In the "Prologue" to Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century, the authors said, “When we put learners at the center of our endeavors, at the core of our employment at colleges or universities, pedagogy is not an intellectual lawn game with ideas passed leisurely back and forth by scholars just for the sake of thinking. Instead, it becomes a professional responsibility” (2015, p. 1).
In this associated vid, Frank discusses historical poetry pedagogy and how he puts his learners at the University of Kentucky first.
Tom C. Hunley and Sandra Giles (2015) kicked off the text with the first essay, "Rhetorical Pedagogy." The pair posited that “rhetoric includes not only genres of language use but also visual rhetoric, the rhetoric of advertising, the rhetoric of place” (p. 7). As an amuse-bouche to the textual meal to follow, this initial salvo gave a Reader’s-Digest-truncated-type narrative of rhetoric from the ancients to now. This essay concluded with an appendix of classroom applications that provide fertile soil for germinating teacherly ideas. Additionally, the references in this essay could be mined for rich veins of wise material worth the supplementary digging.
The second essay, "Creative Writing and Process Pedagogy," by Tim Mayers (2015), dwelt on the role of process and process reflection in writerly training. Mayers said, “The first step toward making composition process theory and pedagogy applicable to creative writing would be to reject the twin notions that, on the one hand, writers’ processes are too mysterious to describe, and on the other hand, that the attempt to describe and analyze writers’ processes is harmful or destructive to those processes” (2015, p. 43). In grappling with the oft-debated question, can creative writing actually be taught, Mayers said, “And perhaps rather than arguing about whether or not writing processes can be taught, we would do well to shift the focus to another question: Is it possible in the classroom, to create the conditions whereby students experience the diverse and dynamic activities and actions that constitute so much of creative writing” (p. 46)?
Mayers explained that an understanding of the process movement is critical to grasping the pedagogical soup du jour. Mayers said, “The process movement may have faded into the background—or become a standard but no longer much noticed part of the scene…yet there can be little doubt that without the process movement, there would have been no composition studies in the first place…crucial to any general appreciation of what composition studies is, has been, and might become” (p. 37).
"Mutuality and the Teaching of the Introductory Creative Writing Course," written by Patrick Bizzaro (2015), is the title of the third essay of the primer. Bizzaro’s thesis for the essay was as follows: “I will first argue for the value of assessing how we teach in a creative writing course rather than what we teach in it. Then I will consider the more tangible tactics of mutuality and how they reflect not only practices that could be used in a creative writing context but also methods that are already a part of standard approaches to the teaching of creative writing” (p. 55). For those curious about what the term mutuality means in the lingua of creative writing, Bizzaro offered up a handful of well-accepted definitions of the industry term. The one I’m partial to is from David Wallace and Helen Rothschild Ewald: “mutuality can be understood as teachers and students sharing the potential to adopt a range of subject positions and to establish reciprocal discourse relations as they negotiate meaning in the classroom” (p. 3).
In the associated video, Dale delves into a remembrance of Carl H. Klaus, his mentor and founder of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. In search of an answer to the question, "what is a creative writer," Dale responds, "Oh yeah, maybe that is what a creative writer is. They will resist the conventions, um, almost congenitally.” This digression and Dale sharing the mutuality at play when his teacher commented on his work establish a resonance between the essay in the collection and the commentary by Dale.
Creative Writing Pedagogies for the 21st Century doesn’t have an essay that covers an expressly African American or post-colonial pedagogy, but I found a similar strain offered by Pamela Annas and Joyce Peseroff (2015) in their essay “A Feminist Approach to Creative Writing Pedagogy.” The pair included several exercises based on a variety of sources, one of which is Rob Pope’s notion of “textual intervention.” The textual intervention exercise asks students to approach an existing text.
Professor Walker’s “historical poetry” and “persona poems” seem to branch from within this pedagogy of approaches. Feminist writing seeks to unsilence female voices from fiction and nonfiction. I believe that Professor Walker’s approach to bringing voice to muted historical characters through persona poems shares this feature of the genre.
Jen Webb and Andrew Melrose’s (2015) section of the book, "Writers Inc: Writing and Collaborative Practice," started with a series of student writer quotes who were slightly miffed about the idea of a group assignment. One quote said, “Show me even one famous writer who writes collaboratively, and maybe I’ll be convinced” (p. 102). Had that challenge been presented to me, I would have cited the novel And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, which is composed of alternating chapters by Kerouac and Burroughs. Alas, said student was not my own, so they’ll probably remain cloistered in their own fortress of solitude when writing. In light of student protestations, Webb and Melrose outlined how to effectively teach students to be collaborative writers. To those students and all other isolationist writers, the pair proffered the following explanation for collaborative apprehension: “Both the myth of isolation and the anxiety of influence contain a germ of truth. Most of us are anxious to develop our own voice rather than to mirror that of another author; and there is a notion that the writer needs to retain a distance from others so that the magic of inspiration can strike—the muse can visit” (p. 103). The main idea of the essay, the mantra of collaboration, is summed: “while acknowledging the need for and the value of isolation in writing, we reject the myth of isolation that is so thoroughly entrenched in the writing world. We explicate the ways in which this myth has emerged, and how it interacts with the actual collaborative practices that characterize the field of writing” (p. 104). The authors do, in short, make a credible case for coaxing students into collaborative writing. The section concluded with a list of eminently practical classroom applications—ranging from “tandem writing” (very Kerouacian/Burroughsian) to “group production,” which is a semester-length project that calls on the group to collectively produce a substantial work produced by tapping each individual’s forte and melding them into a cohesive piece, ranging from digital to traditional.
The companion video doesn’t necessarily delve into actual collaborative writing in the classroom, rather it hits a type of collaborative sharing of writing, which I believe is still attacking the plinth of isolationism (i.e. writers write alone and read alone). Frank explains the collaborative drive of his project better than I, so view as he shares.
Kate Kostelnik (2015) sliced up this piece of creative writing pedagogy pie by serving the reader with a deluxe portion how-to-engage-students-in-tutorial-fashion. She explained, “Writing center theory and pedagogy provides approaches for engaging in conversation, fostering reflection, teaching students to respond to drafts in progress, and building a community of practice—in which all members are ‘learners on a common ground’” (p. 134). Basically, take that writing-center-mark-up-for-errors-etc.-mentality and bring it to the creative writing classroom, but instead of dwelling on simple errors, focus on creating a clime where students “gain foundational understandings of literary form, literary terms, drafting techniques, and commenting methods, as well as how the class will operate as a community of learners” (p. 137).
Having sat in on Dale’s Memoir and Auto Bio class that was formed from the grad and undergrad ranks, I queried his methods for meaning. His response ultimately arrives at the wish students would read more, but hits on how he handles this and encourages that foundational understanding Kostelnik speaks about.
This essay is co-authored by Carey E. Smitherman and Stephanie Vanderslice (2015). Their intent is to take writing and all its accoutrements outside of the marbled halls of academia and into the real living world with all its undulating humanity.
The adjacent video reveals how Frank tackles service learning and literary citizenship in his courses. He shares an assignment/project that all of his creative writing students undertake, which has them taking poetry into the streets, classrooms, and great wide beyond of the world. During the class I sat in on, Frank did a check in with the students about how their projects were shaping up. The tenor of the room changed. There was pushback. The students didn’t like the idea of grouping up because they didn’t want to undertake the process of selecting and excluding their peers. Selecting a venue for the projects drew silent stares because the students seemed apprehensive about taking their art/pedagogy into frightening abyss which lies beyond the classroom. Uncomfortable reactions like these solidified in my mind that Frank was onto something; I mean, getting the students to take their voices out of their comfort zones forces them become confident in their voices, as well as talking/teaching about writing.
In this section, Steve Healey (2015) went into an extended explanation of creative literacy and how it differs from simple creativity. Healey said, “…the term, ‘creative literacy’ tries to be more democratic, inclusive, concrete, a force that anyone can grasp and use, every day and everywhere" (p. 175). He winds his way through such topics as creative literacy in the writing process, the final product, and the presentation of material. In conclusion, Healey laid down the gauntlet, “What I’m proposing here is that the creative writing course should do much more than simply train students to become creative writers, and that creative literacy is one way to conceptualize the skills and awareness that creative writing students actually learn and use in their lives” (p. 192). I estimate this approach to be applicable and help lift students out of the doldrums of the workshop model and into a higher plane of manipulating process, intertextuality, peer, and mutuality to achieve a more innovative piece of writing.
Dale cites Wendy Bishop, saying, “Where’s the center of gravity?” He explains this is “the small point that wants to be a lot.” He says you can cut the rest, but there it is. Dale then cites an example Healey would applaud, where a student mined material straight from the bare-bones of a father-daughter childhood dynamic. The discernment of material shows how the student seeks the center of gravity in the stories of her life.
In the video, Frank discusses an interdisciplinary assignment he employs in his class. Frank crosses the creative writing course with the Library Science Department and celebrates the art and research with an event. Alexandria Peary (2015), in her essay, offers brainstorming notes for a "How To Guide" for entwining creative writing with various courses across the catalog. Frank’s student project could easily be adapted to include the history department, art department, music department, etc. Accommodations could be made to include a wide range of university or school personnel in the project.
In Clyde Moneyham’s (2015) essay, he described his experience as a “developmental” writing teacher employing creative writing pedagogy in his courses. Moneyham saddles the teacher with the initial step in creating good writing when he says, “Good student writing begins with good assignments” (p. 225).
From my own experience I agree with Moneyham. Creative writing is fun, and it shouldn’t be reserved for those above a certain lexile or grammar benchmark. This approach could liven up some dry English courses at the secondary and primary grade levels, as well as some remedial comp courses.
Bronwyn T. Williams (2015) challenges the reader with his take on how digital humanities should be broached in the creative writing course. Williams plops the reader smack into his methodology of using digital publishing, webtexts, multimodality, sampling, remixing, and disseminating with an eye towards the digital. This section tackled the seemingly disparate positions of modern writing and reading methods and the traditional notions of ink and paper—very cool stuff. The section concluded with a host of grand ideas for bringing the digital to the students as a modus for expression.
James Engelhardt and Jeremy Schraffenberger (2015) collaborated on how to train the lens of ecology on the field of writing. The application ideas they offered are as follows: the vignette as ecological genre, a storied relationship to place, and origin stories. Since writing always involves a subject or multiple subjects, the notion is that students blend their writing with the natural sciences to arrive at writing where some element of the natural world is explored or incorporated. As I read this chapter, I reflected on David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster and thought about its broad range of ecological and social subjects that swirl around the delicious crustacean. In addition to reflecting on Wallace, I pulled out a beat-to-hell copy of Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire. I believe both these examples can be held aloft as exemplars of the form.
Frank is the vanguard of the Affrilachian writers, the coiner of the phrase and most likely the prime mover of the school. As such, Frank talks about what the term Affrilachian means and how this movement based on region and ethnicity is so entwined with the ecology of place.