The first time I taught writing, my students were little old ladies at the National Council for Jewish Women in Los Angeles. Maybe some of them were not so old, and certainly some of them were not so little. All of them, however, were NCJW members who for one reason or another wanted to take a class in writing.
That I was their teacher was due solely to the fact that I had a part-time gig editing the Chapter’s newsletter. What I knew about teaching writing was what I had gleaned as a student in writing courses at Pitt—which is to say, very little. I was, as I usually do, flying by the seat of my pants. I don’t know if any of my students went on to publishing success. As I recall, they mostly wanted to write their memoirs for their grandchildren.
The next time I taught writing, I had been well-prepared in composition pedagogy by the English Department at Cal State Sacramento. I was a newly-minted Teaching Assistant with a newly-minted syllabus that had earned me an A in the Teaching Composition graduate course I had just completed. Book learning I did have, but after that first day in front of a class, I was, once again, flying by the seat of my pants. Learning about teaching and actually doing the job are two very different things, and my carefully honed syllabus bit the dust after a couple of weeks. It was lofty, but unmanageable. In the classroom, I was dealing with real people who tend not to work the way theory says they should.
Since then I have taught writing to: the scions of the upper classes in Pennsylvania; the sons and daughters of the middle-class in California’s Central Valley; the kids of Latino and Asian immigrants (legal and not) in East LA; not to mention, male felons incarcerated in a California state prison.
I’ve taught creative writing, poetry, screenwriting, non-fiction writing, basic composition, remedial writing, and blogging. I’ve had classes of as many as fifty and as few as one. And to tell the truth, I’ve loved it. Not all of it; I hated the grading of essays. But breaking down the process of writing until everyone I was talking to “got it”—that I loved.
The simple fact is I know the power that comes from being able to communicate in writing. To commandeer one’s thoughts, to harness one’s emotions, to find the words and the syntax that drives them straight into a reader’s mind: it is, I believe, the ultimate power, far greater than physical prowess or financial.
It is that power I had in mind when I started MidLifeBloggers: to empower those of us in midlife to recreate ourselves and our world by writing “about each and every issue–big and small, real and imagined–that any one of us is experiencing.” To that end, I created the MidLifeBloggers Writers Workshop, in which I used my experience as a teacher and an editor to teach both the experienced writer and the novice how best to express themselves in writing on-line and off.
The MLB Writers Workshop ran in several iterations over the years because as with my college students, the real people who participated in real time needed something different from what I thought they would. That last Workshop took place over a year ago, and while it’s all been available in the Archives, I haven’t even gone back to it myself.
Now I have, and I’m finding that there is much in it that still seems valuable and there is much much more to say. So I’m bringing back the MidLifeBloggers Workshop in a revised version which will consist of four different series:
- Writing as Process & the Process of Writing: the philosophical underpinnings of writing
- Blogging & the Business of Writing – including sponsored posts
- Writing From Your Guts – using sense memory to get inside
- 2WriteRight – the nuts and bolts of writing
As in the past, there will be Writing Prompts & Exercises included and there will be the opportunity to have a personal, private critique with me. If you’re interested in participating in this new MidLifeBloggers Workshop, leave a comment with your contact info…and watch for the first post.