Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Teaching Creative Writing: Making Inroads

As I'm trying to re-balance myself and what I work on in my free time, I have been making a conscious effort to try to make teaching more of a priority. I consider it the weakest area of my CV since it's what I do least, compared to publishing and service. Thanks to a serendipitous combination of generous friends in the right places, opportunities through my university, and a supportive boss, I have been able to get into the classroom, with more opportunities slated for the coming semesters.

I participate in my University's Freshman Seminar program, where I teach a one-credit course on a fun topic (courses range from "Star Wars and the Roman Empire" to "Politics and South Park"). In Fall 2011 I taught "Poetry and Mythmaking: Using Creative Writing to Revise History" which was not only incredibly fun, it let me see that I was right about how excited students might get about both mythology and poetry if put in the right context. This coming fall, I am offering a course titled "Reality TV in Literature: The Hunger Games & its Predecessors" through the same program. It is a great way to test the waters for a class you are thinking about designing as a full 3-credit class, as well as a nifty way to dip into some pop culture and try to get students engaged and interested in a topic early in their academic careers - proof that learning can indeed be fun.

Also this coming fall, the English department offered me the chance to teach a section of their Creative Nonfiction undergraduate class. While CNF was not my primary training focus in my MFA, I have had a few essays published in journals and as book chapters, and my book The Kentucky Vein (Punkin House, 2011) was mostly poetry, but concluded with a handful of essays. So I am qualified, but I am also reading everything on CNF that I can get my hands on, from books on writing to collections of essays. I can't wait to try my hand at teaching a workshop and encouraging young writers.

In Fall 2011, I designed an upper-level course titled "Modern Women Poets and Mythology" that has generated interest from the Women's Studies, Classics, and English departments. I couldn't accept the generous offer to teach it this semester due to working to get a handle on my health, but am hoping the departments might agree to offer the course next spring (2013).

There are hundreds (thousands?) of writers and MFA grads desperate for a teaching gig, of any type, anywhere, and I am profoundly grateful for the chance to get in the classroom and try my hand with students. These teaching opportunities also mesh really well with a topic on which I am interested in doing more research, the place of research in creative writing, including leveraging the library for research purposes in the creative writing curriculum, and focusing specifically on research skill development for creative writing students. It's a nice melding of my two sides, the creative writer and the librarian, and something I hope will help writers as they develop their craft.

I expect to blog more about my experiences in the creative writing classroom as I have them - stay tuned!

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