Teachy McTeach

This has been a week for going out into the world and talking about writing. I’ve been preparing all week for the second instalment of my fortnightly intermediate creative writing class which happens on Saturday morning, out on Monday night to give a workshop on blogging to a creative writing group in Ormskirk, giving a workshop in the prison on Wednesday morning and tomorrow I’ll be teaching a workshop in Burnley as part of the Inspire Burnley project. Phew.

My favourite workshop so far has been at the prison. I know the men, they know me and they’re used to working with each other, writing together and giving each other feedback. It’s exhausting but I like it so much it doesn’t feel like work. My aim this time was to have them work on editing the autobiographical flash pieces we’d been working on before Christmas. I noticed a memey thing going around on a couple of my favourite blogs last week – a creative writing prompt that I decided to try with the men.

Writing lists of the things you like, and don’t like to write felt like a good way to warm up after a too-long gap between workshops (damn snow, again) and sharing the pieces opened up into a discussion between the men and me about voice, and style, and priorities. I know editing is about making a piece of writing better, but it’s really hard to explain what better means – especially to group of writers diverse in their tastes and experience. I think we decided ‘better’ meant closer to your own ambition for the piece, and Sarah Salway’s writing prompt helped us all to get a bit closer to what our ambitions for our writing were – what we liked to write, and how we’d like to be helped to do it better. That’s something handy to keep at the front of your mind when editing, and seeing as I’m doing a lot of my own editing now – it helped me too.

I don’t talk very much about my teaching on here, even though sometimes I spend half of my week doing it, and even though I like it very much. I’ve no qualifications to be a teacher, which makes me nervous, and my spelling is pretty atrocious, and although it’s never my intention to talk about myself or my own work, so much of my teaching method is to say something like this:

Look, here’s how I’d do it. Here are some other ways to do it. I’ve noticed this… and when I’ve done this, that sort of thing has happened. Now here’s a pen, you try, and I’ll sit here and cheer you on until you’re finished then we can have a look at it and a chat afterwards. Don’t worry.

Someone told me that wasn’t teaching, that was facilitating. I don’t know what that means. I’ve felt a bit nervous about what I do ever since. Some of my ‘students’ know a lot more than I do, and many of them are certainly better read. But I like it a lot, and seeing as the last great idea I had for a workshop was stolen from Sarah’s blog, I thought I’d throw-open the blog door and invite you all to tell me about your experiences with teaching.

Have you any tips for me?

So, Teachy McTeach with the teach-hat on this week. And in-between, there’s been interviews with old and new friends for Preston FM, busying myself with preparations for the launch of the very new Lancashire Writing Hub website, preparing posters, publicity and arranging tour dates for the show
and editing Cold Light. I’m looking forward to a quiet week. It seems like months and months and months ago since Christmas. 

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