Saturday, August 29, 2009

Making Things Work

I have to teach a class in creative writing as part of my MFA requirement. In academic parlance it's a practicum. Every field has its jargon, I guess.

Bottom line, I have to teach at least three people for 15 hours. I called up the junior college in this burg a while back to see if I could do that in their continuing education program. I thought a class that was part of an established program would be more fun and more beneficial to me. I also figured since they had a marketing program in place it would go smoother i.e. I wouldn't have to do the marketing.

Turned out they hadn't had anyone to offer creative writing in a while, so they signed me up. But it seems the class didn't "make." That's another use of academic parlance. We all know what make means in the more colloquial parlance. Yeah, "make" is what I seem to be left with a big pile of for what seem to be a variety of Catch-22s.

Happily, sometimes things seem to fall into place even when make happens. I discovered three people in my day-to-day encounters who were interested in taking the class. When one of them called to register that's how we found out it had apparently been cancelled. I'd worried about that happening, but I really stayed pretty subdued when I got that word.

The potential participant noted almost instantly that her minister is extremely community minded and opens the doors to provide a venue for many different groups and issues, so I called him up, talked things over, and he said he was down with it and that he'd be the observer I needed for one session.

So, after a little coordination with the other guys who'd expressed interest, looks like we have a creative writing class for the month of September.

While I'm a writer, I can't deny the virtues of direct sales techniques.

The Lesson Plan
My plan is to focus on wringing the cliches out of ideas, look at how to build a story from the nucleus of a core idea then focus in-depth on character and plot development and how character and plot feed each other.

I'd planned to look a little at how John Goodman's character drives the story in "The Big Lebowski," but we may forego clips from that since the language is maybe a little indelicate for a church venue.

I'll start putting flyers around to see if we can attract a few more participants to, er, make things interesting.

With any luck, this project will turn out to be "The Make!"


Charles Gramlich said...

At Xavier, a course doesn't typically "make" with less than 10 and as you might guess, it's all about the bucks that the students bring in. Sometimes they do courses with less, if there is a salient reason, such as a discipline that doesn't have a lot of students. Congrats on getting it set up. I wish I could take it!

Shauna Roberts said...

What a creative path to your creative writing class. With such a small group, you could have lots of fun. I hope you do.

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

The problem with creative writing classes is that the students come in thinking they are going to get an easy credit, and of course, it usually is.

I was thinking about doing a creative writing class at the community college level...probably next year. We'll see how the school year goes. Right now, I just want to get published in some academic journals.

Let me know if you want help in any way. I would be happy to help read and offer feedback. I'll be nice. Also, you should consider a strong online community with your students as part of the class, urging them to create and maintain student blogs, writing in their blogs based on prompts.

Just a thought.

Good luck.

Sidney said...

Thanks or the encouragement folks. That's a good idea about the online component, Stewart. I may try that.

AvDB said...

I like the idea of using movie clips to drive home the point. Those new to creative writing and all the terms and jargon will appreciate the tie-in from a (sadly) more instantly familiar form.

Erik Donald France said...

This is cool! Yeah, academics have to "make" or break. Workshops are like that, too.

The only class I got to teach with four students in it was Latin American studies, only because the admin. decided we "needed" such a course, regardless of class size. Teaching four is a lot more intense than teaching 28, certainly.

Good luck -- sounds fun and interesting.

Lana Gramlich said...

Congratulations & best of luck!

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