The Thing About Teaching


True story: When the clock ticked to seven pm on October 27 last fall, I looked at the roomful of writers at the Writing Barn and thought, “It’s time to start the class. Who’s the teacher?”


I was the teacher.


I looked over at Shelli Cornelison, my co teacher for the next six weeks. She was smiling at me, waiting, too, because this class of writing short fiction was my idea. As I often do when I’m a little nervous, I laughed. Then I said, “Okay, let’s get started…”

And we did.

The class, which began with a snort of laughter, ended with one of the attendee’s stories receiving an honorable mention in the Austin Chronicle’s Short Story Contest. In between, the class wrote, critiqued and revised their own short fiction as well as read published short stories by other writers. Each class member’s craft toolbox grew. They understood how important revision is in the writing process. These writers and their stories grew over the six weeks. That’s the thing about teaching writing. It’s not a top down process. Every time I sit in front of the blank page, I become a student of that story. Yes, I have an MFA. Yes, I’ve been writing for decades. Yes, I may be less awkward with some of the craft tools. But we all begin with the blank page. My job is to provide a supportive and challenging environment for you to grow as a writer.

I am excited to be joining forces with Shelli Cornelison again this fall and teaching another six week short fiction class at the Writing Barn (September 20-November15). In addition to lots of critique time for our own work, we will also read a few selected short stories for discussion. We have stretched the six-week class over nine weeks to allow for revision and pushed back the starting time to 730 to allow for traffic to abate. Each class member will receive a comprehensive list of short fiction outlets to submit their work. We will support, cheer one another on and write. Write. Write. That’s what writers do.

I will start the class.

Register here.

April 30

The last day of poetry month and my observance of it through a haiku a day. I love the practice. The mindfulness. I feel bittersweet. Even more so because I visited my high school in Springfield, Massachusetts. Except it is no longer my high school. A freak tornado hit the campus in 2007. It looks completely different. Naked. Forlorn. Not what it was. Not yet become something else. So strange. I could see the ghost of myself there. Wandering. Remembering.

IMG_1195after the wind left
one tree, one kiss beneath it
one sweet memory

April 29

Even though there are endless to do lists to get out of town, I love that moment of leaving when everything is stretched out before me. The promise of adventure. Nothing has happened. It is all about to begin.

IMG_1185 (1)tomorrow begins
winged sun over cloud canyon
what more could I want

April 28

Coming back from the prison tonight, this happened…

jagged lightening bolts
slice the night; hail crashes down
weather in Texas

Cynthia Levinson, NESCBWI & Me

A favorite part of wintery Sundays in New England where I grew up was the New York Times Magazine. What I loved best in the Magazine was reading profiles of people. I loved reading about how they grew up, the choices they made, how they thought. Those Sundays came back to me after reading Cynthia Levinson‘s biography of Hillary hrcRodham Clinton-Do All The Good You Can. I felt myself sinking deep into all the corners and crevices of this life story. Not only is it well written, it is deeply researched. Most of all, I really like how Cynthia uncovers Hillary’s missteps. How she learns. How she thinks. It is a human story.

This Saturday I will be joining Cynthia Levinson at New England SCBWI to give a talk called: Working Backwards: From Fiction to NonFiction. Together, we will share how we use the same craft tools–setting, POV, dialogue–differently in our books. We both have the same goal: to make our books come alive in the mind of the reader but because our books live in separate genres–fiction vs nonfiction–our craft toolbox differs slightly. As we explore the use of those tools, we hope participants, whether they write fiction or non fiction, will benefit from seeing how we build our stories.

clI am very proud to be working with Cynthia. She is a great writer and a consummate professional. I have to say that reading this book shifted my thinking about my vote in this year’s presidential race. Because of how Cynthia reveals Hillary’s character, I was able to put her combative missteps (e.g. health care, Whitewater) in perspective. I was able to see a human who has grown as she has continually challenged herself. (How would I have hung on to my heart and my ideals in similar circumstances?) I know she is running against someone who wants to change the system and I admire those ideals but my support is for the woman who has hung on to her ideals within the system. I believe, thanks to Cynthia’s fine writing, that, at her core, Hillary wants to do all the good she can.

Our talk will be on Saturday morning, April 30 at 10:50 am in the Kilkenny Room at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Hotel.