Monday, March 07, 2022

The Last Class

 By Thomas Kies

Tonight will be the last class in my Creative Writing workshop series at the college.  The last class is always a little bittersweet, although many of the participants sign up for my Advanced class starting in three weeks, so I’ll get the chance to work with them again.

This time around, there were seven people in the group.  Starting out, no one knows anything about each other. By the end of six weeks, they’re all friends, supporting each other in their writing, and sometimes their lives. 

Every week, I give them a writing prompt and the following week they read it in front of the class.  Now, I know how scary that is.  I’ve been reading my own work in front of groups for years, and I still get the heebie-jeebies. To make it easier on them and a positive experience, after the students read the piece they’ve written, the class applauds, and we go around the room talking about what we liked about what they’ve written and what might make it stronger.

One week, I asked them to write a kick-ass protagonist.  Another week, I asked them to write an extremely emotional scene.  Throughout the workshop, it’s clear that in some cases, they’re writing as wish fulfillment (think: James Bond-style spy thriller) and in some cases it’s therapy (think: suicide, PTSD, or spousal abuse). 

Whatever they write, it’s clearly personal.  And I think that’s what all writing is about.  We’re making stuff up, sure, but to some degree, what we’re putting down on paper is a piece of ourselves. 

Which is why we get nervous when we read it in front of a group of people. 

For my last class tonight, the assignment is to write the last three or four pages of your book.  Whatever that means to you.  

Some of the students have managed to keep the thread of a cogent story going using every one of my exercise prompts.  So, most likely, we’ll hear the last few pages of the book they have in their head.

When they go home, they will have written the first and last chapters of their first book.  Now all they have to do is fill in the middle.

Of course, that’s the trick, isn’t it?

In some cases, the last few pages of their book represent closure to something that they have written about that’s deeply personal to them. There will be resolution. 

This is the sixth time I’ve taught this workshop, and thankfully, the resolutions I’ve heard have always been positive. 

So, I look forward to tonight’s class and see how the friendships that have formed play out after the workshops have ended.  Some of my students have gone on to create writing/critique groups and continue to meet.  Two of my students have gone on to write books and one has had one published. 

That’s my reward. 

1 comment:

Tanya said...

Kudos to you for creating such a warm and positive community for the students in your classes!