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Archive for 'teaching'

Saturday, July 12th, 2014
getting squared away

I am here in Colorado and working on getting settled into my new position. I have to say, I didn’t fully understand the curriculum here for the MFA in genre writing, but I after learning more, I think it’s the best structure out there for getting people to publishable status. That is, going over the skills and getting the business information you need to get there. Here’s why. First, the first year is devoted to learning a lot of the basics of craft, and also learning a lot about various genres. It’s strictly commercial genres. So no matter what, you’ll get a sense of horror, spec fic in all its forms, fantasy in all its forms, romance in all its forms, and likewise with westerns. You do a lot of writing and reading and a lot of feedback from working writers. Then the second year gives you more intense drilling down and also some pedagogy on teaching, should you decide to go that route (both creative writing and freshman comp, since those are the two most likely for teachers), and planning for what you will do when you graduate. You also do an out of concentration course in poetry, screenwriting, or non-fiction. All the staff in all the classes are working, publishing, directing, filming, writing and etc, in their fields. Then you also participate in summer residencies with more concentrated courses, and the Writing the Rockies conference which each year brings in really good talent (open to the public if anyone wants to check it out). In your second year, you also write a thesis.

Unlike other programs, instead of working with a different mentor each semester, you take two six credit online courses with other students and there is workshopping and regular course assignments. That means the curriculum is more standard for everyone, and the department can make sure the standards are being met across the board. It means you also end up with working closely with all the faculty fiction faculty, which is really good.

Does this mean you’ll be able to publish your novel when you get out? Hard to say, the market being what it is. But many of the students begin publishing in their first year with the writing that comes out of the courses. I know a lot of people and writers especially wonder about the efficacy of MFA programs, but this one is completely and totally devoted to getting published. If you’re thinking on one, definitely check it out.

In other news, I’m sitting here in my dorm room working on the next novel and bashing my head on my desk to help shake out any plot ideas that might come from a concussion. Drinking might be a better idea. Sadly, I’m at 7500 feet, and that means that alcohol will go to my head super super fast, and also, walking not far makes my head spin. Hopefully I settle down soon. Usually it takes a couple of weeks for people to develop more red blood cells to cope with altitude, which will be just about the same time I go home. Rawr.

Boy of size continues to be sick. Hopefully when we get back the OHSU appointment will get him on the road to wellness. I sure as hell hope so.

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
The news that fit or not to print

Tomorrow I take off for 2.5 weeks to teach in Colorado. I’ll be at 7500 feet or so, in Gunnison. I’m teaching in the Western State Colorado University MFA in writing program. I’m expecting it to be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. At the end is a conference open to the public called Writing the Rockies. There are some stellar speakers going to be there, including Joe Haldeman. I met him many many moons ago in passing. Hoping that I get a chance to talk to him this time.

I’m not taking leaving home that well, however. I’m worried about the kids, about the boy in particular, and already missing everybody. I don’t like this part. I have tons of appointments lined up for when I get back. No rest for the wicked, I guess.

I sent out all books that I had addresses for. I have not redrawn any names because I wouldn’t be able to send them. I probably will try to do that this next week and then send when I get home. We’ll see how everything goes.

I haven’t flown in many moons, either, so having some angst about that. I really don’t care for landings and takings off from Denver because there frequently is turbulence. Vallium anyone? Sigh.

I’m pretty sure I’m all packed to go, but for a few last minute things. Oh, and granola bars. Need to grab some of those.

I should be posting from Colorado. In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying your July.

Monday, November 26th, 2012
More hours!

There aren’t enough hours in the day. Or I move too freaking slowly. And I’m tired from last week. All the same, I’m also prepped for tomorrow’s class. Oh, and I started a new block today. Doing a 20th century Brit Lit class with a focus on Postcolonialism. We’re reading from an anthology and Albert Memmi’s The Colonizer and The Colonized, plus watching some films, including Rabbit Proof Fence, Junoon, District 9 (and yes, I know, it’s an alien movie, but it really recreates and mirrors the issues of colonization, even though it isn’t specifically about colonization). And then I’m thinking about Lagaan, but the trouble is that it’s very long. I could switch it out for two of the others, but I just am not sure. Luckily I don’t have to make my mind up today. I often use The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Passage to India, but I want something different and Junoon, while it isn’t set in the 20th century, deals with the Sepoy Rebellion and establishes the atmosphere and I haven’t used it before. On the other hand, Lagaan might be better. Sigh. This is hard.

I’m also trying to decide how much time I want to invest into Heart of Darkness, or if I want to go another route with the stories and cover more ground. I’m not sure how good their reading skills are and whether we can read HoD in the time that I want to allow. That’s a choice I really need to make very soon. I don’t like planning way ahead for this class because I want to find out how students will deal with the reading first and if I have to adjust the schedule. So I usually plan a week at a time. But this time I’m only doing a few days and waiting to see how well they do with the Memmi book, because I may have to take more time with it than I’ve planned. I don’t like ramming ahead and having them feel lost. Better to lay a really good foundation and get them grounded in the terminology and then get going from there. So I wait to see how they will do with tonight’s reading and writing assignments.

The dogs are really enjoying the fact that I’m reading stuff for class, because they get to be on my lap and they make excellent lap desks, not to mention leg warmers.