Teaching Tuesday: a new regular feature on The Big Thing

[This is a “Teaching Tuesday” post. Every Tuesday, I’ll share something here about teaching: a link to one of my course blogs, a bit of advice, an exercise that works particularly well. This is also a cross post between “The Big Thing” and the “ABOUT” page of my novel-writing course blog, “#amnoveling.”

About #amnoveling

Yes, I turned “novel” into both a GERUND (my husband says it’s a participle, whatevs) and a HASHTAG. When I made up this word three years ago, I was trying to ride on the coattails of popular hashtags like #amwriting (I am writing) and #amreading (I am reading), but since then, I’ve decided that calling this class, this blog, this endeavor #amnoveling is important for two reasons.

  1. The class I teach isn’t on “the novel” (a static noun) so much as it’s about the process, the activity of writing one (a VERB).
  2. Most creative writing classes don’t focus much on writing process, on motivation and performance. But I’m interested in using social media (this blog, the hashtag, a private Facebook group) so that my apprentice novelists can develop a regimen, share their progress, connect with others.

I’m supposed to be using Blackboard to teach this class, but I’m not. This means that people outside my classroom can read this blog. People like you.

Blackboard is a closed environment that allows students and faculty to communicate with each other and share information and documents. And Blackboard attempts to replicate (badly) lots of social media platforms and programs within its closed environment: blogs, messaging, email, wikis, etc. Compared to Facebook or Gmail or WordPress, the user interface on Blackboard is counter-intuitive and difficult to navigate. Not to mention ugly.

Also, the people in charge of Blackboard at my university took it offline during the week I’d set aside to develop and plan the course, so really, I had no choice anyway.

I feel your pain, Roxane.
I feel your pain, Roxane.

So: this semester, I said, “Heck with it.” I’m using a combination of Google Docs and this WordPress blog in lieu of Blackboard. We’ll see how it goes.

One advantage for my students is that they’ll learn how to navigate real technological waters. Once they graduate from college, they’ll never see Blackboard again. But if they can walk into a job interview knowing how to use WordPress, Google Docs, etc., they’ll be a step ahead of the game. At least, that’s the way I see it.

One of the advantages for you (the person who is NOT in my class but is reading this) is that you can follow along, if you like. Take the same journey as my students. Each week, they will be posting a report about how things went the previous week, and we’d love to hear from you, too. Because writing a novel is HARD, and we all need all the help we can get.

If you want to follow along, here’s what you should commit yourself to do:

  • write at least 2,000 words a week, every week.
  • read the books we’re reading.
  • reverse storyboard a book of your choice
  • start a blog yourself and share your journey
  • find a beta group (IRL or online) who you can trade work with this term

It’s easy. Just go to my course blog, look in the top right corner, and subscribe! Create a column on Tweetdeck or Hootsuite for the hashtag #amnoveling.

But I should be clear about something.

I’m sometimes asked if I teach online classes, and the answer is no. This is not an online class.

Honestly, I can’t handle one more student, one more page. I’ve got all I can handle with three classes, 50 students, an MA thesis to direct, committees, etc. No, I’m not reading your work.

I’m just making what I’m doing in my classroom transparent, and if you have the discipline, you can “take” my class–to some extent.

This blog turns my class in the Robert Bell Building at Ball State into a kind of fish bowl. Me and the 15 enrolled students are the fish. You’re staring at us swimming in our bowl.

This is a fishbowl. Me and the students in the class are in the center. You’re listening in.

But please don’t bug me wanting to know exactly what I’m saying. distributing in my classroom. I’m not sharing my lecture notes. At least, not right now. I believe online learning is pretty wonderful, but these kids in my class are paying a lot of money for their degree. They are my priority. They get behind the pay wall.

All that said, I am interested in figuring out how to reach more people who want to study novel writing. Consider this blog my experiment toward that goal.

So: if you want to follow along with my class, just subscribe. There’s a little button up on the right. 



  1. Gail says:

    I’m super stoked to do this, Cathy! I’ve long thought about coming back to school for creative writing (I just am short on time at the moment in this season of my life) but this is such a great way for me to put my foot in the water and see if that might work for me. You’re awesome for doing this, by the way. I’m such a big fan of how hard you work to incorporate social media and life on the ‘Net into your classroom!

  2. Jon Sealy says:

    Good call on ditching Blackboard. In my work environment, I use GoogleDocs and content management systems, including WordPress, all the time. Another one is Basecamp, a project management software. I don’t think there’s a free version, and I don’t think you can open it to the general public. But a lot of people in the realm of advertising/marketing/web design use it.

  3. Ian Wilson says:

    Leave it to me to focus on what isn’t the subject of the post, I think a gerund is the noun form ending with “ing” and the participle is the adjective form. Since “noveling” is used with an auxilliary verb (“am”), it is a participle in this case. The mind reels. . .

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