Saturday, 11 August 2012

It's not teaching, it's learning - Anne Rooney

I'm very busy at the moment (which is the poor excuse for this post being late today). The main reason is that as well as writing, I'm teaching a summer school in creative writing to American students. The summer school is run by Pembroke and King's Colleges in Cambridge, and the students get to live and work for eight weeks in a lovely environment. They have one-to-one supervisions in King's College (in the courtyard cafe when weather allows) and lectures in Cambridge Union Society. They find the setting delightfully and quaintly English and ancient, and help me to see it afresh.

I'm not really of the belief that you can teach creative writing, but I do think you can encourage people to learn and help them to develop their skills and ideas. What I hadn't anticipated when I started - and it's now six weeks into the eight-week term - is how much I would learn from them.

They bring not only their own wonderful ideas for stories, their voices, their styles and their questions, but also their very different lives and experiences. They are wonderful people. They shine like jewels, sparkling with enthusiasm and insight. Some have a lot of experience of creative writing already and produce quite breathtaking work. Some are new to it and their experiments, though not always successful, are always interesting.

The programme is great, because they have one-to-one supervision and lectures from published, professional authors. Brian Keaney is the other supervisor, and we invite writers of other genres to come as guest lecturers. None of us is a professional teacher of creative writing - we all make a living from writing. That makes it very different from the teaching they get in their home universities.

It has been hard work - there have been 13-hour days and coming home to a house with no food in it. But it has never been exhausting as the students radiate energy. They feed my inspiration and creativity as much as (I hope) I nurture theirs. I shall be very sorry to see them go, but hope they have learned a lot and expect to see at least some of them in publishers' lists in the not-too-distant future.

7 comments:

Sue Purkiss said...

It sounds great! I teach creative writing in my local community, and, like you, I really hadn't anticipated how much I'd get from my students - and how their different life experiences feed so interestingly into their writing. Very rewarding.

Penny Dolan said...

The course sounds a wonderful - if very busy - experience for everyone, especially with the diversity of their individual writing inspirations and voices. Probably a joy for the students to meet "real writers" instead of their usual cw academic tutors - and that doesn't mean that you (or the Stroppy Author part of you) wouldn't be just as rigorous. Sunshine and Cambridge - there's a daydream and a half.

VikLit said...

This sounds wonderful and very rewarding!

Freya Morris said...

Oh that sounds like THE perfect writing course!

catdownunder said...

Wah! I am jealous!

Nicola Morgan said...

You sound really upbeat about it and them, despite the long hours, and that was *great* to see! I bet they've been inspired by you and Brian, as well as by the place.

gene bernice said...

Awesome idea of providing the different ways of teaching in a creative way.








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