Monday, August 10, 2015

Did I post this before? Creative Writing 200

Here's an article I sent to Tale Spinner, our SCBWI newsletter for members: (I sent it about April 2014, I guess.)

So You Think You Know It All?
            After age 65, it’s possible to take university courses for free.  I qualified a long time ago, and finally this year I signed up.  I didn’t much care which course I’d take.  Maybe history.  Maybe literature.  Browsing through the courses, I made a wish list, but was informed that spaces in all courses were reserved for those who required them for degree qualifications.  Seniors like me had to wait to be informed that our turn had come to sign up for whatever was left over.
            All the courses on my wish list were already gone to those who needed them, and I was given a list of the leftovers.  Imagine my surprise and delight to find the perfect course—one I hadn’t even hoped for—Creative Writing 200.  It’s an overview of the varieties of types of writing—fiction, non-fiction, blogging, graphic novels, comedy, crime, poetry, and best of all, writing for children.  Better still, the section on writing for children was to be taught by our own Alison Acheson! 
            Before that session began, I approached Alison and introduced myself.  She seemed to think I’d know everything she had to say, and that it would all be old-hat to me.  Not so.  I learned a lot.  I had taken writing courses, attended writing conferences, read books on writing, but I wasn’t sure what was out-dated and what was new.  For example, I didn’t know that there’s now an age category called “new adult”, going from Young Adult up to about age 25.  Interesting.  It was also encouraging to learn that much of what I thought I knew was still valid.  Alison’s lecture was anything but old-hat.
            So what about the other sessions?  Did I already know all that stuff?  Some of it, yes.  Again, I felt a sense of validation when I could nod in agreement with the professor.  Some of it, I thought I knew, but found I’d messed around to suit my own way of looking at things.  For example, there’s Aristotle’s triangle, or something.  I’ve always called it Aristotle’s Incline—a plotting paradigm he wrote about in Poetics.  I didn’t do well in that part of the quiz because I called the points by different names.  The nice thing about taking university courses after age 65, when you already have your degree thank you very much, is that the quiz is nothing more than a wake-up call to the fact that, no, I don’t know everything so there’s good reason to be in this class.
            Another reason I’ll be sorry when this course ends in a week or two, is that I like the in-class writing exercises and the monthly written assignments (5 pages, double-spaced, submitted online).  No excuses such as writer’s block or busy-ness will do.  I work best under pressure and with deadlines. 
            It’s a short course, only January to April, held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 2pm, but now I find myself searching the course lists again, and making my new wish list.  It would be wonderful to find another creative writing course to follow this one, because I certainly do not know everything.  If I find one, I hope it’ll be one of the leftovers that I can seize and savour like this one.

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