A Never-Ending Story: Writing, Creating and Sharing as a Breach in Social Distancing
For a few years, Phillip Laterreur, a recreational technician at Cégep de La Pocatière, has had the unfulfilled idea of a student writing project that is long term and prone to a certain slowness. However, in a regular (and normal) session, everything goes excessively fast and it is more difficult to set up longer-term sociocultural projects within the CEGEP. With the COVID-19 pandemic, time has changed its tempo. By approaching Arianne Caron-Poirier, a literature teacher, and Mathieu Coulombe, a documentation technician, Phillip Laterreur was able to give life to Une histoire sans fin (A never-ending story) [in French], an engaging free-form writing project that takes the shape of a WordPress blog.
The interruption of classroom activities has put a stop to many of the sociocultural and extracurricular activities offered at Cégep de La Pocatière. Looking for a new way to expose students to different cultural horizons, Phillip Laterreur updated the idea of a continuous writing project that had been on his mind. Drawing inspiration from the surrealist movement with automatic writing and the mythical manuscript of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the road, measuring over 36 meters, he wanted to create an endless narrative that is always alive and constantly evolving.
We launched the project in October 2020.
More concretely, we asked, on a voluntary basis, the students and staff of the college who are passionate about writing to plunge into the never-ending story. This is based on the principle of continuing a relay text. This project is about collaboration: all the participants work together to move forward a story toward an unknown ending.
This project is an opportunity to slow down, to free one’s mind from the daily hassles and to rediscover the pleasure of writing. Students interested in the project have about 1 week to add an element to the never-ending story:
a few sentences
- 1 paragraph
- 1 drawing
- 1 illustration
- 1 digitized manuscript
- 1 collage
The possibilities are endless. When a participant has completed his or her part, it is submitted to Arianne Caron-Poirier, who proceeds with edits and corrections. This gives students insight into the editorial process of a literary text. They are free to accept suggestions made by the teacher or not. Once the text is finalized and approved by the student, Mathieu Coulombe integrates it into the WordPress site of the never-ending story.
A WordPress blog proved to be the most interesting option, as it is an easy-to-use tool that is accessible to everyone. In a simple and very sober format, the blog showcases the students’ creations. That’s all that matters. On the home page, a presentation of the project and the titles of recent texts appear. In the “Histoire complète” (Complete story) section [in French], the entire story is presented in chronological order.
This activity does not have a competitive character and is not subject to evaluation; it is only focused on pure creation. This is why we keep the authors anonymous; it is a question of writing without constraints and without judgments.
Observations after a session
The students who participated in the exercise greatly enjoyed their experience and some are even planning to submit a second text.
As the texts progressed, the story took on a certain rhythm, as participants wrote parts of similar length, although there was no minimum word count. In addition, there are small threads that lead the story in a direction that was initially completely unsuspected. Each participant appropriated the story to take it in a new direction.
Our current challenge in this project is the recruitment of participants. In a distance teaching context, it is difficult to reach out to students and motivate them. In any case, those who participated in the activity showed great maturity in their writing. Our goal is to publish about 10 texts per session.
Continuation of the project
Since the current result of the project is very interesting, we are already dreaming of giving it a new life.
We would like to offer the participants a printed edition of their text.
When it will be possible to go back to the CEGEP in the flesh, why not turn the texts into a physical exposition?
In addition, the idea of collaborating with different programs of study within the CEGEP is gaining ground. The never-ending story would lend itself very well to a scenic reading project with theater students.
In short, there are no boundaries for this student project whose end is far from being written!