Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Tutors together online

News, news of the network sort! Society of Authors Educational Writers Group features a whole week of Susan Lee Kerr in their May Blog-of-the-Month. Not this blog content directly, more of a round-up of a typical week of a teacher-writer-publisher-person. If you are an SoA member, once in the Members section you can go to EWG to see this, or previous month-blogs, from full-time educational books writers, editors and publishers (and some teach). Some are looking for writers -- interested?

Also: Keith Burnett, who teaches maths in an FE College, has publicized my weekly blog in his own He provides learning material samples at no charge on his site from time to time. He's also very keen on IT in teaching, and had an article Blogging about teaching in In Tuition, the magazine of the Institute for Learning. The idea is to encourage FE colleagues to use IT, including blogging -- especially about teaching their subject. Of course I contacted him and now we've done a titfer.

So if you have maths-IT colleagues, spread the word -- by internet, I guess. In Keith's article he lists several other post-16s teacher blogs. The one most relevant to our interests here is Chris Jackson's Skills for Life blog Definitely worth a look if this is your area; has lots of links. If you want to know more, do contact Keith at bodmas.

Brinkmanship, fell off the edge: alas Creative Non-Fiction enrolment is not enough to run the course. So that's 5 free Wednesday evenings from next week; at least I won't miss out on the final episodes of The Apprentice.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Writing endings

Yes, I know endings was last week with the advanced writers, but tomorrow is endings again, for my Hero's Journey/Writer's Journey crew, and the end of the 5-week course as well. I discovered I do have some further endings exercises and this will be fun.

First exercise: writing The End in the middle of the page. There, doesn't that feel good? Then we'll write an ending to a given (published) fiction beginning. Then move on to their own main characters developed during the course. We'll talk a bit about the difficulty writers can have in finishing a piece, not so much craft as reluctance to let go. Then it's good bye and good luck.

Just before that I'll give the antidote pep talk: I try to say often that 'writing by numbers' is not the point. They are to put all this in the back of their minds, not to try to slavishly follow the heroic archetype characters and narrative. Bear it in mind for stimulation or rewriting, but -- sorry folks -- there's no secret recipe or map. Just get on and write.

Admirably, my writing coach client is getting on and writing; we met today over our usual cappuccino amid the lovely May. So encouraging for both of us (the writing I mean; May too).

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Turning points & tying threads

Special moments or turning points, plus which threads need tying up/which don't at the end of the novel -- this is the challenge from my bespoke advanced writers group, to teach tomorrow.

Moments, now that's a good one. I've thought through and come up with Pinnacle, Earthquake, Clarification Moments, plus Historical Moments (less personal) and Triggers (not necessarily moment-experiences... but related). It's quite philosophical or fateful. What is a special moment, how do we recognise it, how create/find it? And then, how to use and place it in a work? Then of course, writing it.

I think we'll read out Ian McEwan's car crash near-miss from A Child in Time. And Stephen King has a snippet of good advice in his On Writing. We'll do some life-listing, some intense sense recall, some writing. And plenty of discussion.

As for endings -- anybody out there have good endings exercises to share? I have a few, but it's hard really... because you need all the stuff before in order to play with endings. So we will talk over 4 writers' comments on endings (Marshall, Gardner, McKee, Ray) and see what we all think. So much depends on the particular work in hand. Might play with Ray's 'chain of events' end-check and Cinderella to exercise ourselves re tying up threads.

As for Hero's Journey, episode 4 this week, Transformation of the Hero. They mostly have not seen Star Wars and my fav Disneys, but have seen Titanic, so I rewatched it on Saturday night. Okay, it's corny, cliched and spectacular, but it certainly is good story-telling. And loads of archetypal elements... does even Shakespeare use these? one student asked. Yes, m'am, have a look.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Teaching commitment

Laid low by a vicious chesty bug, I managed to teach two classes last week, but I’m sorry to have missed the blog.

The Tuesday was a simple 2-hour introduction to creative writing – one of a series in the route this institution is taking to attract new student-clients: it was FREE. Such is the state of ‘leisure’ adult education; a good ploy, I think – come and taste our wares. I wonder if it costs less/more than advertising and brochure distributions; and how do they measure effectiveness? Over to marketing.

Meanwhile, the maximum signed up, but fewer turned up. If they’d paid, would it have been the same? Nevertheless it was fun to be in a roomful of entirely new to creative writing adults. I had assumed the challenge that it could be a range of interests – short story, novel, non-fiction, children’s, not-really-sure, poetry – and I was right (nil poetry, however; nor plays, scripts, lyrics). Therefore I stuck to four of my basic writing process tools; did NOT ask them to read aloud to the group, but by the end had them share in pairs, 5 minutes each, and by this point they could choose from 3 little paras written during the session. I love that lively chatter of pair work. On leaving all seemed happy and interested in more... if they can fit it into their lives. Bon voyage!

Hero’s Journey/Writer’s Journey continues on Thursdays and guess what? My team leader asked me to do two runs of this for year 2008/9. Heavens! A year from now, talk about commitment. But commit I did. Repeating the course in November and post-Easter.