From Santa Clarita Magazine November, 2017
Come With Me
By Liz Cotone
I’m scared. I’ve taught classes for fifteen years on both coasts. But I’ve never taught here, in my new hometown. I’m a screenwriter by trade, a passionate playwright, and a completely amateur poet. When I mention my profession to other parents at my daughter’s school, or to my neighbors, or to any number of healthcare professionals, the response is usually the same:
“Oh, I could never do that.”
“You must have a special talent.”
“I can’t even spell.”
Well, honestly… I can’t spell either—computers do that for me. And don’t tell my agent, but my talent isn’t that unique. And the biggest secret of all? Anyone can do what I do.
I am, mostly, a totally lucky dork whose idea of fun is sitting in a room with other dorks writing till my butt hurts. Because, for me, writing crushes fear. And what I hear in all the Oh-I-could-never-do-that’s, is a whole lot of fear. Just like mine.
I was blessed to be born with a fierce passion for storytelling and, more importantly, into a family that nurtured that passion. I was exposed to professional playwrights and screenwriters at an extremely tender age. I have worked hard to become an expert in my field. But I’m not special.
We are all storytellers. It’s what we do. On cave walls, on stone tablets, in masked pantomime… while we wait for our children at pick-up or for our turn at the office Keurig, or while we procrastinate on our Facebook timeline, we tell stories. And it’s never too late to put them on the page.
The first class in my creative writing series “Story Mine” is called “The Dig.” I use free-writing prompts and exercises to guide students down past the uncomfortable self-doubt to unearth their story—the one only they can tell. More exercises help us develop characters. Then, mine them deeper, and deeper still, until a plot unfolds. What will be done with that plot is not yet at issue. We’ll get there. But, for now, the satisfaction is in the dig itself. It’s about the simple and transformative act of discovery, not the accolades the discovery may later receive.
We are all storytellers. And what’s more, our communities need our stories and each one of our distinct voices. I’m scared. And I know you are too. So, come with me.