Guest Blog by Volunteer Tutor, Kate Heidorn
“Who’s ready to share?”
*the sound of click-clacking across keyboards*
“Time’s almost up. Can we get someone to share?”
“Can we have 5 more minutes? I’m almost done.”
“YES. Of course.”
Boy, was I nervous. A few weeks back I was given the opportunity to lead the group’s creative writing workshop about origin stories. Origin stories fictionally explain how something or someone came to be. (Think of your favorite superhero’s origin story…How did Batman come to be so moody?)
After asking the participants examples of origin stories they know, I told the origin story of the opossum, a piece of oral tradition from the Cherokee people. The Cherokee legend explains how opossum, who would brag about his beautiful fluffy tail, got tricked into a haircut that led to a bald tail and such high levels of embarrassment that he fainted, which brings us to the creature we have today.
Having been a part of an argument about what food anyone would want an unlimited supply of during an apocalypse, I decided to bring in Trolli sour gummy worms for inspiration. I passed out a handful of worms to each participant and asked them to create their own origin story of how the candy was invented or discovered, as if the worms were a mythical creature.
After munching on a few Trolli gummies for inspiration, the young men wrote. And they wrote.
When the time came to share towards the end of the workshop, they asked for more time. Once they finished, they began to share their stories. We heard about a Narnia-like place where Trolli gummies were used to catch Swedish fish and about a man in the woods who was getting tired of eating earthworms. We were already 5 minutes past our work time, but asked if anyone else wanted to share. One young man who we had not heard from in the 5 weeks since we started the semester raised his hand and shared his tale. His participation made my day.
True, a YourWords tutor helps a young adult with his homework. A YourWords tutor is also a mentor, someone who asks how grades are, talks about the latest movie, or shares a joke. A tutor asks questions to prompt creative writing, but most importantly listens. A YourWords tutor does not restrict their mentee’s writing, but provides a safe environment free of judgement, allowing the young adult to write his heart out and share when he feels comfortable.
Creative writing is a tool that can be used to express our inner-most thoughts –stories about our past, our fears for the future, and today’s unrestrained emotions. It’s an important outlet, one that gives us a sense of control over our otherwise chaotic lives. To share these personal thoughts with another person requires trust. In my experience as a tutor, the best formula for building trust is time and showing you care through consistent presence and engagement.
I’m proud to be a tutor for an organization that works hard to create a community that feels safe, one which allowed that young man to share his gummy worm story.