The Parenting Word Shop


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Tips on hosting a storytelling workshop for parents.

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  • Title:Life in the backwoods : a sequel to Roughing it in the bush
    Principal Author:Moodie, Susanna, 1803-1885.Imprint:New York : J.W. Lovell, [1887?]
  • The Parenting Word Shop

    1. 1. t h e p a r e n t i n g w o r d s h o p presented by Ann Douglas President, Mom Media
    2. 2. introduction Parents have always shared stories about the physical and emotional challenges of raising children and being a parent.
    3. 3. Petroglyphs, Petroglyph Provincial Park, North of Peterborough, Ontario
    4. 4. The media and genres have changed dramatically over the years: petroglyphs, oral histories, letters to family and friends, diaries, books, articles, radio plays, TV sitcoms, and so on.
    5. 5. Life in the Backwoods: A Sequel to Roughing it in the Bush by Susannah Moodie (1887)
    6. 6. • Modern parents are continuing this tradition: variety of genres, new media. • Storytelling never goes out of style. The medium may change, but the message remains the same.
    7. 7. "Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today." - Robert McKee, screenwriting guru
    8. 8. planning a parenting wordshop
    9. 9. purpose Opportunities for.... • Parent-to-parent support through the sharing of stories (written, oral, audio, video, art-based, etc.) • Individual projects? • Group projects? • Projects to take out into the community? • All of the above?
    10. 10. the basics • Times, dates, places.... • Number and length of sessions, date/time • Course location: amenities: essentials, frills • Costs: parent-paid, agency- paid, sponsor-paid?
    11. 11. the ground rules • Ask group participants to help you to come up with a set of ground rules for the group so that everyone feels safe and secure participating in the parenting wordshop. • The group's rules should reflect the agency's values: respect, inclusion, confidentiality, sharing. • Participants should be prepared in advance for the fact that writing (like art) taps into the unconscious, which can cause both joyous and painful memories/insights to be revealed.
    12. 12. • Sharing should be optional. Writing is personal and participants should be allowed to share as much or as little of their work as they choose. • Be prepared to modify writing projects based on the participant’s literacy level, language fluency/first language, cultural norms, financial needs, and other special needs.
    13. 13. • There's an art to providing feedback on another person's work—just as there's an art to providing feedback on another person's parenting style. • Everyone's writing and life experience are unique. • Imperfection isn't just expected; it's celebrated. This applies to art and life.
    14. 14. “Nothing encourages creativity like the chance to fall flat on one's face.” - James D. Finley
    15. 15. "Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.” - Ben Okri
    16. 16. the write stuff • Materials/writing prompt suggestions could be supplied by group leader, but participants should always be free to write about anything they feel inspired to write about). • Personal items can be brought in by parents (a photo or a meaningful object).
    17. 17. • Photo/object as inspiration. What is the story behind this photo or object? The story will be shaped by where you decide to start and end the story. The same photo could suggest different stories depending on how you decide to shape your story.
    18. 18. • Ideas could be brainstormed by the group. • Participants can be encouraged to think of a memory/incident they would like to write about in a particular class. (Idea journal)
    19. 19. "Think small. Don't rummage around in your past -- or your family's past -- to find episodes that you think are "important" enough to be worthy of including in your memoir. Look for small self- contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you still remember them it's because they contain a universal truth that your readers will recognize from their own life." - William Zinsser
    20. 20. poetry and word art • Discuss poems about parenting. • Create a parenting word/image collage. • Write a six-word memoir (the brainchild of Smith Magazine) to describe a particular parenting experience. • Use magnetic poetry kits or create word art using a white board and erasable markers.
    21. 21. • Use a digital camera or a cellphone camera to create electronic word art. • Use any other sources of words and letters you can think of: word beads, Scrabble tiles, alphabet blocks, flashcards, printed materials. Poetry podcast on parenthood (see link below).
    22. 22. personal essays • Encourage parents to write real-life accounts of what it means to be a parent in your community. Photography and audio/video clips can be valuable add-ons. Can your agency provide "lender" equipment to parents who don't have access to this equipment themselves? Could a sponsor provide it to your agency?
    23. 23. • Post these stories in your blog/'zine; or publish a small-run print publication or 'zine (free or available for a nominal charge: bulk distribution to selected outlets works best). Citizen journalism, also known as "participatory journalism," is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information." – Wikipedia
    24. 24. memoir writing "Write what you know, what you think and what makes you unique. 'Think narrow…. Memoir isn’t the summary of life; it’s a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition.' (Zinsser, 136)
    25. 25. • Bring in details whenever possible. 'Summon back the men and women and children who notably crossed your life. What was it that made them memorable—what turn of mind, what crazy habits?' (Zinsser, 145) • Remember that people are hoping you are the most interesting character in the book.
    26. 26. blogging • 37% of bloggers blog to share life/experiences with others (The Guardian, July 23, 2006). • Blogging is no longer a "mom thing." Active community of "daddy bloggers."
    27. 27. • Blogging communities, both free and fee-based accounts (e.g.,, • Social networking communities that feature built-in blogs (e.g. • Tools that integrate with blogs: (photos), (video) and other related tools. (See links below.)
    28. 28. journaling • Encourage participants to start a writers' journal: ideas, images, inspirations, memories. • Provide an inexpensive notebook as well as access to low-budget art materials for parents who want to take a multi-media approach to their writing projects.
    29. 29. "A journal is a place to explore. Remember that little spark of inspiration you had in the shower, or that tasty concept that popped into your head while commuting to work? Write it down, quickly. Then go back later and flesh it out, explore it, savour it and --if necessary -- spit it out or swallow it. We all have problems we face that seem hopeless and without direction, and we need a place to consider our actions. We all have a million half-baked ideas that might lead to opportunity, but we need a place to play with them. Yes, you know the place: take out your pen and start scribbling." – D*I*Y Planner: An Introduction to Journal Writing (6-5-15)
    30. 30. scrapbooking and collage • Online scrapbooking communities offer free digital scrapbooking tools (see, • Paper scrapbooking can be done inexpensively using found materials. Vintage and thrift stores: game pieces, decks of cards, classic children's books, classic children's toys, old photos/slides, old buttons, vintage sheet music, fabric scraps (particularly those with a retro feel).
    31. 31.  Wallpaper stores: wallpaper seconds and ends of lines  Fabric stores: fabric ends of lines  Recycling depot: cardstock and cardboard remnants, paper, etc.  Dollar stores, discount stationery/craft supply stores: school notebooks, notebooks, binder paper, tissue paper, glue, paint, etc.
    32. 32. • Copies of photographs (scanned, photocopied): classic childhood images, retro, vintage, modern. (Be conscious of copyright issues.) • can be a terrific source of royalty-free images. • provides links to other sources of public domain or low-cost royalty- free images.
    33. 33. Other types of writing to talk about • Letter-writing (including emails and group emails) as a form of parent-to-parent communication. • The parenting memoir ("momoir" is the mom memoir) • Short stories and novels about parenting • Radio plays, theatre, etc. Note: The Association for Research in Mothering is an excellent source of information about books/resources related to motherhood.
    34. 34. additional tools/resources 100 Benefits of Journaling Book fd's flickr toys Found Elements Image Chef MamaZine NPR: On Memoir, Truth, and 'Writing Well' Poetry Foundation Poetry Poetry Podcast: She's Awake!?! Smith