Thursday, May 8, 2008

Undergraduate Novels--I Am Fearless

In addition to teaching my conventional short fiction workshop, I’m also piloting an online novel writing workshop for eight students, most of whom are continuing projects begun in f2f seminars I called “Imagining the Novel.” ItN was all about giving undergrads permission to try what was really in their heads and to expose them to what it feels like to write in the long form. I also wanted it to be a genuine workshop wherein the writing was discussed as it was produced. From what I’ve heard, many novel workshop sessions are about writing and not necessarily about the writing. By the end of term, each ItN participant had written a stack of 80-100 pages that had been read and remarked upon. A handful of those writers really felt they were onto something, and so the online continuation was set up. The course was designed for collaborative teaching, but my partner hasn’t been able to participate, which is a drag. However, the energy of the writers has been outstanding, and they are reading each other’s works with voracious passion. I am officially exhausted.

It’s not that I am in any way qualified to teach novel writing to groups of undergrads, but I’m the only one in our prestigious program who is willing. I came up with the workshop scheme after meeting so many recent freshmen who claimed to have written one or more novels already. Which lead me to wonder, just how do we learn to write big books anyway? And does that process have to be more private than short story writing? And why offer the opportunity for serious community only to grad students?

Yeah I know the answer to that last question. So there are a lotta ponies and wizards out there. Big deal.

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