Monday, December 15, 2008

Teaching for the first time!

Well tonight was another milestone: the first session of the short story workshop that I am co-teaching with Evan Fallenberg, a wonderful writer and new friend, in the Studio he has created in his capacious garden. And let me tell you, I was really nervous. People were coming, 12 of them, who had paid money and I was supposed to sit there and behave like a kind of authority, someone who knew what she was doing. And I was being paid for it. A whole new experience. I was shaking, I had real stage fright, although all the chairs were in a sort of informal circle. As everyone came in, I noticed them doing that class "thing" where everyone tries to sit as far from Teacher as possible... and that was me! Weird.

But... it was great. Really great. I didn't freeze or say anything too inappropriate, and Evan and I introduced the course and the location, and said what we needed to say. The part of the evening I had been concerned with was the Flash writing session in the second half. I had already heard that some people weren't keen on "writing exercises". Well, to be honest, neither am I. I either want to write or not write. Exercises, for me, such as "describe your character's childhood" or "write about a scene where two people have an argument" don't work for me. But writing to a set of flash prompts, that really does because it taps into that part of my brain that is activated when I am in the "zone".

So I told them all this. I said that this wasn't a writing exercise, but actual writing. I said how I had over 100 flash stories from such flash sessions, several of whom have been published. And they seemed to be happy to try.

Then someone said, Yes but what do we do with what we've written? And this was the part I hadn't wanted to mention til afterwards: the reading out of everyone's rough 1st drafts. I had to reveal that, and say that it would be wonderful if everyone read, but if someone really didn't want to...

Let me say: they all read! And they were all fabulous! Everyone had written a story, or the beginning of one. And each one was different, unique. I got such a thrill out of it, and I hope the others did too - seeing everyone take it seriously, and reading out their work with no hesitation, no disclaimers. It was a joy.

Sadly, I won't be seeing them again for 5 weeks - it is a 12-session course over 6 months, and Evan and I are alternating classes. I am really looking forward to it. A milestone, definitely. Paying me to talk about short stories? How crazy is that?


Nik's Blog said...

Not crazy at all, T. You're good. Thrilled to hear it went well.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi T

Remember all those workshops you attended, and sat near the back, because there was this extraordinary person called a 'writer' up front who would impart some magical knowledge... but couldnt possibly have anything to say to a raw newbie...

There comes a point when we see that we aint raw newbies any more. And others see us as we saw the experienced ones a while back.

And in a while, the student who hung back will be sitting in the teacher's seat herself.

I love the continuity of all this. The sense that writing is a movement. And a moving living thing.