Fiction Exercises, edited by Kate Simonian
The exercises in this section are too diverse to group. Several focus on place, and especially on using the ready-made memories of place that students bring into the class. Another set clusters around interdisciplinarity—in this case, the application of theater arts to the writing classroom. All the exercises, though, apply active learning to create immersive experiences. Perhaps graduate instructors, close in age to their students themselves, feel a pressing need to emotionally involve their students.
What strikes me most about this collection, however, is that the exercises are student-centered and bottom-up. There is no application of top-down authority or an assertion of knowledge, but rather a conscious effort to harness the potential—the images, experiences, feelings, and truths—that students bring into the space. Perhaps this approach is atomistic, to use a term from Gabriel Houck’s wonderful exercise, “Atomizing Authenticity.” But so is the stuff of great fiction. As teachers, we often feel that prompts should be open-ended, to allow students latitude. These exercises suggest, however, that just as students should dodge the vague and generic description, so teachers should discard shop-worn prompts to strike at the heart of the particular.