Pedagogy is deeply important for creative writing for a reason beyond teacher professional development or the legitimizing of creative writing as an academic discipline. While pedagogy certainly helps in those areas, students are the main reason for its importance.
It’s not news to say that the traditional workshop model has been critiqued for its lack of a nuanced or evolving pedagogy. (I think of it as a “mono pedagogy” in the way a bra fitter once told me during my impoverished graduate student days that a sports bra is “mono mammary.”)
Organized as it is around exchanging drafts (usually at a fairly advanced stage) and the giving and receiving of feedback, the workshop model makes certain assumptions about where the student is located in his or her writing process.
Typically, the workshop model pays sparse attention to prewriting, early drafting, and the actual implementation of that feedback to revise. The workshop approach casts light onto a fairly limited stretch of the writing experience, leaving radio silence before and afterwards.
The workshop model also operates from a certain set of assumptions about the context (the who-what-where-why-and how) of a creative writing education. It assumes the student is:
- someone who’s authored a fairly advanced draft
- someone who’s fully ready for peer feedback and doesn’t require training in the earlier moments of the writing process
- someone whose intent is the production of belletristic and possibly publishable texts
- someone who writes in response to literary models
- someone who’s sitting in a classroom.
One of this year’s AWP panels on pedagogy, “Creative Writing Is for Everyone: Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century,” strives to dismantle these assumptions.
The five panelists present a sample of pedagogies from the 2015 collection Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century (Southern Illinois University Press): Steve Healey, Tom C. Hunley, Tim Mayers, Stephanie Vanderslice, and Alexandria Peary (moderator and presenter). Panelists discuss service learning; process and rhetorical pedagogy; Creative Writing-Across-the-Curriculum; and creative literacy.
By rethinking the individuals, purpose, and location of creative writing instruction, speakers in this panel point to the ways creative writing can be relevant not only to those on a path to becoming literary writers, but to every other student as well. Pedagogy is a matter of access: it determines which students receive the benefits of an education in creative writing. While sticking to the workshop model potentially disenfranchises students, the reverse is also the case:
- creative writing can assist many types of learners in other majors
- creative writing can be learned and practiced by individuals outside the university
- creative writing can show students ways to lessen the mystery of finding ideas through a time-honored rhetorical tradition
- creative writing can celebrate the writer of the unfinished as much as the writer of the polished product.
This AWP session occurs at AWP on Friday, April 1, from 3:00-4:15 PM in Gold Salon 1, JW Marriott LA, First Floor. Copies of Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century will be available at the Southern Illinois University Press booth. Southern Illinois University Press will be offering a 30% conference discount on Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century to people who attend the panel and AWP; the promo code will be valid for 1 1/2 weeks after AWP.
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