Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dyslexic Workshop and Baha'i Summer School

Part of the work of a jobbing writer is giving talks and facilitating workshops. Most of these are fairly similar to each other. But I have just been booked for two rather unusual ones.
The first is a writing workshop for adult dyslexics, in which there should be little if any writing. The second is a talk at a Baha'i Summer School on the connection between writing and faith. Both are fascinating prospects - for me, at least. And curiously, when I got thinking about it, I realised there would be a significant overlap between the things covered in the two.
To start with the dyslexic writing workshop. This may sound like some kind of contradiction in terms, but it is in the main stream of what I do in teaching writing. People have been telling stories far longer than there has been writing. Complex language existed at least 150,000 years ago. (Otherwise it would have been impossible for our ancestors to organise the voyages of exploration that they undertook. But for the various view on this, see wikipedia). From what we know of the human condition, we can be sure they were telling each other stories way back then.
By comparison, the 5,400 year history of writing - the time during which stories have been written down - is the blink of an eye. In most of my writing workshops I concentrate on getting people to imagine vividly, to create stories and to understand what they are doing. The last bit - the writing down - is the least of it.
Second is the workshop on faith and writing. The brief is to give a 45 minute talk on the way literature relates to the faith traditions of the world. But I am not nearly knowledgeable enough to do that. (I say this not out of any attempt at modesty. Reading is a burden for me, and as a result I am poorly read - this is something I do regret.) Instead, I am going to look at the structure of mythic stories and the way this structure echos the stories and events surrounding the founding of the religions. This is, of course, the same structure that I will be dealing with in the workshop for dyslexics. It is the structure that underlies the vast majority of stories.


Katy said...

Gosh Rod, that sounds fascinating.

I sometimes think about the relationship between spoken and written language and have come to the feeling that they're not the same. Two different languages, or kinds of language, maybe each approximating the other it's true, but not actually the same. I think I tend to personally reflect on this most particularly after a visit to a country where the written and spoken language is entirely unfamiliar to me (Arabic, say) but the universal non-verbal language of picture and gesture and posture remains the same.

Fascinating stuff, thank you.

Rod Duncan said...

Hi Katy,

I think you are completely correct about there being two languages - a spoken and a written one. They are related. They overlap. But they are distinctly different.

I probably have an unusual take on this - because of my dyslexia. When I write, it tends to be a written record of what I speak out loud. I do often speak it as I write it. And when I edit, I voice it many, many times before I am satisfied.

Thanks for your comment.