I’ve taken some time away from the blog, yes, for the final edits of the novel, and, yes, for a minor tussle with the flu bug, but mostly to allow myself time to get settled in for the Spring 2013 semester with the undergrads.
I’ve implemented a new curriculum in creative writing and am doing so with two new colleagues under wing. Ironically, since they have no memory of the old curriculum, I’m the one chafing the most at the changes—changes that have largely been of my own instigation.
For the first time in the long history of creative writing at SMU, we’re teaching a multi-genre introduction to creative writing. For these first couple of years, we’re team teaching the course, with three sections meeting simultaneously and rotating among the three faculty for an experience in each genre. While I relish the opportunity NOT to have to worry about how to teach poetry, it is a BIG challenge for me to not have the whole semester with the same group of students. In fact, despite the fact that the semester still feels raw as a fresh bruise, this is the last week with the first group of fiction writers. I don’t even know all the names yet!
The big treat of the semester is my Speculative Fiction Workshop. Jargon haters: “speculative” refers to all those subsets of fiction that explore the world outside the bounds of “realism”—also in scare quotes and also probably setting off the jargon alarm. Science fiction, fantasy, horror: all the stuff that is off limits for most creative writing workshops in academia.
Masochist, you say? Well, maybe—and I’ve already made it clear to the assembled troops my lack of patience for trite medieval fantasy and hokey space opera–and God forbid any adorable teen vampires fly into the room. But everyone in the workshop feels that way. These students’ disdain for the pulpy and underdeveloped and overdone is as acute as my own. They cite chapter and verse what’s wrong with books in their chosen genre.
But why indulge them in the first place?
As it happens, our strongest writers have always been drawn to the speculative side. It’s not uncommon for them to arrive at college with several novels already under their belts—thus explaining their already well developed narrative skills. And the fact that they are also prodigious readers in their genres has also helped them develop as writers.
More about this course and its goals—and links to the blogs they’ll be developing—as the semester unfolds. But a possibly troubling confession about why I REALLY love this class:
The speculative fiction has the single most diverse membership of any class that I have taught at a college or graduate institution EVER. So I’ll be spending some time here over the next few months exploring what that’s about for me. And for them.
We’re already having A LOT of fun.
Best class ever, maybe?