Saturday, 19 July 2008

morning after

Back from a week of teaching at the Humber Summer Workshop. I write mostly for kids, so I am not used to hanging out with adult authors. Man, can they ever teach. They'd start at lunch time -- way before the sun was over the yardarm. I couldn't keep up. By dinner time I'd be reeling, but they'd keep going, teaching away all through the night and then on into the early morning. They just couldn't get enough. I would wake up the next day, like this guy in the picture, with my head about to split open from all the knowledge that was still in my system.
Mordecai Richler used to say that you can't teach creative writing. Go out into the world and do somethings, he'd say. Then write about that. I may be putting words in his mouth, but that was the idea. And of course he's right -- up to a point. There's only one way to turn bricks and boards into a bookshelf, and you can teach that one way. But you can take basic story materials -- soft-voiced hero, dark-eyed villain, gemstone of infinite value, crazy neighbour, angry mob, sport jacket of invisibility -- and turn them into an infinite number of riveting tales. The blank page is a terrifying and mystifying starting point.
So you can't make someone a good writer. But I believe it is possible to take pretty good writers and teach them to be better writers. That's what I was doing with my particular group of hopefuls. And they all improved a lot over the course of the week. I felt really proud of them. By Friday they were way more fluid, more creative, more confident than they had been the week before. I look forward to buying their books in the future. But I must say I am glad to be done with teaching for now. I need rest.


Anonymous said...

I'm thinking of the gemstone Bonesaw left behind, the one I found in the pool filter.

Rest up, Chunky. Last I heard you had a mountain to climb.


Richard Scrimger said...

Yikes! Always scary to get a comment from one of your characters. Um, thanks, hon.