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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Evidence that interviewing an inanimate object is a worthwhile activity

You don't have to be 'a writer' to do this exercise.  You do, though, have to be prepared to discover some truths about yourself.  

1. Choose an object which is important to you (or to a character in a story you are writing).

2. Ask it these questions (or any others you devise) and write down its answers.  You may find the object unwilling to speak.  In this case (where's a chatty object when you need one?!!!) imagine what it would have said, and in what kind of voice.  

When did you first meet your owner?
What physical contact do you have with your owner?
Where are you kept?
How do you think your owner feels about you?
What do you think you represent for your owner?
In what ways are you like your owner?

I interviewed my teacher's planner, made notes on the replies, and then wrote these up in the planner's voice.  Here is the result.





The teacher's planner speaks.  


She hugs me to herself because she knows what would happen if she lost me.  I am her oracle, her Delphi, and her reassurance.  

When she was a trainee, in 2002-2003, she was given an unused 2001-2002 planner which just had 'Nigel Bates' scrawled inside the front cover, and she had to alter all the dates herself.  

The first time I met her, then, was in the summer holidays before she began her first proper teaching post, and she kept repeating, 'I have my own planner!  I have my own planner!'  She did not know I would represent, in the names of 190 children written in my registers at the back, and in the six yawning spaces per day yet to be filled with lessons, a job in which she would flounder like an unpractised swimmer in an irritable sea.

She is very like me, in some respects.  Her favourite colour is purple, and my cover is purple, and although I didn't get a choice over this, I'm willing to accept it in the light of her affection.  Some planners are beige and, although the idea of a teacher's planner hierarchy seems absurd, I do think purple wins over beige every time.  Not that you'd know that from the Paris fashion shows.

Also, like me, she has blank spaces.  She knows her memory is not what it was and, just as she finds the sight of my many unfilled spaces frightening on a Sunday evening, so she is afraid when a name wriggles out of her consciousness, or someone's birthday skitters by her before she can grasp it as she used to.  

25 comments:

  1. Ah, the plan book.
    This is a song from my past (Thank the gods).
    We lived and died by our plan books. After three blissful, blissful, blissful - okay, I'll stop now - years of retirement, I still have nightmares in which I'm confronted with a roomful of sneering teenagers and I am without any lesson plans.

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    1. And in a seamless link to a plug, have you read my book 'Being Miss', Marty? It begins with an anxiety dream just like that. I get them all the time. I'm alarmed to hear I might still get them even in retirement.

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  2. This sounds like an interesting exercise. I need to think about this one.

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    1. It works really well as a writing prompt, Stephen. Try it. Interview your sock, or your diary, or your toothbrush. Anything will do.

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  3. I interview an inanimate object every time I ask Willy Dunne Wooters a question.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. You're outrageous. But you make me laugh every time.

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    2. Thank you. I hope to corner the market on outrageous.

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  4. I was interviewing my dining room table when it suddenly stopped talking to me. Apparently it felt I was being rude to exclude the chairs!!

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    1. Dining room tables are known for their hypersensitivity to other inanimate objects' emotions and feelings.

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  5. Is that picture your actual planner? If it is, can I say that it is lying open most seductively. Naughty!

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    1. Teacher planners are like that. They just lie there, waiting to be ravished with a red pen and a week full of lessons.

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  6. I remember telling a crying toddler that the table he'd just walked into and banged his head was a " naughty table "
    The child's father said, " How can the table be naughty ? It's an inanimate object "
    I pointed out that his child had stopped crying.
    The same father also told me I should have tried breast feeding longer ( after I gave up due to painful mastitis ) I asked him if he'd ever breast fed a baby while suffering mastitis ?
    Get the feeling he had an opinion on everything ?

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    1. I hate him already.

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    2. strangely his kids did Ok infact.... very well !

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  7. "What physical contact do you have with your owner?"
    I probably shouldn't interview my chair....

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    1. My chair would probably say, 'Mfnfmmffnmnnnfffmpnfmnnpmmmnnfffp.' Translation: 'I'd tell you if she'd get off me with her fat butt and let me speak.'

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    2. exactly. Mine too.

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  8. Now they are just the questions my cat and I ask each other all the time. We are both always happy with the answers we get.

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    1. I would like evidence of this. Please send me your cat's written records of the conversations you have had.

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  9. Now can you answer my question ?

    When is a chair a chair and not a seat ? My husband calls chairs seats.

    My eldest brother thought a chair was a " sit down " as our mother used to tap the chair & tell him to, " sit down " !!! ( He also thought he had a friend called " Din Dins as mum would call him & Din Dins to eat !!! ) She was a teacher !!!

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    1. I love your eldest brother stories. We just don't realise the assumptions kids make! As for chairs and seats, I always think of a 'seat' as something you'd get on a train or bus ('Quick, let's get on so we can find a seat'). But at home it would always be a chair. Please tell your husband to amend his personal lexicon immediately.

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  10. I'm going to have to try this, Fran.

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    1. Go for it, Martin. I've done this exercise quite a few times (including in lessons at school) and it always generates something of value.

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  11. I'd interview my CD player , perhaps , but am not really ready to have my taste in music ridiculed

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    1. I think that's a reasonable decision. Criticism like that from an inanimate object could really stick in the throat.

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