Effective writing, as I’ve told my Creative Writing students, often means creating a kind of webwork of connections between as many elements as possible within a story. I’ve mentioned this before, how it is something I probably first encountered in an explicit sense when Nalo Hopkinson showed us (at Clarion West back in 2006) a neat technique one can use to thicken the broth of connections in a text. If I remember right, she wrote a list of characters, and a list of scenes (or themes? it’s fuzzy in my memory), and then worked out how each character (or theme) connected to each scene. If two characters meet by chance, its one thing, but what if they were connected through something else, like a college they’re both attending, or a workplace at which they both applied but were turned down?
There probably is a potential for overkill, if things are so hyperconnected that a text becomes overrun with the linkages. The line is hard to draw, though.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
... I would probably look to divide my grading rubric into two sections:
1. (Completed by teacher) - General grade out of 10 for things like mechanics, language use, cohesion, etc.
2. (Completed by readers) - An average of all readers' responses to the writing converted into a score out of 10. By this I mean I would have several other students in the class read the writing and give it a score out of 10 based on how effective they felt it was and how much they enjoyed reading it. I would then calculate an average of all those scores.
It's not perfect, but it does bring peers and real "readers" into the picture, and emphasizes the need for writers to consider a potential audience for their writing. It may well have as many risks as bonuses, especially considering how sensitive teenage students are to their peers (and how cruel some teens can be to each other!). There is also the risk that writing for an audience - especially an audience of peers in the very same room - could very well inhibit natural and free-flowing creative writing efforts.
So personally I'm a little stumped.
Anyone out there got any ideas about how to effectively evaluate creative writing efforts?
My teacher friend and I would love to hear from you!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Everybody wants a creative child - in theory. The reality of creativity, however, is a little more complicated, as creative thoughts tend to emerge when we're distracted, daydreaming, disinhibited and not following the rules. In other words, the most imaginative kids are often the trouble-makers.
While the teachers said they wanted creative kids in their classroom, they actually didn't. In fact, when they were asked to rate their students on a variety of personality measures - the list included everything from "individualistic" to "risk-seeking" to "accepting of authority" - the traits mostly closely aligned with creative thinking were also closely associated with their "least favorite" students. As the researchers note, "Judgments for the favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity; judgments for the least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity."
For those of us in the sciences whose productivity is measured in peer-reviewed research manuscripts, one can ask why we write blogs. Personally, I enjoy the conversation with all of you, fellow scientists as well as folks far afield who happen to be interested in science and drugs. The blog also allows me to explore outside of my field - cancer research - and learn more about such areas as neuroscience and geology and even further to music, history, and, yes, writing. Through this community I've also been able to continue my education by learning about issues of gender and racial and ethnic diversity in both the sciences and society. I definitely feel more well-rounded as both an academic and a human being by writing here and engaging with this community. And I am still learning. ...
So, why do you write when you don't have to?
I would like to believe that we write because we have something to say not because we are supposed to say something.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
The contents of the notebooks are as multi-dimensional as their Escher-like structure. They include fully worked-out scenes, historical background, lists of character names, rough maps of imaginary places, stage settings, an idle rebus (the numeral three, a crossed-out eye, and a mouse), and plot ideas that will be recognizable to any Christie fan: "Poirot asks to go down to country-finds a house and various fantastic details," "Saves her life several times," "Inquire enquire-both in same letter." What's more, in between ominous scraps like "Stabbed through eye with hatpin" and "influenza depression virus-Stolen? Cabinet Minister?" are grocery lists: "Newspapers, toilet paper, salt, pepper ..." There was no clean line between Christie's work life and her family life. She created household ledgers, and scribbled notes to self. ("All away weekend-can we go Thursday Nan.")
Monday, April 12, 2010
A "Creator's block" sounds like something afflicting a divinity, but writer's block is my default setting. Its opposite is miraculous. The process of learning to write fiction, for me, was one of learning to almost continually be doing it *through* the block, in spite of the block...