Saturday, November 16, 2013

Story Hunting

Mad About Words founder Mary Ann De Stefano invited me to sketch a workshop on October 26th by resident author Caroline Walker at the Kerouac House (1418 Clouser Avenue, Orlando FL). Caroline Walker is a writer, producer and amateur explorer originally from Rock Island, Illinois. She holds a BA from the University of Southern California and an MA from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She has hiked many miles of tunnels, mines, architectural time capsules, trails, not-yet-trails, roads, shorelines, cityscapes, caves, graveyards and abandoned buildings.

The invitation explained, "Writers explore uncharted territory every time we tell a story. We are the cartographers, archaeologists, anthropologists and private eyes of our own imaginations. The real world can be a powerful ally—if we know where to look for clues. This workshop encourages storytellers to excavate narratives through a connection to place. Using photographs and objects as prompts, participants will discover how to:

    Empower locations to serve as dynamic characters
    Employ everyday observation as an evocative research method
    Exploit objects and artifacts as unique narrative tools
    Experience a deeper connection to our surroundings"

This workshop was right up my alley. I'm out exploring everyday using a sketchbook to record the hunt.  Though Caroline was dressed in a fashionable black dress with a tight blue belt, she wore practical hiking boots instead of high heels. She asked the writers to focus on two things, Objects and Places. Places are secret keepers, clues to the story. She described in eloquent detail the unique place in Wisconsin where she grew up. It was spared from the glacial drifts millions of years ago which left it un-scarred. It is the one place where Paleozoic snails survive and it brings back vibrant childhood memories. She talked about the huge Live Oak in front of the Kerouac House which is surrounded by Resurrection ferns and all that implies. Some places instinctively make her light up with inspiration. For some people that place might be a beach, but she feels uncomfortable at the immense expanse of open ocean.   More than anything, she invited writers to discover what place lights them up, to access a childlike sense of newness.

Each writer said a little about themselves including a bit about a place that they call home. Caroline handed out photos she had taken of abandoned places and the authors had thirty seconds to write something based on what they saw. The results were surprising and sometimes profound. Caroline is a true listener, and endlessly curious, I suspect the writing session fueled her creative reserves as well. Her enthusiasm to explore and discover something new everyday was infectious and inspiring.

Mark Your Calendar, Caroline Walker will be reading at the Kerouac House (1418 Clouser Ave, Orlando, FL) on November 16th at 7pm. She will also be reading at Functionally Literate, on November 22nd at The Gallery at Avalon Island (39 S. Magnolia Avenue, Orlando, Fl) starting at 6pm.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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