From the 7th to the 12th of July, 2019, the EACWP launches the third edition of its European Course for Teachers of Creative Writing take place in the 16-century castle of Alden Biesen (Belgium). Enrollments are already open for worldwide participante. Please fill our registration form before June, 15.
Teaching approaches to creative writing
The general course will be divided in two separated sessions: mornings and afternoons. During the mornings, each teacher will deliver his/her own working session. Over these sessions, our EACWP teachers will share their different methodologies, approaches and experiences in the teaching of creative writing by offering a so called “auteur workshop” by performing and explaining their own ars pedagogica and didactics from both a theoretical and practical approach. All the working sessions will be focused on pedagogical training and guidelines to empower the participants to develop their own teaching interests and new possibilities.
Additionally, over the afternoon sessions, the teachers in training will be invited to take part into pedagogical creative laboratories to discuss the different teaching proposals discussed over the morning sessions in order to design a final workshop in the context of a potential creative writing class. Participants will be encouraged to try out new approaches and take risks. It is not an evaluation but a constructive laboratory. In the last day, the outcome of this exchange will be presented in groups in a final sharing session, supported and commented by the EACWP teachers and the rest of the participants.
Ultimately, the full bibliography along with some other support materials will be provided by the teachers in their corresponding working sessions.
Workshop 1: The new frontier of narrative nonfiction
By Martino Gozzi (Scuola Holden / Italy)
There have been many debates, over the years, about the autobiographical element in literary fiction. These were the questions, raised over and over: Is the author talking about herself? Is she relating her own life story? Did this really happen? Correspondingly, there has been a lot of speculation on the accuracy – on the faithfulness – of reporting pieces. Where is the evidence of this? Where does this data come from? How biased is the author? Then, in the last few decades, a new genre has emerged, mixing everything up and blurring the lines: narrative nonfiction. One could argue that some of the most compelling books of the new millennium fit into this category: Emmanuel Carrère’s Limonov, for instance, or Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time, or Javier Cercas’s The Anatomy of a Moment. But what do we mean by narrative nonfiction, exactly? Does it allow the author to experiment with, say, language and point of view? Does it fact check?
During the course, we will take a close look at a few examples of the form and isolate some of its defining features. We will try, through group discussions, to come up with a provisional definition of the genre, in order to distinguish it from both fiction and journalism, which is something that students always struggle with. At the same time, throughout the course, we will write a few short pieces and workshop them in a fashion that will clarify just how many of realism’s conventions are still useful when writing narrative nonfiction, and how liberating it can be to be free of so many journalistic constraints.
- Great examples of narrative nonfiction
- Recurring traits of the genre
- Views on the difference between literary nonfiction and other forms (the essay, the novel, the newspaper article, etc.)
- A temporary definition
- Exercises and group critique
The goal of the course is to shine a light on something relatively new as narrative nonfiction, in order to break it down to its essential elements and make it accessible. The first half of each session will consist of a lecture. The participants will be introduced to the topic through a selection of excerpts that will define the perimeter of the conversation. The lecture will also introduce my personal view on literary nonfiction, how I came to discover it and why I believe it represents such a fertile terrain nowadays. During the first half of each session, I will also elicit a group debate on these subjects, by asking the participants to share their thoughts on topics such as subjectivity, truth and perspective. The second half will consist of a workshop. There will be writing assignments introduced in the lecture. After writing, we will look at the texts and reflect on them. Which structure do they follow? Are they scene-based? Do they conform to the conventions of literary realism? How effective are they, and can they be any more convincing? The discussion will focus on how we can be creative while recounting a true story.
The Black Box
In terms of pedagogical skills, the emphasis will be on pleasure. The thrill of discovery, the excitement of finding something new and understanding how it works – these are, I believe, the core emotions any teacher should strive to inspire in her students. Without this kind of emotional involvement, it is very hard to get anything across. And most of the time it is the very emotional involvement of the teacher to make all the difference. The participants will be asked to actively take part in each session. Not just by sharing their points of view on several issues, but also by writing and eventually providing feedback to other participants. The key word here is common ground. There is no such a thing as the perfect piece or a correct answer – there is just, I believe, a space where opposite views can coexist, and where students can try to see things in another light. As for the writing prompts, the participants will have to draw on their experience and start off with something personal. Throughout the workshop, I expect to illuminate many “tricks” that are commonly used in fiction these days, as they have become the very grammar we always refer to when telling a story. Recognizing them will turn out to be very useful for those who wish to write and teach nonfiction as well as original fiction.
Workshop 2: Reading and writing as a collective practise
Jenny Tunedal (Valand Academy / Sweden)
Literature is where we go because we want to be alone. Literature is what we turn to when we want to feel less alone. Creative writing courses are where people come together to read and write and get messed up, in the best possible sense. They are spaces that – in my experience – create and / or demand the asking of some questions:
How do we as teachers negotiate the friction between solitary writing and reading processes and the togetherness of the writing course, between individual writers and the classroom – and literature – and society – as a collective space? Can we introduce collective methods for reading and writing that will last longer than the duration of the course, that may in fact inform the creation and even possibly the distribution of literature?
What do reading and writing in togetherness imply? What are the challenges and potential risks of a communal reading practise? What are the benefits? How do collective reading and writing practises deal with difference (as in: different personal and literary experiences and different literary practises)? And how do we as teachers make sure that there is a common ground?
The aim of the course is to create a conversation on how to allow for a multiplicity of readings to become meaningful to the writer as student and to the student as writer. When and how do people start learning from each other – rather than the teacher – and what does this mean for the role of the teacher? And what is it like to let collective processes of reading inform your literary practise?
The course will consist of a lecture, a workshop and discussions. We will try out methods for collective reading and discuss their implications in relation to various types of texts and writing.
- Rules: how do we negotiate a set of rules for the shared space and the conversation on writing
- Difference: how do we deal with difference as a source of knowledge and as a method for reading
- Loyalty / empathy: how do we create an education where students are committed to each others literary practises and what does this mean in relation to being critical
- Centrifugal readings: how not to get to “the core” of the text, but create an additive reading practise.
- Reading-in-process: how to read a text in process without finishing it (off) for the writer
A lecture on writing pedagogy based on teaching experience and theoretical texts, followed by a workshop where collective reading is tried out. I will hand out two short texts and we will present our readings of these texts orally to each other. We will then discuss and reflect upon these readings in terms of difference, possibility and power. What aspects of a text become visible, what aspects are hidden? How do we situate ourselves as readers, and in relation to what?
The Black Box
Reading prompts, rather than writing prompts, will be central to my session, as I view the conversations on literature-in-process as the core of a creative writing course.
I will share my reflections on and methods for creating a classroom where differences between literary practises of reading and writing can become a driving force and where the multiplicity of readings is more important than any singular voice. Together we will read a couple of texts and through these readings start a conversation on different reading strategies, the notion of literary quality, and reading- in- process.
Hopefully this seemingly quite basic session will be an opportunity to do what most of us probably do all the time: read in a group, but with a heightened reflexivity on the how of this activity: reading as form and event, and the structures that shape it.
Workshop 3: How to give creative feedback?
By Daniel Billiet (Creatief Schrijven / Belgium)
When I started working as a Dutch teacher with adolescents aged 13 to 15 years in the 80s, I liked to work with poetry. Only: there were hardly any poems that appealed to this specific age group. I still found and find that adolescents, who change so quickly in a short period of time, are entitled to verses in which they recognize themselves, which gives them something to hold on to, reflects their life, thinking and feeling.
I nagged so fiercely about it, that my colleagues finally said: ‘If you know what they need so well, why don’t you do it yourself?’ And that’s how my debut collection for teenagers ‘Banana peels in jeans’ came into existence. A success. Apparently this new and necessary subgenre hung ‘in the air’, because soon other poetry bundles – targeting the youth – came onto the market.
This basic attitude characterizes my approach to creative writing workshops to this day. For years I have searched for new methods, tactics and techniques to get people of all ages, grades, classes, colors and languages to write. And to let them think about it, to reflect, to feed back …I am also convinced that communicating about one’s own and other people’s texts can connect people. It can provide insights that can go far beyond one’s own text. It can increase self-confidence and develop one’s personality. Empowerment.
Texts do not only move us of because of their language, but they can also be experienced through other senses. They can also appeal to us on other levels than just on the intellectual and the linguistic level.Experience taught me that this approach also facilitates the exchange of ideas and experiences between low-literate and highly-skilled people, because everyone is using the same tools.Which is what this workshop is all about: to provide the tools to enable you to ‘speak’ about texts in a different way than just verbally. To approach a text in a creative and original way in order to express what you think and feel about it.
- What can creativity be use for giving feeback?
- From linguistic to non-linguistic feedback
- Sensorial and body languages patterns
- Further and different class exercises to bring your students to experiences new ways of giving feeback
To this end I like to ask open, intriguing and surprising questions, instead of predictable, obvious questions. I also give comments and remarks that are at odds with the familiar, which invite us to look beyond the obvious. I like to provoke discussion by taking a position that may not be entirely politically correct. But, hey, it’s all fiction, right? ” It is from the discussion, from ‘le choc des idées’ … that deeper understanding can grow, new insights may arise. And always in full awareness that each participant has gone a long way and his / her input can add value. The more people engage in the discussion … the richer the bouquet of insights will be. I work as a facilitator rather than a teacher, who offers ready-made answers. Which obviously does not mean that I do not constantly steer and fuel the discussion.
Gradually we will experience various concrete ways of feedback. From simple models to more complex work forms. Especially focussing on the feed-back of one’s (own) texts in a less verbal way. For example, to encourage low-literate people, or people who have only been in the country for a few years to communicate about a text. Have we focussed on a purely linguistic approach for too long?
A human being consists of more than just his gray matter. If we focus only on the linguistic and cerebral approach, we risk excluding many people from the debate. And that can not be our intention when we communicate with each other about eg one’s (own) texts. Incidentally, through this new approach, we do not only include low-literate people in the discussion, but also offer highly skilled people the opportunity to experience a more physical and sensory approach, steering away from the cerebral thinking pattern.
About the tutors
Martino Gozzi was born in Ferrara in 1981. A philosophy major, he was worked for several years as a freelancer, translating British and American authors, such as Keith Richards, Marlon Brando, and Steve Earle. He has published two novels with Feltrinelli, Giovani promesse (2009) and Mile volte mi ha portato sulle spalle (2013). He has been the Head of Studies at Scuola Holden since 2015.
Jenny Tunedal is a poet and translator. She works as senior lecturer in Literary Composition at Valand Academy, Gothenburg University. She has published five collections of poetry and translated books by Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Etel Adnan, Claudia Rankine. She has also worked as a literary critic and as literary editor at Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet and as editor in chief of the magazine Lyrikvännen.
Daniel Billiet was born in Ghent, became a teacher Dutch and English. He wrote over twenty volumes of poetry, most of them for youngsters. He is one of the leading poets for young people in the Low Countries and an enthusiastic advocate for this genre. Billiet wrote short stories too, a novel and critics. He often performs his literary work in schools, libraries and jails. He is well known as a teacher creative writing, not only in Flanders but abroad as well.
The past decennia Billet was active in more than nine jailhouses. He has conducted workshops (love) poetry, short stories, prose, plays. For more than six months he wrote with prisoners the play ‘The house that stands between the thorns’. (2004) Billiet himself directed that play that was performed with prisoners five times in the jail of Ghent. In 2005 and 2006 his documentary ‘Three women’ – was broadcast on national televisonnet Canvas (VRT).