Students BECOMING writers: this is my focus each year in creative writing. Publishing is necessary in taking writing-for-self to the next level. When students leave my writing class, they will have published in at least two ways and possibly more!
The first is in simply reading their work aloud to their classmates, seeking warm feedback as well as constructive critiques. It’s important to provide students with an opportunity to hear their own voices reading their work to a welcoming audience who will cheer them on, clap, even snap their fingers. Confidence fuels creativity.
Once their confidence is built, so many say they thought their writing was crap until others liked it– they really liked it– they are ready for a little constructive critiquing. I am careful not to use the word criticism because it’s ugly and no one likes to be criticized. Criticize my work: criticize me. That, in no way will help writers seek to take chances. The critique on the other hand focuses on what IS and what is not working in a piece.
The method is simple. I collect a piece of writing from each student (a one page limit). I copy each of the works into one class packet. Students spend about two days reading and critiquing the work. They are required to write SPECIFIC and GLOBAL COMMENTS on each work.
SPECIFIC – speaking to diction, syntax, line breaks or structure, an example of a poetic/literary device, voice, style
GLOBAL – speaking to the overall essence or message of the piece, the take-away from the reader’s perspective
On workshop day, we sit in a circle with our packets in front of us and take turns reading. Each writer reads his/her own work. Then classmates have a chance to discuss the work for five minutes, uninterrupted by the writer, for the writer’s job is to listen (and take notes). At the conclusion of the five minutes, the writer always has the last word: to answer a question, ask one or simply make a statement.
Once the workshop is complete (a couple to few days), students receive the written critiques of his/her work by the rest of the class. Writers are at liberty to consider the critiques that resonate with them and discard the ones that don’t as they set about the task of revising their work. Real writing is in the revising process, I tell them. Writing something down is the easy part: the tough part is noodling (playing with it– thanks, Dr. Vivian Shipley for the term!) it to a state of real satisfaction.
At the onset of class, we create a class blog, a place to showcase work students are proud of. Their favorite part is coming up with a title and a theme, for each group wants to make it uniquely their own and reflective of their chemistry as a whole.
Once students feel “finished” (a relative term for any writer) with their work, it’s uploaded to the blog.
Here are a few of my students’ class writing blogs…
I encourage students to publish in our school literary magazine, Spilled Ink, and most do. They also seek opportunities to publish in other student publications and many have.
Most recently, a student who took this course because she was curious about creative writing discovered that she not only likes writing creatively but she’s good at it too, submitted to Scholastic for a poetry writing contest. When she received a letter stating that her poem was accepted and that it would be published in a student poetry anthology, she sought me out immediately to make sure her acceptance wasn’t a scam. Completely elated to have me look at the acceptance letter and confirm that it was, in fact, legit, she was elated to consider herself a published poet.
I’ve had many students come back years after they’ve taken my class to tell me that they’ve pursued a career using the skills they’ve learned in this class. Some editors. Some writers. One who is even working as a screen writer. It fills me with such pride to pass on the love of writing and the hope that, one day, my students can become established, published writers too.