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Return to the Buffer Zone
A second writing workshop in the no man's land of Nicosia
You have to show your passport to get inside, to enter land administered by the United Nations peacekeeping forces, the Buffer Zone that since the 1960s has effectively split the island of Cyprus into two.
Last week, I taught a second and final writing workshop at the Home for Cooperation in the Buffer Zone of Nicosia, just across the street from the UN headquarters in the historic Ledra Palace Hotel, once the prestige hotel of the island, where the bullet holes serve as a reminder of the island’s unresolved conflict. The Home for Cooperation is an NGO established ten years ago to help mediate intercommunal relations between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island, as well as the many other communities found in Cyprus.
The first, which I co-taught with my Fulbright colleague Janan Alexandra, was on crafting the lyric biography, a type of prose poem that reflected asking deep truths of one’s subject and assembling it into a lyric, poetic form.
This second workshop, which I conducted solo, was called “Propulsive: Crafting the Opening Scene.” As a writer who operates in different genres, I think it’s important to emphasize establishing conflict and theme in the opening of a narrative, regardless if that narrative is film, fiction or nonfiction.
In our workshop, we practiced telling stories in the “cocktail party” genre, before analyzing the opening scene of The Bourne Identity (2002) written by Tony Gilroy and working on a premise. We followed that with an analysis of the opening vignette of a nonfiction piece by Joan Didion to analyze how theme can be conveyed in an opening with a very different approach. Finally, participants crafted their very own opening lines and paragraphs to help kick-start their next project.
After years of teaching online, these workshops were a joy to organize and conduct in person—in a very special place that helps support the goal of peace and conflict resolution in Cyprus.
In a funny twist, the workshop did not escape the attention of Cypriot media—it was blurbed by the Cyprus Mail, the island’s oldest English daily newspaper. It was an honor to share my work and experience with the island that has been my home for the past nine months.
This is the nineteenth post in The Cyprus Files, a limited-run newsletter series from The Usonian chronicling my Fulbright experiences in Cyprus. You can read all the posts in The Cyprus Files here. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a (free) dispatch from the island of Aphrodite!