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Give the Boy a Voice, and the Man a Clue

by Ali Gharavi (this article was first published by Loft:

Last week, I sat in an empty theater while a 20-year-old Italian American practiced being me as an Iranian boy of 12. They were rehearsing for a play based on a story I had written a few years back. The experience was simultaneously mesmerizing and jarring, and I wondered how I ended up here, watching the private memories of my childhood splayed out on a public stage, with my young thoughts spewing out of one stranger and into the ears of more strangers.

That detective story goes like this: There once was a precocious boy living inside a clueless man. After years of the two growing apart, the boy coaxed the man to go to the Loft. There, a band of well-wishing angels gave the man some clues and the boy a spokesperson.

My psychologically inclined colleagues would likely diagnose me with all sorts of polysyllabic, Napoleonic, narcissistic syndromes, but I still encourage you to try it. If you feel that boy (or girl, or dragonfly) inside you with something to contribute, all that stands between you and oddly edifying (among the often terrifying) experiences is the pavement separating you from a writing community.

For me it was on a lark (not riding a bird, which is confusing for us foreigners) that I submitted some of my stories for selection into the yearlong mentorship program. I had taken a class called "Uncommon Stories" at the Loft, and enjoyed the camaraderie of my classmates and the professional guidance of the instructor.

You too may enroll in a class, as I did, or you may land in a yearlong mentorship program, off that lark. There, you will happily lose yourself (and the inner one) inside the old walls and newish caverns and classes of the place where you get connected to yourself again. Writers-turned-mentors and poets-turned-classmates engulf you in an unending carnival of communing, writing, and reading (unending, that is, until the mentorship ends). They boost your confidence, expose your hidden talents, admonish you, chastise you, and cajole you. Truth be told, there will be some who will annoy, agitate, offend, or even oppress you too.

They will poke you from all angles: poets tell you to be pithy, nonfictionistas want your lyricism, fictioners tell you to be factual, and all in unison implore you not to use semicolons, watch out for acute alliteration addiction, and be descriptive rather than expository (and you run home or to Google to find out what these koans mean). Meanwhile your mates and fellow mentees serve as laborers to the beehive of your creativity. You feed them feta and olives and they feed you confidence in your craft. You detach them from their past, and they introduce you to your soul mate for life.

Nobody tells you that your writing is horrible (in case you say it to yourself already), but they do tell you to get off your duff . . . el bag of complacency, write till your fingertips (or #2 pencils) are worn out, and for the sake of sanity put it out there and expose the world to what you have to say, because if a tree falls in the forest on the dark side of the moon, biologists, astronomers, conspiracy theorists, and Walmart people really like to know.

What I got out of this magical writing experience, my takeaway-besides my soul mate and all the stories tucked in the crevices of my USB stick-was craft and community. However, as I jumped at the notion of making a play out of a couple of my stories, I realized what else this community gave me; it was a mind-set and framework of collaboration. When you show your stories to other writers, and they sit around a table and "workshop" your piece, it helps you improve your writing and so on. But on a metalevel, it opens your mind for a space in which you avail yourself of other people's wisdom, and in the process, removes some of the barriers from the wonder inside yourself too.

Just to warn you, though, it is no longer just other writers peering and helping prune, it is directors and producers and actors and set designers (and even your grandparents and the occasional bus driver), each with their own curiosities, wishes, and even agendas and conflicts. There are times you might wish each of them to have their own version of a Loft to go to and be versed in the collaborative gardening for creative flowers of plays and poetry in motion. I learned to talk and listen to the boy inside, and to boys and girls (and dragonflies) out in the world as well.

So, give it a try. Craft, community, collaboration, feta cheese, and felicity (or Felix) await you. And one odd day, you too can feel the tug of humility against narcissism as you sit at a dress rehearsal of a play in which an up-and-coming 20-year-old (or George Clooney) is bringing to life that boy whose voice you carried all those years and whose face had faded.

Ali Gharavi hails from Tehran, Iran, where he grew up among the sycamore trees and chirping sparrows. A decade and a half later, he found himself boarding a Lufthansa plane to exile him away from his revolutionized and war-torn country. Since then, he has studied among Americans in Colorado and Wisconsin, has toiled alongside the corporate types in Minnesota and then Sweden, and has given the nonprofit world a decade of his life in hopes of healing the world a little. Most recently though, he completed a play called Spring of Freedom, Summer of Fear, produced by , on stage March 25 - April 3 in downtown Saint Paul's Lowry Lab Theater.

... Payvand News - 03/22/10 ... --

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