View Full Version : Oh, Yikes, Now What Do I Do?

02-15-2007, 11:50 PM
I was recently approached by someone from a local community group who asked if I might consider teaching a writing class on a part time basis. Their programs usually run six to eight weeks, but they're pretty flexible if you want to go longer or shorter. Basically, they want someone who can put together a "writing program" that will meet once a week for two months or thereabouts. it would be geared not towards professionals, but towards the unpublished person who wants to create a story and maybe someday see it published.

I told her I'd think about it and get back to them.

So here's my question for all of you: what would be a good way to put this proposal together? I'm thinking if I do it I should focus on either kids' books or YA fiction, since that's where my credentials lie. Should I spend a session on brainstorming for ideas? Have folks bring copies each week for others to critique? Spend some time on the ins and outs of publishing?

HELP!! My big fear is that I'm not qualified to teach anyone anything. If anyone has some suggestions as to how to structure this, it would be awesome.

02-16-2007, 12:07 AM
The best class I ever took was a creativity training class. We did things like creating stories from the same opening line, taking a newspaper article and finding a story from it, exercises on description (sort of like, "Write 100 words about the color green.") It was loads of fun.

If this is for total n00bs, I would just touch on the publication process and perhaps make a hand-out of places for the students to do further research (send them here, to agentquery, etc.).

Why don't you just sit down and make a list of the things you have to offer? Then pick eight of them that you think will fill an hour, and decide what comes first?

Or steal from books on craft of writing? Drag out The Artist's Way and borrow from there? Or LeGuin's book, what is it? Stearing the Craft? I took a poetry class at a conference once where the instructor gave us all these cool exercises. After class, I approached him and asked if he could recommend any books or websites that had similar exercises so I could continue at home. He sheepishly pushed a copy of a book across the table and said, "Actually, I got all of the exercises from here." Somebody else's book.

02-16-2007, 12:28 AM
Make them read their stories out loud at some point, and then have them take note of the bits that bother them, embarrass them, or that they self-edit in the process of reading.

Er....beyond that, I've got no advice. Any writing class *I* would teach would probably be cantankerous and no one would come. ;)

02-16-2007, 01:33 AM
My community has a bunch of programs for writers. I've taken several and was scheduled to teach a one-session mini-course which fell through.

What the instructors tended to do was break each class session into two parts. The first portion was devoted to the craft and business of writing. Each began with basics of good writing, then fiction writing, then the genre the class was for, then the query and submission process, then the contract and sale, with the instructors devoting more than one class session to some, doubling up on others.

The second half of each class was critique. The first time, we critiqued a very short story silently, then shared our critiques. We learned what made a critique useful and what didn't--how to critique. For all future classes, we were to bring a first chapter, a story, or some other writing of manageable size. At the end of the first portion of class, the instructor asked who was ready for critique and photocopied someone's work.

We always critiqued on reading, never on read-aloud. (A good reader really elevates work, a poor one the opposite.) Everyone got at least one critique, some two.

At the end of the class, those who chose to were encouraged to exchange phone numbers or emails for future critique with others. My critique group started after one of these classes.

Maryn, whose writing has improved

02-16-2007, 07:03 AM
I guess you have to first ask yourself: "Can I teach?" Doing something and teaching about doing something can be completely different.

Then if you answer yes to that question you need to ask, "Do I want to teach?"

I imagine it would require much patience.

Linda Adams
02-16-2007, 03:42 PM
Some general random thoughts:

At a presentation I was supposed to give, I discovered I was going to be the last person after the audience spent a day of sitting on a room all day being given lots and lots of bullets and text by a variety of people, many of whom were reading the slides. I figured everyone was going to be half asleep and bored. I liberally kept it to a few slides, used lots of colorful pictures and few words--and then I discovered in the room that my very subject was present, so I used it as part of the presentation. As it turned out, I got some of the best comments from the audience.

Start with the idea of keeping maximum participation of keeping your audience involved. A lot of presenters really don't do this well, and even some teachers don't. A number of years ago a friend who had Toastmasters background was applying for a job as a teacher. Part of the interview was to give a class, and she was competing with a man who had good credentials. He stood before the class and lectured the students; she was lively, involving, and entertaining. She got the job.

You already have some good ideas of content--make sure sure you look at the presentation side of things as well, since that will influence how you give the class. There are plenty of sites on presenting that are available. Try http://www.masterviews.com and http://tjsinsights.com/ for ideas.

Also, ask what kind of equipment they have. That may also influence how you give the class. If they have a Smart Board, post it here. I'll tell you some things you can do with it.

02-17-2007, 09:12 AM
Depending on the age of your students, you could ask them to write a short biography or write about a highlight from their lives. It would help them to get to know each other because, even thought they live in the same community, they may not know each other.

02-17-2007, 09:27 AM
Consider incorporating the web and bringing the criters fresh meat! Seriously you could have a thread limited to your students but the real benefit would be your student's writing would get much more attention and feedback. I may help make up for your lack of experience as a teacher.

02-17-2007, 06:24 PM
Wow -- some great ideas here! I knew I could count on you guys. Thanks!

02-19-2007, 03:07 AM
Consider incorporating the web and bringing the criters fresh meat! Seriously you could have a thread limited to your students but the real benefit would be your student's writing would get much more attention and feedback. I may help make up for your lack of experience as a teacher.If you go this way, I would also suggest having a crit of the "outside" crits. The students can learn what is a good critique, a bad critique, what inputs is useful, and what questions to ask future critters they may impose upon.

02-21-2007, 08:54 PM
I wanted to thank all of you for your input. I've decided that while I could indeed lead a writer's class, I don't want to put one together in a hurry. I don't think that would be fair to anyone. So instead I'm going to take a few months to work things out, and then offer to teach a class for their fall session. Thanks again!