Reflective Essays: What They Learned This Semester

It’s that time of year when our students turn in their portfolios–along with the “reflective essay” in which they articulate what they learned this semester. I love reading them. This term, I asked my students to turn those essays into blog posts. NOT something written to me, but to you.

As you know by now, my goal for the last year or so has been to help my students move from “story” to “book” by tweaking how I approach my courses. specifically, how I run (or don’t run) the workshop. I taught three classes this term, two of which had a public course blog attached to them. One was an undergraduate advanced fiction writing class on “novels” and a graduate course on “linked stories.” But really, they were BOTH classes on novel writing–one explicitly (the undergrad) and one implicitly (the grad).

Each class has a blog, which you can peruse.

  • The Undergrad/Novel/Explicit Approach class blog is #amnoveling.
  • The Graduate/Linked Stories/Implicit Approach class blog is #amlinking.

Here are some highlights from #amnoveling:

Researching and writing a historical novel.

Beating writer’s block by “writing without thinking” so you can surprise yourself.

Writing not just a novel, but a series of novels.

The benefits of planning vs. the benefits of not planning.

Writing a “novel that’s true,” and how you try and try to “get it right.

Honestly, all their posts are really great–about artistic influences, adapting screenplays into novels, talking themselves into attempting a novel in the first place, and writing a queer novel because you just really, really need this book to exist and it doesn’t yet.

Here are some highlights from #amlinking:

How writing in In Design–not MS Word–is helping one student create “haiku fiction.”

The pedagogical advantages of a “linked stories” workshop vs. a de facto “story” workshop.

Stories as legos–a great analogy. 

How “storyboarding” helps you move from “story” to “book.” (Here’s my post on “reverse storyboarding,” which is how we started the semester.)

A few posts (here, here, and here) on how I “tricked” them into embarking on novels by telling them they were writing linked stories.

I know it’s a busy time of year, but these blogs aren’t going anywhere. Come back to them and read what my students have to say. If you’re considering making some changes to your own creative writing teaching pedagogy, I hope you’ll start a course blog, too, so that we can all figure this out together.

Happy grading, everyone.