Let's Help Each Other Out!

This is a place for creative writing teachers to share idea to be come better teachers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I quit teaching creative nonfiction for a long while, because one student got very upset over getting a 93. She was writing about being a Goth in high school, and drinking blood.

The piece though shocking was beautifully written. I told her my only complaint was she got vague in places.

She replied, "You don't want to hear about that."

I answered: "Well, you either be honest and brave, and tell us because we need to know--or you leave that part out."

I decided students needed the protection of fiction to present work in public in workshop, so I gave up doing CN in classes, but I continued to write it.

AND I am going to give it a try again next year. A second problem you have with CN is that you know some students will lie to make it a better story and get a better grade. That's the way students are these days--and may have been since the beginning of time.

That's the way it is with some writers too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My new discovery!

Students just can't face writing ten pages of prose these days. It seems a mountain too high to climb. I have therefore divided the story into beginning, middle, and end, and teach these part separately, and then have them put it all together in a finished story. This seems much more approachable to them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Always it's new

  I always get the feeling, when I begin a new semester, that everything is new and that I have never talked about creative writing before.
    In a way, this is true. You are never the same person from semester to semester. Every time you present something--say first person narration--you will present it in a different way. The singer never sings the song the same way.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Speed Workshops

   Here's a workshop idea I'm trying out this semester. It seems to be going well. I got the name from what's called speed dating. These on ten minute sessions on a student's poem. Each student gets a copy of the poem, the workshop presenter reads the poem, the other students write down comments, and then the workshop presenter asks five questions. Our comments always go beyond the questions. Students overall have responded favorably. They like the interaction (I make comments on poems, too), and they like the intensity.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


     We've had considerable debate about workshops on the FB Poets site. One problem is the word stands for such a variety of practices. When we discuss on FB we don't know if we're talking about the same thing.
       Here's my take on the typical academic workshop in creative writing classes where the students come to class having already read the sample packet by one member of the class. I have the student to be workshopped make up questions to ask the group. This has worked great for me until last semester, when my classes suddenly decided that they should be able to leave once the five questions brought by the workshopped person were discussed.  Another slight sea change in college attitudes.
     The students are good to one another. They are helpful and generally offer good advice. Workshops fit they way they are--interactive, used to playing video games and texting one another. Workshops are a bit like a party.
     So where does the negative come in?  At the product end.  The work I see coming out of MFA programs--and there are many exceptions--often seems technically competant but lacking in any interesting themes or emotional energy.
     That's why I see workshops as good for beginners, but for more advanced writers, they tend to destroy individuality and make writers all sound the same--but of course, there are exceptions, and many MFA students are aware themselves of the limitations of workshops and just grunt through them to get their degree.
     Good luck finding a job in this economy!  Trucking school might serve you better!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How Nice Not to Be Teaching

Y'all know that teachers don't get long vacations. They get longish periods of unemployment. I have a 9 1/2 month salary. So far I've been lucky and have been able to pick up a summer school class, at a lower salary rate, for one month, but provisions get skimpy those months without pay, and you do have to plan ahead.

Still, it's great not to be teaching, to be able to devote long hours every day to your own writing.  I'm not reading anyone but myself now, as I get into serious rewriting of longer texts I had no time to play and work on during the fall and spring semesters. I treat the summers in Texas as I used to treat the winters in the north. Both are times to go deep within oneself, to cacoon at home and work.  It's great, and I'm glad I don't have money to travel or to eat out much.

After a couple of months, however, I do begin to miss the faces of students. I am a little resentful the first few days of classes, as I make the transition.  But in a few days I am happy. You return to class with a big glow at your back, a sense of hard work done, and some major writing accomplishment. You are a writer, afterall, and you have a right to be standing in front of this class.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mick White, novelist and short story writer, has an answer

This semester, many high school sports stories that attempt to retell heroically the play by play of some game, even though I told them not to do that. I wish they'd at least invent their own game, like, say, kangaroo races, or male mud wresting at a gentlemen's club for women.
I used to be a plot guy.  I talk about external and internal conflict, but I think Mick has the answer:
    • Lowell Mick White I have seen this phenom also--we just have to keep emphasizing that they need to be writing about people, not events....