And So the Summer Learning Begins

The MansionThe Creative Writing and Literature for Educators program requires us to begin with a three day residency. As mentioned previously, I skipped the final day of school to be at Fairleigh Dickinson University in time for the 9 a.m. Friday kickoff. Good thing, too, since it took about 5 hours to get there, far more than original estimated.

We were housed in a cinderblock dorm that at least gave us private rooms even though there were built as doubles, each with a private bathroom. I dropped by belongings, ran back out for a very late dinner and collapsed.

Friday morning I met my peers and it turns out there are only eight of us in the program this time around and we largely came from the northeast with just one outlier, a woman from Minnesota. We were different ages and at a different points in our lives and careers which meant we had little in common other than a love for reading and writing but plenty to learn from one another. We were mingling with out faculty until things got under way.

The three days were full ones but neatly structured with nice breaks between workshops so it didn’t feel onerous. The Hartman Lounge in The Mansion was our base of operations as we settled into one of three large round tables while the speaker used a screen and lectern. Each workshop was a sampler of the actual coursework and we had been required to read some 200+ pages of material prior to arriving so we could actively engage with the work.

On day one we have Reading Like a Writer, Annotation, International Short Story, Staging Plays and after dinner we had a Roundtable on shared readings. We had a leisurely lunch break and a similar one at dinner time. Once we broke for the evening, we retreated to our rooms, largely to recharge and sleep.

Saturday got off to an early start and we dug into Creative Nonfiction and Young Adult Literature before lunch. Afterwards, Marie Howe, a poet and recently New York State’s poet laureate, was the university’s visiting writing and she conducted a Craft Session on writing poetry followed by an hour-long reading of her work. After the best meal of the weekend, we reconvened to hear our various professors read prose poems, short fiction, and academic writing. One was an introduction to a paper on Brooklyn Dodgers fiction written for the Baseball Hall of Fame so I was delighted.

Our final day started off with a leisurely breakfast then Fiction and Creative Writing and Literature, Language Arts, and Common Core (a.k.a. grammar that was way over my head). We wrapped up after lunch with Graphic Novels, which was fun for me as we analyzed Al Feldstein and Bernard Krigstein’s “Master Race” and Spidey’s origin from Amazing Fantasy.

Each workshop got us brainstorming, or composing poetry or annotating text, demonstrating skills we’d need for the coursework but also providing us tips for lesson plans to bring back to our classes. What amazed us all was despite the long hours, we were exhilarated, talking books and craft and having fun. The meals were a constant set of comparisons from curriculum to favorite authors. One, coming over from Special Ed to English, composed a list of recommended works from students and faculty alike.

Since we will spend the better part of the next two years interacting with one another online, this was a wonderful way to get to know one another so our discussions will be more meaningful. I have two course this summer — Creative Nonfiction and YA Literature – and already know my classmates so I’m truly looking forward to getting started in the next few weeks.

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