Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Driving at Night with Headlights

E. L. Doctorow is quoted as offering this wonderful insight into the process of writing a novel: "It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

That's how I'm feeling about my Winter Term writing-for-children course right now. I realized on day one that the course presented three challenges that I am going to have to deal with somehow:

1) The class is very large for a writing class: 22 students.
2) The class sessions are very long: three hours a day, four days a week, for several weeks.
3) The class population is not what I'm used to: I'm used to middle-aged women, and this class has a sizable population of 20-year-old guys who have never read any of my own childhood favorite texts (no Betsy, Tacy, and Tib fans) and who are primarily interested in writing graphic novels.

So I am going to have to make some changes to what I had planned.

I have to do a lot more small group work as it's deadly to have to listen to 22 students report on their weekend reading, 22 students each share a picture book manuscript for critique, 22 students each share a book chapter for critique. I have to mix up the format to accommodate the long class sessions and the student learning styles: scrap the long lectures in favor of interactive exercises. I'm making the changes day by day, so that I can learn each day from what I did the session before and whether it worked out the way I wanted it to. Basically, I have to keep on my toes. Make that: on my tippy toes!

While peering out through the windshield at that next stretch of road ahead, lit up by those headlights.


  1. Well if anyone can do this, I reckon it'd be YOU, darlink. Make sure you tell 'em they gotta read their words out loud so their ears will catch what their eyes miss. if it don't sound good, it ain't!

  2. I just read your post aloud, and it sounded mighty good, Miz Cheryl!