Thursday, July 29, 2010
In need of an idea -- or frequent flier miles
Yesterday (pre-migraine) a college professor/writer that I am acquainted with tricked me into coming out of my shell.
OK, really, truly there were no tricks. He merely asked me if I would be willing to teach a seminar on writing to high school students and a class or two to college students on creative writing.
I said yes before I could really think about it. I love talking about writing, and I love teaching writing. If I had the dollars and the time, I'd go back and get the parchment that would say I could dayjob by teaching creative writing. Alas, the idea of doing more post-grad work makes my head ache worse.
Also, these commitments were blissfully out in the future -- the high school one is not until February.
Then Dr. Writer (who shall remain nameless) told me the kicker about the high school seminar: the time block is two hours, and in that time, the students have to produce a sample of writing that is judged for an English scholarship.
Yikes! Back I retreated into my turtle shell.
Usually when I'm asked to do something like this, I focus on something useful -- query letters or synopses or just a general overview of the writing/publishing biz. But these kids will be nowhere near submitting for publication (well, most of 'em, anyway), and I don't think even the best query letter could be good enough to base an English scholarship on.
So onto my quandary: what component of writing can I teach to high school students that I can teach in, say, an hour or so, and leave them enough time to craft a good sample of their writing?
My thoughts so far? Let's go all James Joyce and stream-of-consciousness for a moment.
Eeek! Can I get out of this? Maybe an unexpected trip out of the country? No, no, my word is my bond ... two hours! Not even two, because they have to write and how can they write anything in two hours that will give them a good shot at writing and what if I can't shut up about writing and take the whole two hours and they have zip to show for their scholarship? Two hours! TWO HOURS! I can say no, sure I can say no, no, no, I can't say no, say, how about dialogue?
Once I hit the brakes on the runaway train that is my thought process (ain't pretty, is it?), I tell myself to define the problem and get on with finding a solution. I have to teach a bite-size chunk, and dialogue is something that could be bite-sized.
1) Setting and imagery
2) First pages
3) Show, don't tell.
So you tell me. Back when you were a high school kid who thought all romance writers were rich and ate bon-bons all the live-long day and wore feather boas and stilettos and resembled Barbara Cartland, what could you have listened to in sixty short minutes and then turned into some sort of work product?
Because it's either you help me come up with this, or I'm hitting Tawna Fenske up for some of her frequent flier miles out of the country.