The Syllabus Evolves…

…as I learn to “read” you and hear about what you’re interested in learning and writing. As I come to know more about your previous writing experiences, and as we explore the readings and exercises together, I’d like to make an adjustment in the assignments for next week.

I think we can move more quickly into the extended writing than I had anticipated. You are picking up the lessons of each class quite handily, as evidenced by the discussions and what I read on your blogs. Also, you read very very well indeed as writers. Let’s scrap, then, the second reading-as-a-writer piece and insert the ever-popular Stranger Studies in their stead. I’ve made the switch on the Assignments page .

I appreciate reading your posts about the learning journey–they do help me try to create opportunities for you to engage with and develop your writing.

Make sure you put next Sunday’s dinner on your calendars. Let’s say 5:30-7:30, January 20?

A Great First Two Days of the Term

bowling shoes

Whenever I think about teaching a J-term writing course, I wonder how I will possibly put together something that will help writers deepen and move forward in their practice in four short weeks without overwhelming them with the possibilities (and my own enthusiasm). I spend weeks gathering ideas and throwing them out, designing a syllabus and compressing it, putting together a huge selection of readings and letting most of them go. How do we find a balance between the delights of experimentation and the need for space and time to let our writing simmer, our ideas develop? A balance between connecting with one another in our community and spending long hours alone, thinking, reading and writing?

Already, after two days, I see that this group is ready, no, hungry for the Far Reaches of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction writing adventures. You are fearless about trying out Web 2.0 tools and pulling up blogs–many thanks to Remy and Piya for their inspired guest teaching/presenting of online storytelling and the intersections between image, sound and text. You are also clearly willing to crawl around as writers inside the readings, searching for lessons about the how of the what, comparing the results with your own work. And in-class exercises? What I’ve heard and read from you, the results are inventive, playful, and useful. I hope you will post your “On Water” shorts and all your other in-class experiments for us to learn from–by seeing the different choices made and by responding to them, we stand on each other’s shoulders, inspiring and inspired. I will create a static page on which I will record the exercises in case you ever want to return to them. And if any of you dream up exercises you’d like us all to try, post them here!

Two quotations from the blogs I’d love to hear responses to:

Alex R on the creative tension we’re experiencing as a community getting to know one another through our writing first and primarily:

“So, we’re all starting up in this class- and on these blogs- as a community. We vaguely know eachother, or can at least make an attempt at the name/face/ I think the first letter is A… spiel. In a more profound sense- we’re bound in a knowledge of eachother that is unnatural- I don’t know your name, but I know how you write, I know that your favorite place is a corner nook, shaggy carpet, over water, in the back room etc. ”

Miriam’s response to my opening question about why you want to take this course:

“I feel as though I’ve been bombarded with painfully uncreative nonfiction for the the past six years or so. Who hasn’t realized that “science journal article” is often a synonym for “afternoon nap” and that time carefully budgeted for geography reading quickly morphs into valuable Facebook-surfing time? But there’s a problem with all this, beyond the stony-faced professors who ask unanswered questions in class: we still need to know the information in those readings. Not just for the grades, but to know the stuff. Why go to college if we didn’t have to know it, and if there would be no future benefits?

So it’s time, for me at least, to learn something true that’s interesting. To revitalize my drive, so to speak. Beyond that, I want to present what I have to say in a way that makes people take notice. Who cares about the message of a piece no one will ever pick up and read?”

I can’t wait for Monday. 😉