Monday, August 26, 2013

The Last First Day

Good writing vs. bad writing.

The semester started last week, which means I experienced the first day of school for the last time. (Unless I decide to get a PhD or a third Masters, in which case please punch me in the face.) (Or unless I manage to find a teaching job post-graduation, in which case call the newspapers because that would be a miracle.) (So actually, there are a few scenarios in which I might have another "first day of school," but I am trying to create an aura of solemnity here, so let's just agree that this is the last and move on from there, okay?) 

My last first day of school. My third and final year of graduate school. At the end of the next two semesters, I'll have an MFA in creative writing. By mid-May, I'll be unemployed and looking for a job that won't crush my soul. It's a strange feeling - on the one hand, I want to savor every minute of the next year, because I love school so much and never want it to end. On the other, I'm already looking forward, searching job listings for positions I can't apply for yet and calculating how quickly I can pay off my student loans with a salary that's still imaginary. This struggle is nothing new - it's the whole reason I chose "present" as my theme for 2013, and while I've gotten better about living in the moment, I'm still a work-in-progress. So, instead of writing about my worries for the future, here's what's happening now: 

I'm taking one class, the last non-thesis credits I need to graduate, which is both sad (I love taking classes!) and a relief (more time to focus on my book). The class I'm taking is called Hybrid Forms, in which we'll mostly read and sometimes write things that defy or combine genres. I think it'll be a good balance to the very traditional form of the novel, which I'll be working on every spare moment from now until December 15th, when I have to hand it in to my thesis committee. (Sidenote: EEEEEEEEEEE.) 

I'm also teaching two classes this fall. Introduction to Creative Writing is the entry level writing course (we cover fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry), and it fulfills the arts requirement, so most of my 19 students are brand new to college life and/or are business majors. This is actually one of the things I love about this class - I'm literally introducing them to literature and writing, things they've always seen but never really seen, if that makes sense. And while most of these students will never take another writing course in their lives, will never write the Great American Novel or publish a poem or stay up all night working on an essay, I like to think they'll continue to read and appreciate the writing of others. And because I believe that reading can enrich your existence, make you feel things outside yourself, show you truths about the world around you, and change your life in profound and meaningful ways, well, let's just say I take this job seriously. 

The other class I'm teaching is Introduction to Fiction Writing. Most of these students have already taken Intro to Create Writing and have decided they like fiction enough to devote another semester to it. Same idea as the other class, but more focused. The photo at the top of this post is from my Fiction Writing class, and a discussion we had about good writing vs. bad writing. My students shouted out almost all the things I scrawled on the board, and I was pleased with their answers and ideas, so I think it's going to be a good semester. 

This post is a bit all over the place, so I will end it with the question I used to kick off my classes on Friday. What is the last thing you tried for the first time? I told the students I learned how to make and can my own jam over the summer which, combined with the fact that I also rattled off the names of all eight  chickens, means they probably think I'm a weirdo. The good news is, they're probably right.