Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Term of Creative Writing ... Some Reflections

This year I started a new subject. Well, two if you count EAL, but the EAL teacher has been supplying me with material to use and so far it has been straightforward parts of speech. Yesterday we did adverbs, using the worksheets she had supplied and ending with a spelling race (adverbs, of course). In general I think they are getting it and I might do a quick test to see how much they have absorbed in the parts of speech, but it will have to be after we've covered the material the teacher wants covered for that period. It does make things easier for both of us - she can focus on other things when she has them and I have somewhere to start.

Creative Writing, though - I'm currently teaching seven Year 10 students. Well, six, really. The seventh student has turned up twice the whole term and written a single paragraph. And that was his autobiography because on a test to see what he could do I concluded he was not capable of so much as a story outline, let alone a story. I did learn from that first paragraph that he has a brother who is a Bollywood actor! But then I didn't see him again. And he didn't seem to feel that he was obliged to tell me more.

Recently, we were joined by Ricky, who decided to drop out of his other subject to do this. I was told he couldn't afford the fees, but the welfare teacher told me later that when she offered to help him out on the fees he said that no, he was happy to do Creative Writing. He has begun a story about an alien invasion and a task force sent to the alien HQ somewhere in Russia to fight back. We did have some discussions about the inadvisability of dropping from a plane near enough for the enemy to see them and he rewrote. As the good guys were Australian I did have to ask if he was sending them all the way from Australia to do this and he decided they would be coming from a base somewhere in the Arctic. And he got out Google Maps to do some checking. He hasn't gone very far, but he's only been with us for two sessions so far.

Tez was writing a story about having been kidnapped by a gangster to whom the father owed money, but it was too positive - the girl was given a nice room and happily bounced up and down on the bed. I suggested that someone kidnapped would be terrified, not giggling, and that if she was planning a romance here she would have to make the kidnapper at least a bit sympathetic. She took my point and had a go, but last week told me she didn't feel that story was working and she had started another one. That was okay, but I haven't seen it yet. She did show me her blurb, which sounded rather depressing, but hey, teenage girls...  The others all saved their stories into our Public Share and I've sent them to myself to read, perhaps over the term break.

James is still in the middle of a fantasy tale about a thief who got into trouble and was on the run when he picked up a magical glove that did nasty things. It's promising, but still needs a lot of work. And the hero is currently in a prison cell with not much idea of where it is or how he got there and the story is not properly begun.

Inaam made a promising start to a horror story about a bunch of girls on a sleepover who suddenly find themselves out in the cold woods. I must say, Inaam's story was a pleasant surprise, though the punctuation was all over the place. We went through it together and she spent a period fixing it because, as I told her, there wasn't much wrong with the story itself.

Miller has managed about three paragraphs. In a term. The last one finished abruptly in the middle of a sentence. Sigh!

Derby's story has turned into a version of Snow White, seen from the Queen's viewpoint. It has some nice touches of humour in it, but she has suddenly realised that Queen Ivana isn't much older than Snow White and Snow White's parents put a curse on her and there are no dwarfs, because the Queen accidentally killed her before any thought of doing it on purpose. I like the humour, but this really doesn't look like it's going anywhere as yet.

I did find one thing that worked was the story template. Well, it worked for those of them who are willing to even consider the ending of the story. Derby says it has helped her to break the story down and look at it again.

Another things that works - or would, if I could get them to post during the holidays - is the class blog. They have begun to comment on each other's stories and they are doing so politely and I like that.

Thing is, I am wondering if ANYTHING will be ready and edited by the time they finish. And I was hoping for three stories each!

I have been doing this as a writer trying to share my own writing habits, but it doesn't seem to be quite working. And I'm not prepared to turn this into English Extensions.

I'm hoping to be able to get the school to give us some money for a writing workshop that will cross two campuses. That might inspire something. At this stage, most of them have eight sessions left!



Sharon Marie Himsl said...

Hi! I took a few creative writing classes while working on my bachelor's. It sparked a serious desire to write and be published. Learning how to critique (and be critiqued) wasn't easy, but part of the grade. Hopefully your students will take their writing seriously. Thanks for following my blog :)
Inventions by Women A-Z

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Marie,

Thanks for the kind comment! Creative Writing can be wonderful if you are at university. And sometimes at high school as well. They're all great kids and since I posted the above, some have completed their tasks, but not yet handed in. I sat down with one girl and edited her story. I haven't seen the finished product yet as she was too tired to post it. Another student has finished, but won't let me help him with the editing, or see it till he's done his own. There's something very vulnerable about kids that age!

This is my less frequently posted blog; I use it to talk about school and such. My other blog, The Great Raven, is the one where I post book reviews, talk about speculative fiction and my writing.