Friday, August 29, 2014

Conversations with Eleanor Catton

As part of the 50th anniversary of CETA (Canterbury English Teachers'Assn), Eleanor Catton spoke today with a group of English teachers from Canterbury. Hosted by John Ruge, St Margaret's College in their new auditorium. 

On Teaching Creative Writing

Interesting comment that as a tutor at MIT it's interesting to be on the receiving end of what students come out of high school English with. 

There is no one way to write well ; no word is more poetic than any other; no hierarchy of structures.

Sees the need for less 'static' ie no change or movement - possibly because of NZQA explanatory notes !! Have we the lost the plot as to what to reward in creative writing - a lot of quiet revelations on not much at all.

We need to be encouraging action - what happens next - where to? Movies focus on strong story telling - that's what engages young people.

The workshop model at tertiary - but not possible at the secondary school - skills based teaching necesaary for creative writing.

Story - Robert McKee

- premise and controlling idea - controlling idea should never be one word
- premise should always be a little scary - element of unknowing in the premise 
- the controlling idea may not fully come out till later
- Luminaries - paradoxical ideas of love and money -

Recommended Texts for Teaching  Writing 

Impro - K Johnson

Rose where did you get that red?  - K Cope

Poetry in the making - Ted Hughes 

Some Writing Tips and Activities 

 3 word sentences 
- only allowed to use 3 word sentences to write a story - subject , object , predicate - if you want to use an adjective what would you leave out

How, why or what next - if a reader is not asking any of these - your story is boring 
- they should rotate through these 3 questions 

- start with any sentence starter and ask the questions - manipulate how you answer these questions 

- know the attraction - see what the reader wants but don't necessarily in the order that they want

- screen writing ideas lend the best advice 

4 ways to have action DDDA - decision deed discovery accident ( deeds and accidents external - decision and discovery internal ) 
- card activity  - DDDA cards - mix and match - these can become 4 lines stories - always a random selection 

- as a grid we live in the crossroads of these 4 - in control and out of control - story needs to sit in the middle of this grid 

Excuse VS Explanation
- choose a misdemeanour
- collate the excuses - how ridiculous they are
- explanations create good prose 

- how to frame the statement for an argument
- give out an argument - every student to write 2 questions that have a yes answer - this can build the argument 

- stories about 1sts - things that we don't expect as a reader 

Fortunately / Unfortunately - in order around the room - ambition has to be solved if not achieved - rule - accept all offers!!

- encouraging students to write about counter culture - levels of logic 
- rules of the real world - consistency -  eg if people can fly - how high? everyone? distance? etc
- whatever your rules are, you have to believe them - they have to be real to the reader 

- fiction doesn't have a sound track - a writer had to direct ; stage set ; sound track - everything -  the writer has to create that sense  - love is not created by just using the word 'love'
- beginning with film - is a way in for students 

- fiction and essay  writing - driven in the same way - sees poetry as being at a 'imbibed' at a different speed 

J Cameron - the cycle of the heroes journey - ways growing and developing 
- every story has a movement into the unknown 

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