How to improve creative writing in English

how to make your creative writing better and how to improve your child's creative writing skills
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Published Date:04-07-2017
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Edited by The Handbook of Edinburgh CREATIVE WRITING Steven Earnshaw THE HANDBOOK OF THE HANDBOOK OF Creative Writing Creative Writing Edited by Steven Earnshaw ‘This is a timely and perceptive guide to the practice, pedagogy, and prospects for one of the fastest growing areas in English studies. For the range and richness of its contributions covering the craft of composition from every imaginable angle, and for the variety and vibrancy of its engagement with literary art as a public form, this volume will become a touchstone for all who value creative writing as an engaging art, and an art of engagement.’ Professor Willy Maley, University of Glasgow An extensive, practical and inspirational resource, this three-in-one volume is aimed at students and practitioners of creative writing at all levels. In forty-eight distinctive chapters the Handbook: examines the critical theories behind the practice of creative writing (Part 1) • explains the basics of how to write a novel, script or poetry (Part 2) • explores how to deal with the practicalities and problems of becoming • a writer (Part 3). As well as the main creative writing activities, chapters cover other practices, from translation to starting a small magazine and from memoir writing to writing for children. Contributors are all experts in their fields: poets, novelists, dramatists, agents, publishers, editors, tutors, critics and academics. Anyone with an interest in creative writing will find this book invaluable in developing their own creative writing projects and as a way into new areas of writing activity. Steven Earnshaw is Principal Lecturer in English at Sheffield Hallam University. Cover illustration: © Cover design: Cathy Sprent Edinburgh University Press 22 George Square Edinburgh EH8 9LF Edited by Steven Earnshaw ISBN 978 0 7486 2136 1Introduction Steven Earnshaw As a handbook this guide is intended not just to help and inform, but also to provoke and inspire. The contributors are professionals within their fields of expertise and apart from being asked to cover the necessary topic have been free to deal with their subject how they see fit – there has been no attempt to produce regulation and uniform chapters. The book is aimed primarily at the student embarking on a creative writing programme in Higher Education, with many of the writers here also teaching on creative writing MAs or MFAs, and to that end many of the chapters reflect the different teaching styles on offer. This book, therefore, is also intended for tutors. The aim throughout has been to have within the pages of a single book all that you might need as a writer or tutor to further your writing and teaching, and to further your writing career. It explores a number of different contexts within which the student-writer and teacher of creative writing work: literary tradition and genre, the postgraduate degree, the academy, literary culture, literary theory, the world of publishing and production, the world of being a writer and writing. How to read this book I don’t for a second imagine that anybody will read this book from cover to cover; it is not that type of book. Rather, it is the virtue of a handbook that readers can jump immediately to what they need to know: I want to write a novel (Rogers); teach creative writing in the community (Sargent); introduce literary theory into my workshops (Ramey); publish poetry (Twichell; O’Brien); get an agent (Smith; Friedmann; Brodie), choose a degree (Newman; Vanderslice) and so on. Conversely, if you have no interest in cultural, acade- mic or theoretical contexts you will quickly see that you should avoid Section One, and if you have no interest in knowing how to get your writing out into the ‘real’ world and make a splash as a writer, you will turn a blind eye to Section Three (although I gather that this rather unlikely). But if you were, indeed, to be the ‘ideal reader’ and read the book from one end to the other, you might make a number of surprising connections. For instance, Brian Kiteley’s ‘Reading and Writing Historical Fiction’ and David Rain’s ‘Literary Genres’ include digressions into different aspects of the history of the novel, and might be read in conjunction with Jane Rogers’s ‘Introduction to the Novel’. Aaron Kunin’s ‘New Poetries’ is packed full of references to experiments with writing and con- cepts and takes the reader well beyond the realms of poetry. It could be read alongside2 Introduction Thalia Field’s chapter on ‘Experimental Writing’, after which there would be the surprise of a different kind of experimental writing to be found in Linda Sargent’s ‘Writing in the Community’. You certainly might expect to find mention of the experimental French group of writers known as Oulipo in ‘New Poetries’, but you will also find an Oulipo exercise in the chapter on historical fiction. Both Alan Brown’s ‘Writing for Children’ and Linda Newbery’s ‘Writing for Teenagers’ might open your eyes to ways of thinking about writing which draw on creative processes you might not otherwise encounter, even if you only intend to write for ‘grown-ups’. The chapter on ‘Writing as “Therapy”’ might be a long way down the list of chapters to read if your first interest is ‘Form in Poetry’, but in Fiona Sampson’s piece you will find a section on how text affects audience, spurred on by the poet John Kinsella, and discussing Keats, Kathleen Jamie, Celan, Pound, Eliot, amongst others, along the way. In passing you would note that there are some common reference points: Aristotle’s Poetics recurs time and again; T. S. Eliot’s ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ is surprisingly popular, and William Goldman’s dictum, ‘get in late, get out early’ is com- mandeered by novel, short story and script. Also remember that many of the contributors are both writers and teachers. All the pieces have a great enthusiasm. You have only to read Lauri Ramey’s piece on ‘Creative Writing and Critical Theory’ to know that to be involved in her class would treat you to a full-on immersion in both criticism and creativity, alongside the broadest of historical sweeps, and would instil a sense of just how exciting and potent these activities can be for your own writing. And Gareth Creer’s plea for the teaching of writing as something that is much, much more than a means of supplementing an income that is always widely vari- able shows that creative writing teaching, in and out of the academy, can be a necessary part of the writer’s writing life. You will frequently encounter ideas you will want to intro- duce into your own practice. The different approaches offer different models of teaching and reflect the success, or otherwise, of different kinds of writing within contemporary culture. Lee Gutkind’s chapter is a replication of teaching ‘creative nonfiction’ via seminars and workshops, as is E. A. Markham’s chapter on the short story. Sean O’Brien’s ‘Introduction to Poetry’ gives prac- tical advice on the use of a workshop, and what should constitute a good one. Some chap- ters stand as polemic and some as defences for types of writing regarded as ‘lesser’ in the context of creative writing (for example, Susan Bassnett’s chapter on ‘Translation’ and also James Sheard’s ‘Writing for the Web’), or little considered (‘Writing for Radio’ in Mike Harris’s chapter, and also in Alan Brodie’s ‘The Literary Agent: Television, Radio and Theatre’). Sean O’Brien’s attack on the dominance of prose over poetry in his essay on ‘Verse Drama’ has a corollary in Susan Bassnett’s note on the 1940s Penguin Classics trans- lations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey into prose form rather than a poetic equivalent. O’Brien’s chapter highlights verse drama’s current near-invisibility and decline and amounts to a virtual ‘recovery’ of its possibilities and models. Similarly, George Szirtes’ chapter champions other poetic art forms that struggle for a good hearing, the long poem and the sequence, and Alan Brodie makes a heartfelt plea for Radio Drama as the purest medium for the scriptwriter. But a book such as this also gives you the opportunity to think about trying out writing you might not normally have considered. Judith Barrington’s chapter on ‘Writing the Memoir’ begins by dispelling the belief that it is a form available only to ‘the famous’. Any prose writer would benefit from this chapter as it works through the shaping of narrative. I hope that one of the joys of this book is that, in addition to its primary functions, it has chapters that will reward those curious about all aspects of liter- ary culture and writing. Introduction 3 The book also includes insights into areas of writing and writing contexts that will hope- fully be new or unusual. For instance, a continuing assumption by some is that the activi- ties of literary criticism and creative writing make unhappy bedfellows within the academy, with criticism the established forum for literature and creative writing an unwelcome johnny-come-lately. Lauri Ramey’s chapter here not only demonstrates the shared heritage for both but the ways in which critical studies from Longinus onwards can be used to engage with creativity, the role of the writer and writing. Similarly, thinking about ‘genre’ may not immediately spring to mind as a way in to creativity, but its importance is here shown in David Rain’s chapter as another feature of contemporary literary culture which has its roots in the Classical age and which can inform the practice of writing and our reflection upon it. But genre isn’t just about what we are writing, it is about how we are reading and what we are expecting when we do pick up a poem or novel, or sit down to watch a film or play. And, with the history of the novel as a model, Rain shows how new genres and new liter- ature comes into being. Genre is one of the broadest contexts within which a writer can work, yet the student writer is rarely called upon to explore it unless perhaps asked to define the difference between ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ fiction (also discussed in Rain’s chapter; and you will find an exercise to understand genre in Mike Harris’s ‘Introduction to Scriptwriting’ and discussion of ‘genre’ in ‘Science Fiction and Fantasy’ by Crawford Kilian and ‘Writing Crime Fiction’ by John Dale). Exploration of genre inevitably takes us into questions of originality and levels of artistic ambition (also addressed by Lauri Ramey in the context of literary criticism, and in my chapter on ‘The Role of the Artist’), what kind of writing ‘enables’ others to write, and what can only be admired as one-off performances. Thus Rain asserts: ‘Genre is the most important decision a writer makes’. It is a rare start- ing point for creative writing, but a fruitful one. As Swander, Leahy and Cantrell point out in their chapter on ‘Theories of Creativity and Creative Writing Pedagogy’, creative writing within the academy has had a rather difficult time compared to other arts. Artists and composers predated the arrival of writers into academe, where it was not until the 1920s that writing started to lay down roots at the University of Iowa, the institution usually credited with being the first uni- versity to embrace creative writing. Elsewhere in the chapter the authors note that the writing programme there has to good effect been underpinned by the Romantic myth that writers are born, not created in the workshop, and that the academy can at best provide an environment for talent to develop. Nevertheless, the danger of this approach for the academy is clear: ‘To state openly and confidently that creative writing cannot be taught, however, puts the field at risk as a serious academic pursuit’. Its staple method of teaching, the workshop, is ‘non-traditional’, and, it is often argued, creative writing cannot be assessed and evaluated in the same manner as other academic subjects. At the same time as creative writing is firmly within the academy in the US, the UK and elsewhere, some of these issues remain (see Jenny Newman’s essay on ‘Evaluation and Assessment’). The tension is not always generated by the literary critics either: it is not unusual for writers themselves to have mixed feelings about their place within the academy, especially those who have not gone through a creative writing programme. The growth of creative writing within the academy, its emphasis on process rather than product through the workshop event and its ways of assessment, has meant that it has developed what Swander, Leahy and Cantrell here identify as a ‘signature pedagogy’: a way of teaching, learning and assessment specific to creative writing. As Paul Dawson points out, creative writing programmes cannot just claim to be about the passing down of craft, since they ‘exist in an intellectual environment of interdisciplinarity, critical4 Introduction self-reflection and oppositional politics on the one hand, and in an institutional envi- ronment of learning outcomes, transferable skills and competitive research funding on the other’ (‘The Future of Creative Writing’). In America, creative writing has often been seen in opposition to theory, whereas in Australia and the UK it emerged in the last two decades alongside theory to challenge what was regarded as a literary studies status quo. Dawson warns that to continue to begin discussions with the opposition between literary theory and creative writing will lead to a stasis. After all, he claims, Creative Writing in the academy is hardly a subject in crisis; instead it flourishes in a ‘post-theory’ environment. To nail an old problem in relation to creative writing in academia, he states: ‘If the question which once dominated discussions of Creative Writing was, “Can or should writing be taught?”, it is now, “What should we be teach- ing students?”’ This book shows just what is being taught, and also, I think, what might be taught. The one thing needful: reading What may come as a surprise to some is that time and again authors in this book recom- mend reading first and foremost. I remember a student presenting to the class a scene from a novel he was working on which concerned two children on holiday. One of the children becomes trapped as the sea is coming in while the other looks on helplessly, and the description of the drowning was cool and unnerving, capped by a very affecting finale. The writer later told me that some of his fellow students would ask him how he had achieved such an accomplished piece of writing, such an effect. This puzzled (and annoyed) him: you simply read how others did it and moved on from there. How else would you go about it? It was obvious. The fact that this was something of a revelation to other students no doubt gives some credence to the charge from tutors that students don’t read enough, and John Milne in ‘How to be a Writer’ couldn’t state it more clearly: ‘To write you need to read’. Tutors will also say that the best readers make the best writers. This book is full of references to other works of literature, film, and criticism, and thus gives a generous and exciting reading list. It is not uncommon for courses to begin by asking each student to suggest one or two books that everybody might read, and in that way create a common fund of reading which is spe- cific to that group. E. A. Markham’s chapter here begins by setting out what he expects the student to read if he or she is to grasp the complexities of the short story form and gain an understanding of its history; Brighde Mullins’ piece on writing for theatre advises: ‘It is important that you are able to locate the sources of your connection to the theatre, and to read and see as many plays as you can before you start writing for the stage’; and Susan Hubbard writes ‘There’s no better way to learn to write humour than to read it’. John Milne gives a host of other reasons why reading will help you as a writer, and Mary Mount puts it just as clearly from the editor’s point of view: ‘Do read, read, read’. Being a better writer is also about becoming a better reader, as John Dale says: ‘Reading good fiction is not passive like watching bad TV, it requires engagement, concentration to enter the fictional world’. Writing and re-writing Authors have also been generous in giving away their exercises. In his essay on ‘Form’ in poetry, W. N. Herbert remarks: ‘In the same way as a musician or dancer must repeat an action enough times for the neural pathways to be established, for the body to learnIntroduction 5 what is required of it, so too rhythmic awareness needs time to accommodate itself to verbal dexterity’. The same could be said of writing in general – the necessity to keep on writing is rather like exercises in other art forms. I had one tutor who used to start each workshop with a writing task as a means of ‘warming up’. Although I am used to this when playing a musical instrument, it never occurred to me that you would do the same for writing, since, no doubt like many others on the course, I always thought that writing ‘just happened’ – more or less – if you wanted it to happen. You will see through- out this book exercises for you to try out, for easing into writing, or as a means of getting out of a writing rut. The poet Ian Duhig once gave a Masterclass at which he read a number of poems that had started out as exercises. He noted that other poets were often quite sniffy about such pieces, but couldn’t see how the objection could be sustained when it produced such results: hang on to your exercises. I have already intimated that there may be a belief that writing just ‘happens’, that writers are simply inspired one way or another and that’s the end of it. Such a view does have the tendency to elide the graft that is everywhere evident and necessary. Bonnie O’Neill in her chapter on ‘Writing for Film’ declares: ‘Re-write, re-write, re-write’, and E. A. Markham begins with revision. Any practising writer will tell you that re-writing or redrafting is the hardest thing. After all, inspiration is easy: you just have to be there. John Dale serves up the following advice: ‘Thomas Mann said that a writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. And it’s true. Good writing is hard work and looks easy. It has energy yet never appears rushed’. So just as you will be urged to read, you will be urged to re-write, to revise, to redraft. Be your ‘inner editor’, as Crawford Kilian puts it. The Masters experience There’s nothing quite like taking a creative-writing postgraduate degree, nor, for that matter, teaching on one. Here is an absolute community of writers whose whole activ- ity is to talk about writing, share writing, and see how it might be improved. Although degrees may be structured differently from country to country, the sense of excitement, ambition and challenge is familiar across countries and continents (for comparisons of degree structures see Jenny Newman’s chapter UK and Stephanie Vanderslice’s US, and look at Graeme Harper’s, which compares different formats for creative-writing higher degrees in the US, UK, Australia and Canada). A number of the chapters touch on the tension that creative writing within the academy creates and undergoes, includ- ing modules where creative-writing students are expected to engage with academic, the- oretical and critical work (Lauri Ramey; Scott McCracken). As McCracken notes: ‘Ideas such as the “death of the author”, which can seem fresh and exciting in a third year undergraduate seminar on a traditional English degree, can appear absurd in a room full of struggling novelists; and their derision is hardly likely to be contradicted by a cre- ative writing tutor who writes to live’. Nevertheless, the experience of doing a creative- writing Masters is something quite unique, as Sean O’Brien states in his ‘Introduction to Poetry’: ‘The poet studying on a Writing course should feel free – no, should feel obliged – to be imaginatively and intellectually gluttonous. You may never have a better opportunity. Enjoy it’ The input from tutors and other writers is a constant incentive to read more and to improve your writing. It is very difficult to discover the same week- by-week intensity and sense of belonging to the writing community outside of this envi- ronment, and it can take some students a while to adjust to the essentially ‘lonely’6 Introduction occupation that writing is once the class has been left behind, although it is not unusual for a group to continue to meet after formal sessions have ended. I have even seen one group which rotated the ‘role of tutor’ so that it replicated the workshop situation the students had been used to. As Jenny Newman points out, you should make the most of all the feedback that you get while it is there. It is not so easy to come by once the degree is over. The writer’s life For most students (not all), one of the reasons for taking a creative-writing Masters is that it is a route to publication. Not only will you be improving your writing and be immersed in a hot-bed of intellectual endeavour, you will expect to see a procession of famous writers, top agents and classy publishers throw themselves at your feet. Undoubtedly MA/MFA programmes are important in giving the opportunities for student-writers to come into contact with the ‘business end’ of writing. One of the advantages of such contacts is that the world of publishing and production and agent- ing is seen to consist of people who have as much interest in providing good literature as you have. Agents often get a bad press, somehow stuck in the middle between pub- lishers and writers, harder to get than a publisher if you’re not already known and simply creaming off unearned percentages of those who probably don’t need an agent. The chapters on publishers and agents in this book should deliver quite a different message, with both practical advice and a wider sense of the contexts within which they are working. Equally, if you are looking at what life as a writer might be, you will no doubt be drawn to John Milne’s ‘How to be a Writer’, Livi Michael’s ‘Making a Living as a Writer’ and Tom Shapcott’s chapter on ‘Literary Life: Prizes, Anthologies, Festivals, Reviewing, Grants’. In addition, you should look at Gareth Creer’s ‘The Writer as Teacher’, which shows the benefits of expanding your repertoire as writer and teacher, and the mutually beneficial rewards of both activities. The latter piece also takes in life as a student of creative writing, and in Sean O’Brien’s ‘Introduction to Poetry’ you will find advice on the pressures of combining a commitment to writing with life elsewhere. The word here is ‘vocation’, and although aimed specifically at poets it could be taken as referring to all those serious about writing. Mary Mount’s ‘The World of Publishing’ will give you insights into how the world looks like from that end of fiction, and Alison Baverstock’s ‘How to Get Published’ will give you a measure of how professional you need to be beyond the writing (as will Livi Michael’s chapter). Students often believe that things will take care of themselves based on the merit of their writing, but as all these pieces will indicate, this is very far from the truth, even for those writers who gain a relatively easy path to publishing. Writers require robustness and a thick skin. Mary Mount warns: ‘Don’t expect fame and money There are easier and quicker ways to get rich and famous’, and Sean O’Brien suggests that anyone wanting to be a poet who expects to make money is either a fool or a charlatan. ‘Don’t despair’ is thus another theme running through the book. Writing is hard work, and sometimes the writing has to be its own reward: ‘Most published writers have experienced the torturous path that got us to where we wanted to be . . . And what probably kept us motivated throughout this was our sense of ourselves as writers’ (Alison Baverstock); or John Dale: ‘Above all, a writer needs persistence’. But of course some writers have ‘excess’ energy, a desire to be active in the culture of writing and publication beyond their own immediate writing:Introduction 7 for these I would suggest taking a look at Rebecca Wolff’s chapter ‘How to Start a Literary Magazine’ (a chapter which includes a fair amount of advice on being an editor, and through which I winced in agreement). National differences The contributors to this book come from the UK, America, Canada and Australia, and naturally are drawn to examples from the cultures they are more familiar with, although when it comes to literary references these show an international understanding. On a couple of occasions it was felt that the differences warranted separate chapters: the systems of evaluation (if not necessarily delivery) of creative-writing Masters in the UK and America are quite different, and publishing poetry in the UK and publishing in the US are treated separately. There are also differences in relation to the creative-writing PhD, but these are dealt with specifically in Graeme Harper’s essay on that topic, and the reader will also find useful comments on Masters and Doctoral degrees across all four countries in Paul Dawson’s chapter. The chapter on ‘Copyright’ takes into account copyright law in all four countries mentioned. Stephen V. Duncan’s chapter on ‘Writing for Television’ is geared towards the American system, but most of the points made apply equally to such writing elsewhere, and any writer would always be advised to research the policies of television companies and agents in their own country before attempting approaches, even if not specifically covered in this part. The differences between the UK and US are dealt with in John Milne’s following piece, written as a complement to Duncan’s. Fiona Sampson’s chapter on ‘Writing as “Therapy”’ and Linda Sargent’s on ‘Writing in the Community’ are drawn very much from local experience, as you might expect, but have general application, both theoretically and practically. Enjoy the book These chapters open up worlds of writing and worlds of imagination, ways of thinking about form, structure, plot, language, character, genre, creativity, reading, teaching, audi- ence . . . and being a writer. I hope you enjoy it. Steven Earnshaw1 Theories of Creativity and Creative Writing Pedagogy Mary Swander, Anna Leahy, and Mary Cantrell Creative writing as a distinct academic field – one with dedicated courses and pro- grammes, with professors whose scholarship is entirely or primarily original creative work, and with professional journals and books devoted to reflections upon the field – is rela- tively new but has been rapidly expanding in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. As such, we are just beginning to amass articulated theories about the creative process and how we might best teach creative writing as an academic discipline. Joseph Moxley (1989), Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrom (1994), and D. G. Meyers (1996) documented the emer- gence of creative writing as an academic pursuit in the US. To grasp the current state of the field, it is important to consider its overall and recent history, the dominant approaches to creativity and to creative writing pedagogy, and the application of theories and approaches to classrooms. The history of creative writing as an academic pursuit Today, in virtually every college and university across the US, students busily workshop, as we say, each other’s poems and short stories. These students roam the hallways with stacks of copied poems, stories, and essays. They enter their creative writing classrooms, pull out their marginal notes, and prepare to discuss and offer formative criticism of each other’s work. Creative writing is now an established part of the curriculum in higher education, and most English departments have a poet, fiction writer, or playwright on their rosters. According to, a comprehensive site on graduate programmes worldwide, the UK, Australia, Ireland, and Canada all have universities offering university and grad- uate programmes leading to degrees with an emphasis in creative writing. Korea, Mexico, Spain, Norway, and the Philippines also support such programmes. Even high school stu- dents in both the US and the UK are often offered the opportunity for creative writing as part of their English studies. Yet the inclusion of creative writing in academe in the US is a relatively recent phe- nomenon. As late as 1965, few four-year colleges had resident writers, much less an empha- sis in creative writing. While it had become more common for writers to accept university teaching positions, most writers supported their early efforts as they always had: as cab- drivers and carpenters, as postmasters (William Faulkner), journalists (Willa Cather), librarians (Marianne Moore), insurance executives (Wallace Stevens), and doctors12 The Handbook of Creative Writing (William Carlos Williams). Visual artists and composers had long before found a home in academe, but writers were still viewed with suspicion. Writing was a craft that one was sup- posed to pick up by osmosis through a study of literature. If a young writer wanted a mentor, he or she could move to either coast or, better yet, to Paris, buy a cigarette holder and beret, hang out in the coffeehouses and bars, and hope for the best. The University of Iowa changed the literary landscape in the US. During the 1920s, along the banks of the Iowa River where the summer heat and humidity create a natural greenhouse for the surrounding agricultural fields of corn and beans, the fine arts flourished. When F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda were dancing and drinking their way through Europe, when Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were entertaining Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway with marijuana-laced brownies in Paris, when Ezra Pound was immersing himself in the study of Japanese and Chinese poetry and Fascist ideology in Italy, the University of Iowa fostered young artists in a state known for its conservative, rural values. Painting, sculpture, theatre, dance, and imaginative writing prospered in Iowa City during the roaring twenties. Then, just as a decade of severe economic depression hit the world, Iowa’s creative writing programme began to gain in status and prestige. In 1931, Mary Hoover Roberts’s collection of poetry, Paisley Shawl, was the first creative writing master’s thesis approved by the university. Other theses soon followed by such writers as Wallace Stegner and Paul Engle. Engle’s thesis, Worn Earth, the 1932 winner of the Yale Younger Poets Award, became the first poetry thesis at the University of Iowa to be pub- lished (Wilbers 1980: 39). Norman Foerster, director of the School of Letters, pushed forward with the creative writing programme throughout the 1930s. But when Engle joined the faculty in 1937, he jump-started the Iowa Writers Workshop and became its official director in 1943. He laid the foundation for an institution that would make its mark on the worldwide writing community. Engle, a hard-driving, egocentric genius, possessed the early vision of both the Writers Workshop and the International Writing Program. He foresaw first-rate programmes where young writers could come to receive criticism of their work. A native Iowan who had studied in England on a Rhodes Scholarship and travelled widely throughout Europe, Engle was dissatisfied with merely a regional approach. He defined his ambition in a 1963 letter to his university president as a desire ‘to run the future of American literature, and a great deal of European and Asian, through Iowa City’ (Wilbers 1980: 85–6). During his twenty-four years as director, Engle took a group of fewer than a dozen stu- dents and transformed it into a high-profile programme of 250 graduate students at its peak in 1965 (Wilbers 1980: 83). More importantly, he made decisions about creative writing that still define the academic field. For instance, he divided the Workshop into genres – poetry and fiction – to make classes easier to teach, took a personal interest in each student, and functioned as both mentor and godfather. In an essay entitled ‘A Miranda’s World’ in Robert Dana’s A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (1999), Donald Justice describes how Engle picked his wife and himself up from the Iowa City bus station on a cold January day, found them an apartment, and then gave the young poet one of his own wool suits to see him through the bitter winter. Throughout the years, Engle brought to campus the hottest literary names of the time including Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden, and Robert Frost. Engle then went on to found the International Writing Program where he poured this same kind of energy into spread- ing his literary enthusiasm around the globe. Engle’s model of rigorous, genre-based work- shops, close-knit communities formed around mentors, and highly respected visiting writers became the standard in the field. Theories of Creativity and Creative Writing Pedagogy 13 The Iowa Writers’ Workshop MFA graduates fanned out across the US, and many entered the ranks of academe. English departments, experiencing dwindling numbers of majors, began to open up their doors to creative writers whose classes quickly filled. The black berets and cigarette holders of a previous era were traded in for the tweed jackets and pipes of faculty life. The turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s saw a growth spurt for cre- ative writers in academe, as students not only demanded the end of the Vietnam War and greater civil rights, but more seemingly relevant course work. Iowa Workshop graduates, in turn, set up their own writing programmes at other uni- versities and produced their own graduate students, who once again set up more pro- grammes. In the UK, creative writing in academe began to take hold as well. In 1969, the University of Lancaster was the first to offer an MA in creative writing. Even when the US academic job market inevitably tightened, academically-trained writers found their way into teaching in high schools, in state-run writers-in-the-schools programmes, in the prisons, in youth shelters, retirement homes, elder hostels, and short, focused summer workshops and conferences. From the fall of 1996 to 2001, according to Andrea Quarracino’s report in the AWP Job List (2005), the number of tenure-track academic job openings listed with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) ranged from forty-six to seventy-two but later jumped to more than 100 twice, in 2002 and 2004. In 2005, AWP listed over 300 gradu- ate and 400 undergraduate programmes. The literary community at large has grown to the point that it touches almost every city in the States. In 2005 in the UK, creative writing has become the fastest growing and most popular field in higher education, with nearly every college and university offering creative writing courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels (Beck 2005). With this growth, new kinds of MFA programmes surfaced. In 1976, Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, was one of the first institutions to offer a high-profile but low- residency graduate MF A programme in creative writing. Students and faculty came together for two intense on-campus weeks twice a year, then conducted their courses through one-on-one correspondence. Students and faculty could then retain their exist- ing jobs while taking part in the programme. There was no need for relocation nor for financial aid in the form of teaching assistantships. Since the early 1970s, low-residency programmes have proliferated in the US. Low-residency programmes now exist at such diverse institutions as Antioch University in California, Lesley University in Massachusetts, Spalding University in Kentucky, Naropa University in Colorado, the University of British Columbia, and Lancaster University in the UK with a two-week res- idency in Ireland. With the turn of the twenty-first century came specialisation within MFA creative writing programmes. In 2004, Seattle Pacific University launched an MFA programme highlighting writing about spirituality. The programme’s website describes its mission: The low-residency MFA at SPU is a creative writing program for apprentice writers – both Christians and those of other traditions – who not only want to pursue excellence in the craft of writing but also place their work within the larger context of the Judeo–Christian tradition of faith. In 2006, both Chatham College and Iowa State University planned to offer MFA degrees in creative writing and the environment. Iowa State’s creative writing programme has defined its mission this way:14 The Handbook of Creative Writing Under the broad rubric of ‘environment’, our MFA program in Creative Writing and the Environment would offer an original and intensive opportunity for gifted students of nonfic- tion, fiction, poetry, and drama to document, meditate on, celebrate, and mourn the recipro- cal transformation of humanity and our world/s. (Iowa State University 2005: 2) Likewise, in the UK, students can now earn MAs, MPhils, and PhDs with an emphasis in creative writing in the traditional categories of poetry, fiction, and playwriting but can also link creative writing with science, critical theory, journalism or the teaching of creative writing (Beck 2005). As writing programmes mature and develop, the field is also re-thinking its pedagogy. Until around 1990, most creative writing faculty followed the Engle teaching model without much reflection. A workshop teacher led small groups – The AWP Directors’ Handbook (2003: 5) recommends no more than fifteen, with twelve as ideal, but recognises that most workshop groups now are between eleven and twenty – through peer oral cri- tiques of completed poems, stories, chapters of novels, or plays. In the Engle model, the criticism was meant to be tough and could save the writer years of individual trial and error. But the criticism could also become personality-driven or downright nasty. Little empha- sis was placed on structure, work in process, or revision. Currently, many workshop faculty across the US and UK have adapted Engle’s model and are experimenting with creating new approaches to teaching creative writing. Some teach from assignments on technique and structure, whereas others initiate a process of constant revision. Some lecture to huge rooms of students on technique, then break into smaller work- shops. Others emphasise working exclusively in even smaller groups of four or five students. Texts such as Power and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom are articulating current practices and are suggesting new possibilities, in this case offering: various ways to configure authority: as the expertise of the teacher or of the students, as agency or action for accomplishing things, as a set of mutually beneficial or agreed-upon guidelines for fostering success, as a set of evaluation criteria, as seemingly inherent forces in writing and teaching, and even as authorship itself. (Leahy 2005: i) In 2004 in the UK, New Writing: the International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing was launched under the editorship of Graeme Harper. This journal, pub- lished by Multilingual Matters, includes peer-reviewed pedagogy articles as well as shorter creative work. Can It Really Be Taught?: Resisting Lore in Creative Writing Pedagogy (Ritter and Vanderslice 2007) is a collection asserting that creative writing has too long been a separatist pedagogy based on undocumented and uncritical lore. The editors and authors examine this lore and argue for reframing the discipline and most importantly its pedagogy in relation to intellect rather than ego. Some of these same faculty members on both con- tinents who have helped to restructure writing workshops have also made an effort to provide their own students with pedagogical training. Many MFA programmes, such as Cardiff University, Antioch University of Los Angeles, and Indiana University, offer internships, courses or postgraduate certificates in ‘Teaching Creative Writing’. Writing workshops abroad, too, are now commonplace. A budding writer can go off for a summer to study creative writing in a number of international cities including Dublin, Paris, and Prague. The University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program now offers its writers study abroad trips to the Philippines. In 2005, Iowa State University set up the first international writers-in-the-schools programme – a form of service learning – in TrinidadTheories of Creativity and Creative Writing Pedagogy 15 and Tobago, where Iowa State graduate students taught creative writing in K-12 schools in a Caribbean country with virtually no creative writing curriculum. Now that creative writing has established itself as an academic pursuit, its programmes are expanding, espe- cially as academic options expand more generally. Approaches to creativity and pedagogy The Iowa Writers’ Workshop declares on its website: ‘Though we agree in part with the popular insistence that writing cannot be taught, we exist and proceed on the assumption that talent can be developed, and we see our possibilities and limitations as a school in that light’. The ‘model for contemporary writing programs’, by its own accounts, bases itself in part upon the most widely influential theory underpinning creativity and creative writing: the Romantic myth. The premises of this approach to creativity include that talent is inher- ent and essential, that creative writing is largely or even solely an individual pursuit, and that inspiration not education drives creativity. For the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, that means, ‘the fact that the Workshop can claim as alumni nationally and internationally prominent poets, novelists, and short story writers is, we believe, more the result of what they brought here than of what they gained from us’. The Romantic myth is a positive influence on creative writing in a variety of ways. This approach values the very act of creation that is difficult for writers themselves to articulate and values the relative isolation that, even in academe, seems necessary to write. In addition, it links writing with concepts of beauty and originality. To state openly and confidently that creative writing cannot be taught, however, puts the field at risk as a serious academic pursuit. If little is gained through completion of an academic programme, why does it exist within increasingly corporate educational models? If creative writing cannot be taught, then it might also follow that student work cannot be evaluated and programmes cannot be assessed; creative writing does not, then, fit easily academic contexts. Brent Royster in ‘Inspiration, creativity, and crisis: the Romantic myth of the writer meets the postmodern classroom’ (2005) points to many aspects of the Romantic myth as problematic for the field. He demonstrates the dominance of Romantic ideology in popular culture as well as in the field’s own venues such as the AWP Writer’s Chronicle and Poets & Writers. Royster turns to the work of Csikszentmihalyi: Csikszentmihalyi’s model, simply put, refutes the idea that solely the individual generates a cre- ative work. On the contrary, though his dynamic model of creativity still illustrates the indi- vidual’s role in the creative process, equal agency is distributed among the social and cultural systems influencing that individual. (2005: 32) What feels like inspiration to the isolated writer can be articulated instead as a dynamic set of forces coming together: Rather than claiming that this inspiration came from somewhere beyond the writer, it seems more apt to suggest that the mind of the artist has reached an opportune moment in which rhythms, sounds, and connotations seem to arise unbidden from memory. (Royster 2005: 34) This approach allows the writer to define him- or herself as an active participant in a larger, dynamic process. This view of creativity values both individual writer and culture or com- munity and supports the concept of the multi-vocal workshop-based classroom.16 The Handbook of Creative Writing The University of Cardiff offers a graduate degree in the ‘Teaching and Practice of Creative Writing’, according to its website, thereby claiming that creative writing can be taught and that the combination of creativity and pedagogy is an important emerging area: ‘With increased interest in the relevance of creativity to current educational practices, this degree will place students advantageously for many types of teaching opportunities’. Programmes like this one and the graduate programme at Antioch University of Los Angeles reconfigure the field to include teaching. As a whole, the tension between the Romantic myth and various responses to it seems productive, allowing for a variety of approaches and debates that recognise the seriousness and rigor of the pursuit and the field’s distinct pedagogical theories and practices. Those who teach writing are very often situated in academe just down the hall from lit- erary scholars, and most writing instructors would agree that good writers read a lot and that understanding written texts offers models, tools, and ideas for one’s own writing. Elaine Scarry argues that beauty begets itself, that to read a beautiful sonnet urges one to reproduce that beauty, and that ‘this willingness continually to revise one’s own location in order to place oneself in the path of beauty is the basic impulse underlying education’ (Scarry 1999: 7). Madison Smartt Bell implies that grasping form through reading is foun- dational for writers: ‘The reader who wants to write as well has got to go beyond the intu- itive grasp of form to the deliberate construction of form’ (1997: 22). In other words, teaching writing depends upon the study of existing texts in order that students compre- hend how to construct texts of their own. Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux (1997: 105) offer a similar stance for poets: Poets need to tune their ears as finely as musicians; that’s why reading poems aloud is a good idea . . . You need not be familiar with meter to gain an appreciation for the rhythms of writers’ lines, and to begin to work with this principle yourself. Moreover, Addonizio and Laux put the necessity of studying literature bluntly: ‘To write without any awareness of a tradition you are trying to become part of would be self-defeat- ing’ (1997: 13). Reading literature and understanding it is part of being a writer. Some recent literary theory, however, asserts that the author is dead, which creates natural resistance from living, working, teaching writers. Even those literary critics, like Harold Bloom, who value authorship, do so in ways that may present obstacles for writers. Alice W. Flaherty, who documents her own hypergraphia, notes: ‘The theories of Bloom and Bate, that great precursors are barriers to a writer’s aspiration to originality, predict an inevitable decline in literature as the sheer mass of predecessors increases over time’ (2004: 106). Some recent literary criticism and theory tells creative writers that we do not exist at all or that our task is now too great for any reasonable chance of accomplishment because so much precedes us. Flaherty contradicts this sort of literary theory: ‘writer’s block is not an inevitable response to masterpieces. They can inspire’ (2004: 106). Indeed, creative writers can use literature and literary theory to help them understand and respond to the tradition (see Lauri Ramey’s chapter, ‘Creative Writing and Critical Theory’, in this section). Literary criticism and theory, though, place the reader – not the writer – at the centre. The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Criticism and Theory asserts that literary theory ‘aspires, from Aristotle to Hans-Georg Gadamer to Jacques Derrida, toward a systematic statement of the principles and methods governing interpretation and evaluation’ (Groden and Kreiswirth 1994: v). This lack of focus on the writer and the writing process is reinforcedTheories of Creativity and Creative Writing Pedagogy 17 by the guide’s ‘inventory of basic critical questions’ (Groden and Kreiswirth 1994: vi), for only one of these thirteen questions addresses the ‘genesis’ of literary texts. So, literary theory is well and good but does not suffice entirely for the field of creative writing. Our other colleagues down the hall, at least in the US, are compositionists, who have been variously at odds with and in league with creative writers. Composition and creative writing share a common, lower position in the academic hierarchy than literary studies, often with composition perceived as the department’s curricular service to the university and creative writing perceived as the frivolous pursuit of eccentrics. Many creative writing teachers in the US today have drawn from graduate-school training in teaching composi- tion and from composition theorists. Wendy Bishop is the lead example of a theorist who straddled the fence between composition and creative writing, who attempted to bring the theories underpinning the two disciplines together, and who brought not only composition approaches to creative writing but also vice versa. One of the important arguments that Bishop (2003: xi) and other compositionists have made to counter the assertion that writing is less rigorous than literary study is that writing courses have content and that writing is ‘important work’. Bishop (2003: 234) argues that students ‘should approach com- position classes and creative writing classes in pretty similar ways. Overall, both types of classrooms need to encourage and reward risk taking and experimentation as you learn to conform to and break genre conventions’. Here, then, is the possibility that composition and creative writing are versions of the same field. Yet, creative writing is also a distinct field building its own theories and approaches. Linguists like George Lakoff have been studying metaphor, cognition, and the arts for decades. Cognitive scientists, too, have been defining creativity and its processes, but cog- nitive science has been largely ignored by creative writing teachers. Cognitive science and creative writing share some history, in that both fields made great gains as academic pur- suits only in the last half-century. Bell (1997), in the first section of Narrative Design enti- tled ‘Unconscious mind’, discusses the cognitive processes of creative writers, though he does not use terminology or specific theories of cognitive science. Likewise, Addonizio and Laux claim: ‘We continually make comparisons and connections, often without realizing that we are doing so, so comfortable are we with seeing in this way’ (1997: 94). These com- parisons and connections that become images and metaphors in our poems are results of cognition and are of primary concern to Lakoff and others. Not only might creative writing contribute to and reshape current discussions about cre- ativity, we might also recognise how existing theories of cognition underpin current peda- gogical practices such as the workshop-based classroom and the battle against cliché as well as how the theories might improve our teaching. John T. Bruer notes: Instruction based on cognitive theory envisions learning as an active, strategic process . . . It recognizes that learning is guided by the learners’ introspective awareness and control of their mental processes. It emphasizes that learning is facilitated by social, collaborative settings that value self-directed student dialogue. (1999: 681) The workshop-based creative writing classroom – a nontraditional academic approach – presents writing as this sort of active, strategic process: all students must actively engage, student-writers become increasingly aware of how their own and others’ decision-making affects written work, and the writing process is situated within an interactive, dynamic classroom where students share informed criticism. We are already using a pedagogy that is supported by findings in cognitive science.18 The Handbook of Creative Writing Studies show, too, that students’ embedded knowledge structures and prevalent miscon- ceptions are resistant to traditional instruction. As Bruer (1999: 682) states: ‘The result is that students encode, or learn, schemata that are very different from those which teachers are attempting to impart’. To apply this problem to creative writing, we might consider, for instance, how schemata of narrative are embedded in our students’ brains through interac- tion with television and video games. Or, we might consider students’ relative unfamiliar- ity with poetry, or their deeply embedded schemata of poetry based on nursery rhymes, as an opportunity to build new schemata or build upon existing schemata of language’s rhythm. Cognitive science, too, offers ways to categorise learning and memory. Henry L. Roediger III and Lyn M. Goff offer an overview: ‘Procedural memory refers to the knowl- edge of how to do things such as walking, talking, riding a bicycle, tying shoelaces. Often the knowledge represented is difficult to verbalize, and the procedures are often acquired slowly and only after much practice’ (1999: 250). Procedural memory is a way to under- stand learning in creative writing classrooms as slowly accumulated knowledge deeply internalised through practice that emerges as if known all along. Flaherty (2004: 242) offers a similar take: ‘on its own the sensation of inspiration is not enough . . . Perhaps the feeling of inspiration is merely a pleasure by which your brain lures you into working harder’. If we think of inspiration as a cognitive event, how can creative writing courses best create the conditions for it and foster the work of writing? With its workshop model, creative writing is a field with what Lee Shulman has termed – though for professions like law and medicine – ‘signature pedagogies’, which are distinct and commonly recognizable types of teaching that organize the fundamental ways in which future practitioners are edu- cated in their new professions. In these signature pedagogies, the novices are instructed in crit- ical aspects of the three fundamental dimensions of professional work – to think, to perform, and to act with integrity. (2005: 52) We must continue to define, support, and improve upon our signature pedagogy. Ultimately, of course, the burden and the opportunity for both teacher and student is to write. Applying theory to practice in creative writing courses Creative writing has defined itself in opposition to established practices in higher educa- tion, and this stance as much as any theory has contributed to classroom practices. David Radavich (1999: 108) writes that the ‘first wave’ of creative writers in the academy had a political agenda that sought to include formerly marginalised groups. ‘Such writers fre- quently and vociferously attacked established hierarchies’, he explains, including acade- mic institutions, which were seen as part of those hierarchies. The rebel attitude resulted in an approach to teaching markedly different from other disciplines: no lectures, no exams, decentralised authority, and student ownership of the learning process. Before com- position theory touted the importance of audience and process, creative writing professors recognised that writers benefit from an immediate and worthy audience for their emerging work. The workshop, therefore, attempts to create a sort of literary café in which students earnestly analyse a classmate’s poem or story, pointing out how it succeeds and what the writer might do to improve it and offering perspective that enables the writer to re-envi- sion and revise, often for a portfolio of polished work. Theories of Creativity and Creative Writing Pedagogy 19 Although different professors and tutor-writers implement the workshop – the signature pedagogy – differently, common practices exist. Most often, before coming to class, stu- dents receive printed copies of each other’s works to read and annotate with thoughtful, formative criticism. To minimise attempts to justify the work under discussion and to max- imise introspection, the writer remains silent while the class discusses his or her draft. The professor leads the discussion by asking questions, keeps the comments grounded in rele- vant and meaningful criteria, and maintains civility and respect among all students. Along with students, professors offer suggestions for improving not just the piece under discussion but also the approach to and understanding of craft and of the creative process. Professors also work individually with students during conferences, lecture on specific techniques, and assign practice writing exercises. By reserving official, final, or summative evaluation – the grade – of the work for the end of the academic term, the workshop approach privi- leges process over product and emphasises the complexity and time-consuming nature of the creative arts. While student works comprise the major texts for the course, most professors assign reading from literature anthologies as well but approach and discuss these texts with a writerly slant. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley (1999: 250) maintains that, for writers, the study of literature provides distance from the ego and allows students to see the connections their work has to other literature. In On Becoming a Novelist, John Gardner notes that the writer ‘reads other writers to see how they do it (how they avoid overt manip- ulation)’ (1983: 45–6). He advises writers to read to see how effects are achieved, to ques- tion whether they would have approached the situation in the same way and to consider whether their way ‘would have been better or worse, and why’. Similarly, R. V. Cassill, in Writing Fiction, explains that ‘what the writer wants to note . . . is how the story, its lan- guage and all its parts have been joined together’ (1975: 6). Great literature, therefore, models technique for writers. As the popularity of creative writing classes has increased, more textbooks focusing on technique have emerged for use alongside student work and published literature. The AWP Directors’ Handbook suggests that undergraduate creative writing courses ‘include craft texts and literary texts (anthologies, books by individual authors, literary periodicals) that offer appropriate models for student writing’ (2003: 17). Most creative writing textbooks present chapters discussing specific elements of various genres and offer exercises to help students master these techniques. While textbooks acknowledge the difficulty of articulating fool- proof guidelines, the authors assume would-be writers benefit from instruction on craft. In her introduction to Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life, for example, Elizabeth George explains that for those who teach creative writing, ‘craft is the point’; it is ‘the soil in which a budding writer can plant the seed of her idea in order to nurture it into a story’ (2005: x). Similarly, Addonizio and Laux state that ‘Craft provides the tools: knowing how to make a successful metaphor, when to break a line, how to revise and rewriting – these are some of the techniques the aspiring poet must master’ (1997: 11). Unlike texts for other disciplines, creative writing texts seldom provide instructor’s edi- tions or supplements that ground the instructions and exercises in theories about learning to write. As Bishop and Ostrom explain in their introduction to Colors of a Different Horse: Rethinking Creative Writing, Theory and Practice, because creative writing professors see themselves as writers more than as teachers, they ‘may well make up a disproportionate share of those who retreat from theory’ (1994: xii). Indeed, the hallmarks for successful undergraduate and graduate creative writing programmes in The AWP Directors’ Handbook state that creative writing faculty consist of ‘writers whose work has been published by20 The Handbook of Creative Writing nationally known, professional journals and presses respected by other writers, editors, and publishers’ (2003: 15). These hallmarks stipulate, ‘the criteria for promotion, assignment of classes, and tenure of creative writing faculty focus on publication of creative work, demon- strated ability as teachers of creative writing, and contributions to the university and greater literary community’ (2003: 15). In other words, the leading organisation that promotes cre- ative writing as a discipline values writers who teach more than teachers who write. More so than other disciplines, creative writing must contend with questions of valid- ity and scholarship. Flannery O’Connor’s now famous remark that universities ‘don’t stifle enough’ writers still holds sway, and pejorative labels such as workshop story or McPoem reflect the disdain many feel for the writing that emerges from creative writing pro- grammes. Even some who teach creative writing question its existence as an academic subject. For example, Lynn Freed in her memoir ‘Doing time’ (2005) confesses that she does not know ‘how to pretend to unravel the mystery’ (68) of what makes a good story and admits that she sometimes feels as if, by attempting to teach creative writing, she is participating in ‘a sham’ (72). Most professors of creative writing do not share Freed’s opinion, but they share her despair at the prospect of articulating clearly and accurately what they do. As Richard Cohen states in Writer’s Mind: Crafting Fiction, ‘Technique is what can most efficiently be taught in classrooms, but technique is not the essence of writing’ (1995: xvi). George Garrett makes a similar point in ‘Going to see the elephant: our duty as storytellers’ by claiming that the creative process is magic and mysterious: ‘It breaks all the rules as fast as we can make them. Every generalization about it turns out to be at best incomplete or inadequate’ (1999: 2). Nonetheless, creative writing professors do and must make generalisations. ‘If the teacher has no basic standards’, Gardner writes, ‘his class is likely to develop none, and their comments can only be matters of preference or opinion. Writers will have nothing to strive toward or resist, nothing solid to judge by’ (1983: 84). Bishop and Ostrom’s challenge to ‘reexamine what takes place in creative-writing classrooms’ (1994: xxii), has resulted not in a uniformity of standards and common learning objectives but in a meaningful dia- logue by which professors can make clear what they expect students to learn. The AWP annual conference, for example, features panels on pedagogy and publishes a collection of short papers on best teaching practices. Books such as What If? (1990) and The Practice of Poetry (1992) compile exercises and advice from published authors with extensive class- room experiences. Julie Checkoway, former President of the AWP Board of Directors, writes that the successful writers and teachers who contributed to Creating Fiction ‘have staked their reputations on the notions that when it comes to writing, teaching is at least as important as talent, nurture at least as important as nature’ (1999: ix). How best to teach and nurture writers changes as the population of students and the venues for creative writing classes change. Like professors in other disciplines, creative writing professors have responded to the influx of students whose different assumptions, expectations, and life experiences necessitate a change in pedagogy. Mark L. Taylor, in ‘Generation NeXt: today’s postmodern student – meeting, teaching, and serving’ points to research suggesting: ‘In our postmodern culture, the traditional models of premodern reli- gion and modern science/reason must compete with postmodern consumerism/entertain- ment and hedonism/immediate needs gratification on a playing field that is level at best’ (2005: 104). Current undergraduates, he contends, tend to be accepting of ‘everything except people who believe in the hegemony of their chosen model’. Recognising that a student does not enter the classroom a tabula rasa and that the aesthetic values inherent in great works of literature may appear arbitrary, exclusive, or contrary to publishing trends orTheories of Creativity and Creative Writing Pedagogy 21 to students’ embedded cognitive schemata, creative writing professors have developed strate- gies for identifying assumptions about literature and reconciling these with other notions of how a text communicates. In his essay, ‘On not being nice: sentimentality and the creative writing class’, for example, Arthur Saltzman (2003: 324) laments the sentimentality that stu- dents bring to the classroom – their tendency ‘to be passionate according to formula’ – and he strives to ‘expose the evaluative criteria that they invariably bring to the discussion’ of poetry. Discussing both his and his students’ assumptions about poetry allows Saltzman to help students develop ‘more specific and involved responses’ with the hope that they ‘become more demanding of the poems they encounter and produce’ (2003: 325). Being explicit about evaluative standards is in the interest of students, but articulating learning objectives also helps legitimise the difficult work students and teachers do in cre- ative writing classrooms. Although institutional assessments may have limited value in determining whether students will be successful writers, six regional accrediting bodies in the US require institutions to develop, articulate, and assess standards and to improve student learning. The UK has the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education as its regulating body, which requires module-by-module assessment and external examiners to a greater extent than is required in the US. More importantly, creative writing professors and tutor-writers have taken ownership of the ways in which creative writing is evaluated. In a creative writing class, marks or grades reflect comprehension and application of spe- cific writing strategies as well as prolific writing. Many professors provide numerous and varied opportunities to demonstrate competency, including exercises, analyses of published work, and even quizzes or exams along with the portfolio of creative work. As creative writing continues to define itself as a rigorous, academic discipline, profes- sors will need to take into account the technological and demographic changes taking place. Online courses and programmes as well as online magazines, hypertexts, and blogs offer the prospect of reaching specific audiences and challenging assumptions about what constitutes publication. How might professors address these new venues and texts? How might professors develop teaching strategies to accommodate diverse groups of distance learners and to maintain the high standards for which college-level courses in creative writing are known? To what extent can the workshop environment be translated to the Internet? What are the standards by which such texts are judged? At the same time, changes in the publishing industry limit opportunities for novice writers. Despite the number of writing courses and programmes, according to the National Endowment for the Arts’ Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America (2004), the percentage of book readers at all ages has declined significantly over the past two decades. One of the few increases in literary activity was in creative writing. These trends raise questions regarding who reads the works produced by writers from now more numer- ous creative writing programmes. Such changes offer the field opportunities to continue to refine curricula, to explore the theoretical foundations on which the curricula are based, and to contribute to literary excellence within and outside of the academy. Conclusion Creative writing is now an academic pursuit with a documented history that shapes its current theories and practices. The field has become increasingly varied in its curricula, moving away from foundations of literary scholarship to the signature pedagogy based on the workshop model and, more recently, to manifestations in low-residency, service- learning, and web-based iterations so that creative writers in academe – both professors and22 The Handbook of Creative Writing students – not only develop talent and craft but also bear witness to contemporary culture and develop marketable cognitive and communicative skills. Creative writing has bor- rowed and reshaped theoretical approaches from literary criticism, composition studies, linguistics, and even cognitive science. These foundations underpin a rigorous, rewarding academic experience in creative writing classrooms in the US, the UK, and increasingly around the globe. Though Dorothea Brande found the way creative writing was taught to be problematic seventy years ago, her claim in Becoming a Writer about our endeavour holds true today: ‘there is no field where one who is in earnest about learning to do good work can make such enormous strides in so short a time’ (1934: 27). Though challenges in the field still exist – perhaps because they exist – creative writing has come into its own within academe over the last three decades. References Addonizio, Kim and Dorianne Laux (1997), The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, New York: W. W. Norton. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs homepage, (accessed October 2005). The AWP Directors’ Handbook (2003), Fairfax, VA: Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Beck, Heather (2005), email to Mary Swander. Behn, Robin and Chase Twitchell (1992), eds, The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach, New York: HarperCollins. Bell, Madison Smartt (1997), Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form, New York: W. W. Norton. Bernays, Anne and Pamela Painter (1990), What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, New York: HarperCollins. Bishop, Wendy (2003), ed., The Subject Is Writing: Essays by Teachers and Students, Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook. Bishop, Wendy and Hans Ostrom (1994), eds, Colors of a Different Horse: Rethinking Creative Writing Theory and Pedagogy, Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. Brande, Dorothea (1934 1981), Becoming a Writer, New York: Tarcher/Penguin. Bruer, John T. (1999), ‘Education’, in William Bechtel and George Graham (eds), A Companion to Cognitive Science, Mallden, MA: Blackwell, pp. 681–90. Cassill, R.V. (1975), Writing Fiction, New York: Prentice Hall Press. Cohen, Richard (1995), Writer’s Mind: Crafting Fiction, Lincolnwood, IL: NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group. Dana, Robert (1999), ed., A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press. Flaherty, Alice W. (2004), The Midnight Disease, New York: Houghton Mifflin. Freed, Lynn (2005), ‘Doing Time’, Harper’s Magazine, (July) 311: 65–72. Gardner, John (1983), On Becoming a Novelist, New York: W. W. Norton. Garrett, George (1999), ‘Going to see the elephant: our duty as storytellers’, in Julie Checkoway (ed.), Creating Fiction: Instruction and Insights from the Teachers of the Associated Writing Programs, Cincinnati, OH: Story Press, pp. 2–12. George, Elizabeth (2005), Write Away One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life, New York: HarperCollins., (accessed October 2005).

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