On Teaching Writing.

posted in: Art, Work 4
One day, I'll have a circular rug and a redhead in a hunter hat in my class. Until then, it's just tables and chairs. Photo: Wikipedia
One day, I’ll have a circular rug, long dangly earrings, and a redhead in a hunter hat in my class. Until then, it’s just tables and chairs. Photo: Wikipedia.

Back in March, I was asked by an accomplished and incandescently beautiful woman at the University of Chicago if I was interested in teaching some writing classes over there. I yawned and told her I was washing my hair but that yeah, maybe that would work, and I told her I’d call her later that week. I forgot about it and then remembered and texted her, “hey u wat up. still want me 2 teach?”

Actually, that is not what I did. What I did was a backflip. I ran around the room and yipped like a dog. I levitated. Really? Teach at the University of Chicago? Teach writing at the University of Chicago? I sat down so my legs would stop wiggling and said that yes, I would like to do that very much. Would she like me to pitch some ideas for classes or was there something she had in mind? Could I get her anything? Coffee? Tea? A new car, perhaps? She said she’d love to hear my pitches — no car or coffee required — and within the week, all three of the classes I pitched to her were put on the schedule. These are they:

Blogging as Reflection & Reputation (4-week)
Blogging isn’t just for political junkies or mommies — though if that’s the kind of blog you’re interested in writing, that’s great. Blogging at its best offers a platform for daily writing practice, self-reflection, the opportunity to understand the world a bit better, and to give yourself a presence online that extends far beyond your Facebook or LinkedIn page. In this 4-week workshop, learn the basics of blogging, do’s (#consistency) and don’ts (#oversharing), and gain confidence as a writer.

Stories Onstage (4-week)
Everyone has a story to tell. Our stories can be sad, hilarious, thought-provoking, completely nuts, quiet, loud, weird, sweet — and are often a combination of all of that. In this 8-week course, we’ll put your stories onstage in the form of solo monologues. We’ll stretch them, bend them, shape them and generally play around with them to form a piece you’ll be invited to perform for an invited audience the last week of class. Writing and performance go hand in hand here to illuminate your life, your story. Bring paper and your voice. 

Beyond Slam: Poetry on Its Feet (4-week)
You may be familiar with the poetry slam: competitive performance poetry created in Chicago in 1982. Slam is here to stay, but the old tropes have fallen away, leaving the strongest elements of performance poetry as a gift to us all. In this workshop, write your life in poems, hone solo performance skills from a professional poet/slammer, and come closer to what poetry was originally meant to be: an aural tradition.

This poetry class is the first one up, actually; it began this week. The students I have are engaged, interesting and interested, funny, and excited to learn everything there is to learn about delivering a poem effectively while standing in front of a microphone. My core objective is to break them of any preconceptions of what a poem onstage looks like. I’m drilling into them that the typical slam poetry rhythm and schtick is dead, dead, dead; the only poetry worth sharing onstage, worth honing and rehearsing to perfection is the original poem, the true-to-your-own-voice poem, the poem that no one else could write but you. I can teach them how to win a slam, but I’d rather make it okay for them to be themselves.

You don’t have to be a student at the University of Chicago to take classes at the Writing Studio. So if you live in Chicagoland, come on by. The next class up is the blogging class (starts July 11th) and the Stories Onstage class is slated for September right now, but that might move up.

Teaching scares the poop out of me. But saying no to something that scares the poop out of me scares…more poop out of me. Did I mention I’m a writing teacher?

4 Responses

  1. […] A student of mine at the U of C came to class late, missed one entirely, and told me several times, breathless, “I’m a mess, I’m sorry. I’m a total mess these days, I’m just a complete disaster.” I told her in a grave tone that she shouldn’t tell that story about herself. I told her, “You’re not a mess. You’re human. Don’t say that stuff; you’ll start to believe it.” This is a strong conviction of mine. […]

  2. […] The secret to a successful blog: consistency and variety. I’m teaching my blog class at the University of Chicago in a couple weeks and have been working on my syllabus. The research is confirming what I knew […]

  3. […] been working on my syllabus for the blogging class I’m teaching at the University of Chicago. It starts on Monday, goes from 6-8:30pm, and runs four weeks. There are a couple spots left if […]

  4. […] to taking in some quality entertainment, by seeing The Moth I’d be doing research for the storytelling class I’m teaching in a couple weeks at the University of Chicago. But the best reason to say yes to hanging out with Susan is Susan and her wonderful laugh. So I […]

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