Sunday, 24 January 2010

Some ways to open a story & avenues for publication

Hope you didn't forget the Mslexia short story competition, if you are female, that is. Closes 25th January - tomorrow! Here's the link, but if you've missed it, never mind... on the website you can find exercise ideas in their archived monthly workshops -- another good source for you!

Some ways to open a story, that's the exercise I put on my website for this term, which I realise now I haven't yet mentioned. So if you hit this blog first, or if you haven't recently revisited Creative Writing: the Matrix website, this is the link that will take you right to the goodies. It will get your students pushing and exploring. Dialogue? Landscape? Interior? Character? Cleverly, you can impose your will on them, and expand this exercise to a full, say, 45 minutes, or keep it shorter.

PS if this is your first visit to this blog from the website then you've seen the Sample Inside page for this term -- sorry to repeat! But then if you look at the labels for this blog which began 2 years ago, you'll find a backlog of exercises, ideas and tips -- welcome!

Other avenues for publication is the tutor tip for the term, which brings us neatly to paragraph 1 above. At some point -- and I usually wait til half-way through a course -- you will probably want to stop and explain the world of publication to students. You can make a series of this, a real study looking at publishers' sites and catalogues etc, which adds the kind of market and media reality to creative writing that some institutions insist on these days.

I talk about that in the book, but the freebie tip is about encouraging students to enter competitions, explaining their variations and values. Value as a teaching/learning experience is deadlines, presentation and the experience of not winning (good practice in rejections) or maybe... winning!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

e-homework, do you?

First of all, try this:

Sun column real reason tip of our own... Our Committee lost our wisdom teeth
and an unfinished of free capacity.
Glass Note... a gentle rain, early sense of a shaft of light.
old piece of flooding. sky and add Yes we still free.

My last blog entry received a message in Japanese (I assume?) characters. No idea what it says, but Google Language Tools gives the above as 5th of 212 translations. Daren't publish the characters as sent, for who can know (in my lack of language) what it says. One title says Hiroshi customers, the next says Mushrooms Mushrooms.

So, sorry to that commenter, but thanks for the venture into Google poetry. Another translation starts: Pine, wearing morning bath, standing. Another, Sung-dyed piece of yellow gold. Mmm, nice. I do write haiku, so maybe that's the source.

Meanwhile, MoiraG commented back a few entries on the joys of being a student as an aid to teaching creative writing (O Yes). And that set me wondering about 'homework' in our area. My daughter is completing her doctorate in clinical psychology and has to hand in everything in hardcopy AND online -- so they can do accurate wordcount (and maybe plagiarism checks). But that's university for ya. A colleague of mine in adult ed does allow students to send work by email attachment. Myself, I refuse e submissions -- what do you do?

Here are my reasons, as written to a student at the end of last term (having announced and repeated my policy earlier in the course):

(a) why should I have to go to the work, ink and paper-invest of printing it out in my place and my time when I have so much other work and time at the pc and printer

(b) it allows student to send in any old time and feel he/she will get feedback, whereas the time of a tutor at home is spent on preparing for class, and doing feedback on student's work in a planned time to fit the tutor's schedule (the tutor's own writing, other work and life activities)

(c) writers need to learn to meet deadlines and present to parameters set by editors/competitions etc professionally. ie, 'play the game'

(d) it is good writing practice for a writer to print out in hardcopy to critique and revise his/her own work -- to be able to see it whole.

I always only do hand-written feedback on the page, by the way -- when I have once or twice done on screen I end up explaining and nearly editing by way of explaining... can't help it, I'm a writer, I get sucked in. No sir, on the page, puleeeeze.

So am I an old meanie, or what?

Friday, 8 January 2010

Useful writing how-tos

Happy New Year, happy new term. And new decade too. Will you write? Will you teach? Will you do both -- the balancing act... let alone learning, earning, living. Courage, strength, faith! I wish you onward.

Do you give out a Writer's Resources List to your students? I do: recommended books to help craft and to support the writing life, also magazines and organisations ditto. This is a different list than the sources I use for a course, one I usually send them away with towards the end as they fledge into the world.

Surely you have your own favourite helps -- and these are no doubt sources for the content and exercises you teach. Today I got an email from a site with a list of '75 Books Every Writer Should Read'. Worth a look. I am pleased that a dozen on the list are old familiars to me... which makes me think that the rest of them may be of equal calibre.

However, they've left out a few that I have learned much from and drawn upon for both writing and teaching. These are:
  • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
  • Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
  • Writing on Both Sides of the Brain by Henrietta Anne Klauser
  • A Writer's Time by Kenneth Atchity
  • The Weekend Novelist by Robert J Ray
  • 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Ruth Padel
Let me know by comments what your favs are. The trouble is... reading these how-to books (I finally realised) takes me away from actually doing my writing. And as I am up and running with great-grandfather Ephraim again (he has arrived in New York City, April 1850), I think I'd better stick to the writing.