I was really dreading walking in to SAGE (which I now discover stands for Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders). My last visit was on Friday, those ghostly corridors with 3 people there and lots of lovely empty empty empty spaces. How often does that happen??? You get the beautiful, well designed space – empty. There’s something people miss about the crumbly, smelly slightly too small space they know and love. They don’t trust the slick, dynamic, designed new place. It’s not theirs.
But today – completely different. Packed. I am greeted with a massive bowl of kiwi fruit (some kind of health push) (completely full, despite the great vibe, it has not succeeded in selling the kiwis). There’s laughing, there are people. The joint is jumping.
So maybe this Creative writing session with Kristina won’t be too bad. I go into the room. Four women, three men, all 75+. They eyeball me, as only 75-year-old New Yorkers can. “Who are ya?”. I explain. They are instantly friendly, curious and want to come to London. The class is meant to begin at 3. 3 comes and goes. At 3.01, they decide to start. One of them says: “Prompt: green.” “How much time to we have?” “40 minutes” So we all set to writing. I am completely clueless. (Prompt? Green? What?)
At the end of 40 minutes – and they are really writing, really, really writing – Kristina has arrived, and asks them to read. The work is incredible, the response more so. Everything is positive, but not in a patronising way, everything is greeted joyously. There is nothing negative, nothing at all.
I remember particularly Beverley’s contribution: “Green. The green eyed monster. I used to be so jealous. So jealous. why wasn’t I heterosexual? Why didn’t I live in Scarsdale and have a barbecue and a lawn? Now – you can keep Scarsdale. I wouldn’t be straight if you paid me. I’ve got the City. ….. but I could use a Penthouse.”
Friendships form, they remember things from one another’s stories: “I always get so excited when you write a story about Henry! You gotta finish your story about Henry! We wanna hear more about Henry!”
Talking to Kristina afterward, who is keeping the positive feeling going by saying things like “I applaud your perspective…..you’ve created a piece that is brilliant and sensitive…..” she mentions the New York Writers Coalition, who work with a variety of groups who might be having self esteem issues: prisoners, women experiencing domestic violence, school refusers. It makes sense. You just keep saying good things to people who have been hearing a lot of bad things….. well – it’s obvious, isn’t it?
And on a personal level – I did my 40 minutes of “Prompt: green” writing – went back to my digs, inspired, and wrote a song. It’s a great method. Want to use it with all my groups!