Oh, the thrill of it. One of my long-time students (whom I no longer teach -- this group of Writers at Work have gone on meeting on their own weekly, reading out and encouraging each other) has told me that his novel is to be published!
John is a fine writer and has completed several novels and a number of short stories over the years I've known him, sensitively and interestingly written. He has sent novels off and achieved rejections. This novel, with the group's support, he approached in a different way: a crime novel, called Dying for a Read. I will be tracking its progress.
I met with another student from that course recently to catch up on things. She had gone in a different direction, asking me to write a reference for her to go for a Master's Degree in Literature & Psychology... six or so years later, it transpires that this became psychology only, and she is now working on her PhD, speaking at international seminars, and editor and driving force of Pendulum, the journal of MDF, the Bipolar Organisation. Go, Clare Dolman!
Several other now-published writers have passed through my classes. I find it really interesting that when my students get published I always feel -- 'it wasn't me, my teaching, they simply had it in them.' And they did! I think what a good class and good teacher do is provide a mixing-holding place for talent, a nurturance and belief, helping writers to sustain their effort.
Many, of course do not get published. Because they stop trying? Because they have not improved enough? Because writing is too hard? Because they find other things to do? Because they aren't writing to get published? Still... it is a journey of discovery.
Helen's comment last week on the student who blossomed... that is so rewarding. Seems to me that with the shy student confidence-building is the key, and patience, and not forcing him/her to read out, and an attitude from you that you take his/her efforts at writing absolutely seriously, you believe in it.
Along these lines of 'growing people', perhaps, is a piece in the NAWE (National Ass'n of Writers in Education) Director's Report 2010 summing up a report on writers teaching in schools. The project effectively demonstrated 'how writing can be used to unlock both intellectual and emotional responses.' Yes, that's what I like about teaching creative writing: helping people to say what they want to say, and sometimes to find out what they want to say.
If you haven't yet joined NAWE, do. Good, re-launched, website: http://www.nawe.co.uk
HAPPY CHRISTMAS SEASON AND NEW YEAR
-- I'LL BE BACK IN 2011, START OF TERM.