Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stephen King on Teaching Writing

My take? You can't "teach" creative writing, but you can polish, you can craft, you can edit and learn from other writers. That's why a creative writing job is so appealing. Not only is your job to read stories all day, but it's nearly always (and should always be, in my opinion) a workshop class, placing the burden of "teaching" on the entire class as they analyze and discuss each others' writing -- what worked, what didn't, and why.

So I agree that you tell them they have to read and they have to write a lot, but you can facilitate that in class by requiring a lot of writing and a lot of reading. Have them read the greats, the ones that did storytelling right, then discuss what made them great, and so on.

So, I guess I disagree with King on something. Never thought I'd see the day.

p.s. I absolutely NEVER tire of hearing what this man has to say. (Unless he's talking politics, heh) When it comes to writing, of any genre, the man is truly King.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Academia versus Creativity

I spent the day with others who love writing, but the more scholarly type. I'm not a huge fan of academic writing, but it's contagious when you're surrounded by all of those excited folks. Most of them are not of the old school, and they seem to be able to make writing accessible to their students, as well as challenging. It was Conference day, with our first classes at the university tomorrow. I've got my syllabi and I'm ready. I think...

Anyway, it was a good day.

But. I'm pretty sure that I overdid it. I haven't stopped working all day. Once I was home it was the boys, I had their homework to do. No, I don't mean I did their homework, I mean the teachers assigned homework to the parents. A MOUNTAIN of paper work and syllabi to sign for each teacher, not to mention emergency contact info and medical release forms. I literally spent 1 1/2 hours signing, organizing, emailing teachers, and filling out forms. THEN I moved right into getting the site my school uses ready for my class. I like posting the syllabus rather than printing it out (Okay, I just forgot to do it and now it's too late, but hey, no trees died on my watch today). That took FOREVER. It seemed so simple in the workshop this morning... *sigh*

Now to bed. I feel so unprepared, but then, I always feel that way no matter what I do. And no matter how many times I teach composition, I change it up every time, so there's never a feeling of having "arrived" with my lesson plans. Of course this year I'm at two new universities with different texts and... I'm done now.

We're pretty much all fiction or creative non-fiction around here -- what do y'all think about academic writing and discourse communities? (And how do you like that I used y'all in the same sentence as academic?)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Going for it

The truth is, sometimes it *is* about quantity. Even in writing, heck, especially writing. If we only wrote when we were really "feeling it," our muse on our shoulder giving us words of perfect inspiration, we'd never finish a work. That's why I think what fellow blogger and writer Megan Rebekah did was both brave and industrious. She challenged herself to write 10,000 words on Saturday. As I understand it, this is not the first, nor will it likely be the last time she does this.

Even if you don't end up keeping HALF of your words from that day, you've still got the other 5,000, which is a heck of a lot more than I usually get out in a day. So the next Saturday my husband takes the kids to the in-laws, I plan to take the challenge.

Until then, I'm writing tonight, and will probably make it to 1,000, and that's not too bad for a normal day.

How do you write? Do you have a deadline for your WIP? A plan to reach that goal?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Talking with Nancy

It's raining and 71 outside. Delicious.

I sit on her porch, seeing my own from her neighborly perspective. I can feel the mosquitoes around my ankles (why there, where there is no juicy fat?). I'm listening with one ear, readying my escape, going through my mental rolodex of excuses when she drops those words, so heavily weighted into my lap.

"I've got cancer," she says, this little old lady across the street. "I've had 13 operations, but I'm living with it." Her cane rests against the bench next to her. I've seen how slowly she moves among her flowers and always assumed it was due solely to old age. Now I wonder about pain, about the creaking of bone on bone.

"God has been so good to me," she continues, smiling. "I have your friendship and this house, my garden and my grandchildren..." her voice fades. "I know the cancer's a bad thing, but look at all the good."

I'm dumbstruck, stupid, and I don't know what to say. "I had no idea," I finally utter, staring down at her old lady shoes. "I'm so sorry," I try, but she waves me away.

"We all go some way," she says, and I am pulled into her voice, as faded and tired as her eyes.

I forget the time and stop looking to my own house. I am wrapped up in her stories of neighbors and family and church until the fireflies come out, and she says she must get to bed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Books, books, and more books

I am reading The Lives They Left Behind, a collection of true stories about people who were admitted to and spent their entire lives in a mental hospital.

They came with suitcases, but they were not permitted their belongings, so the suitcases were kept in an attic: men's on one side, women's luggage on the other. Each suitcase was sorted through by researchers and medical records found to match each patient, interviews were conducted with living family members and neighbors. Most are from the late 1800s to 1960s. They chose the 25 most interesting cases to write about. It's fascinating, and I highly recommend.

Since a lot of my story takes place in a mental hospital, I can call this kind of joy research.

I've got The Book Thief and A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb waiting on my book shelf. An embarrassment of riches and I start back to teaching next week.

I've also got three book reviews to write for the US Review of Books. Lesson plans, book reviews, reading, oh my.

Cinnamon oatmeal and a whole wheat bagel with strawberry jam is a good start.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I'm watching Scream.

So age has mellowed me because I remember LOVING this when I first saw it-- and I can still appreciate the different angle this movie took, the twist at the end-- but good night, the BLOOD. I think it's worse because as bloody as it is in that opening scene, it's the tenseness, the initial stabs, all with her parents SO close -- ugh.

Oddly, I still like it; I'm just way more troubled by it now than I used to be. After all, upon that first viewing I wasn't yet a mother.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Oh, Guilt, Marco's pizza be thy name!

At least my appetite is back...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Letters to You

I love to watch you work. You are determined to do it well, to do it right, and I've never had to ask you. To mow the lawn or take out the trash or help with laundry -- you've always been one step ahead of me.

You hold me, my rock bottom and my mountain high.

My Mickey.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Something about the coming fall brings hope

I am overweight, but an anorexic girl lives inside me. Maybe I ate her, haha. I only know that that mindset, that desire to disappear and feel my backbone meet belly button is still there. She wakes up in the fall, when I'm feeling full of hope and creativity runs through my veins.

When I was in high school, I got down to an alarmingly low weight. I can remember the turning point of one such episode. I had gone a week without eating, and you would think I would've been exhausted, but I was on a high. I barely slept, I bounced off the walls. I felt amazing. My brother came home from college to visit for the weekend and bought me a pizza. (I now wonder if mom and dad brought him home to help me...) I could only eat for him. The roller coaster calmed down, and I wasn't really an anorexic, was I? Anorexics don't have 'occasional' bouts, they live in a mindset. I was able to overcome it most of the time.

Once I got married, I quit. They say that's not possible, and I suppose they're right in a way, because I tell you-- that girl-- she's still with me, whispering in my chubby little ear; she hasn't left. Still, I find it easier and easier to ignore her. Not that my relationship with food is healthy-- or I wouldn't be overweight. But I guess I'm healthier now than I was back then.

I like to be empty, a clean slate, blank paper, so full of possibility.