Ideas and What To Do With Them

Tomato Juice in a glas, decorated with tomato ...

Tomato Juice in a glass, decorated with tomato slice and sprig (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is my weekly column–now you will know what I was busy doing on Saturday. There is some local lore here–Richard Scarsbrook is from Toronto now; the Workshop was held in my hometown of Kingsville;  Coopers Hawk is a Winery just a few miles away; the Mettawas is a local restaurant in our refurbished train station, and Merli’s is a quaint eatery just down the street from the library:

            A gathering of like-minded people met last Saturday to form a community for a day. A community we all recognized—creative people assembled to learn something new, to gain inspiration, and to add to our body of knowledge. We attended a Short Story Writing Workshop led by a local boy “made good” author Richard Scarsbrook, originally from Olinda. He opened the workshop with these words: “I want you to walk away with two things today: ideas, and what to do with them.”

            Before the workshop I wrote a few articles about it for the paper, and described Richard as dynamic—but only because I had gleaned the information second-hand. On Saturday I experienced the truth of the word dynamic: energetic, active, lively, vibrant, and full of life. All those words described our leader for the day, who took his cue from us in how he structured the workshop. He had a handout that he used for part of the day, but abandoned it somewhat in the afternoon after hearing what we wanted to concentrate on.

            The venue was provided by the Essex County Library Board. We used the activity room in the beautiful Kingsville Library as our “classroom”. Organized by volunteers for “Wine, Writers and Words”—it was in this volunteer’s eyes an unmitigated success. Personally I loved every minute of it—from the workshop itself to the lunch at the Mettawas Restaurant, a wine tasting put on by the affable and knowledgeable owner of Coopers Hawk Vineyard, Tom O’ Brien to an open mike session followed by the fellowship at Merli’s just down the street. It was a full day of my favourite things: writing, reading, eating, conversation, and a little wine.

            Admittedly, I have been writing this column for years so I must try and come  up with new ideas on a weekly basis—but a workshop of this sort really helps the creative juices run afresh. One of the exercises Richard provided us with was the prompts provided by  six words that he said were guaranteed to get us writing. And right he was. Apparently the words he chose are psychologically proven to get our minds in gear and our fingers working. I was surprised how each of the words brought up strong memories. The first word was childhood, which evoked in me a memory that has obviously been lurking in the background for a long time. The subject is kind of quirky, the memory not life changing, yet there it was. I will give you a taste of what the word evoked during the workshop:

            “The whole family was invited. Grandparents. Aunts and uncles. Cousins. And of course mom and dad and my brothers and sister. Even Tippy, our dog, was excited.

            We had set up the dining room table in the living room. It was joined by sundry and other tables to make it long enough to seat twenty-two people.

            I was in charge of setting the table, a job I enjoyed even as a kid. Lining up the silverware just so. Placing the glasses between the tip of the knife and corner of the plate. And since we were having company we used our tiny glasses placed in the middle of the plate to hold tomato juice. That was always the sign that we were having either a special meal or holiday dinner—we had tomato juice to start the meal.”

            That was as far as I got as the exercise was timed and we had to stop writing—but Richard said that the whole idea behind the prompt was to give us something to start and a place to go with it. So here is the rest of the story—be forewarned, it is a little….well, I will let you be the judge of it:

            “After setting the table, I found a glass of what I thought was tomato juice poured into a lovely container. To this day I do not know why I did what I did next—but I took a drink from it. It was not tomato juice at all! It was my mom’s homemade chili sauce. And she was none too pleased that I took a sip from it. Many times during my life I have asked myself “what was I thinking?” and I believe this was the first time I had this thought. How could I not have recognized that the lumpy chili sauce was not juice? I was mortified by my mistake and skulked away to my room. I think I remember this so well because I was deeply embarrassed about my stupid mistake—and it ruined the special meal for me.” I understand that this is no piece of writing genius but it is a vivid memory drawn from the word “childhood”.

            The workshop happened through the hard work of Nancy Belgue, Tara Hewitt, Brian Sweet, Joan Cope, Arleen Sinasac and to some extent me. A lot of thought and rethought, planning and replanning went into the day, and speaking for myself (and hopefully the other participants) “a good time was had by all.”

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20 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I hope you’ll share the other five words with us!

    • I was hoping someone would ask. They are: family, a person, a place, conflict and relationship. I knew someone would have the savvy to ask and I am glad it was you!

  2. Sounds like a perfect day for you. Chili sauce, really? I don’t remember that…..made me laugh!

  3. I have the “childhood” one down….. thanks for sharing the other 5. I knew family, person, and place and actually have lists of ideas for those. But conflict and relationship are ones I can work on!
    How strange that you mentioned Cooper’s Hawk. Wednesday I took my daughter to a local Cooper’s Hawk restaraunt in Columbus Ohio. We celebrated her birthday and had a delicious lunch. It was the first I had ever heard of it!

  4. Chili sauce? Really? The humiliation seemed disproportionate to the mistake. These are great words Lou Ann…much to ponder on my end

    • I was pretty little and I think my mom thought I did it on purpose

      • She must have thought you a little mischief maker to volitionally drink chili sauce.. 😉

      • I don’t think I was, but I imagine I was not the little angel I remember…………….ha ha

  5. Funny how the memories of our mistakes are always so vivid. So, do you like chilli sauce as an adult?

    • oddly enough, I do, especially on meatloaf–you would think it would have ruined me for life when it came to chili sauce

  6. I would have had a very hard time giving up my daily newspaper if I had someone who wrote such interesting things as you do. 🙂 Childhood…the one memory that was always good for me involved horses. We had an amusement park 30 miles from our home, my grandparents would take me each Sunday during the season and buy a stack of tickets. All for the horses. Then with the permission of the park owner I got to ride my horse for as long as I wanted without having to get off and wait in line again. All because it was proven to be good physical therapy. My grandfather would walk with me, he knew the signs when my body was giving out and I would fall soon. But until that they gladly bought as many tickets as it took for me to ride as long as possible.

    • that is a wonderful memory–so glad you loved something that was also good for you! thanks for the compliment–I am blushing

  7. I likely would have responded the same way you did…embarrassed and wanting to disappear for a time… I don’t know about you but I was super-sensitive if I thought I’d done something wrong … In a way I guess I’m still a bit like that… Diane

    • I think you have hit the nail on the head–I always wanted to be the good girl

  8. Oh honey child, I can tell you of childhood embarrassment. When I was about 10, I found this neat little zippered bag in the trash can in my mom’s room. A found treasure! Wow! I decided it would make a great little change purse and took it to church one morning. In between Sunday School and morning worship, I made sure to stop by the bathroom in which all the cool, older, teenage girl gathered. I proudly showed them my new change purse.

    They burst into laughter. I left with hot tears in my eyes. When my mom asked me what was wrong, I showed her how I had re-purposed that cute zippered bag from the trash. Suddenly I noticed that the words “Tampax” were on each side of the pouch. It was a zippered pouch made for carrying tampons in your purse!

    I still didn’t fully understand it until I started my own period about 3 years later. But I DO remember my mother’s hug and her telling me that it would be okay — and that she actually bought me a cute little change purse to carry not too long after that.

    Memories…ah! Sandy

    • I feel your pain–that is a lot worse than drinking chili sauce though at lease you did not really understand it–good story!

  9. A dynamic workshop speaker like this can be so inspirational and move us beyond our regular patterns. Had to laugh about the chili sauce. So funny! I’ll bet your newspaper readers liked this as much as we did here in the blogging world.


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