Monday, January 12, 2015

#Mondayblogs: What You Wish You'd Known #amwriting #amreading #teacherproblems

This semester I have the fantastic blessing of 4 (!!!FOUR!!!) creative writing classes and one composition class, instead of my usual 5 comp class spread.

When I found out this would be my schedule for the spring, I was pretty excited! I love teaching writing in all of its forms and probably enjoy reading essays more than most people, but creative writing is my passion and so when you give a good teacher (ratings don't lie, ya'll!) her favorite subject, magic is going to happen.

(you mean I get to read stories instead of essays?)
But I was nervous because while I've taught creative writing online for several years and taught in-seat comp classes for many years, this will be my first "in-seat" creative writing class. (For those who don't recognize the word, "in-seat" it means I meet them face-to-face in a classroom. You know, very old school.)

So I went into the class expecting it to be like my usual face to face courses. We'd go over the syllabus, we've talk about expectations, wah wah wahhhh...

But that's not what happened.

Differences I quickly noticed between Freshman Comp and Intro to Creative Writing students:

1. Creative Writing students WANT to be there
2. Creative Writing students can identify a book by sight, smell, and touch.
3. CW students actually READ books...for, like fun.
4. CW students have favorite authors, genres and are excited to talk about them
5. CW students like to write, WANT to write and are in the class to get better at writing!

Like I always do on the first day, I ask my students what they care about, what they hope to learn and all that. Somehow that awesome conversation full of excitement for writing snowballed into another awesome conversation about who we were reading and why we thought they were awesome. 

The more these students talked the more I realized...

Everyone in the room, all 20+ of them loved to read and write. Just chatting with them for an hour or so I realized, they all have ambitions (small and large) for their own work and they were all excited to be here. They were smart and funny and charming in that adorable/geeky way only we artistic types can be) and they made a million scifi/fantasy references (after my own heart, they are!) 

When the energetic conversation sort of died away and it was time to go, I was just like: THIS. IS.

'A' for you. 'A' for your mother *&^% 'A' for your dog. 'A's for everyone.

We are going to read all the things and write all the things and have the best *&#^$% semester/class ever! That being said, I really REALLY want to do right by these guys. So I ask you, what do you wish you'd known as a writing noob? What do you wish someone had shown you, told you, or explained from the very beginning? Anything you wish you'd read in the beginning? And lastly, any advice for getting into that difficult head space of accepting criticism of one's work gracefully? I think in the beginning it is a challenge for all of us.


  1. You got me as excited as you are for your class! Congrats on getting a dream come true class to teach. Unfortunately I'm not a writer so I have no ideas on what a noob needs to know until after they write the book. Tell them editing and cover matters. And social media etiquette for marketing.

    1. I know! I'm pumped! And they were so cute! They had, like, READ things! It was fantastic. :) And even if you don't consider yourself a writer, I think your advice is solid! Thanks! :)

  2. Following Iowa Writing Workshop guidelines seems to work best, but only after modeling for students how to give and receive criticism. Who knows? There might even be YouTube videos online of how to discuss stories and also how to go about marking them up. The last time I took a creative writing class, it was always making 20 copies at Kinko's for classmates and get drafts back with hardly anything written on them. That always irked me soooooo much. The one thing that kept me teaching high school English as long as I did was the creative writing class I was able to design and teach for three years. To have students that want to READ and WRITE? Priceless.

    1. AH, good idea! The IWW guidelines might be a good place to start, setting them up with how to workshop. I make them email their work to me ahead of time so that I can make the packets (no Kinkos!) and they won't have to spend money out of pocket. I also have one visually impaired student who has to have everything read to him on his computer, so I will probably have to work out something there as well.