Guest Post, Alexandria Peary: Discussion of AWP Panel “Creative Writing is for Everyone: Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century”

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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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6 thoughts on “Guest Post, Alexandria Peary: Discussion of AWP Panel “Creative Writing is for Everyone: Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century”

  • March 8, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    As an English major it’s great to see people promoting the teaching of creative writing and explaining its importance for every student. I’m excited to hear more about it.

  • March 9, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    I agree that the workshop model can be improved. It is exciting that people are looking into it.

  • March 10, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    This sounds like a great workshop. If I was working on a Creative Writing degree, I would probably take; I might be interested in it just for some experience. Just because I’m and English Lit major doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy writing something once in a while :).

  • March 12, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    I really appreciate this article as an English major because I think more people need to appreciate creative writing and what it can do for students.

  • March 13, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    I remember walking into my first poetry workshop as a freshman and feeling incredibly intimidated and terrified because I didn’t feel like I was ready or welcome. After a few sessions, I left and never went back. Even now, years later, I still carry a little bitterness toward the experience. I’ve taken other creative writing classes since then and never got that much out of the workshop model. Nevertheless, this seems like an interesting panel.

  • March 16, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    A really interesting perspective. I completely agree (and am definitely finding) that the current workshop model has some shortcomings, and some ways it can be improved. I like the idea that creative writing can assist different students in different majors; I would argue that a class on storytelling, since it is the most intrinsic and human form of expression, should be required for every major.

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