Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So You Think You Can Teach?

All this semester in Mark Farrington's class: Teaching Writing: Theory, Practice and Craft, we studied how to be the best teachers we can be.  A few Saturdays ago, we put this into practice and taught a 20-30 minute demonstration to our class.

All I can say is, teaching is a lot harder than it looks.

I've got to give props to anyone who gets up in front of more than ten people and talks for an hour or more.  I could barely manage the twenty-seven minutes I came out with in the end, and it was downright terrifying--probably for all involved.  I taught a lesson on sensory description that was probably geared toward high school seniors or freshman college students, so right out of the gate I felt like an idiot asking my peers to list the five senses.  Things got slightly better when I read some examples of description, using Thomas Hardy (well known for his extensive sight-only descriptives) and a contemporary author, Katherine Howe (who used sight along with smell and possibly texture in the excerpt I chose).  I fumbled through a discussion on how the descriptive senses used helped to set the tone and mood of the piece.  The best part was an exercise in visualization of sorts, where I passed around some color printouts of paintings and asked everyone to take a few minutes and write a short descriptive paragraph while paying attention to senses other than sight.  We read some of them out loud and discussed the senses, which I thought went pretty well, and the writing was great, as usual.  (Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing in this program.)

It was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do, teaching this mock class, and I have to question whether I actually want to be a teacher after the experience.  Right after the class, I think I would have said, "Hell no!", but now I'm thinking maybe with some more practice and experience it wouldn't be all that bad... but let me tell you that as an athlete, I can't think of any time in recent memory where I've sweat as much standing still as I did during the teaching demonstration!  Gross, but true.  Talk about nerve-wracking.

Teachers, you have my admiration.

The semester is over, and I'm enjoying my short break before the summer semester begins.  It looks like I'll be taking two classes over the summer after all, so I'm trying to get as much rejuvenation out of this break as is possible.  I'm headed to Italy for some bike riding this month, not for the Hopkins Conference on Craft, so that should be fun.  I hope to finish this piece I'm working on that is now looking like a novella before I get back to finishing my novel--I'm bound and determined to finish it before the Fall semester, so I'd better get cracking!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When Short Becomes Not-So-Short

A while ago, I set out to write a short story.

Once upon a time, I had 1,500 words that I really liked.  I liked the voice, the character, the general track the story was taking... and then the wheels came off the caboose and it barreled down the ravine and into a burning heap at the bottom.

It's now hovering just over 14,000 words and it's nowhere near finished.

Good God, I've created a monster.  Or at least a novella.  I really, really hope this isn't a novel.  I don't need another one of those.  I'm sitting at about 25,000 words for the one currently in progress.  Please for the love of literature, give me my short story back!

I'm figuring I'm maybe 75% finished.  Which means this is probably going to be 18,000-19,000 words.  Sigh.  Why can't I write an actual short story?