Writing Buddy Collaboration by Hannah W Duane

On August 29, all thirty members of the Creative Writing department took a long, hot bus ride out to the Minnesota Street Project art museum. Here, we saw the collaborations of Griffin McPartland and Paul Urich. Over a number of years, Urich sent McPartland his drawings, asking McPartland to write on them. At first he declined, not wanting to disrupt his friend’s art. However eventually McPartland decided to comply with the request, and together they created a number of pieces. These pencil or ballpoint pen sketches each had what McPartland calls a short story over them. These stores were very short, a fragment or sentence in length, and not visibly connected to the images. Most were funny, and many complex or puns with multiple meanings. This exhibit inspired our three-week independent buddy collaboration.

My writing buddy and I decided we would text each other photographs we took each day, and write a short response. I wrote mine in prose poetry, responding to the image but not necessarily addressing its content, while my writing buddy opted to pose questions in response to the photograph or write “stream of consciousness opinion pieces.” We traded nine images, ranging from humorous (I received a photograph of someone putting a trombone over another person’s head) to tranquil (a sunset over Twin Peaks). We kept our responses informal and did not share them with each other. Occasionally, we asked questions about the photos received, but most of the time just wrote pieces loosely based on the content shared and did not worry about what exactly the photo represented. For the conclusion of the project, we printed out all of the photographs and then inscribed our written responses over or next to them. We ended up with eighteen pieces, each from a different day and with different mood and presented them to the class by laying them out on tables and asking our classmates to walk around and look at them.

I very much enjoyed taking part in this collaboration. It was a pleasant exercise to every day be looking for something beautiful or interesting visually in my surroundings, however towards the end I did struggle to find something I deemed interesting enough to photograph (we’re creative writers, not photographers…). Some of the photos I received were easier to write from than others, but it was exciting to each day get a window into what another person found interesting.

Hannah W Duane, class of 2021

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