Posts Tagged ‘lit mag’

Teaching Creative Writing with Literary Magazines

I’m a big fan of teaching creative writing with literary magazines, and have been doing it my whole my career. When I first started teaching Creative Writing, I used the textbook The Creative Process by Carol Burke and Molly Best Tinsley. It is a thin little book with chapters on poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, along with cross-genre introductory chapters, and it was very influential to me in the way that I teach. One of the things it doesn’t have is an anthology of readings in the book. I was happy with that.

Since I was guest-editing an issue of The Literary Review, I began by ordering back issues of it  for my class. I would order a box and sell them at cost to my students. Usually I broke about even, though collecting their $4 was sometimes a challenge. I never lost much on the deal, though, and I was supporting a good journal.

One challenge of doing it this was was that I usually got our sample back issues just a week or so before classes started, or sometimes even after they had begun. I would pick out stories and poems for the class to read, and I often didn’t have a chance to review them. Students knew that; we were all exploring brand-new work together. That was also part of the thrill. It made class a little unpredictable, though I always knew the quality of the work would be fantastic.

Eventually, I decided to move to different textbooks after The Creative Process began to feel a little dated for me. I tried a couple that had selections of readings in them, and it was always a little bit of a let down. It was nice to have the readings well in advance of teaching the class, when I ordered my exam copies, but it never felt as fresh as when I was using a lit mag.

So when I decided to write my own notes, which I’m now publishing as the textbook A Writer’s CraftI also opted not to include an anthology of readings. Instead, I’ve been having my students purchase a recent Pushcart anthology. This has the advantage of having more selections to choose from, and it’s not terribly expensive (though more than a magazine’s back issue). There is also an index of magazines consulted in the back, which is helpful for students who want to find more. But I do miss teaching with an actual magazine.

Another way I’ve always tried to introduce literary magazines in an intro to creative writing class is to have students write a magazine review. They have to find their own magazine, get a copy, and then write a short review of it. I have them focus on the kinds of things a writer would care about if deciding where to submit. What is the quality of the magazine, who publishes in it, what styles do they seem to prefer, etc. Finding a magazine can be a challenge if you aren’t in a city with a good independent bookstore. But there are libraries with magazines, and students can always order one if they start early enough. And I’ll allow an online journal if students can access a full issue. New Pages even has a magazine store, where you can buy sample copies online, which can help the students who plan ahead. I’ve learned about a lot of good journals through this assignment!

CLMP also has a lit magazine adoption program for use in the classroom. As I understand it, they are revamping and relaunching the program this year, and faculty will be able to let their students purchase subscriptions for use in their classes. When that is available again, I may go back to assigning a magazine for the readings for my class! It sounds more convenient than ordering a box of books and guessing the right number of students who will enroll.

 

New Year’s Resolution: Use Pinterest

Last year, I did very well with my new year’s resolution: I resolved to finish a book of poems. I did that and got it published — Barrier Island Suite  is coming out in March from Texas Review Press. This year, my resolutions may be a little more modest, but I also want them to be practical.

For my first resolution, I resolve to make better use of Pinterest.

Now, let me say I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. Or I should say, I really don’t like it all that much, but I know I should. Everyone says they love Pinterest, and I’ve never seen much value. I don’t do crafts, and I don’t collect things. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on social media, if I can avoid it. What’s there to love in Pinterest?

But last year, I decided I should make the plunge, so I set up a Pinterest account for the new low-res MFA Program in creative writing that I direct at Mississippi University for Women. I thought it would be a good idea to have a presence on one of the fastest growing social networks. I wanted the account to fit our program, and got a little excited by the idea that Pinterest can be about more than crafts. I set up two boards: one for our program and one with links to writing advice and news. Initially, I pinned a few things, and then it languished.

My initial, brief enthusiasm for Pinterest was based on the realization that I could use it as repository to store links to web sites of interest, but this enthusiasm cooled because I found pinning things counterintuitive and rather clunky. There wasn’t always an image that I wanted to pin on the site I wanted to list, or I simply forgot about Pinterest as my schedule got busy. I didn’t make a point to go look for things to pin, in other words. I did download the button for my web browser, so I could pin things more easily, but I didn’t use it much.

That is my plan to fulfill my New Year’s resolution, though. I’ve realized that I can pin almost any page, and can and should use this more when I’m doing my regular browsing. Often a link on Facebook or Twitter will take me to an interesting article on writing or to a magazine that has a good poem or story. All I need to do is click the Pinterest button, and I can quickly add it to a board. Pinterest will even let me start a new board as I’m adding it, if the content I want to save doesn’t fit my existing categories.

I want to use these boards not only as my personal repository of links, but as a way to share interesting material related to writing with the students and faculty in the program (I have a feed from our Pinterest account in the online student lounge I set up in Canvas). Of course, anyone in Pinterest can follow our boards, so I hope they might be of interest to other writers and therefore to prospective students. In addition to the boards I mentioned above, I’ve started one for literary magazines, and may start one for publishers, contests, workshops, or other writing opportunities.

Follow our program on Pinterest to see how I do with this resolution!