It’s a Monday morning. And it’s raining. And I didn’t get very much sleep at all last night. So by all rights I should be a damn cranky lass right now. But rather, I’m feeling downright skippy because of two excellent reasons. 1) The Green Bay Packers won their game against the New York Jets yesterday, and any Monday that succeeds a Sunday wherein the Packers have a victory is guaranteed to be a good one and 2) Today is day one of the fall poetry workshop I’ll be teaching for the next four weeks through The Los Angeles Review, and I couldn’t be more excited.
With a healthy workshop group size of eight students, I know that this workshop is likely to be productive, fun, and challenging. Though I’d be just as eager to teach a group of students coming to the page for the first time, I have to admit that I’m thrilled to have such seasoned, intelligent, and accomplished students to work with.
My life in increasingly hectic, and finding the time and energy to work on my own writing projects is an ever-present challenge. Because I’d like to finish my novel by the end of the year (admittedly wishful thinking), spending my creative juices on poetry sometimes feels frivolous. But a poet is what I am as a writer, first and foremost, no matter what literary genres I might stray into from time to time. And so teaching this online poetry workshop gives me the most wonderful opportunity and excuse to indulge that long-starved inner poet. Already, just having spent the time to create a syllabus, lesson plans, and this week’s lecture and corresponding writing assignment has given me a much-needed refresher course in the methods and practices of poetry writing that have kept me going all these long years.
Teaching a writers’ workshop has already proven to be a beautiful and amazing thing because–even at this early stage–it has allowed my own creativity to flow out for my students to see. I used to be scared to death of teaching writing, because I wasn’t confident that I had anything to offer my students. Though I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life determinedly reaching to be a more skilled and informed literary citizen, I don’t always feel like it’s my place to teach others. After all, I’m just this punk kid, right? But then suddenly it appears that I am not a punk kid, and am instead nearly 30. And what do I know? Well, after having received two degrees in my field, edited a literary magazine for three years, written one non-fiction book, one collection of poetry, several partially or nearly completed novels, and spent the vast majority of my free time pursuing that diabolically elusive writing success, I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two.
The problem is that what comes so naturally on paper is hard to explain, difficult to define and even more impossible to teach to others. But once I pulled down all of my craft books from various writing classes over the years, I found that I had a great deal of resources to draw from, and instead of not knowing what to say in my lecture, my main problem was trimming it down to a reasonable size.
I don’t think any writer ever reaches the point where he or she has nothing else to learn. That give and take in the classroom—virtual or live–results in a creative safe zone that is enjoyable for me, both as a teacher and as a student. A relaxed, friendly atmosphere gives everyone a chance to create their own education; and finally, the number one lesson I’ve already learned is that in the best creative writing classes, everyone should get a chance to be both student and teacher.
So at least for the next four weeks, on any given Monday morning, I’ll likely be smiling and sighing with delight a great deal, knowing that I’m participating in that grandiose give-and-take, that ongoing dialogue between the artist and the medium, teacher and student.