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Saturday, June 21, 2014

 

Working to Inspire New Writers



What inspires you as a writer?
Photo | EKHumphrey
I’m in the planning stages for a noncredit writing class that takes place this summer—in real life. I spend a lot of time interacting with people virtually, so I’m excited for the challenge of returning to the classroom and connecting with people wanting to write.

Planning such a class takes me back to the days when I was in their shoes. I was writing in notebooks and journals, but I hadn’t made a commitment to work on something substantive. In fact, I just knew I wanted to write better.

I remember arriving each day for class, I would enter the YMCA building in Manhattan and, as I walked up the steps, inhale the pool’s chlorinated aroma. The instructor was a patient, blossoming writer. She introduced me to writers I had previously passed carelessly. We felt comfortable sharing our personal, early writings with a room of strangers. That class turned on a switch for me.

Have you ever taken that kind of a class?

I’ve been scouring my piles of craft books compiling exercises that I can introduce in the three-hour classes. I’m diving into the remnants of nuggets of ideas from classes I took. I’m looking for exercises that entertain while illuminating different elements of writing. At the same time, I want to help these novice writers comfortable with their discomfort with writing. I want to help them get pens to paper and turn their ideas into a love of writing.

(Side note: One of my favorite exercises for character description is to have students explain what is in their characters’ pocket or purse. Endless possibilities!)


We’ll spend the class time discussing the area of focus, writing to complete the exercise, and sharing our writings. Understanding how to critique respectfully will be a part of the course. And, while the focus of the class is to write what you know, I want the students to start feeling free to play with words and what they can do on the page.

Before I turn the students loose on the exercises, I want to revisit and write the exercises that I enjoyed and what inspired me.

I want to help them become passionate about writing and, hopefully, turn on their writing switches.

Is there a class you attended that was inspirational and made you want to write? Have you taught a class that resonated with your students? What helped to take it to that level? What or who turned on the switch for you? Please add your comments below.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. Her credits include Idiot's Guide: Gluten-Free Eating (Alpha, 2014).

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1 Comments:

Blogger Sioux said...

Elizabeth--I took the Gateway Writing Project--a National Writing Project site--in 2001, and it changed my life as a teacher and as a writer.

Since it was an intensive class (five weeks, four days a week, six hours a day) I had the luxury of time...time to write and time to respond to other teachers' writing. We used the PQP (praise, question, polish) format when working in small critique groups. I got the chance to write outside of my box and really examined what I needed as a writer.

Elizabeth--have a great time. I imagine the writers you work with will inspire you just as much as you will inspire your students/writers.

4:26 AM  

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