Let's Help Each Other Out!

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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

What's Great About Teaching Creative Writing?

Keeping up with the souls of the nation, getting a feel for the trials and tribulations and joys of young people. You do in a way have a finger on their pulses. It's a priviledge. They deserve our kindness and respect.

teaching fantasy writing

Has anyone tried teaching fantasy writing, since students, post Harry Potter, are really into fantasy writing?  I do teach a Stephen King story that has the devil appear in it but if I call that fantasy writing then a certain segment of the class feels their religion has been insulted. My argument against fantasy writing is that we only have time for short fiction in a creative writing class with 23 students, and they are not skillfull enough to set up a fantasy world in a short story without the setup overwhelming the story.  What are your thoughts?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Teaching Short Stories Difficult

I grew up reading sort stories in places like Emily Post and Playboy, but this generation has read few short stories, outside of "safe' things like Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown." How to teach the short story--in preparation for your students someday writing a novel--when they have read very few? You need to introduce them to the concept of the indeterminate ending and get them to appreciate the aesthetic where everything is not tied up into a bow, as life rarely is, and as a short story lacks the space to do.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

All Time Favorite Exercise

Perhaps my student's favorite exercise--the one they feel they get the most out of--is the one I do first in the semester. It's called the five senses exercise and most of you are probably familiar with it. I use with with intense observation, and they either do it outside, or in the classroom, depending on the weather. They are to observe an object (sometimes the room) and write about it using as many senses as possible. I give them the talk about how most humans go through life half asleep, not paying attention to what is around them, and it's part of the writer's job to wake people up. Using your senses can create vivid writing, and if you're stuck, you can run through the five senses to get the writing rolling again. Where are you weakest? No smells in your writing? No colors?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Textbook for Beginning Creative Writing

What have you found to be the best multi-genre textbook for beginning college creative writing?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the music of language

Does anyone have any good quotations, or exercises, to teach the music of language (not the rhyhm) without talking about alliteration and assonance?

Teaching Creative Writing: a Blog: Teaching Poetry Writing

Teaching Creative Writing: a Blog: Teaching Poetry Writing

If you teach a general CW course, what percentage of your class wants mainly to write poetry, what percentage wants to write prose, and what percentage wants to write both?

For my classes, I'd say that:

75% wants to write prose, SF or fantasy novels mostly
15% wants to write poetry
20% wants to write both

That's over 100%, because a small group from the fiction group, and from the poetry group, have some desire to write in many genre.

Teaching Poetry Writing

I teach at a large university famous for petroleum engineering, agriculture, and business. Our English department is highly ranked and offers an MA and PhD.  A graduate student can write a creative MA or PhD, with a critical introduction.

At my school, most of my students are not fond of poetry. Many reasons exist for this. One is the way poetry is taught in high school. Another is that poetry makes many of them feel stupid. They lack, many of them, the cultural references and the reading comprehension skills to understand it. What many of them consider poems are those inspirational statements you find on the internet, print out, and put on the fridge with a magnet.

How do I teach such students to write poetry? I've found that they tune out and completely ignore any statements I make about what makes good poetry, and just go ahead and write how they feel at the moment. So, to save myself a bad stomach ache and a batch of low grades, I make them do certain things and then take off points for not doing it.  I get very structured. The must write on a childhood experience, the must use a reminiscent narrator and tell a story, they must write in haiku stanzas, etc.

I get much better poems this way. I enjoy what they write and can give them some (not all) specific reasons why they got points taken off.  This is what a generation rasied on standardized tests can handle.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Teaching Creative Writing: A Blog

Howdy Fellow Creative Writing Teachers! Here's a place where we can share tips about teaching creative writing. Why not begin with the oldest of the oldest: creative writing can't be taught.

My response: writing is a skill, like playing baseball.  A coach can make a player a better player. A coach can teach techniques and strategies for the game, among other things. Can a coach take a player and make him into a Yankee? Or even make him into a Cub?  No, that's all a matter of inborn talent.

It's lengthy, but I use a sport metaphor to explain what a creative writer can do.