I haven’t been subbing much this school year. This has been great for getting organized and dealing with my burnout issues but not so great for my bank account. Imagine my surprise when I opened the sub plans for my first job in 2020 and discovered I’d be teaching creative writing.
Creative writing!! It’s like an author’s dream class.
Or mine anyway since I love teaching nearly as much as I love writing. And teaching writing to people who want to learn how to write better makes a girl feel like she’s died and entered Paradise.
Or it should.
I took a couple of my paperback books to the class. Since it was a high school class, I made sure my YA fantasy anthology was part of the pair.
Look how pretty they look set up for everyone to see.
Too bad none of the students were excited to get a closer look.
I introduced myself and tried to get them to ask the usual question. Every author reading this knows the question I’m referring to.
Me: “I’m a published author.”
Silence greets me, but fifteen pairs of teenage eyes are fixed on me. I’ll count that as a half win.
Me: “What would you ask someone who told you that?”
Another pause (I would have said pregnant, but I was the only one feeling expectant).
Finally, a boy in the back wearing Oregon State Beavers colors with a lovely Nike swoosh over his heat (Yay for Nike! My oldest son works there) says, “What do you write?”
Ah, yes. I write fiction. Specifically, I have been published in multiple genres, but the bulk of my work is sweet or Christian romance.
No one took the bait. They didn’t ask how many books I had published. Or what my favorite story I’d written was. Nothing.
So I filled the silence by telling them my dream genre and asking them about the short story assignment they were supposed to work on in (the very long—as in 100 minutes—class). They were writing a story 700 to 1000 words in length.
Yikes! How do you tell a complete story with so few words?
I encouraged them, giving them a short glimpse into my experience writing short stories (and by short I mean at least 1500 words but most were closer to 5000). My first writing “mentor” encouraged me to write short stories. They would improve my ability to “write tight” and “cut the fat.” True story.
I had written a fill-in-the-blanks premise sentence on the board. I talked about why it was important to be able to distill you story into a single sentence or at least 50 words or less.
I used the book I’d brought as an example. In Love’s Texas Homecoming, Jaz Rolle wants to find her purpose in life now that her dream to honor her brother’s purpose has been derailed, but she knows she can’t do it in Sweet Grove because her dad has no confidence in her and her mother hates that they don’t get along. Immediate goal: get out of town – fast!
Of course, Bailey’s story goal changes all that, but I was giving them a short answer.
The brave soul who’d come up with the question in the looming silence volunteered to share his story premise first. A few more than half the class shared and most of them even tried to use the structure I’d written on the board. This was going okay.
Of course, I’d barely used up ten minutes of the interminably long block period.
Just before I set them free to work, I offered to brainstorm with the few who didn’t have a clear idea for their story.
“Brainstorming is my super power, “ I told them. I’ve said the same to my author friends. Maybe one of them reads this blog and will give my super power a shout out in the comments.
It would really give me a boost because…
Not one single student took me up on my offer.
Talk about derailing an author’s ideal creative writing class scenario.