The Bobby Hawthorne experience opens doors for writers to meet new people

Coming to a new camp means being surrounded by strangers. Their back stories are unknown to you, if not irrelevant. MIPA is no different. With a camp of around 400 students, there’s no possible way to learn traits of every single person attending. But everyone has a story to tell, and ‘The Bobby Hawthorne Experience’ takes the idea of learning about another person head on, while challenging students to tell a story based off a single noun.

Hawthorne explained that the idea for the exercise came from him noticing descriptive words from various educational articles. The words inside the articles weren’t plain words that don’t grab attention, the words could easily trigger a whole story. Hawthorne wanted to show his class that a question such as, “When in your life were you ever humiliated?” could spur an in depth narrative. Hawthorne then went on to explain the significance of powerful words, and how they can tell a story.

“Agitation, betrayal. These words trigger emotions of some sort,” Hawthorne said. “Disappointment, frustration, humiliation. They’re all connected to a moment, not just words you use as an abstract term. If you use the word humiliation, that’s powerful.  If you’re humiliated more than two or three times in high school, something’s going wrong.”

Hawthorne’s class took another approach with the anecdotal assignment by interviewing students within their class, with only ten minutes allowed. After that, the students had to write a narrative based off of the interview.

One student of the class  didn’t just see it as a way to expand their usage of nouns in interviews.  She viewed the assignment as a way to break out of her comfort zone in regards to journalism.

“It’s a cool way to get yourself out there and become comfortable talking to strangers,” Focus features editor Maddy Wheelock said. “I know that we’re going to have to do a lot of that here this week, and that’s not something I’m really comfortable with. Being forced to go talk to strangers is a good ice breaker.”

Wheelock provided the stories she obtained through her assignment.

Fear – Emily Resmer

“Drowning has been a scary thing for me my whole life – when my mom was younger, her uncle drowned, and it was hard for my family. Last summer, my sister fell off of a jet ski. She hit her head and was knocked unconscious. I had to jump off into the water and go save her.”

Freedom – Darrel Davison

“The biggest feeling of freedom that I’ve ever had was when I lived on my own for five days. I don’t like relying on people to take care of me. I got to experience what it was like to be an adult, even though I’m still just a kid.”

Respect – Luke Kirtley

“The most respect I’ve had for someone was when I was riding my bike with my friend down one of the hills by where I live. We heard this crash and turned around, and there was this car inside a house. One of the bystanders just came out of his car and pulled him out. He saved them – the person ended up being fine.”

The above anecdotes each tell a different story based off of a single noun. These nouns help to give a small insight into that person’s life, and help MIPA campers to get an idea of the diverse backgrounds of every person.  The students in the class turned in each of their finished copies after lunch today. Hawthorne is excited to read each of their papers, and in accordance to their assignment, he gave his life’s noun as well.

Survival – Bobby Hawthorne

“I’ve done interesting stuff, I’ve done stupid stuff. And I’m still here. I wrote, arguably the worst lead in the history of journalism. About a banker, and banking laws that were changing, and I didn’t understand what the story was about. The lead was, ‘In this fruit salad we call life, the banker is the top banana.’ It does not get worse than that. That is as bad as it gets. Somehow my bosses at the newspaper liked it, and so I was lucky I had really bad bosses.  I wrote a piece that once said, ‘The legislature is coming to town, hide your mules and your daughters.’ And I’m at a state university [at the time]  that exists on the basis of the largess of the legislature. And it could have been devastating, and yet here I am. I survived it.”

Bobby Hawthorne teaches his class that the right nouns in an interview, can lead to a great anecdote.

Bobby Hawthorne teaches his class that the right nouns in an interview can lead to a great anecdote.

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