Creative Writing High School 2015

Creative Writing High School 2015-12
The Macondo ground rules address various issues, encouraging compassionate mindfulness as “a practice motivated by having witnessed marginalization in our communities.” My favorite passage is this: “Many of us come from places where we’ve been involved in long-term conflicts and have learned extremely valuable survival skills, including persistence, skepticism, and a willingness to confront others.” Both of these descriptions of origins immediately work to decenter all students who have grown up in privileged environments—and to make them conscious of the fact that they have.Not many white suburban kids can identify with these descriptions, which automatically center the experience of many students of color., this strategy implicitly asserts to students of color.

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In retrospect, I have no way of gauging how much of his concern was due to my ethnicity, how much due to gender, how much due to my aesthetic, how much to the content of my work, and so on. My professor’s reaction made me doubt the worth of my efforts and my own desire to continue writing.

In graduate school, where I did a scholarly masters and then doctorate that focused on modernism, I took creative writing courses on the side, for fun.

(I was a professor with tenure before I finally attended.) In her graduate poetry workshops, another professor was equally encouraging—and explicitly feminist, which was nice.

Still, when I became an instructor, I wanted to make my own pedagogy more intentionally welcoming to writers of color. Like any instructor, I address racial and ethnic stereotypes when those crop up in student work, as they occasionally do, but that after-the-fact intervention doesn’t go far enough toward fundamentally transforming the environment.

Everyone—no matter how prestigious the MFA with which they enter our program—is equally good at this method; there is truly no wrong or right.

Pointing thereby cuts out the “peacocking” (Emily Toth’s term) that often crops up in workshops, as some students vie to establish their expertise (or dominance) among their peers.

The reading of the lists is often surprisingly beautiful, like a strange, echoing poem, and pointing functions as a respectful, non-intrusive way to build trust and rapport early in the course.

More importantly, it democratizes the feedback experience in a radical way, cutting past acquired vocabularies and concepts, throwing respondents back on their instincts and ears.

I use texts by writers of color as my reference points, employing examples of aesthetics, choices, and techniques from Morrison, Kingston, Erdrich, Justin Torres, and Helen Oyeyemi, for example, rather than from Faulkner, Hemingway, and Tobias Wolff.

In doing so, I offer no explanation, allowing literature by writers of color to function as the (apparently) unexamined norm in my classroom, as white writers have functioned elsewhere for so long., I develop and use exercises that engage texts by writers of color.


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