Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teaching Theme

Interesting creative writing class last night. I called the segment my "Pulling It All Together" session. I originally conceived the class as a beginning writing course for retirees ready to pick up their pens, possibly for the first time.

My student makeup quickly expanded beyond that when it moved outside the junior college continuing education setting, so I have a mixture of people with varying degrees of experience. I've been working to make sure to show how the techniques I'm espousing relate to memoirs and creative non-fiction as well as fiction. Happily I have students honing creative non-fiction pieces that read like short stories.

I started with developing original ideas, moved through plot, character and the importance of polishing prose.

Theme, suspense and dialog seemed like the next points to hammer on the journey. Those seriously developing new works as part of class are at the point of adding nuance to some excellent works, so my goal was to suggest ways to hone the spirit of work so that it offers more than just a recitation of facts or events.

I quoted various sources in lecture, and we examined a story by John Cheever called "The Sutton Place Story" that's both suspenseful, thematically rich and reliant on characters. I was afraid it was a little esoteric, but it resonated.

Students asked if the class has to end in another week.

Oh yeah, it does, if I'm going to remain standing. But it was nice to have that response.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How Did it Get to Be October?

I'm making slow progress on many fronts. Blogging obviously hasn't been one of them for a while, but I thought I'd check in which a quick update and get back to profound updates when possible.

I have just two classes left in the teaching practicum that's part of my MFA. I've held onto about 10 students for five weeks now. I was worried since it was free I wouldn't get a commitment, but people are hanging in.

We're working on the art of re-writing outside of class and writing theory in class. Exercises, lecture by me and discussion of short stories and brief creative non-fiction. It's tough to do a lot of novels in six weeks, but I think short pieces have been helpful in exemplifying technique.

I've tried to give them a variet of readings including "An Old Man With Enormous Wings" by Marquez and Cheever's thriller-like "The Sutton Place Story." It's a great look at how character affects plot and plot informs theme. Or at least I think it is.

I found a Photoshop contest picture that was surreal and used that for a writing prompt and spurred some people to creativity that was wonderful.

On the novel front, I'm working on rewrites and polish and aiming toward a final draft for readers for next semester.

There's goodness in it at the moment, though it's not perfect.

Really wanted to get something on record since my Oliver film was my last entry. Hope all is well for everyone.
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