Creative Writing In The Classroom

Creative Writing In The Classroom-81
So maybe it’s not so shocking that a writer might publish two acclaimed books before looking down at her own work and realizing that all along, she’d been pandering to old white men.

So maybe it’s not so shocking that a writer might publish two acclaimed books before looking down at her own work and realizing that all along, she’d been pandering to old white men.

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Fortunately, though, with some work of their own, teachers can better develop their own abilities to teach creative writing.

I open the creative writing courses I teach with this vow: “I’ve seen far too many workshops become an indoctrination into an instructor’s taste—a semester-long exhortation to love what the instructor loves and to hate what he does too—and I am going to do my best to avoid that.” The statement is meant to protect students from the shame I felt when, in the first semester of an MFA program in fiction, I listened as the director mocked a writer whose books my parents, sister, and I all loved.

As a student in 2008, I participated in the workshop of a story about a Black man’s murder by white plainclothes police.

The writer was the only Black person in what poets Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young have called the creative writing industry’s “mainly white room.” Per convention, he was silent as we debated whether the story was “too familiar” or “unbelievable,” the obviousness of the racism it portrayed resulting in a kind of cliché.

When we were finished, the writer blurted, “But it actually happened!

” He’d been rewriting the 2006 murder of Sean Bell.I wanted to shield my students from the embarrassing ignorance I’d discovered in myself; I thought they should know what “good taste” entailed.A pedagogy course had introduced me to the problem of education as acculturation—a means of assimilating students into the dominant culture of a powerful class—but I discussed acculturation only with students in my composition courses, not in my creative writing workshops.What I wanted was to master the social mores of a culture that, in some unconscious and unexamined sense, I’d entered the MFA program to join: the culture of the tastemaking class.It wasn’t despite but the shame I experienced that the first creative writing courses I taught reproduced the canon of that program almost exactly.Write stories so transporting our prose becomes invisible.Use as few words as possible to move the story forward as fast as we can.Poor guy: everybody knew restraint was superior, but he’d missed the boat.Conventions of artistic apprenticeship demand that students be schooled to recognize, imitate, and aspire toward inherited ideals of greatness.The instructor will be available through email and Canvas throughout the week.This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, Ph D.


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