Creative Writing High School 2015

Creative Writing High School 2015-13
For an exercise in metaphor and synesthesia, we read her vignette “Sire,” identify the choices Cisneros makes, and then move into a fun, inventive prompt that compels the use of figurative language in an erotic scene. Incorporating and centering the work of authors of color is something I do simply, without commentary.I don’t say, “By the way, folks, we’re decolonizing the classroom by using a Latina text.” We simply engage Cisneros’s vignettes on the basis of their compression, range, imagery, and so on.

For an exercise in metaphor and synesthesia, we read her vignette “Sire,” identify the choices Cisneros makes, and then move into a fun, inventive prompt that compels the use of figurative language in an erotic scene. Incorporating and centering the work of authors of color is something I do simply, without commentary.I don’t say, “By the way, folks, we’re decolonizing the classroom by using a Latina text.” We simply engage Cisneros’s vignettes on the basis of their compression, range, imagery, and so on.

Multicultural educators have been telling us for decades now that the “add one and stir” approach to diversity is insufficient: mixing in a couple of writers of color, a couple of women writers, and/or a couple of queer writers keeps them at the periphery.

Revising our pedagogy to welcome all our students and nurture everyone’s talent means continuing to ask ourselves foundational questions.

Three preemptive strategies have worked particularly well to lay the groundwork for decentering whiteness and making generous room for all voices.

First, my syllabus includes a modified version of the Macondo Workshop’s collectively developed “Compassionate Code of Conduct”: ground rules for a sane, kind, and respectful workshop experience.

I’m sure I’ve made many mistakes over the years; I’ve surely made compromises I cannot see or recall.

Like anyone, all I can do is keep trying, keep listening.(I was a professor with tenure before I finally attended.) In her graduate poetry workshops, another professor was equally encouraging—and explicitly feminist, which was nice.Still, when I became an instructor, I wanted to make my own pedagogy more intentionally welcoming to writers of color. Like any instructor, I address racial and ethnic stereotypes when those crop up in student work, as they occasionally do, but that after-the-fact intervention doesn’t go far enough toward fundamentally transforming the environment.In retrospect, I have no way of gauging how much of his concern was due to my ethnicity, how much due to gender, how much due to my aesthetic, how much to the content of my work, and so on. My professor’s reaction made me doubt the worth of my efforts and my own desire to continue writing.In graduate school, where I did a scholarly masters and then doctorate that focused on modernism, I took creative writing courses on the side, for fun.The Macondo Workshop itself, conceived in 1995, is the brainchild of Sandra Cisneros, whose goal was to create an environment more welcoming and nurturing than she herself had experienced as an MFA student.Hosted today by the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, Texas, the workshop attracts a primarily but not exclusively Latina/o audience of writers.As a professor who teaches in the creative writing, literature, and Latino studies programs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where we offer the Ph. with a creative dissertation, I’ve been teaching creative writing at the college level for twenty years now, as well as to various groups in the larger community—domestic violence survivors, Latina and African American high school girls, sexual assault survivors, economically disadvantaged adults, at-risk inner-city teens—and I’ve thought a lot about how to make the creative writing classroom a welcoming place for everyone, especially writers of color.I try to construct the kind of environment I would have wanted as a student. As an undergraduate in Texas in the 1980s, a first-generation college student, a Latina from a background of poverty, I was devouring (on my own) the writers of the Latina boom (Cisneros, Alvarez, Ortiz Cofer, Castillo, and so on), reading Robbe-Grillet and Duras on the side, and churning out twisted little stories that unraveled themselves in a kind of savage frenzy. My work was not nurtured, encouraged, or recognized as having any particular potential.I use texts by writers of color as my reference points, employing examples of aesthetics, choices, and techniques from Morrison, Kingston, Erdrich, Justin Torres, and Helen Oyeyemi, for example, rather than from Faulkner, Hemingway, and Tobias Wolff.In doing so, I offer no explanation, allowing literature by writers of color to function as the (apparently) unexamined norm in my classroom, as white writers have functioned elsewhere for so long., I develop and use exercises that engage texts by writers of color.

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