Monday, March 21, 2011

Cathy Day and the big thing

Cathy Day of "The Story Problem: 10 Thoughts on Academia's Novel Crisis" fame/notoriety has continued to write on the subject of teaching students to write novels and big things more generally in the creative writing classroom at her blog The Big Thing. I was a fan of her original essay on the subject and so I am thrilled to see her continue to approach this problem of pedagogy. Her three-part interview with John Vanderslice about his approach to the problem (beginning here) is excellent as a way to begin thinking about how you might structure your own class on writing novels, and so is this plan for a class of her own, to be taught in the fall. 

As an undergraduate I wouldn't have needed such a class for the typical reasons, as I was already writing novels regularly (I completed four in the course of my four-year degree, each one longer, more ambitious, and less crappy than the last). But of course I was the exception to the rule, and I certainly would have appreciated such a class: especially when you're an undergrad, and especially when you're not very good (as I surely wasn't), finding someone even willing to read your work, let alone critique it in a helpful way, is nearly impossible. I had several readers who made the time, and I was so grateful to them, but I could have definitely used more. I especially wish my writing teachers, who only ever saw excerpts, had been able to find the time. But of course they couldn't.

Ironically graduate school has made such a class more necessary, as I find it more difficult to put aside sustained writing time during the semester.

Day writes on the blog, and so does Vanderslice in his interview, about the usefulness of in-class writing time, and the necessity of writing with a small group of dedicated readers. There's also some discussion of how students might plan their novels (some planning is probably necessary, while deviation from that plan is likewise essential), and writing about what one is writing, which is something I've never honestly found helpful (the second I start to describe what I'm up to in a story is generally the second I become incapable of doing it anymore). I may offer my own ideas about how to structure such a class later, but for now I'm content to think about what Day offers, and to ask how you might do things differently.

No comments:

Post a Comment