Tuesday, 22 April 2008

The hero wins

Yes! Hero's Journey/Writer's Journey short course will run, starting in two days, which means tomorrow will be full of sketching out the 5-week plan and detailing the outline for the first 2-hour class.

My main source book, by the way, is Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screenwriters (Boxtree 1996). It's very approachable and clear, though more film oriented than applies to my reading-on-the-page territory. I get back-up from loads of other myth-y books on my shelves including Jung and, of course, Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

The trick, always, is to make up the exercises that get people not just learning 'about' archetypal characters and structure but also actually processing it -- by thinking and writing in class.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The brinkmanship of adult ed

Five working days to go and I'm several people below the minimum required to run my Hero's Journey/Writer's Journey short course. I love teaching this course as it hits all my personal buttons. I've devised both craft skills exercises and process-of-writing exercises using the full hero's quest framework. Touches a lot on Jungian archetypes so it is wonderfully, quickly, deep.

I've run it as a monthly full-day course, therefore have all the content plus useful feedback on what works well and what I could drop or tweak. But I need to have a detailed think re putting it into 5 weeks, 2 hours each class.

However, I will now put off the think session until the penultimate day when I hear from the college if the numbers allow. As writers-who-teach-creative-writing we have this dilemma: will I have five weeks of creative heroic questing or will I have five weeks of extra time to get on with my own writing.... ? (See column to right to link to course details.)

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

An established poet as guest tutor, free?

How about Monica Ali or Andrew Motion talking about poetry, or even Sylvia Plath, reading her own in your class? For free, and you don't have to book them?

I have just discovered (thanks to Society of Authors, The Author) http://www.poetryarchive.org Dozens of poets recorded reading their own work, and some, like Ali, Motion, Ted Hughes, exploring poetry, giving personal responses to poems, 'teaching' poetry. You'd need to have online facility in your teaching situation to use the sound aspect.

It's more poetry appreciation than writing it. But the 'For Teachers' section offers whole lesson plans and of course can be adapted. Inside this section I found a link to http://www.teachit.co.uk which is chock full of English teaching ideas, resources and online interactive 'Whizzy things'.

As usual these teaching sites are aimed at schools-teaching, not adults. However, materials at A-level and even GCSEs -- heck, even children! -- easily adaptable, or spring-boardable for us who teach adults.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The joy of progress

Fresh from my session as writing coach with an individual client. He's my first and only, as I wasn't sure whether I'd find this kind of one-on-one too demanding and involving.

When teaching a long course of 15 or so students I always schedule tutorials, and find it hard to limit myself to 10-15 mins each. Funny how it can take as long to discuss 2 poems as a whole chapter or short story -- I think because I always need to figure out why and how the writer has missed, to help the writer know the process of the writer-reader experience in order to improve. This requires my engagement with each writer as person as well as the individual work -- intensive, yes. But worth it.

How would one writer and a whole hour (or two) be -- more intense? 7 months in (4 sessions) we both are very happy. We meet every 6-8 weeks; he supplies his packet of writing a week before the face-to-face session. No phone or email coaching in-between, as agreed in our guidelines at start. So intensity of involvement is no problem and it feels a luxury and privilege to go in depth with one writer. What's more I get paid.

Best of all, this client can write, has something to say and learns fast, absorbing constructive criticism, adapting and incorporating to improve the flow of his style and to find the voice for his project. A joy!

Interested in process? My own book includes 23 pp, 11 exercises on writing process (toot-toot, my own horn, click right column). Re 1-to-1 consider The Write Guide: Mentoring by Martin Goodman and Sara Maitland http://www.newwritingnorth.com