On the 8th and 9th of November the European Association of Creative Writing Programmes held in Paris its 1st. pedagogical conference. The initiative was focused on a preliminary question: How do we teach creative writing?
In the basement of the Institut Finlandais in Paris, the president of the EAWCP, Javier Sagarna, opened the conference by reinforcing the spirit of the association: “The principal aim of this meeting is to share and, of course, enrich our methologies by happily realising how different we are. It is not a matter of making a unique way of teaching but to improve our own ways”. The opening ceremony was also presided by the director of the Aleph-Écriture, Alain André, who stressed out several questions concerning the main matter: What is the right posture for a creative writing teacher? Is he or she a teacher or something totally different? Is the art of teaching art a specific one, or a simple extension of creative writing art? Do young teachers need a specific initial training? Are they teachers just because they are writers, or not?
The conference hosted around 60 participants from different schools in Europe, who were gathered around two main lectures, 26 mini-lectures and several panel discussions and workshops. The conference assistants managed to shape a feedback network through different debates, class situations, teaching scenaries, writing exercises, pedagogical experiences and insights. The diversity of the group dynamic went from the more traditional methods passing by technological tools to the so called “chamanist” procedures.
The first lecture moderated by Reijo Virtanen (Finland) drew up the idea of teaching ironical writing as an attitude towards life. In the the second lecture, Daniel Soukup (Czech Republic) overviewed some classroom situations regarding teaching writing in a foreign language.The first roundtable presided by Ana Menéndez (USA/Nederlands), Javier Sagarna (Spain) and Alain André (France) focused the debate on two fundamental questions: Is the workshop dead? What about the return to reading as the basis of creative writing instruction? In the second roundtable Denis Bourgeois (France), Thomas Bouvatier (France) and Ana Menéndez (USA/Nederlands) concentrated on the writer’s trainning: in other words, the panel proposed a reflection around how to offer a real training which will help the authors to build his own writing’s world and, in the same time, to be able to honor a contract or to respond to a command. Finally, the third roundtable headed by Alain André (France), Reijo Virtanen (Finland) and Mariana Torres (Spain) touched on the basic pillars related to train creative writing teachers: “How can we help teachers to manage with its specific and recurrent problems? Do they need an initial or a continuous training? Should they meet in regular meetings where to share and think about their way of teaching?”.
In the same way, workshop 1 explored perception as a transcription of the real, the here and the now (Cecile Fainsilber; France) while workshop 2 developed creating characters (Kate Moorhead; Grande Britain) and workshop 3 revisited some myths as a new approach to teaching creative writing (Linda Lappin; Italy). Several mini-lectures opened important discussions about distant learning and creative writing as the one leaded by Frédérique Anne (France), Fred Leebron (USA) and Mariana Torres (Spain). Other significant debates went through poetry and emotions, fiction and non fiction, creative process. The participants also had the opportunity to join a French session carried out by Laurence Faure and Dane Cuypers.
The conference finally concluded on the evening of the 9th with a cocktail offered by Aleph-Écriture in its ground floor of rue Saint-Jacques. As a conclussion, Javier Sagarna insisted on teachers’ need of sharing and discussing constantly their work and settled down the basis for the second pedagogical conference next year regarding the idea of working with new schools and developing new appoaches.