Teaching Friends

January 20, 2010

A friend of mine is taking a creative writing class, and she asked if I would look over her work before she hands it in. Sure. I’ve had a few other incidents of friends asking about stuff I know how to do in the past week, and although I enjoy feeling helpful, I’m starting to think about setting up formal classes with fees.

I’m also amazed by how much there is in creative writing that can be taught. My friend’s assignment required just one paragraph in her protagonist’s voice. There were some creative riffs in that paragraph I would never have thought of, but also a mound of technical aspects that I could comment on (ending sentences with prepositions was not one them):

Use of adverbs, interjections, and multiple adjectives. Varying sentence length. Consonance. Formal versus informal language. I didn’t touch on the cool stuff she came up with except to compliment the coolest part (which involved an aardvark). If she hadn’t rocked it, I might also have critiqued her use of imagery and metaphor.

All of which made me want to read The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. I’ve started it twice, but never got farther than the end of the first chapter. Opening the book at random just earned me some information about poetic rhythm within a sentence. Scansion marks everywhere; very exciting.

Mr. Gardner knows how to teach. Despite my recent helpfulness and visions of teaching profits, I still have a long way to go. I suppose I could start by deciding which side of this preposition-at-the-end-of-a-sentence issue I really want to come down on.



Fledgling Approaches World

August 12, 2009

My writing student is ready to submit one of his short stories for print publication for the first time. He’s investigating that process, giving his story one final edit, and asking questions about simultaneous submissions. It’s exciting! He’s written about half a dozen stories since I started working with him, and this one shows all of his strengths. He’s come so far!

I made sure to warn him that the rejection rate is high for new writers when we first discussed submitting his work to magazines. But I can’t help myself from getting drawn into the excitement. I know I shouldn’t be so hopeful, but I am!

Good luck, kid!

Coaching the Competition

March 18, 2009

Those who can’t do, teach. Painful but true, at the moment. My pupil is doing great: wrote two short stories, and got one of them published on a teen website. He’s almost done with his novel. He’s optimistic about getting it published. I’m somewhat optimistic about getting him to set it aside for a month, start something else, and then come back to rewrite it. But any way you look at it, the kid is writing!

I picked up yet another book about my craft at the library last week. When I started reading it today, the first sage axiom I came across is the one I find in every book of its type: those who keep at this, doggedly, are more likely to succeed than the talented & lazy.

This kid I’m teaching is going to beat me. I really can’t stand the thought, thus you see a post.

Back to the word processor.