Exploring Creative Writing Class at Santa Fe Community College with Terry Wilson

Hi Terry

1. I hear this class is fun! Yet many folks feel worried or afraid of writing. How does this class break through that?
2. Will it be poetry or prose or both? Memoir?
3. What is your favorite thing about teaching the class?
4. Course #,times, etc.and how to register.


Terry’s responses to questions:

1. Yes, “Exploring Creative Writing” is definitely fun! The great thing about having a good time while writing is that you forget your inhibitions about writing, your writer’s block, your insecurities about creating a perfect piece. One beginning exercise we do involves music; I play some rock music for the class and then we get out of our seats and dance! Then we write about what came up for you about dancing, or maybe about hating dancing, or whatever the music reminded you of.

Another exercise we do is, since Halloween occurs during Fall semester, on the class nearest to Halloween, we dress up in costumes and then we write AS the character we have become. Some pretty wild characters have emerged! During another class, we travel to Blue Corn Café on a field trip, and as we eat our dinners, we listen for dialogue from other patrons of the restaurant. We create stories from the dialogue we hear, or we imagine a stranger (or even someone we know) coming into the restaurant and something good or bad happens to that person—how do we react in that hypothetical situation? This is a way of mixing fact and fiction in your writing and in my 20+ years of teaching this class, we have come up with some amazing stories!

Writing is a way to express yourself, to communicate who you are. It’s a fantastic way to connect with people, to share the beauty you have inside of you—or even the anger or grief or fear you have inside of you. Sometimes the best writing is done from anger because it brings a lot of energy.

In short, there are many techniques to break through writing blocks or fears about writing. My students’ skill levels range from beginning writers to published writers who just want to get back into writing again after a hiatus. Everyone helps each other; the class is very supportive. I’ve had students as young as 12 years old, and as old as 82! They all have had tales to tell! And our class is a very safe place.

2. The first few weeks of class, we do a lot of free writing—we use Natalie Goldberg’s book, “Writing Down the Bones.” Sometimes that free writing turns out to be prose and sometimes, poetry. Then as we accumulate pieces of writing—we do two or three exercises per class– we begin to shape those pieces. We tend to focus a lot on memoir and other non-fiction in the first half of the class, and then in the second half, we will be concentrating on fiction. I also offer students a few poetry exercises in class, though I would say we spend more time on memoir and fiction. (In the second half of the class we zero in on Plot, Character, Dialogue, Setting, Point of View, etc.)

3. My favorite thing about teaching the class is seeing how much students grow in one semester. Last fall, for example, one young woman was terrified to read her work aloud. I accepted that, but after a few weeks, she was volunteering to read to the class! And when we performed a class reading in the SFCC Library for a small audience, she volunteered to read first! I think she just felt more and more confident as she wrote and read to a partner or a small group, and that allowed her to branch out! I love seeing that happen.

And several of my students have had pieces they wrote in the class, published!

One important point to remember—a writing class is a place you can come every week and share the pieces you have worked on in class or for homework. Being in a class helps you to stay on task and not put your writing aside or procrastinate. In Janet Burroway’s book, “Writing Fiction,” (which we also will be using in the class) she quotes Octavia Butler who says, “Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

4. How to register for the class: It is called “Exploring Creative Writing” and it is listed under the English classes in the catalogue as English 1320. The Course Registration Number (CRN) is 21141. It is a Wednesday evening class from 6-8:45 pm. and it is 3 credits with Pass/Fail grading. I always suggest to students that if they’ve taken SFCC classes before, they can probably register online. If you have not taken SFCC classes before, then you need a password, and it is easier and more efficient to register at SFCC (Registration is near the Cafeteria.) For Fall, the English 1320* class begins on August 21. But try and register soon before the class gets filled up!

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