Moving from Story to Book: Cathy Day’s Take

January 18, 2011 § 5 Comments

Writer/teacher Cathy Day has a pretty fun and funny essay on teaching and pedagogy up at The Millions this morning, including a hilarious mock syllabus, and some humorous pokes at creative writing teacher and student alike, but she also has a serious underlying point, true for those of us who teach short fiction as much as it is for those of us who teach the essay and essay-length memoir.

Here’s an excerpt, outlining her excellent reminder to those of us who teach the short form:

… I think a lot of what comes out of creative writing programs are stories that could be or want to be novels, but the academic fiction workshop is not fertile ground for those story seeds. The seeds don’t grow. They are (sometimes) actively and (more likely) passively discouraged from growing. The rhythm of school, the quarter or semester, is conducive to the writing of small things, not big things, and I don’t think we (“we” meaning the thousands of writers currently employed to teach fiction writing in this country) try hard enough to think beyond that rhythm because, for many of us, it’s the only rhythm we know. We need to teach students how to move from “story” to “book,” because the book is (for now, at least) the primary unit of intellectual production.

Day’s full essay CAN BE FOUND RIGHT HERE.

Meanwhile, how many of you who teach stick to the short, easily-workshopped form, and how many of you tackle the Herculean task of teaching the writing of a full book?

Sound off.

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