Writing Schools Around The World: Escuela de Escritores (Madrid)

In collaboration with the pedagogical magazine L’Inventoire from our French colleagues of Aleph-Écriture (Paris), Louise Muller, representing the editorial team, has carried out a series of interviews to some of our EACWP members with the aim of inquiring into how writing is taught in Europe and elsewhere, but enphasising the location, the geographical implantation and the close environment of the different institutions. This is the second interview held with Mariana Torres, representative of Escuela de Escritores in Madrid

Photo 1A

When the school was born? What kind of classes do you offer?

Escuela de Escritores was born, with that name, in June 2003. But to talk about its creation we must go back to October 2000, when the first online classes began in the Writers Workshop of Madrid, headed by Enrique Páez. Many of the teachers who now work in Escuela de Escritores came out of this workshop, and the spirit of those dynamic and participatory classes remains today in the school.

We offer more than 60 different writing courses, many of them specialised in particular genres or techniques, and many others designed to allow the students, after four or five years, to handle the tools to write a novel, a book of poems or a collection of short stories with success.

Online education is one of the mainstays of our school. Every year more than a thousand people take part in our Internet courses and workshops, most of them from Spain and Latin America, but also from many different and faraway cities such as Tokyo, Bangkok or Pretoria. Online courses also allow us to work with teachers who are living in other countries and who enrich us with a wide range of experiences of other creative writing education systems.

One of the most important mainstays of the school is the Master in Narrative: ‘The Art and the Craft’, now in its seventh year. Sensibility, creativity and technique are the basic lines of this two-years face-to-face course (876 working hours) that combines theory, practice and creativity classes and introduces students both to narrative techniques and to other useful knowledge, such as psychology, philosophy and visual creation.

What idea on Creative Writing you defend here?

Photo 1B

Javier Sagarna, our director, explain our general idea with these words: “Writing is, fundamentally, a craft; a craft that can and should be learned. A craft which, when practiced with enjoyment, is fun; when practiced with skill and talent, it becomes art. Teaching this craft is what we do”.

Our classes combine theory and practice, but class work is, essentially, practical. The students read aloud all their texts and, guided by the teacher, they comment on the stories of the other students. Sometimes they also write in the class, but usually they do it at home, basing their text in the writing proposal that is suggested in the class. In our methodology, we start showing the students how they are able to write any text when they face up to the writing process with no fear. We teach them how to allow the text to go outside them and how to let the words find their own way. And after this first impulse, we teach them how to correct this draft, how to polish it up and improve it without losing any of its initial values and while still emphasising all the author’s natural skills.

A writer needs to create and needs to correct. He needs freedom to create and technique and knowledge to correct. Through practice, students learn to deal with this double mechanism. To be a teacher in Escuela de Escritores, it is not essential to be a great writer it is more important to be a great teacher but it is important to be close to the feelings and needs of a writer.

What is the story of the school premises? How is it implemented in the neighbourghood, what are the surroundings?

Photo 2A

Escuela de Escritores has premises in Madrid, Zaragoza and Burgos. The main building is established in Madrid, we have a brand new school recently opened (last September) with 7 classrooms and a common room for writing and reading, that includes a library. We are now in Covarrubias St., really close to Alonso Martínez square and Sagasta St., just in the middle of Chamberí neighbourhood. The building has a modernistic design, from late XIX century, and it was constructed by the famous arquitects José Marañón and Daniel Zavala.

Do you think that the environment of the school has an influence on the students’ writing?

Of course… Escuela de Escritores in Madrid is surrounded by several metro and bus stations and is a central neighbourhood. It is also close to Malasaña that is a vibrant neighbourhood, full of lively bars, restaurants and clubs. Most of our activity is after midday, close to the evening (many of our students come to classes after work), so it is important to have places nearby to eat and drink after classes.

What can you see if you open the nearest window? Can you, if possible, send us a picture?

We are established in the ground floor, so we have many different windows to choose… All of them open to Covarrubias St. or Manuel González Longoria St. If we open the windows of Aureliano Buendía classroom, the class in the corner (photo1B) of the school we can see the next building (photo1A). The buildings are similar in all the neighbourhood.

If you leave the school and turn three times right, what do you see? What is going on? Can you send us a picture?

Photo 2B

If we turn, from the main door, three times right, we almost come back to the school, because we cover part of two streets. We are in Manuel González Longoria St. (photo 2A), a very quiet street with almost no cars or people. There, the most interesting view is the inside of our Ana Karenina classroom (photo2B).

Can you tell us a bit about your job in the school?

I am in charge of the Quality Control department that supervises the good functioning of all aspects of our teaching, and the school’s in-house Training Programme which enables teachers to continue their learning in any of the subject areas delivered in the school. In my department we also prepare and organize the Theoretical Material department, which works close with the teachers in the creation of the teaching material and the way it is used and developed inside the classes.

Previous editions

Literární noviny (Prague).