to follow prescribed format. Still, they struggle with this new map. “Why does Paragraph 3 have to focus on history?”  “Why can’t Paragraph 1 feature a first-person narrative instead of facts?” I explain that this map, like others, is precise – and I know it works.

The experiment is a success. Writers are a step closer to internalizing the formal function of each writing element in relation to the whole. My helper Saeby copies the articles from each laptop or I-Pad onto a memory stick, and we publish a booklet: Lipstick, Beards, Bananas and More: Articles by 17 Indonesian Christian Writers.

The bananas or mustaches, coffee, square shapes or water engage the reader – and because of format, each article leaves room for a striking Christian message.

>>Read Larry’s sample article, “My best friends are Lizards,” using this writing exercise.

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