They say March is supposed to come in like a lamb tomorrow and I am ready! The Midwest has not been hit as hard as our neighbors on the East Coast, but our winter has lasted long enough for me, thank you very much.
It has been a productive literary month for me, although that is not necessarily reflected in the number of books I have read. Instead, I have also devoted quite a bit of time this month to developing the Creative Writing class that I hope to offer next semester. Currently I am co-teaching a creative writing “club” — that is, the students receive no credit for the course, nor do they have homework. The club, called iWrite (we tried to capitalize on the iPod, iPad lingo of students in the 21st Century) meets on Monday afternoons from 3:00-4:00. Given the late hour of the day and the fact that this is completely voluntary, we are thrilled to have between 8 and 12 students show up each week (our student body is less than 200).
This week I met with the developer of a creative writing curriculum entitled the One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN) and walked away totally excited! The curriculum was originally marketed to the homeschool community, but I think it will work wonderfully in the classroom. Basically the students learn the essentials of a good adventure story the first semester (by completing workbook exercises, watching video clips, and reading through the textbook) and then the second semester is devoted to writing a 12 chapter novel (approximately 15,000 words). Isn’t that exciting?! In 9 months time these students will write a first draft of a novel!
The parameters of the course dictate that the novel needs to be an adventure story (complete with protagonist, antagonist, heroic quest, etc) and that the novel be written in the first person. Should students take the class more than once, then they will have the skills to broaden the scope of subsequent novels (eg – different genre, different POV, etc). I have decided that in order to be an effective teacher, I need to write an adventure story myself. This will be a challenge on so many levels, not the least of which is that I detest adventure. I spend my life trying to avoid conflict – and now I must intentionally create this type of story, complete with tense cliff-hangers and life-or-death situations. I have spent the better part of a week brainstorming various ideas for this project, but I think I have found one – or at least one worth pursuing to the next level. This week will be spent reading through the textbook and relating the exercises to my story idea.
I have also done a little work on the original story idea of which I posted a couple of weeks ago (working title: Photographic Memory). My outside reading this month has focused on published books that I think might help me write that first story. I read Still Alice by Lisa Genova because I anticipate one of my main characters to suffer from Alzheimer’s and I wanted to see if I could write a believable story line and character. This weekend I started reading The Cotton Queen by Pamela Morsi because it is a generational novel that is written in alternating points of view – the style that I think I may wish to use in the telling of my story.
I’ve heard that it is beneficial to read as many books in your chosen genre (or style) that you can in order to see how to craft that kind of story well. Should you know of any other novels that may help me in this endeavor, either where one of the characters suffers from some kind of dementia or memory loss, OR that focuses on the mother/daughter relationship told in alternating points of view, I would love to hear. I plan to keep an ongoing list of possible book references.
Two more weeks of school until Spring break. I am ready for spring, and I most definitely need a break. How about you?