I'm in the Clackamas Community College bookstore, looking for the texts for Writing 241: Creative Writing — Fiction. I've taken the class twice before—once in 1995, once in 1998—and, from my experience, the textbooks are written by the instructor and completely useless in the context of the class. They're never referred to once the entire class.
The current texts look no different, and I decide not to purchase them.
As I turn to leave, some other books catch my eye. Hm. There's apparently a Writing 240: Creative Writing — Nonfiction. How did that escape my notice? And look at the texts! They have titles like Creative Nonfiction: Finding the Truth. (Not an actual title, but it's close.)
I leaf through the texts. They're amazing. They delve into the types of creative nonfiction (personal memoir, investigative journalism, etc.) There are entire chapters on reordering timelines, on the moral issues involved in self-censoring.
Why am I not taking this class?
Right. First, it's held on Monday nights. I'm not willing to miss our weekly MNF gatherings. Second, I do creative nonfiction every day. This is what I do. I'm learning experientially. I'm discovering the moral quandaries on my own, here in this forum, with your help.
Still, I might take the class next term.
The classroom is full. Of young people. The two previous times I took this course, it was sparsely populated. By old people. People over forty. I was always one of the youngest before. Tonight there are twenty-eight students (more than twice as many as in the past!), and at thirty-five years old, I'm one of the oldest.
One woman, about my age, was unable to register for the class because it is full. She's brought a tray of warm chocolate chip cookies, and when the instructor arrives—a boyish fellow younger than me—she's at his side immediately, proffering her bribe. "It's up to you," she says, impish. "The class is full. But I have this plate of cookies and you can have them if you let me in." She's ornery. She's probably a great writer.
Rick, our instructor, says he'll think about it.
Rick is the kind of instructor who likes to write on the board. He writes down one word from every sentence he speaks. If he says, "Hemingway said that a story is like an iceberg," he'll write ICEBERG on the board. If he says, "I flew in from Pennsylvania this morning," he'll write morning on the board. Or he draws a pictorgram to summarize several sentences. For example, as Rick descibes how earlier in the day he read Calvin Coolidge's obituary in the New York Times archives, he draws a primitive casket (a rectangle with a crucifix) surrounded by four stick men. When he tells the story of burning soybeans the other night, the board is a jumbled mess: the blueprint of his apartment, curls representing billowing smoke, cartoon cats that look like tomatoes.
It's clear form the start that this creative writing class will be different from those I've taken before. All of the others have had a workshop format, where the group comes together to read and discuss three or four student-produced stories every week. Rick lectures most of the three-hour session. He has us perform an in-class exercise. He talks about noticing. I like the Dostoevsky quote he's placed in the syllabus: "Nobody got to a single Truth without talking nonsense fourteen times first. Maybe even a hundred and fourteen." This could be the motto of my life. (And note that Dostoevsky is referring to capital-T Truth and not lower-case-t truth.) This class is going to be good.
Before we leave, Rick hands out our first assignment. It requires reading the textbooks. Both of the textbooks!
I guess I should have bought them when I had the chance.
Things I noticed during class:
- The nervous laughter of teenagers.
- Heather and Christie want to start a cult. They have notebooks filled with information on this proposed cult. "It's going to have a wall of snakes."
- "Scared children are the most delicious," says Adam, and I decide that I'll steal the line for some yet-to-be-written children's story.
- Kristina's garden is "gaining respect each day", though I'm not sure what that means. She went to Africa once, and was almost eaten by a lion, but in the end the lion wasn't hungry.
- The oldest member of the class, a crusty old guy wearing a hat indoors, chewing a toothpick, says that his goal is "to live to see tomorrow."
- Christie also says: "I don't set goals; they only lead to disappointment" and "I want to be a hobbit".
It was a good first class.
Want a challenge? Our first assignment is to write a twenty-eight sentence story using each of these words (and phrases), in order, in a new sentence. (It's okay to re-use a word in a later sentence.) The words can be used in any possible context. (For example, rose can be a flower or a woman's name or the past tense of rise.)
1. Miami, Florida. 2. Puce. 3. Artichoke. 4. 3:00 a.m. 5. Hand. 6. Vanilla. 7. Cigarettes. 8. Snow. 9. Bum. 10. Rose. 11. S. 12. Arugula. 13. John. 14. Crisp. 15. Red tie. 16. Hoby. 17. The wave. 18. Autumn. 19. Clamdigging. 20. Clyde. 21. Big bang. 22. Meeting. 23. Screams of pain. 24. Alarm clock. 25. Gameboy. 26. All night. 27. Undress. 28. Pioneer Square.
Actually, I've got the rough outline of a story formed, though it's ruined by that last phrase: "Pioneer Square". I'm not sure how to work that into the last sentence…
On this day at foldedspace.org
2004 — Printing From a Mac Across a Windows Network After two years I was finally able to print from a Macintosh to a Windows network!