Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Teaching writing

Here’s one thing I’m going to miss about having both a teaching career and a writing career: those rare opportunities when I get to combine the two. I’ve done this a few times already, once when I gave a presentation at an academic conference on the Classics in children’s literature (got a deductible trip to London and Wales out of that one!), and another time when I was on a panel about young-adult literature set in the Middle Ages, at the fabulous International Congress on Medieval Studies.

I’m in the middle of doing it again right now. I’ll be teaching a First-Year (=Freshman) Writing Seminar on writing for young readers at my university next semester, and I’ve devoted the beginning of my Thanksgiving break to finalizing my first rough draft of the syllabus, which I've been picking at for weeks now.

Just as those of us who write hoping for publication are told to read, read, read, my students too will have to do a lot of reading before and while they’re doing their own writing for young readers. I’ve been browsing all sorts of lists, reading books on teaching writing to undergraduates, talking to people who teach both children’s literature and writing for children, trying to figure out how to cram a lot of information into the students’ heads in a short time while keeping the process enjoyable. 

I’m really curious about what kind of work the students will turn out. I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised at the quality of their work, but I hope even more that I can help them improve it, either from abysmal to bearable or from good to terrific. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from anyone who has taught a course like this—or any kind of creative writing, for that matter.

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